Winter Salads Perfect For Holiday Entertaining

winter salads holiday entertaining

Some people assume that getting a variety of quality vegetables during the winter months is impossible. However, produce can be grown all year round—yes, even the dreariest season provides an abundance of wonderful veggies and fruits.

Not every holiday party needs an abundance of roasted vegetables or mashed potatoes. Another option for utilizing bright and colorful produce is delicious salads! Chopping up root vegetables, adding dried fruits and nuts, and even stirring in quinoa or lentils to a salad make great healthy alternatives when attending, or hosting, a party.

What’s in Season?

In season fruits and vegetables

Before heading to the supermarket, it’s important to know what produce is in season. The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) is a great resource for learning what’s in season, and when. They offer seasonality charts for vegetables and fruits that show when all the different types of produce are in season and prime for picking.
Many vegetables are in season year-round or throughout the majority of fall and into spring. Fruits, on the other hand, are more seasonal and few are available year-round. For easy reference, the best vegetables and fruit to buy during the winter are:

Winter Vegetables

  • Beets
  • Broccoli Rabe/Rapini
  • Cardoons
  • Fennel
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash

Winter Fruits

  • Cranberries
  • Kumquats
  • Persimmons
  • Clementines
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwis
  • Olives
  • Pears
  • Pomelos
  • Pomegranate

Before you go to the grocery store to pick up some of this produce, here are our favorite winter-weather salad recipes. While these recipes are great solo, take any of them to a holiday party as a healthy addition to the buffet table.

Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale Chips and Pomegranate Seeds

Try this roasted butternut squash salad with kale chips and pomegranate seeds from Saveur next time you want something colorful for the table. Baked kale, roasted squash and arugula paired with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds makes for a bright and delicious salad. Toss the mixture with the dijon-maple salad dressing and you’ll be thinking about this salad for weeks to come.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp citric acid
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 2 cups watercress
  • 1 small head escarole, leaves torn into pieces and washed
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp maple syrup

Directions:

Heat oven to 400°. Toss squash with 1/4 cup oil, plus salt and pepper on a baking sheet; spread into an even layer. Bake until slightly caramelized, 18–20 minutes; let cool.
Reduce oven to 275°. Toss kale with 1/4 cup oil, citric acid, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet; spread into an even layer. Bake until crisp, 25–30 minutes; let cool.
Whisk remaining oil with pecorino romano, lemon juice, Dijon, maple syrup, salt, and pepper in a bowl until smooth. Toss arugula, watercress, escarole, and 1/3 of dressing in a bowl; transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with squash, kale, pumpkin seeds, and pomegranate seeds. Serve additional dressing on the side.

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette

Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette

Eating during the holiday season usually means consuming quite a few hearty, rich dishes, so this roasted beet salad is a great green option. This super easy recipe from Once Upon a Chef has you roast the beets in the oven, then toss them with a honey-dijon dressing and mixed greens—it’s sure to be a hit at the neighborhood party!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch medium beets (about 3)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salad

  • 10 oz mixed greens
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1-1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar, best quality such as Pompeian Gourmet
  • 1-1/2 tbsp minced shallots
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Wipe or scrub beets clean then trim stems down to one-inch (leave “tails” on). Place beets on a large piece of foil; drizzle with olive oil, then wrap foil around them to form a neat packet. Roast directly on rack in middle of oven until tender, about 1 hour. Test for doneness by piercing the largest beet with a knife. If it enters easily, it’s done. Unwrap beets and let sit until cool enough to handle. Use your hands or a paring knife to peel skin, then cut into ½-inch dice (I usually do this right on the aluminum foil but you can also use a stain-proof cutting board or plate). Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, shallots, salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, slowly add the oil in a steady stream. (Alternatively, add all your ingredients to a jar, cover with lid, and shake vigorously to blend.) Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Place the greens in a large bowl, drizzle with about half of the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Add as much of the remaining vinaigrette as desired and toss again. Divide greens onto plates, then sprinkle with beets, walnuts and goat cheese. (The reason you don’t just mix it all together in a salad bowl is that the beets would cause the whole salad to turn pink.) Serve immediately.

Brown Rice Salad with Cranberries, Walnuts, Mint and Feta

If you’re looking for a warm salad for a cozy gathering with friends, this brown rice salad with cranberries and walnuts from Food & Wine is a great choice. The cranberries, walnuts and feta can be added to the rice when it’s freshly cooked, or if you ever have leftover brown rice in the fridge, make this salad for a quick and easy lunch.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups short-grain brown rice
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 3 oz crumbled feta cheese

Directions:

In a large sauce pan, sauté shallot in 2 tbsp of oil over moderate heat until softened, about three minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 350º. Spread the walnuts on a small baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Roughly chop.

Combine rice with remaining tbsp of olive oil, red wine vinegar, walnuts, cranberries, mint and feta.

Warm Lentil and Root Vegetable Salad with Coconut Tzatziki

Warm Lentil and Root Vegetable Salad with Coconut Tzatziki

Next time you want a hearty salad to be the center dish at a party, make this warm lentil and root vegetable salad from Food & Wine. Lentils and carrots are the base of this delicious winter salad, and not only is it filling, it’s also packed with healthy fats.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup French green lentils, 
picked over
  • Fine Himalayan pink salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs medium multicolored carrots, cut on a bias into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 lbs medium parsnips, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped mint, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish

Tzatziki

  • 1 cup coconut milk yogurt
  • 1/4 cup finely diced seeded cucumber
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp finely chopped dill
  • 1 tsp finely chopped chives
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Fine Himalayan pink salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

In a large saucepan, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until just tender, 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add a generous pinch of salt and let stand for 5 minutes; drain. Spread the lentils on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°. 
On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots and parsnips with the cumin, coriander, chilli powder and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables until tender and browned in spots, 20-25 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss the lentils with the warm roasted vegetables, the lemon 
juice and the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp of olive oil. Fold in the chopped 
mint and cilantro and season the salad with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter 
and garnish with mint and cilantro leaves.

In a small bowl, 
whisk all of the tzatziki ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the warm lentil salad.

Thanks to these awesome salad recipes and winter vegetable recommendations, you’ll be able to eat healthily and seasonally. For a well-rounded meal, try pairing a hot soup with a salad, especially on chilly days. For soup inspiration, check out these six guilt-free soups—pairing one of these with our salad recommendations makes for the perfect combination.

Eager to try these recipes at home? Consult our store locator to find your nearest Tilapia retailer.

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Photo Credits: George Rudy / Shutterstock Inc., NemanjaMiscevic / Shutterstock Inc., Simply Scratch, The Bonjon Gourmet