Autumn Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

I believe the jury may still be out on whether or not salad is allowed at the Thanksgiving dinner table. I happen to love salad at Thanksgiving. But it has to be a really good salad to justify a spot. This amazing romaine salad and my favorite, favorite spinach salad come to mind as worthy options.

But since I’m a girl who likes to explore new recipe territory, I’m here to report that today’s autumn pear salad might just be the next Thanksgiving salad star.

Holy moly, this salad is good. Something about ripe, juicy pears nestled in salad makes me happy and this recipe is further amped up by pomegranate arils, little nubbins of Asiago cheese and crunchy bits of toasted cashews. And that maple dressing? It’s become a total staple in my refrigerator (the other day I accidentally dipped my cucumber slices in it and was almost undone with the deliciousness).

Autumn Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

If you’re wanting a very simple yet absolute show-stopper of a salad, this is it. And if you are already thinking of how to use up those turkey leftovers, save this salad until the after-party; chop up the leftover turkey, toss it in with the salad and you’ll have your dinner (or lunch) made in minutes just sitting there staring you in the face and waiting for your taste buds to explode with excitement.

And if you are feeding a bunch of traditionalists at Thanksgiving, I double dog dare you to throw this salad out there and see what happens (triple dog dare you to replace their green bean casserole with it). Hey, the worst that could happen is you’ll be out in the garage alone eating this straight out of the bowl. Not a bad way to go, if you ask me.

Autumn Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

One Year Ago: Warm Russian Tea
Two Years Ago: Healthy Applesauce Carrot Muffins {a.k.a. Carrot Cake Muffins}
Three Years Ago: Whole Wheat Blender Pancakes

Autumn Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

Yield: Serves 6-8

Autumn Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

You could definitely try this with a lower fat milk if that's what you have on hand but the dressing will be slightly less thick and the flavor won't be quite as full.


    Maple Balsamic Dressing:
  • 1 medium garlic clove, scored (meaning the surface of the clove is lightly cut a few times)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk (see note above)
  • Pinch of coarse, kosher salt
  • Salad:
  • 6-8 cups chopped green and red leaf lettuces
  • 2 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces Asiago cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (or shredded)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped, toasted cashews
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils (craisins or dried cherries would be a good substitute)


  1. For the dressing, put the scored garlic clove in a jar and add all the other dressing ingredients. Put a lid on the jar and shake like your life depends on it. Refrigerate until ready to serve (this can be made a week or so in advance). Shake to recombine ingredients before using. If the dressing is overly thick out of the fridge, microwave it for 5-10 seconds to help loosen it up.
  2. For the salad, add the lettuce to a large bowl. Drizzle some of the dressing over the lettuce until lightly coated. Add the pears, cheese, cashews and pomegranate arils to the top and just lightly toss. Drizzle on extra dressing to taste. Serve immediately.
  3. Alternately, you can toss all the salad ingredients together and serve the dressing separately for individuals to add as they like.

Recipe Source: salad and dressing slightly adapted from Emily B., a longtime MKC reader – thank you, Emily!

28 Responses to Autumn Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

  1. Sarah says:

    Like you, I think green salads that grace a Thanksgiving table need to be extra-special, and this one came through with flying colours! I liked everything about it, including that it was well-balanced between lettuce and the “good stuff”. I used shaved Parmesan because that’s what I had on hand, and the salad was delicious.

  2. Angie says:

    I’m making this for a family luncheon this weekend and can’t wait to try it! It looks delicious. If I only have minced garlic, can I use that instead of the garlic clove or will it alter the dressing too much? If it will be okay, how much should I use? Thanks, Mel! You’re my cooking hero.

  3. Theresa says:

    I made this dressing three days ago and have used it every day, but when I opened it today, it appears to be a bit chunky. It smells fine and it still tastes great ! How long do you usually keep this before it goes bad? May have to start making half of a batch.

    • Mel says:

      I usually try to use it up within a few days but I’ve had it for a week or so in the fridge before. A lot will depend on how fresh the ingredients are to start with, I’m guessing.

  4. Anne says:

    Hi Mel, first thank you so much for all your amazing recipes! Second, do you think I could sub Parmesan for the Asiago? I just have some in the fridge I need to use right now.

  5. susan says:

    THIS SALAD. So good! Made it for three major food gatherings–including Christmas day! The flavors are great–not too sweet but still amazing! Love the colors, textures and flavors and that Costco could save me and sell the pomegranate arils. Thank you or this delicious recipe!

  6. Marilynne says:

    Made a double batch of this salad for Thanksgiving…YUM!! Had some leftover dressing and planned another salad round on Sunday. When I pulled the dressing jar out of the refrigerator, I noticed some ‘chunks’ floating in it…UGH. Then I scooped one out for a closer look….it was a mushroom!! My hubby cleaned the kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner and dumped the leftover gravy in the salad dressing jar, thinking it was gravy…ok…same color….LOL. And I wondered what happened to the leftover gravy, or if there even was any….

  7. Loretta says:

    We had this with our Thanksgiving dinner today and it was a big, delicious hit! So many interesting flavors and textures in one salad, and very pretty to look at, too. It was definitely feast-worthy. Thank you for another great recipe, Mel.

  8. Beth says:

    Excited to make this for my husband’s side of the family today for Thanksgiving Day. I have everything prepped and ready to toss together for the meal. I’m using dried cherries in place of the “arils” :). Thanks for posting–can’t wait to taste it!

  9. Jennifer G says:

    I tried this out on some dinner guests over the weekend. It was a tremendous hit. The dressing tastes best if it sits for a couple hours. I am making this for Thanksgiving for sure. The green bean casserole will not be missed.

  10. Raquel says:

    I can’t wait to try this dressing! My favorite fall salad is spring mix, pear, blue cheese, bacon, spicy candied nuts, and a bit of red onion. I never come up with recipes myself, but I came up with that combination a few years ago as a major pregnancy craving. It stuck around and is still one of my favorites. I usually use either a balsamic vinaigrette or your pink dressing from your gourmet salad with it. But now I’m going to try it with this dressing. And I’m going to try adding the pomegranate! Thanks for all your hard work on this site. I love your recipes! (I made your French bread rolls and family style shrimp scampi for dinner tonight!)

  11. Tanya G says:

    Yum, this salad was delicious! I wasn’t a fan of the pomegranate in it, but it was still sooo good! My husband said this is his new favorite, and his old favorite was the spinach apple salad you (and we) love.

  12. Jamie H says:

    I had to laugh about the dare to take away the green bean casserole! My husband’s family is so traditional with their Thanksgiving food, but since we are hosting I’m changing it up! And this salad looks like the perfect replacement! And the rolls…I have to make those too!

  13. Ariane says:

    I’m a little confused with the garlic. Does it just sit at the bottom of the dressing adding flavor? I’m planning on make this salad for Thanksgiving! Thanks.

  14. Becca says:

    This looks delicious but quick question: is there a substitute for the Dijon? I really dislike mustard!

  15. foodgirldc says:

    Just curious, what is the point of the dairy in the dressing? Have you tried it without it?

    • Mel says:

      I have and it’s tasty but the dairy in the dressing gives it a very full flavor profile and makes it obviously a bit more creamy – I prefer it with the dairy but it could be made without (the dressing will be thinner).

  16. Spearle says:

    oh man! When the picture popped up on my computer I thought it was a salad with turkey and gravy on it! haha, now that is a creative thanksgiving dish 🙂
    I love me some salad that is heavy on fruit, nuts, and cheese!

  17. Jennifer G. says:

    I was assigned to bring either a vegetable or salad to Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s house. I am not a fan of the green bean casserole so this looks like the perfect fall salad to bring. I’ll try it out on my family this weekend.

  18. Nan says:

    This salad looks like just the ticket for any awesome fall meal, including Thanksgiving. Thank you! And, I am so impressed that you know what to call those pomegranate seed thingies. Truly a gourmet. For a moment I thought I was reading a Martha Stewart ingredients list–but then realized that I actually had most of these ingredients in my house right now and wouldn’t need to go to 3 different specialty stores and spend $100 on the side salad for my meal. Whew! Thanks for always upping my cooking game with your delicious (& gourmet) recipes, yet keeping it within the realm of real cooks cooking for real people. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Mel says:

      Haha, well trust me, I had to google first to make sure I was spelling “arils” right and when I’m talking to my kids, we just call them pomegranate seeds. 🙂

  19. Sheila says:

    So often, I start my day with laughter after reading your posts. Thanks so much for the suggestion of adding leftover turkey to this salad for a dinner. This is my plan for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Love this site!

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