Skip to main content

Celebration-Worthy Salads

Accompanied by pops of bright citrus, a zingy dressing, crisp raw vegetables, and candied nuts, kale can be downright festive.
By Published Oct. 3, 2022

I’m going to take a controversial stance here: Your Thanksgiving spread needs a salad. 

Yes, I know that the holidays are for unabashed enjoyment of all things rich, starchy, and beige, but hear me out. A salad not only livens up the table with vibrant color but also serves as a welcome contrast to the heavy staples of the holiday table. From the freshness and palate-cleansing bitterness of raw greens to the textural symphony of juicy, crunchy, ruffly add-ins to the bracing punch of a vinaigrette, salad enables you to take a break from the gravy-doused portion of your plate and then return to it renewed.

Make-ahead friendly, crowd-pleasing, and colorful, this is what holiday traditions are made of.

But you shouldn’t surrender precious dining table real estate to just any old bowl of greens. When developing my holiday salad recipes, I wanted to create salads that looked festive, a more colorful, complex step-up from an everyday dinner side. But at the same time, I wanted big payoff from a relatively low‑lift recipe, knowing that time and kitchen space are at a premium during the holidays. So I devised a winning holiday salad blueprint to guide me as I created a trio of salads (and to guide you as you further adapt these recipes to your taste). I started with a base of kale, a green with sturdiness that can stand up to dressing for hours and even days, which allows cooks to prepare the salads ahead. To temper its fibrous texture, I massaged the kale with olive oil, which tenderized and seasoned it. Next, I aimed to fill in the bright and fresh elements typically missing from holiday meals by adding juicy citrus, crisp raw vegetables, and crunchy nut and seed brittles. The finishing touch? Warm spices woven into both the dressing and brittle. 

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

Strategies for a Make-Ahead Holiday Salad

USE KALE AS A STURDY BASE

A quick olive oil massage tenderizes the resilient greens. Their sturdy texture ensures that the salad won’t go soggy after it’s dressed, so it can be assembled days in advance.

ADD CRISPNESS WITH RAW ROOT VEGETABLES

Sturdy kohlrabi, radishes, and jicama contribute a fresh, crisp texture and subtle sweetness. 

REFRESH WITH JUICY CITRUS

Seasonal citrus fruit adds a burst of color and refreshing flavor. The sweet juiciness is the perfect balance to the rich and savory elements of the salad.

INCORPORATE CRUNCH AND POPS OF SWEETNESS

A sprinkle of seasoned candied nuts and seeds, browned in the oven, adds appealing crunch and warm spice.

From my vibrant mix of kohlrabi, oranges, and candied pecans to the rosy combo of radishes, red grapefruit, and cardamom-infused pepita brittle to the seasonal mash-up of crisply refreshing jicama, sweet pomelo, and fragrant, coriander-spiced cashews, these are celebration‑worthy salads. Make-ahead friendly, crowd‑pleasing, and colorful, this is what holiday traditions are made of. 

Kale’s fibrous texture gives way to tenderness after an olive oil massage.

0 Comments

Try All-Access Membership to Unlock the Comments
Don't miss the conversation. Our test cooks and editors jump in to answer your questions, and our members are curious, opinionated, and respectful.
Membership includes instant access to everything on our sites:
  • 10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work
  • Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients
  • Equipment Reviews save you money and time
  • Videos including full episodes and clips
  • Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Start Free Trial
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.