Arugula and red onions and cashews and dried cranberries and wild rice and lemon dressing, comin in hot. ♡
I mean, wow! Already? Tis the season!
When it comes to Thanksgiving, there are two types: the type who makes a turkey, and the type who brings a salad. Do I even need to tell you which type I am? Bjork’s aunt called us yesterday and asked if I would rather bring a salad or a vegetable side. umm, HELLO. How could I ever NOT bring a salad? It is my Thanksgiving destiny. I have a feeling that so many of us are twinning on this issue.
Having lived the last 8 years as the resident Thanksgiving salad-bringer in my family, I’m not too humble to let you know that my crowd-pleasing holiday salad game is STRONG, friends. I have nothing for you when it comes to beautifully roasted whole turkeys. Nuh-thing. Like, I wouldn’t even know where to buy a turkey or what kind to buy or how to, like, do whatever it is you need to do with a turkey.
My zone of genius lies between the layers of curly arugula and the chewy wild rice and the quick lemon jar dressing. Year after year after year (👵🏼), my people come to me for the salad.
A quick note of encouragement to the salad bringers: we WILL stand in the spotlight and make turkeys for our families someday. I know that we will. We’ll wear fun Thanksgiving aprons (er, will we?) and we’ll have absolutely no last minute kitchen mishaps whatsoever and Thanksgiving angels will be singing and they’ll put us on the cover of a super domestic-y magazine for our Thanksgiving turkey prowess. GOALS, team. Goals. 🏅
But until then, what Thanksgiving asks of us is to bring a really delicious, colorful, medium-healthy (but not SO healthy that it tastes healthy) S-A-L-A-D to the table, and actually, the responsibility here is heavier than it seems. Think about it: we are charged with offering the single item on the Thanksgiving menu that has any redeeming nutritional value, and unlike mashed potatoes which are universally appealing whether you’re the three-year-old or the grandpa, one size doesn’t automatically fit all when it comes to salads.
If you’re new to the Thanksgiving salad bringing game, I’ll just warn you – there will be some food bias. We will face harsher prejudice than most other dishes on the table. Green bean casserole – obligatory favorite. Turkey – traditional favorite. Mashed potatoes – always a favorite, always always always, no matter what. Because gravy.
Do you see salad anywhere on that list? That’s what I mean. A lot of people THINK they don’t like a Thanksgiving salad.
And you’re going to prove them wrong, because here you come with your chewy, colorful, multi-textured salad tossed with the lightest and most simply flavored lemon + olive oil dressing, and hmm? what’s that? They want SECONDS?
Awyeahhh. Glory moment.
They won’t even know what hit them.
Okay, let’s note a few things here.
MANGOS: I strategically left that small detail out of the initial description because it’s weird and I didn’t want you to leave yet. But yes, there are mangos in this salad. I realize that mangos don’t exactly scream “Thanksgiving!” and I normally make this Thanksgiving salad with regular old Thanksgiving-style red apples, but this year I was working on a project that involved mangos at the same time I was prepping this recipe, so I decided to just throw some in the salad and OMGOSH it was amazing. If you’re willing to step outside the box on this one, I would recommend slightly underripe mangos – the ones that are just a little more firm and tart. It doesn’t feel mango-y as much as it feels like an awesome texture and flavor combination with the arugula, wild rice, and dried cranberries. 👌 Plus, SO PRETTY. The colors here are on point.
But if you’re not digging the mango thing, this Thanksgiving salad can basically be one million combinations. Just about every category can be swapped for something else. I would recommend keeping the lemon dressing as-is (not much can replicate that fresh lemon and orange juice with tasty olive oil and salt + pepp) but let’s take a look at the breakdown in very general terms. This is basically a Thanksgiving salad formula.
GREENS: you could use spinach, arugula, kale, shaved brussels sprouts (while we’re on that topic, see also: my favorite Thanksgiving brussels sprout salad ever), or other
GRAINS: you could use wild rice, quinoa, brown rice, farro, amaranth, freekeh, or other
NUTS: you could use cashews, pecans, walnuts, pistachios (fave), almonds, or other
FRUIT: you could use mangos, apples, grapes, oranges, pears, or other
EXTRAS: you could use sliced red onions, dried cranberries, goat cheese, feta cheese, crunchy fried onions (ugh, ridiculously good), or other
Alright, team! Power to the Thanksgiving salad!
I’ll be cheering you on from my Thanksgiving table this year as I help myself to another serving of wild rice salad thank u very much. ♡
Easy Thanksgiving Salad – arugula, wild rice, cashews, dried cranberries, red onions, and a lemon dressing that shakes up easily in a jar.
For the Lemon Dressing
- juice of one orange
- juice of one lemon
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- agave or honey to taste (optional)
For the Salad
- about 4–5 cups arugula, spinach, or a greens blend
- about 2 cups cooked wild rice
- about 2 cups chopped mangos
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup sliced red onions
- minced fresh parsley (optional)
- Shake all dressing ingredients together in a jar with a tight lid until smooth. Taste it and add more salt and pepper as needed (without enough salt and pepper, it will be bland, so s&p generously).
- Arrange or toss the salad ingredients together in a bowl, reserving a few slices of red onion to arrange over the top for looks. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to combine. Serve immediately after putting the dressing on the salad (or save everything separately and assemble just before serving).
If going sugar free is important to you, make sure to omit the dried cranberries or sub in a sugar-free dried fruit.
Also good on this salad: apples, grapes, pecans, walnuts, feta cheese, goat cheese, white cheddar cheese (especially with apples), quinoa, farro, etc.
The wild rice tastes best in this salad when you cook it in something other than just water. I like to cook mine in part water, part vegetable or chicken stock. Also – I recommend making the wild rice the day before and refrigerating it overnight so you’re not dealing with hot wild rice wilting your greens as you toss it together in the salad bowl.