This fall salad with apples ticks the boxes for tangy, salty, sour, and sweet. With candied pecans, green onions, vegan feta, and cider vinaigrette, there’s a reason it’s a household holiday favorite. Vegan & gluten-free.
Pumpkin gets all of the trumpets, confetti, and fanfare. But for my money, autumn is all about apples.
Trips to the orchard pay dividends in apple cinnamon pancakes, apple chutney, apple quesadillas, and roasted Brussels sprouts with apples.
And of course, one more option for good measure – a fall salad with roasted apple slices, candied pecans, green onions, and vegan feta on a bed of baby spinach.
This seasonal salad was inspired by a dish my sister-in-law brings to our extended family Thanksgiving every year. I always look forward to a big bowlful of it.
But there’s no reason that you have to wait until the fourth Thursday in November to try it.
Baked apple slices
This autumnal starter includes slices of apples that are cooked until dry and a little chewy.
They’re not quite as dry as dehydrated apples or jerky. They still have some moisture in them.
Baking intensifies their sweetness and brings their inherent fruit flavor front and center.
For the apple slices, I recommend a slightly tart apple with a good crisp bite. Pink Lady apples or Honeycrisp are my go-to options here.
Baked apple slices are ideal for make ahead salads, because you don’t have to worry about them oxidizing and turning brown.
After baking, they will retain their yellow color. You can keep them in the refrigerator for several days with no degradation of flavor or appearance.
The baked apple slices would also be a nice addition to a vegan cheeseboard, or eaten straight out of the refrigerator as a snack.
Candied pecans on the stovetop
I like to make candied pecans on the stovetop. They only take five minutes to make and a few simple ingredients.
When you make them from scratch, you also have the option of adding your preferred flavor additions like cinnamon, vanilla, smoked paprika, or cayenne to really personalize the flavor.
However, if you’d rather skip a step, you can buy them already made. Candied pecans are sold in grocery stores with the other nuts.
At the holidays when I’m already cooking a zillion things, I’ve been known to pick up a bag from Trader Joe’s and call it a day.
Homemade vegan feta
This salad is topped with my favorite vegan feta cheese. It’s a soy-free cheese made with almonds. It’s baked in the oven until firm. Then you crumble it by hand.
I always keep a batch in the refrigerator. Plus, it’s easy to make extra and store it in the freezer for cheese emergencies.
By using almond based feta, you get some added protein in the salad, which gives it staying power. That’s especially handy if you’re serving it as an entrée.
If you’d prefer to use a store-bought option, Violife or Herbivorous Butcher feta, or cubed avocado would also be delightful here.
Apple cider vinaigrette
This tangy vinaigrette is made with a few simple ingredients that are reminiscent of fall.
It’s mildly sweet with a perfect balance of tang from apple cider vinegar, and sweetness from maple syrup. Stoneground mustard gives it a fuller viscosity. Then it’s finished with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.
This tangy tart dressing has a terrific apple bite. It is especially nice on baby spring mix, spinach, and other lighter greens. However, it has enough flavor that it can stand up to heartier greens like massaged kale.
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make this recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (If you prefer browner edges on the apple slices, preheat to 400 degrees.)
Spread thinly sliced apples across a parchment paper covered baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, stopping to flip once halfway through.
While the apple slices bake, make a batch of candied pecans. Or you can buy packaged candied pecans and save a step.
Make cider vinaigrette by whisking the following in a bowl:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Maple syrup
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Stoneground mustard
Pour baby spring mix or baby spinach into a salad bowl along with green onions. Top with baked apple slices, candied pecans, and vegan feta.
Toss with cider vinaigrette, to taste. Or allow guests to pour the dressing on their individual salads.
What to serve with it
Fall salad with apples & candied pecans
Fall salad with apples
To make fall salad with apples
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. (If you prefer apples with browned edges, preheat to 400 degrees.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the apple slices evenly across the baking sheet, being careful not to overlap. Bake the slices for 20 minutes, stopping once halfway through to flip. Remove the slices from oven and cool. (If you will be making the salad later, store the apple slices in a container in the refrigerator.)
- While the apple slices bake, make a batch of candied pecans. (Link to recipe in ingredients list.) Or use store-bought candied pecans instead.
- Add the roasted apple slices and candied pecans to a large salad bowl with green onions and baby spring mix. Top with vegan feta cheese. Serve with cider vinaigrette.
To make cider vinaigrette
- In a small bowl, whisk apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, extra virgin olive oil, stoneground mustard, salt, and pepper.
Content and photos updated September 2020. Originally posted November 2015.