This winter fruit salad is as delicious as it is pretty. Made with seasonal fresh fruit (with a few options for canned fruit, too!), the quick and easy dressing adds the perfect touch of something special.
I know you might be thinking “who needs a recipe for fruit salad?” but I’m here to tell you that you definitely need this recipe for this fruit salad.
Fruit salad during the winter months can be disappointing. Pulling together the sparse winter fruit offerings available at the store often takes a feat of superhuman mental energy and strength, which is why we usually just end up with sliced apples on the table.
Of course, that totally works for your average Tuesday night dinner, but when you want a showstopper of a fruit salad for a holiday meal or special occasion, this easy winter fresh fruit salad is the one. The combination of colorful fruit with the super easy but super special dressing is phenomenal.
It is definitely one of my favorite fruit salads of all time – too bad pomegranate seeds aren’t available year round! That’s why you and I have to take advantage of the situation and make this fruit salad as often as we can for the next few months. I’m in if you’re in.
How this fruit salad came to be
Last week, a funny and kind MKC reader, Shannon P., emailed me to say that my fruit salad offerings on my Thanksgiving menu post were a little slim. 🙂 And I couldn’t disagree! I’m telling you, winter fresh fruit salads have never been my forte. But I do love a good fruit salad and think it offers the perfect compliment to indulgently hearty holiday meals.
So when Shannon kindly outlined a fruit salad that has been her go-to for Thanksgiving and other holiday meals in the winter (and said it’s always a smash hit), I had to play around with it.
Using her guide as a baseline, I got to work. Thankfully fruit salad is about the easiest thing to make ever.
Meanwhile my kids stood around with spoons at the ready while I tested out a couple versions and then dug in to every batch like ravenous wolves. I guess there are worse things. I, for one, would probably strategically place myself in the right place at the right time for, say, chocolate cookie testing.
What kind of fruit to use for winter fruit salad
While the fruit in this recipe is pretty adaptable, here are a few Bossy Mel guidelines:
pomegranate seeds should be pretty much mandatory – they add color, texture, flavor, and all around rock star quality
speaking of pomegranates, I think the seeds sold in cups are kind of mushy and weird, so seeding a pomegranate yourself is the way to go (plus you’ll feel cool and it isn’t hard; two ways to seed a pomegranate are listed in the notes of the recipe)
choose fruits with a variety of color and texture
if given the choice between apples and pears, I choose pears for this salad, but apples will work, too
you can segment a fresh navel or mandarin orange for this salad or use canned, drained mandarin oranges
Let’s talk about the dressing
The simple 3-ingredient dressing is what really makes this fruit salad shine.
orange juice (or half orange, half lemon juice)
Yes, cinnamon. Please hear me out. I was skeptical about this, too. I kind of like my cinnamon to stay where cinnamon ought to stay (cinnamon rolls, cookies, cakes, toast). But I also like to live life on the edge (ha) and wanted to give it a try after Shannon recommended it.
I’m so glad I did. The key to using cinnamon in the dressing is to go with a very, very light pinch of cinnamon. I use less than 1/8 teaspoon.
And I know what you’re thinking. If it’s such a small amount, why is it necessary at all? Because it adds the most delightful warm note of something special to the fresh and tangy flavors of the fruit salad. And that tiny pinch of cinnamon goes a long way. It is really, really delicious. I hope you’ve come to trust me by now – please give it a try?
Subbing in a bit of lemon juice (freshly squeezed!) for the orange juice will give this easy winter fresh fruit salad a zingy pop. I happen to love it. But if you want the salad on the sweeter side, stick with all orange juice.
I can’t overstate how delicious this fruit salad is. And I can’t wait to serve it at Christmastime and beyond. The variations really are endless.
I think it would transition into a fabulous summer fruit salad as well. Same dressing just changing up the fruit a bit (and having a moment of silence for the lost pomegranate seeds).
Mostly I’m just relieved that this winter fresh fruit salad is helping me, little by little, bulk up my fruit salad section so I don’t leave you awesome readers hanging without sufficient options.
Now’s probably the time to tell me what other recipes I’m lacking on here and I’ll get to work! 🙂 Don’t worry, I can take it. I have a feeling it won’t be cookies. Ha. Got plenty of those.
1 cup mandarin oranges, drained, or fresh mandarin/navel orange segments
1 cup diced apples or pears
1 cup halved grapes
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons orange juice (see note for lemon variation)
Light pinch of cinnamon
Place the fruit in a serving bowl. (If using pears, because they sometimes darken faster than apples, I like to toss them with a light squeeze of lemon juice before adding to the salad.)
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the fruit and toss to combine.
The fruit salad can be made a couple hours ahead of time – keep in mind that depending on what type of fruit is used, the colors may seep into each other as the salad sits.
Fruit: as noted above, the fruit is very adaptable to what is in season and what you prefer. You’ll want about 5-6 cups total fruit (not including the pomegranate seeds). The lineup listed above is my favorite (I use pears when I can find delicious, ripe ones).
Pomegranate Seeds: I personally think the pomegranate seeds are essential for this fruit salad – for color, texture, flavor and prettiness. I haven’t had great luck with the cups of pomegranate seeds you can buy at various stores (they are often mushy and have a weird texture), so I prefer digging the seeds out of a pomegranate myself. TIPS: you can either halve and peel apart the pomegranate and gently pound the skin side with a wooden spoon, letting the seeds fall out into a bowl OR quarter the pomegranate and submerge the pomegranate quarters in a bowl of water pulling apart the pieces and letting the seeds fall to the bottom (the skin and white parts of the pomegranate will float to the top).
Dressing: my favorite way to make the dressing is to use 1 tablespoon orange juice and 1 tablespoon lemon juice (both freshly squeezed, if you can, especially the lemon juice). I love the tangy freshness from the lemon. But if you want it a bit sweeter and not as tangy, use all orange juice.
Cinnamon: you want a very light pinch of cinnamon – less than 1/8 teaspoon. It adds something so special to this salad and the small amount doesn’t overpower the flavor.
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Recipe Source: inspired by a recipe an awesome MKC reader (Shannon P.) sent me