Turkey Pecan Waldorf Salad is an update on a classic salad from the 1890’s. This savory fruit salad with apples and grapes also features a tangy creamy dressing you will love. Try this salad for a light lunch the next time you need a new twist on a turkey recipe!
One of the great things about holiday meals is having leftovers, especially the turkey! This year in addition to the turkey I had lots of pecans leftover from a wonderful Thanksgiving meal (pecan pie bars!). It made me think of making a recipe I have been experimenting with for awhile – the Waldorf salad.
The Waldorf salad was created in the 1890’s at what would become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Most historians credit the hotel’s maitre d’ for the recipe. You would think the chef would have created it, but no! Apparently the maître d’ created quite a few recipes for the hotel. The Waldorf salad originally had only apples, celery and mayonnaise, but as the years went by walnuts, chicken and sometimes grapes became typical ingredients.
Many moons ago I worked in downtown Minneapolis and loved going to get lunch from the deli in a beautiful store called Dayton’s. Dayton’s opened in 1902 and this was the company’s flagship store (there is now a Macy’s in this location). To this day I haven’t found a deli with cold salads I enjoyed as much as theirs. The quality and variety were amazing to me. Granted, this was twenty years ago, and great deli food is more common now, but in my mind what I had at Dayton’s is still the best! High quality, interesting ingredients with flavorful dressings are key.
One of the salads they made was a version of the Waldorf salad. Their version was a classic with walnuts, but since I had the turkey and pecans to work with, I thought they would make a great variation. I also wanted to give the dressing more flavor, so I’ve added lemon zest and juice, and also a little Dijon mustard.
Besides the turkey and pecans, this Waldorf salad has lots of fresh, sweet and savory crunchy elements. This is another reason I like making this salad after I’ve had my fill of richer, mostly not crunchy, holiday fare – it’s a refreshing change of pace!
I used apples and grapes for the sweet elements. You’ll want to choose a type of apple that has a crisp texture and a thinner peel, since you’ll leave the peel on. I used a Honeycrisp apple, but Gala’s are good too. Almost any apple works, but I don’t recommend red delicious which has a thicker, waxy peel and a soft texture. I used red grapes, but you can use whichever kind look the best in the market.
The pecans, celery and scallions will add some savory crunch to your salad. You can also use red onion in place of the scallions if you want a little more bite.
The dressing ingredients are very simple, just mayo, lemon juice and zest, Dijon, salt and pepper. (Note- I did forget the Dijon in the photo above!)
The turkey pecan Waldorf salad is really a type of chopped salad. The basic preparation is to chop all of the ingredients, then toss them with the creamy, tangy dressing. I like to toast the pecans before I chop them to bring out their flavor, but that is an optional step.
Chop the apples, grapes, and celery into a smaller size dice. I like to keep the turkey and pecans a little larger since they are the stars of the show. The green onions you’ll slice thinly, using the white and light green parts. You can also slice the darker green tops and use those for your garnish.
After all that chopping, you can quickly whip up the dressing. The Waldorf has a mayonnaise based dressing, and sometimes that’s all people use. We’ll jazz ours up with the Dijon (see, it made it into the picture above!) and the juice and zest of a lemon. Salt and pepper too of course! Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
Next take all of your chopped salad ingredients and place them into a mixing bowl. Now all you have to do is pour on the dressing and mix! I usually pour on 1/2 to 3/4 of the dressing to start and see how it looks. You want the ingredients covered, but not drowning in dressing.
I like to serve the turkey pecan Waldorf salad on a bed of lightly dressed lettuce. I also threw in some dried cranberries because I was feeling festive!
I used my orange sherry vinaigrette to dress the lettuce, but any light vinaigrette will do.
Try this turkey pecan Waldorf salad the next time you have turkey leftovers – the Waldorf never goes out of style!
- 3 cups of cooked turkey, large dice
- 1 cup apples, small diced with skin on, I use Honeycrisp or Gala
- 1 cup red grapes, diced
- ½ cup celery, small dice, about 2 stalks
- ¼ cup green onions (scallions), about 4, sliced thin, white and light green parts. (you can slice the dark green tops for a garnish if desired)
- ¾ cup pecan, toasted and chopped
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- zest from 1 lemon, about a teaspoon
- juice from ½ lemon, about 2 tablespoons
- ½ - 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 cups lettuce, I used butter lettuce
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup orange sherry vinaigrette
- Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
- Place all of the chopped salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Add ½ the dressing to the large bowl and mix with the ingredients. Add more dressing until you get the amount you like.
- If serving on the salad, toss the lettuce with the vinaigrette and cranberries. Place about 2 cups of lettuce in each serving bowl and top with as much turkey waldorf salad as you like!
- Serve with crackers or chips.
- You can also substitute chicken or ham for the turkey.