Blueberry Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Pecans is delightfully sweet and savory and dressed with a quick homemade Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette. Fresh and vibrant, it's perfect for the holidays or a fancy brunch, but easy enough for weeknights! Ready in just 15 minutes!
This might just be your go-to holiday salad this year! Stunningly beautiful and full of fresh ingredients, and those candied pecans are heavenly!
This Blueberry Goat Cheese Salad really spans the seasons, and is perfect for any occasion, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, date night, fancy party or weeknight side dish!
This salad can be made with any balsamic vinaigrette or dressing of choice, but it is really exceptional with this super easy Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette. The dressing recipe is included with this salad recipe below, it's made in a food processor or blender in just a few minutes!
Just a few healthy simple ingredients, and each one in perfect balance, this salad marries the savory with the sweet!
- Candied Pecans - They sound hard but candied pecans are ready in just 4 minutes, a quick sauté in butter and brown sugar, and oh are they delicious!
- Lettuce Greens - Use any kind of lettuce or baby spinach you like. I often buy the mixed baby greens that are washed and ready to go. You may like this Italian Mixed Greens Salad with Crispy Prosciutto too!
- Blueberries - Fresh fruit brings an element of sweetness that goes so well with cheese and nuts. It's like a tiny charcuterie board in every bite!
- Goat Cheese - Now I absolutely love goat cheese, but I know not everyone does. It adds a rich creamy element to the salad that balances the sweet and sharp vinegar. You can use the plain or a goat cheese flavored with honey. If you're not a goat cheese fan, feta, shaved Parmesan or blue cheese would be great substitutes.
- Red Onion - Adds a sharpness to even out the sweet. These can of course be left out if you aren't an onion person!
- Dressing - I'm using my favorite homemade dressing here, Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette. It's made in just a few minutes in the food processor or blender incorporating fresh basil, garlic and a touch of honey for sweetness. This salad can be made with store-bought balsamic vinaigrette or really any dressing you like, but the basil balsamic is seriously amazing!
See recipe card for quantities.
Step 1 - Make the Candied Pecans - In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the pecans, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt.
Toss or stir frequently for about 4 minutes until the nuts are toasted and glazed and coated with the sugar.
Don't walk away, nuts can burn fast! Let cool.
Step 2 - Make the Dressing - Add all ingredients for the dressing to a food processor or blender and puree while drizzling the olive oil in through the feed tube.
Process about 1 minute until smooth.
Step 3 - Arrange the Salad - On a large platter, arrange the lettuce and crumble on goat cheese using a fork, blueberries, a few red onion slices and the candied pecans.
Drizzle with the dressing, toss lightly and serve.
Tip: Wait until just before serving to add the dressing!
Variations & Chef Tips
This blueberry pecan salad is the classic fruit-cheese-nut combination. It lends itself well to lots of options for variations. This Pear & Pomegranate Salad is another favorite salad alternative for the holidays, but you can really switch up these 3 elements with anything you like:
- Fruit - Try different berries like strawberry, raspberry or blackberry. Or add sliced apples, pears, peaches, cherries or dried cranberries or sliced apricot.
- Nuts - Any nuts are great substitutions such as walnuts, cashews, almonds or pistachios. You can candy them with butter and brown sugar in the same way, or try subbing a spoonful of honey or maple syrup for the sugar. They could also be toasted in a dry pan without being candied.
- Cheese - Feta, blue cheese, or Parmesan cheese are all great variations to the goat cheese.
Storage & Make Ahead Instructions
Storage - Once your salad is tossed with dressing it won't keep very well, so try not to have leftovers.
Make Ahead - This salad is great to make ahead and bring to a holiday party! The candied pecans can be made a day or two in advance and kept in an airtight container on the counter. Be warned, they are hard not to snack on! The dressing can also be made a day or two in advance and kept in a jar in the fridge. Just set it on the counter at least 15 minutes before serving so the oil can come back to room temperature, shake well!
The rest of the salad can be arranged on a platter, covered, and taken to a party. Keep it in the fridge, and it will be fine for a few hours. It is of course a fresh salad, so try to make it as close to serving time as possible! If your dressing and pecans are already made, the rest of the salad can be put together in a few minutes.
What to Serve With This Salad
This gorgeous salad is really easy and useful for so many occasions and meals!
- The Holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New Year's dinner parties, this salad can be paired with turkey, steaks, ham, or prime rib. Whatever the fancy main course, this salad works perfectly!
- Brunch - Mother's Day, baby showers or just Sunday brunch, this blueberry goat cheese salad goes so well with eggs and coffee! Try it with a Sausage Spinach Quiche, a simple platter of fruit and some Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins for the perfect brunch menu.
- Weeknights - An easy, healthy and well rounded side dish, serve this balsamic candied pecan salad as a side dish to homemade pizza or pasta night such as Creamy Farfalle Pasta with Prosciutto.
The goat cheese in this salad can be substituted with crumbled feta cheese. Buy the feta that comes in a block in a tub of brine and crumble it yourself for the best quality. Big shavings of Parmesan cheese would also be good.
This salad uses a 4 oz box of lettuce and serves about 6 to 8 people. But, a simple trick for portioning lettuce is to just grab a handful, about what you think 1 person would eat, and toss it in your bowl. Count out the handfuls for each person you are serving. Then adjust your toppings accordingly.
More Favorite Salad Recipes!
If you made this recipe, I'd love to hear how you liked it! Leave a star rating by clicking the stars in the recipe card, or leave a comment below!
Blueberry Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Pecans
Hit the stars to rate this recipe!Print Pin Rate
For the Salad
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 4 ounces mixed lettuce greens
- ½ cup blueberries
- 3 ounces goat cheese crumbled (about ½ cup)
- ¼ cup red onion sliced
For the Dressing
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 sprigs fresh basil (or ½ teaspoon dried basil)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 grinds fresh black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- For the Candied Pecans, in a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the pecans, brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Saute, stirring and tossing frequently, about 4 minutes until they are toasted and coated. Don't walk away, nuts burn fast! Allow to cool.
- Make the dressing by adding all ingredients except the olive oil to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth while drizzling the olive oil in through the feed tube, about 1 minute.
- Assemble the salad on a large serving platter with lettuce, red onion slices, crumbled goat cheese (use a fork to crumble), blueberries, and the candied pecans. Drizzle with basil balsamic vinaigrette and serve.
- The Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette can be made in a food processor, blender or in a jar using a stick immersion blender. Blending the dressing is the best way to incorporate the fresh basil. If you want to make the dressing by hand, you can simply mince the garlic and basil, or use dried, and shake all ingredients together in a jar. This recipe makes more dressing than is needed for this salad. Extra dressing can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to 1 week (longer if not using fresh basil).
- Candied pecans can be made a day or two in advance and kept in an airtight container on the counter.
- This salad can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated or transported to a holiday party. Wait to add the candied pecans and dressing until just before serving.