My "Great Big Make-Ahead Holiday Salad" Is the One Thing I Make Every Year

A big bowl of make-ahead holiday salad topped with fried shallots and watermelon radishes.
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

I never thought I’d call salad the highlight of my holiday meal, but this is the one to do it. I make this salad for my family, by demand, every single Thanksgiving and Hanukkah dinner. The crunchy texture and bright flavor perfectly balance the richer dishes on the table. Plus, it checks every single box. All of the ingredients can be prepped (and even assembled!) up to a full day ahead so I’m out of my mom’s way in the kitchen. My brother, who hates salads, eats it for the fried shallots alone. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. Best of all, it’s actually good as leftovers — which is rare for a salad!

This salad is one of my favorite things on the holiday table. It is, in my opinion, the perfect salad for large autumn and winter meals. Do what my family does, and skip the separate salad course, because you’ll want to eat it right alongside the rest of the dishes at dinner, and then again with leftover lunch the next day.

The Anatomy of a Great Big Make-Ahead Holiday Salad

  • Sturdy greens. A base of lacinato (or Tuscan) kale and shredded Brussels sprouts will hold up to the dressing for days without losing the crunch factor.

  • Pickled dates and onions. Add little pops of acidity and sweetness in equal measure by rubbing chopped dates, sliced onions and vinegar together until softened.

  • Radishes. Bright pink watermelon radishes or red radishes add unparalleled crunch.

  • Fried shallots. Crispy fried shallots make the perfect crunchy topping. Use the infused oil to boost the vinaigrette’s flavor.

  • Maple Dijon vinaigrette. A well-balanced salad dressing makes all of the salad ingredients shine.

  • Toasted almonds. Save yourself some work with store-bought roasted nuts.

Ways to Customize Holiday Salad to Make It Your Own

  • Substitute regular curly kale for the lacinato.

  • Swap out almonds for roasted pistachios, walnuts, or pecans. Or, for a nut-free salad, try toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds.

  • Add cheese; shaved Parmesan, Pecorino, crumbled goat cheese, or feta would all be delicious.

  • Use dried cherries or craisins instead of dates.

  • Add fresh fruit to the salad, such as sliced seasonal Fuyu persimmon or pomegranate seeds (also known as arils). Stir diced green apple into the vinaigrette for a boost of flavor and so it doesn’t brown.

If You’re Making Holiday Salad, a Few Tips

  • Utilize shortcuts where you can. This salad may require a bit more hands-on prep than you’d expect for a salad, so a mandoline or food processor with a slicing attachment will help ease the process.

  • Dress the salad now or later. The earlier you dress the greens, the more tender they will be. For me, dressing the salad two hours ahead yields the perfect extra-crunchy texture, but the greens will still have plenty of pleasant bite if dressed up to a day in advance.

  • Don’t add the nuts or shallots until just before serving. Prep both and store them in sealed containers at room temperature until just before serving to maintain maximum crunch factor.

  • Add the leftovers to your Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and this salad are a great match.

A big bowl of make-ahead holiday salad with serving utensils.
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Make-Ahead Holiday Salad Recipe

Layer crunchy greens, sweet date-pickled onions, and crisp fried shallots up to a full day in advance for the ultimate holiday salad.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves12 to 14


For the fried shallots and vinaigrette:

  • 4

    medium shallots

  • 2

    cloves garlic

  • 1 cup

    olive oil

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1/3 cup

    Champagne or white wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon

    maple syrup

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

For the pickled dates and onions:

  • 1

    medium red onion

  • 5 to 6 pitted dried Medjool dates

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons

    Champagne or white wine vinegar

For assembly:

  • 1 pound

    Brussels sprouts

  • 2

    medium bunches flat-leaf or lacinato kale (about 20 ounces total)

  • 2 to 3 medium watermelon radishes, or 1 small bunch red radishes (about 6)

  • 1/2 cup

    roasted, salted almonds


Make the fried shallots and vinaigrette:

  1. Thinly slice 4 medium shallots (about 1 1/2 cups). Finely grate 2 garlic cloves. Line a plate with paper towels.

  2. Place the shallots and 1 cup olive oil in a medium skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown and crisp, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to the plate and season with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt. (Once cooled, the shallots can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.)

  3. Transfer 1/2 cup of the shallot oil to a jar with a lid; reserve the remaining oil for another use. Add the garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/3 cup Champagne or white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to the jar. Seal the jar and shake until combined. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. (Alternatively, the vinaigrette can be made in a medium bowl and whisked to combine.)

Make the pickled dates and onions:

  1. Halve and thinly slice 1 medium red onion (about 1 cup). Coarsely chop 5 to 6 pitted dried Medjool dates until you have about 1/2 cup. Place the onion, dates, 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a fork, work the dates into the onions until they are evenly distributed and the onions start to soften. Let sit to marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Assemble the salad:

  1. Trim the bottoms from 1 pound Brussels sprouts. Using a food processor with a slicing attachment, a mandoline, or a knife, finely shred the Brussels sprouts (about 6 cups). Place in a large bowl.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to the bowl of Brussels sprouts as you complete it: Pick the leaves from 2 medium bunches flat-leaf kale and discard the stalks. Tear or chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces (6 to 7 packed cups). Peel 2 to 3 medium watermelon radishes (no need to peel if using 1 small bunch red radishes), if using. Thinly slice the radishes (about 1 cup).

  3. Coarsely chop 1/2 cup roasted, salted almonds.

  4. Add half of the onion mixture and all of the vinaigrette to the kale mixture and toss to combine. Taste and season with kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Scatter the remaining onion mixture over top. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes or up to 1 day before serving. Just before serving, sprinkle the almonds and fried shallots on top.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.