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Fresh and Flavorful Fall Salad With Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Every once in a while, a salad surprises me with its perfect combination of textures and flavors. Balancing creamy cheese, crunchy, toasted walnuts, a perfectly acidic pomegranate vinaigrette, apples, and spinach makes this fall salad irresistibly delicious. 

Words like “healthy” and “light” often describe salad, but salads can also be “filling” and “flavorful” with fresh ingredients and various textures. Try imagining crunchy, sweet, sour, salty, creamy, and rich all in one dish. All of these elements play together in this beautiful fall salad with pomegranate dressing.

Fall Salad with Pom
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Ingredients 

For The Salad: 

  • Two handfuls of Spinach 
  • 1/2 of an apple 
  • 1/8 cup of Gorgonzola cheese 
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of Toasted Walnuts 
  • Pomegranate Vinaigrette (3 TBSPs or more – To taste)
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

For The Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • One whole pomegranate 
  • One knob of ginger
  • 1 TBSP of tahini
  • The juice of 1/2 orange
  • 3/8 cup of olive oil 
  • 1/8 a cup of red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt 
  • Pepper

The Salad

Spinach

Spinach loves cooler growing conditions, so we experience the most vibrant flavors this delicious green can offer in the fall and winter. In each bite of this fall salad, that earthy, fresh flavor gives crisp, clean enjoyment to its partakers. 

In this salad, the savory aspects come from 3 simple ingredients: spinach, cheese, and walnuts. However, spinach stands as the anchor of this dish, the natural ingredient that grounds the fall salad, giving the other ingredients purpose. 

Substitutions

Kale or other wintergreens that taste great raw may substitute for spinach in this recipe. While any green will do, I prefer greens with darker colors in colder months. 

Tips

Try tearing or pre-cutting your spinach before adding them to the salad for more ease in eating. To me, being able to eat a salad without a knife improves the eating experience. 

Closeup of apple slices cut into bite-sized pieces on a wooden cutting board.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Apple

The apple in this salad brings in sweet, fall flavor and a little bit of crunch. Thinly sliced, supple apples also decorate our salad with their beautiful red color. 

I used honey crisp apples, but any apple will work well in this dish. 

Substitutions

For a similar texture, jicama or pears make an excellent substitute for apples. 

Gorgonzola Cheese

The bold, savory flavor of Gorgonzola adds a desirable funk to this fall salad. Strong cheese always pairs well with sweeter elements. In this case, our cheese gives balance to the apples and pomegranate vinaigrette.

Substitutions

Feta cheese, blue cheese, goat cheese, or any creamy cheese abounding with flavor will add depth and balance to your salad.

Toasted Walnuts

The myriad of flavors walnuts add to food amazes me every time I eat them. When toasted, a sweet, oily essence releases, pairing nicely with the walnut’s naturally warm, earthy, slightly bitter taste notes. 

Every salad needs a crunchy element like nuts or croutons to elevate it from layers of fruits and vegetables to a textural wonderland. Walnuts deliver that perfect crunch to this delicious salad. 

Substitutions

Pecans, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, croutons, etc…, an endless list of crunch factors can substitute for walnuts to fulfill all of your textural fantasies.

Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper should be sprinkled across your fall salad at the end to bring out a more delicious flavor in each ingredient. 

The Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Overhead closeup view of a pomegranate.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Pomegranate 

Like citrus, pomegranate tastes a bit sour and acidic, yet a natural sweetness brings balance to this gorgeous fruit. The brightness of this fruit pops through in color and taste. 

Closeup of a pomegranate cut in half on a wooden cutting board.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Closeup of hands removing sections of pomegranate.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
The Process

Hold the stem of the pomegranate while slicing it in half. Once split, take half of the pomegranate and pull lightly on the edges to loosen the pomegranate seeds. Turn the pomegranate over and pat it with your hand or the back of a large spoon until all of your seeds are released. Repeat with the other half of the pomegranate. 

Pomegranate seeds in a small white bowl next to a blender.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Once all of the pomegranate seeds have been removed, pour them into the blender. Blend until smooth, and then strain through a fine mesh. Use the juices as the first ingredient in your pomegranate dressing. 

Spoon pushing blended pomegranate mixture through a strainer.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Substitutions

You can use store-bought pomegranate to replace fresh pomegranate. If using store-bought pomegranate juice, use about 1/8 of a cup. This substitution will save time without compromising the flavor.  

Pomegranate molasses may also be used in place of pomegranate. Keep in mind the molasses adds considerable sweetness to this dish, so use sparingly. 

Closeup of hands grating ginger root.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Fresh Ginger 

Adding ginger to your dressing gives it an effervescent kick. Your nasal passages will open up in response to the intense spice of ginger and awaken to the scent and flavor of every delicious ingredient. 

Ginger commonly finds its way into Mediterranean cuisine, giving a finessed punch of flavor to classic dishes in their cooking. In this vinaigrette, that small amount of ginger adds a subtle kick to the rich tahini and pomegranate, all ingredients common in classic Mediterranean dishes, blending in beautiful harmony.  

The Process

Use the edge of a metal spoon to remove the skin on the outside of your fresh ginger. Once the skin is removed, grate the flesh of the ginger over your pomegranate juice with a zester or cheese grater. 

Substitutions

Ginger paste or ginger powder may be used in place of fresh ginger. 

Tahini

Every dressing needs a thickening, emulsifying element. Some chefs use chemical powders to achieve the appropriate viscosity for their gravies, dressings, and sauces, but simple condiments work to smoothly blend your ingredients and establish the proper consistency. 

Tahini, a sesame paste commonly used in Mediterranean cooking, melds together the oil, vinegar, and other elements, while also adding a fluffy, creamy mouthfeel to the pomegranate vinaigrette. Emulsifying ingredients like tahini also work double duty by allowing the dressing flavors to cohere to the rest of the fall salad. 

Tahini paste in bowl of salad dressing ingredients.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Substitutions

Yogurt or almond butter might make the best substitutes for tahini paste in flavor, but other ingredients can be used to create thickness, such as honey, mustard, mayo, etc… 

Orange

Adding citrus to the vinaigrette heightens the flavors of other ingredients by adding a little extra acid to them. Oranges’ inherent sweetness also adds richness to the vinaigrette.

Closeup of hands reaching for orange wedges.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Substitutions

you may use lime, lemon, or grapefruit instead of orange, but these ingredients tend towards a more sour flavor. Add honey if needed for a bit more sweetness. 

Closeup of bottle of olive oil with bowl of salad dressing ingredients in the background.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Olive oil 

One of the most necessary ingredients in a vinaigrette is oil. In this case, olive oil. 

Olive oils can vary in flavor from robust to light and nearly tasteless. I love the heavier body of robust olive oil, but be sure to adjust this recipe to your taste preferences. 

Overhead view of olive oil in the middle of bowl of salad dressing ingredients.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield
Substitutions

Grapeseed oil or other mildly flavored oils can replace the olive oil in this recipe.

Closeup of hands pouring red wine vinegar into measuring spoon.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Red Wine Vinegar

Vinegar, the ingredient which gives the vinaigrette its name, adds a sharp taste that cuts through the fatty components in this salad. The creamy cheese pairs exceptionally well with red wine vinegar. 

Substitutions

While red wine vinegar upholds the bright pink color of the pomegranate dressing, you can use other kinds of vinegar in its place. Balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar may be the best options to replace red wine vinegar. 

Salt and Pepper

A little salt and pepper in the vinaigrette bring palatal excitement to the bright and beautiful flavors. 

Pairings

A nice glass of chardonnay or pinot noir, a side of crackers and cheese, or a toasted loaf of bread with oil and spices to dip it in would make a decadent appetizer to start a meal or a perfect light dinner.

My husband and I treated our salad like part of a Mediterranean feast and paired it with parsley rice and Kadu, but this salad would be a great introduction to any Mediterranean meal. Gyros, lamb stew, Roasted eggplants, shwarma, all of these dishes would taste great with this fall salad. 

For cocktail drinkers, a cherry vodka sour enhances the pomegranate flavors in this salad. For beer drinkers, a lovely German shandy with tart cherry juice marries beautifully with the sweet and sour notes of the pomegranate vinaigrette. 

Ultimately, this salad could be the perfect starter for any meal. 

Storage

While I would not recommend saving an already dressed salad, the pomegranate vinaigrette can be stored in a mason jar or air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. This means you can enjoy it again and again. (You might even try pouring it over chicken for a sweet and scrumptious glaze.) 

Closeup of hand holding bowl of salad dressing and other hand stirring with a fork.
Photo by: Brodie Porterfield

Debunking the Salad Myth 

Salads often receive negative feedback. People interact with them as mere piles of vegetables and fruits, but when you add crunch, creamy cheeses, and a delightful vinaigrette, suddenly a salad feels like a textural masterpiece. 

Try this salad today, and I know you will be using your fork to indulge in a varied plate of crispy, creamy, sweet, sour, and ultimately tasty ingredients. 

Pinterest image of Fall Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette dressing.
Fall Salad with Pom

Fall Salad With Pomegranate Dressing

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Balancing creamy cheese, crunchy, toasted walnuts, a perfectly acidic pomegranate vinaigrette, apples, and spinach makes this fall salad irresistibly delicious.

Ingredients

  • Two handfuls of Spinach
  • 1/2 of an apple
  • 1/8 cup of Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/8-1/4 cup of Toasted Walnuts
  • Pomegranate Vinaigrette (3 TBSPs or more - To taste) (Ingredients for vinaigrette listed below)
  • One whole pomegranate
  • One knob of ginger
  • 1 TBSP of tahini
  • The juice of 1/2 orange
  • 3/8 cup of olive oil
  • 1/8 a cup of red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. If making your own pomegranate Vinaigrette, start by removing all of the seeds from the pomegranate, blending them, straining them, and then mixing their juice with ginger, tahini, juice of the orange, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  2. Add two handfuls of spinach to a bowl.
  3. Slice apple thinly and add to the spinach.
  4. Top your salad with gorgonzola, toasted walnuts, and as much Vinaigrette as you prefer.
  5. Enjoy!

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