This Apple Fennel Salad is full of crisp, crunchy veggies complimented by tangy goat cheese and creamy marcona almonds. We toss it all in an easy homemade mustard dressing that’s perfect for fall!
Save this recipe for all your holiday gatherings. It would be a great side dish for your Thanksgiving or Christmas feasts!
An Autumn Inspired Apple Fennel Salad
Let’s be honest, most of us don’t show up for Thanksgiving dinner excited to eat salad. After all, we didn’t wear our stretchy pants to this shindig for nothing.
And yet, there is something about a bright and tangy salad that makes all the creamy, carby, heavy foods taste even better. It’s like a palate cleanser, waking up our taste buds and allowing us to appreciate all that butter and salt even more.
For years, we’ve served That Good Salad at Thanksgiving. With a puckery lemon vinaigrette, bacon, and Parmesan cheese, it has always been a family favorite.
But this year, I was looking for something a little more Autumn-inspired, something that used seasonal fall produce and would also give us plenty of bright, crisp flavors and a satisfying crunch.
This Apple Fennel Salad delivered that and more. If you’re unfamiliar with fennel, think of it as the lighter cousin of radish. It has a subtle licorice and anise flavor, and, when sliced thin, adds a lovely fresh crunch to salads.
In this salad, fennel plays beautifully with apples, marcona almonds, and goat cheese. Tossed with a simple dijon mustard vinaigrette, this fennel apple salad is full of sweet tart, tangy flavor, and will provide some welcome crunch and lightened flavors to all your holiday meals.
- Arugula and Mixed greens– I tested this recipe with just arugula,, but loved it more when mixed with some lighter leafy mixed greens. Feel free to sub all one or the other if you prefer.
- Fennel– Look for fennel with fresh (non-wilted) greens on long stems. The bulbs should be white and firm, without any soft spots or sponginess.
- Apples– Choose a sweet tart apple that stays crisp. We like Honeycrisp and Braeburn.
- Red onion– Sliced thin, red onion provides a burst of color and welcome bite. If you find raw red onions to be too strong, soak the sliced onions in a bowl of ice water for about 10 minutes to make them less pungent.
- Marcona almonds- We love using marcona almonds in salads, especially around the holidays when they’re easier to find (and often more affordable!). Marconas are softer and creamier than standard almonds and can be added to a salad whole. Aldi carries amazing rosemary marcona almonds that were perfect in this recipe.
- Goat cheese– A creamy, tangy goat cheese is my go-to for an Autumn salad. It plays so nicely with fruits like apples and pears!
For the mustard dressing you’ll need:
- Lemon juice– Fresh squeezed, not the bottled stuff.
- Dijon mustard– Don’t substitute yellow mustard for this. It won’t taste good, trust me!
- Maple syrup– The real stuff, not maple-flavored syrup. You can also substitute honey.
- Olive oil– We save our more expensive olive oils for salads, where the more complex flavors really come through!
Note: If you prefer a sweeter salad dressing or just don’t like mustard, try this Apple Fennel Salad with our Maple Balsamic Dressing.
How to Make Apple Fennel Salad
How to prepare fennel for salad:
Cutting an unfamiliar vegetable can be a bit daunting. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to prep and slice fennel. If you’re interested in detailed instructions for prepping every vegetable under the sun, I highly recommend The Vegetable Butcher.
- Slice the leafy green stems off the top of the root. These can be saved, chopped, and added to the finished salad like an herb. Or save them for broths and stews.
- Remove the tough outer layer or any brown spots.
- With the bulb standing on its bottom, slice longways through the center of the bulb, then rinse the bulb in a colander.
- Use a paring knife to cut out the pyramid shaped core at the bottom of the fennel bulb.
- Now, the fennel is ready to be sliced! We prefer to use a mandoline slicer to get very thin, uniform slices, but you can also use a knife.
To make the salad:
- Toss together the arugula, mixed greens, fennel, apple sticks, red onion, marcona almonds, and goat cheese.
- To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, dijon, vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil until creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let guests serve themselves the amount of dressing they prefer, or add half the dressing to the greens and toss, then taste and add additional dressing if desired.
Storage and Make Ahead Instructions
- The fennel can be prepped and sliced the night before. Toss it with a little lemon juice to keep it from browning, and wrap it in a damp paper towel. Keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- The apples can also be prepped the night before. Stir ½ teaspoon Kosher salt into 1 cup of room temperature tap water. Soak the apples in the mixture for five minutes, then rinse and drain. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
- The mustard vinaigrette can be mixed up to 5 days in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Remove it 30 minutes to an hour before serving, then give it a good shake or whisk to reincorporate the ingredients.
FAQS + Substitutions
Do you use the green part of fennel?
Yes! The green, hairy-like stalks on the fennel bulb have a similar anise flavor and can be treated like an herb. We love to pull the fronds off the stalk, chop them fine, and add them to the salad at the end.
What can I substitute for goat cheese in a salad?
If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, try using feta instead. Parmesan won’t have the same creamy texture, but it would also be good in this fennel salad.
What other nuts go well in Apple Fennel Salad?
Try slivered almonds, walnuts, or pecans instead of the marcona almonds. We recommend toasting them in a skillet for a few minutes to bring out their flavors before serving.
More Thanksgiving Veggie Side Dishes to Try
Looking to add some vegetables to your Thanksgiving menu? Try these other favorites:
- Broccoli Cheese Casserole with Ritz Crackers
- Red Wine Baked Mushrooms
- Autumn Salad with Pear and Goat Cheese
- Corn Souffle
- Slow Cooker Green Beans
- Honey Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
For the salad:
- 3-4 cups arugula
- 3-4 cups mixed leafy greens
- 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, peeled, cored, and sliced into paper-thin slices
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 large sweet tart apple, sliced into ¼ inch sticks
- ½ cup rosemary marcona almonds, or other nuts of your choice
- 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
For the mustard dressing:
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Toss together the arugula, mixed greens, fennel, apple sticks, red onion, marcona almonds, goat cheese, and chopped fennel fronds.
- To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, dijon, maple syrup, and olive oil until creamy. Season to taste with plenty of Kosher salt and pepper. Let guests serve themselves the amount of dressing they prefer, or add half the dressing to the greens and toss, then taste and add additional dressing if desired.
For detailed photos and tips for prepping fennel for salad, see the full post above.
Fennel can be sliced up to 24 hours in advance. Keep it wrapped in a damp paper towel in the fridge until ready to serve.
To prep apples in advance, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt in a cup of tap water. Soak the apple slices in the mixture for five minutes, then drain and rinse. Store the apples in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
This salad is also very good with our Maple Balsamic Dressing.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 266Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 120mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 7gSugar: 11gProtein: 10g
Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.