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A restaurant-worthy House Salad that you can make at home, any night of the week! You’ll love the sweet, tart, salty and savory combination of greens, candied pecans, dried cranberries, blue cheese and mandarin oranges in a creamy homemade dressing. Serve the salad as a side dish with grilled salmon, roasted chicken or pork chops. Alternatively, turn the salad into an entrée by topping it with meat or seafood and pairing it with a side of crusty baguette. It’s fresh, delicious and full of flavor!

Close up side shot of a big bowl of house salad with cranberries and homemade dressing

House Salad Recipe

Every home needs its own go-to house salad recipe — just like a restaurant! A salad is such a great addition to almost any dinner, and this particular dish is even hearty enough to stand on its own as a light entrée during the warm summer months. While some quick weeknight salads can taste boring and uninspiring, this one definitely does not!

It’s high time that I shared this combination, because it’s been a favorite in our house for years. You just can’t beat the variety of textures and flavors in one bowl, and the sweet, creamy dressing is absolutely the best! Prep the dressing and nuts in advance, then store the ingredients in your kitchen so that you can whip up a quick restaurant-quality house salad in minutes!

Creamy Salad Dressing from Scratch

Before we get to the salad itself, let’s start with this homemade creamy salad dressing, because we all know that a good dressing can totally transform the dish! Back in the mid-1980’s, the Virginia Chefs Association put together a cookbook called, The Great Chefs of Virginia. I happen to own a vintage copy of this treasure, which includes the house salad dressing recipe from The Tobacco Company Restaurant in Richmond. I’ve dined in this cozy restaurant in the Shockoe Slip on a number of occasions, and I was so excited to be able to make the delicious dressing in my own home. Best of all, it comes together with simple ingredients in a matter of minutes.

This dressing has the texture of a creamy Caesar or Ranch, but the slightly sweet-and-savory flavor of an old-fashioned poppy seed dressing (without the poppy seeds). It’s such a great balance to the tart cranberries, crunchy pecans, sharp blue cheese, and juicy oranges.

To make the dressing, just whisk together mayonnaise, sugar, lemon juice, kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, vinegar, mustard and olive oil. Store the dressing in an airtight container in your refrigerator to enjoy on salads for at least a week.

Creamy salad dressing in a blue mixing bowl with whisk

House Salad Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a house salad. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Pecans, sugar, water and salt: to make the candied pecans.
  • Spring mix lettuce: a delicate blend of baby greens is perfect here, but you can substitute with your favorite lettuce variety.
  • Sweetened dried cranberries: such as Craisins, or substitute with other dried fruit like dried cherries, chopped dates or even raisins.
  • Blue cheese: adds a sharp, savory component to the salad. If you don’t like blue cheese, substitute with goat cheese, feta cheese, or another cheese of your choice.
  • Mandarin oranges: we like this variety packed in juice (I just keep the big jar in my fridge to use for salads regularly), but any canned, drained variety will work. You can also use fresh berries when they’re in season!

How to Make the Best House Salad Recipe

It might sound tedious to make your own dressing and candy your own pecans on a given weeknight; however, if you prepare a big batch of dressing and pecans in advance, they will keep in the fridge and pantry for quite awhile. Then you can quickly assemble a salad any night of the week in just a matter of minutes. This is our go-to “house salad” around here because I always have the ingredients on hand and ready to go!

  1. Make the candied pecans and let them cool.
  2. Whisk together the dressing.
  3. Assemble the salad by arranging the lettuce greens on a serving platter, in a large bowl, or on individual plates. Top the lettuce with candied pecans, blue cheese, cranberries and oranges.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over top and serve immediately.
Plate of homemade candied pecans
Horizontal overhead shot of a homemade house salad with creamy dressing and blue cheese

What to Serve with House Salad

This versatile salad is fancy enough for entertaining and holiday tables, but also simple enough to serve as your regular “house” salad on a busy weeknight. You can turn it into an entrée with the addition of grilled fish, scallops, tuna salad, grilled chicken, or other protein of your choice, but we typically enjoy it as a side dish. Here are some delicious dinners that will pair nicely with the salad:

Overhead shot of a bowl of house salad with mandarin oranges on a wooden table

Make Ahead

Serve the salad immediately after dressing so that the lettuce and nuts are crisp and crunchy, not soggy. If you’d like to prep ahead, you can make the salad dressing at least a week in advance. Store leftover dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. You can also make the candied pecans in advance and store them in an airtight jar in your pantry for about a month.

Recipe Variations

  • Thinly sliced red onion would be a nice, zesty addition to the salad.
  • Swap out the cranberries for other dried fruit like dried cherries or chopped dates.
  • Instead of mandarin oranges, use fresh berries.
  • Make candied walnuts instead of pecans.
  • If you don’t want to make your own candied nuts, you can substitute with toasted pecans or walnuts, or purchase prepared candied pecans at the store.
  • During the holidays, I like to add these spiced pecans (in lieu of the candied pecans).
  • Use feta cheese or goat cheese instead of blue cheese.
  • Any variety of lettuce will work for this salad.
  • Feel free to adjust the quantities of the different ingredients to suit your tastes. I typically just “eyeball” it!
  • A balsamic vinaigrette dressing is also great on this salad if you don’t want a creamy dressing. This is my favorite homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Use your favorite store-bought dressing if you don’t want to make a homemade dressing. We love this store-bought poppy seed dressing and this sweet blush wine vinaigrette.
Overhead image of a bowl of salad with mandarin oranges and homemade dressing

More Salad Recipes to Try

Close up side shot of a big bowl of house salad with cranberries and homemade dressing

House Salad with Candied Pecans

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 303 kcal
A restaurant-worthy House Salad with greens, candied pecans, dried cranberries, blue cheese and mandarin oranges in a creamy homemade dressing — and easy enough for any night of the week!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CANDIED PECANS:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ½ cups coarsely chopped pecans
  • Kosher salt, to taste

FOR THE DRESSING:

  • 1 ½ cups mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 3 cups spring mix lettuce
  • ¾ cup sweetened dried cranberries, such as Craisins
  • ¾ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • ¾ cup mandarin oranges, drained
  • cup candied pecans

Instructions

MAKE THE CANDIED PECANS:

  • Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a small saucepan on the stovetop, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, stir in the pecans; toss to coat. Spread the nuts on a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Toast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until toasty. Keep a close eye on them so that they don’t burn. While still warm, sprinkle the nuts with a little bit of kosher salt to taste. Set aside to cool completely. Once cool, you can store the candied nuts in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month.

MAKE THE DRESSING:

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, lemon juice, kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Add the vinegar and mustard, whisk to combine.
  • Whisk in the oil, one tablespoon at a time, blending well after each addition. The mixture should be thick, but pourable. If it's too thick, gradually whisk in some water until it reaches the desired consistency. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

ASSEMBLE THE SALAD:

  • Arrange the lettuce greens on individual salad plates or on a large serving platter. Top with candied pecans, blue cheese, cranberries and oranges. Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad, to taste.

Notes

  • Thinly sliced red onion would be a nice, zesty addition to the salad.
  • Swap out the cranberries for other dried fruit like dried cherries or chopped dates.
  • Instead of mandarin oranges, use fresh berries.
  • Make candied walnuts instead of pecans.
  • If you don’t want to make your own candied nuts, you can substitute with toasted pecans or walnuts, or purchase prepared candied pecans at the store.
  • During the holidays, I like to add these spiced pecans (in lieu of the candied pecans).
  • Use feta cheese or goat cheese instead of blue cheese.
  • Any variety of lettuce will work for this salad.
  • Feel free to adjust the quantities of the different ingredients to suit your tastes. I typically just “eyeball” it!
  • A balsamic vinaigrette dressing is also great on this salad if you don’t want a creamy dressing. This is my favorite homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Use your favorite store-bought dressing if you don’t want to make a homemade dressing. We love this store-bought poppy seed dressing and this sweet blush wine vinaigrette.

Nutrition

Serving: 1salad with about 2 tablespoons dressingCalories: 303kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 4gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 397mgPotassium: 128mgFiber: 2gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 535IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 108mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: green salad, house salad
Course: Salad, Side, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this salad tonight for my husband and me and served it with store bought frozen spinach and mushroom pizzas. He raved about it! The only thing was that the dressing was so thick that we had to put it on with a spoon. Is there a way to make it just a little runnier; maybe a little less mayonnaise and another tablespoon of olive oil?

    1. Thanks, Susan! Sure, you can thin the dressing by using less mayonnaise or by just whisking in some water until it reaches the desired consistency. It won’t taste “watery,” but will just be thinner and smoother. So glad that your husband approved! 🙂

    1. Hi, Jennifer! I think you’re looking at the little white pitcher and the little round white bowl, is that correct? They’re both from Farmhouse Pottery. Here’s the link: https://www.farmhousepottery.com/ Definitely one of my favorite companies to support!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this last night. Instead of regular olive oil, I used Blood Orange Infused EVOO from Ella’s Olive Tasting Room in Duck, NC. That took it to a whole other level It was amazing! Also, served with slices of chicken scallopini. This is definitely going to be a staple. I look forward to your Sunday emails each week!