Waldorf Salad sans Mayo

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We’ve been eating quite a bit of soup and salad lately.  With the business of our lives, it often seems to be the only way to make sure we don’t fall into the take-out habit, or worse, microwaved frozen food.  Call me a food snob — or better yet, consider that it’s not challenging to make a healthy meal that doesn’t take a lot of time and goes easy on the wallet.

Picture this:  my husband and I pass through the house each morning getting ready for work and I begin to think about any excuse not to have to stop at the market on the way home.  I mull over the contents of the veggie bin while I’m brushing my teeth, and search my fuzzy memory for ingredients  that may be languishing in the pantry.

“There are carrots I could make some soup with,” I begin staring into my mirror.

“That would be good,” he mutters, peering into his mirror,  busy with his own routine.

“And there are those apples you forget to eat on a regular basis.  I saw a recipe for a salad I want to try — but I’m not quite sure what condition the celery is in.  Do we have lemons?”  I call from the closet as I’m trying to figure out what to squeeze myself into for the day.

“Anything you make will be good,” he says from his side of the closet, “and I have been eating an apple a day.”

I head down the stairs, give a quick look in the fridge, and grab my coffee before running out the door and calling my goodbyes feigning success in the accomplishment of a dinner plan.

Jump ahead 11 hours.  It’s about 6PM and we’re both home.  Our son has come downstairs to graciously share himself with us, then flops on the couch to figure out what we’ll watch that evening.  My husband and I start peeling and chopping, sauteeing and blending.  On most days within an hour of arriving home — give or take a half hour for diversions — we’re all in the family room  talking about the day, slurping soup, eating salad and enjoying a DVRd show one of us has lobbied for.

On one such night, we tried a new spin on an old classic:  Waldorf Salad.  When I think of why I’ve never liked it, the mayonnaise would be the reason.  As much as I enjoy most salads, slathering a fatty dressing on one has never appealed to me.  If you’re like me or at least interested in something seasonal, but more healthy, try this.  It will be a part of our Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Waldorf Salad sans Mayo


1/2 c. walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped
1 T minced shallot
zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated
juice of 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
1 T white wine vinegar
1/8 c. fruity extra virgin olive oil
2 T walnut oil
dash ground cumin
salt & cracked pepper to taste
mache or other soft salad greens
2 lg. radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
2 ribs celery, sliced
hand full of golden raisins
1 crisp apple such as Braeburn, Fuji, or Granny Smith (cored and sliced into thin wedges)
crumbled goat’s cheese


  1. Toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium low heat, tossing occasionally to avoid burning.  Remove from skillet and set aside when they become aromatic.
  2. Make the dressing by combining the shallot, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vinegar.  Add the oils in a slow drizzle, whisking as you go.  Add the cumin, salt and pepper, then taste and correct seasoning.
  3. On a large platter or individual salad plates, create a bed of the greens and set aside.   Toss the apples, celery, radishes, and onions with enough of the dressing to coat the vegetables, but reserve a bit to pour on later.  Pour the mixture over the bed of greens, then top with raisins, walnuts, and sprinkle with goat’s cheese.
  4. Enjoy a perfect bite loaded with each of the flavors and textures of this great salad.

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Recipe Notes

  • This recipe was adapted from Food & Wine’s “Lemony Waldorf Salad” which appeared in the November 2009 issue.
  • The original recipe calls for twice the oil and canola instead of the extra virgin olive that I used, but I have trouble adding that much oil to any salad and don’t love canola.  Walnut oil has a distinctive flavor which adds a pleasant taste to this salad.  Add a bit at a time to the dressing if you’ve not tried it before.  I use La Tourangelle brand walnut oil which I am lucky to find at my local market.  It’s not as expensive as hazelnut oil which is fabulous.
  • Mache is a lovely, delicate salad green with a taste not unlike greenleaf or butter lettuce.  It’s my favorite and can be found at Whole Foods or, if you’re lucky, Trader Joe’s.
  • I included the goat’s cheese to provide not only a bit of tang, but hint toward the creaminess in the traditional Waldorf — which actually included only mayonnaise, celery, and apples served on a bed of lettuce.  Don’t even tell me you use Miracle Whip in salad.  Please.
  • Some may want to pass on the raisins, but they truly add a pleasant flavor to this.  Give them a try.
  • To make ahead, prep all the veggies and make the dressing.  It’s easy to plate when everything is ready at the last minute.
  • We never had salad for Thanksgiving when I was growing up — unless you count jello salad as salad.  I added non-giggly salad to our menu when my boys were quite little hoping to slow the meal down a bit to enjoy courses.  We still do that and enjoy it quite a bit.  I could be convinced to try something giggly again, however.

<img alt="waldorf salad sans mayo"/>