Pear Salad with Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette is a perfect winter salad. Full of vibrant, light, sweet flavors with a simple tangy dressing to brighten the dreariest of day. It’s hearty enough to be a meal on its own or as a side dish to roast chicken, pork chops or any favorite main dish.
If you think salad isn’t for winter one bite of this pear salad recipe will change your mind. Fresh greens, sweet pears, spicy red onion and tangy goat cheese and pomegranate arils make up the salad. Quick homemade spiced candied pecans add crunch and the sweet tangy dressing is the finishing touch. Beautiful colors, textures and flavors make this gorgeous salad visually beautiful as well as delicious. It’s perfect for a special occasion or any night you want to feel special.
Delicious pear salad makes a great holiday dinner salad or favorite fall salad. If you’re looking to take a break from the heavy, indulgent-winter foods and lighten it up a bit, this is the perfect, seasonal salad!
Recipe Ingredient Notes
Pecans. Use 1 cup unsalted whole pecans. They’ll be tossed in unsalted butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and sea salt then roasted!
Lemon juice. Use freshly squeezed lemon juice for the best flavor. We love using a handheld juicer which makes it fast and mess free. This will be added to the salad dressing along with balsamic vinegar.
Sea salt. Sea salt is used in the candied pecans as well as the dressing. If unavailable kosher salt can be substituted but sea salt has a distinct flavor that’s perfect in this recipe.
Mixed greens. We used 6 cups of mixed greens which you can buy prepared in the produce section of the grocery store.
Bosc pears. We love Bosc pears for their flavor, sweetness and crispness. They won’t fall apart when tossed in this salad. Choose fully ripe pears and a firm pear that is not mushy, without any bruises or soft spots. If the pears are not fully ripe allow them to sit on your countertop for a few days; don’t refrigerate them. You’ll rinse and slice the pears thinly.
Goat cheese. You’ll use 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese. You can either buy the goat cheese already crumbles or buy a log of it and crumble it at home.
Pomegranate arils (aka pomegranate seeds). These are readily available already removed from the pomegranate which saves time and the hassle of removing them from the fruit.
How to make Pear Salad
STEP 1. Make the candied pecans
Heat the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and butter melt and begin to bubble (approximately 3-5 minutes)(photos 1-2).
Add the vanilla extract, and stir in the pecans until they’re coated (photos 3-4). Stir for another minute. Remove from the heat.
Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and put into the refrigerator to cool (photo 5).
When cooled with a candied coating, chop the pecans, and add them to the assembled salad.
STEP 2. Make the dressing
Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and sea salt in a small jar and shake until combined (photos 6-7). Set aside for serving.
STEP 3. Assemble the salad
Combine the chopped candied pecans, mixed greens, sliced fresh pears, red onion, crumbled goat cheese and pomegranate arils in a large bowl. Gently toss until the ingredients are combined.
Alternatively, you can assemble the salad on a platter by layering a bed of lettuce, pears, red onion, crumbled goat cheese, and pomegranate arils. Add the chopped pecans on top (photos 8-11).
Serve with the dressing on the side (photo 12).
Variations & Substitutions
Walnuts instead of pecans. Crunchy walnuts can be swapped for pecans and candied in the same way.
Skip candying the nuts. We love this touch to the salad but if you are in a hurry you can add the nuts as is or even skip them if desired.
Alternate salad greens. Spring mix is our favorite greens mix for the mix of colors, shapes, soft texture and mild flavor. Baby arugula (milder than peppery regular arugula) are slightly peppery and more bitter greens. Baby spinach or baby kale can be used. Baby greens tend to be more tender with milder flavor than their full grown counterpart.
Use apples instead of pears. Another winter favorite, apples, can be directly swapped into the salad instead of pears. Apple salad is another great salad to enjoy seasonal fruit with crisp apples. We love a flavor-packed variety like Honeycrisp apples for this.
Other cheese options. Using feta cheese gives a saltier flavor. Bleu cheese or gorgonzola cheese is a good choice too and adds strong tangy flavor but is distinct so diners should love blue cheese for this swap.
Dried cranberries. These are a great replacement for pomegranate arils. They’ll add color and tartness to the salad.
Dressing on the side. This allows diners to add as much or as little as they prefer. But also undressed salad will last in the refrigerator as leftovers longer than salad with dressing.
How to Store
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Store the dressing separately. NOTE: the pears will oxidize (turn brownish) but are still good!
Frequently Asked Questions
Make the candied pecans and store them at room temperature (the moisture in the refrigerator will soften them) as well as the dressing. We recommend assembling the salad just before serving so the pears do not oxidize (turn brown).
Bosc is our favorite type of pear for pear salad. Anjou pears are another great choice for a pear that’s juicy and will hold its shape (green or red can be used; they taste the same). Bartlett pears are super sweet juicy pears and delicious though not crisp.
If you have a few days set them on the countertop and allow them to ripen naturally. Do not put them in the refrigerator which will slow down the ripening process.
You can also place them in a paper bag with a ripe apple, banana or avocado. Pears and these other specific fruits release ethylene gas which is a hormone that speeds up ripening. By putting them in a bag with other ethylene emitting fruits it traps the pears gas and adds more from the other fruit speeding up the ripening process.
More recipes you’ll love!
Pear Salad with Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted whole pecans
Lemon Balsamic Dressing
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 6 cups mixed greens
- 2 large Bosc pears thinly sliced
- ½ cup red onion thinly sliced
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
- ¼ cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
Making the candied pecans
- Heat the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat; stirring until the butter melts and sugar dissolved into a glaze and it begins to bubble (3-5 minutes).3 tablespoons brown sugar, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 pinch sea salt
- Add the vanilla extract, and stir in the pecans until they’re coated. Stir for another minute. Remove from the heat.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup unsalted whole pecans
- Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and put into the refrigerator to cool. NOTE: if not using a non-stick baking sheet line with parchment paper for easier removal when cool.
- When fully cooled and crisp on the outside, chop the pecans, and add them to the assembled salad.
Making the Lemon Balsamic Dressing
- Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, and sea salt in a mason jar and shake until combined. Set aside for serving.1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon sea salt
Assemble the salad
- Combine the chopped candied pecans, mixed greens, sliced pears, red onion, crumbled goat cheese and pomegranate arils to a salad bowl. Gently toss until the ingredients are combined.6 cups mixed greens, 2 large Bosc pears, ½ cup red onion, ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese, ¼ cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
- Alternatively, assemble the salad on a platter by layering the greens, pears, red onion, crumbled goat cheese, pomegranate arils and candied pecans.
- Serve with the dressing on the side.