This mandarin orange salad is loaded with juicy oranges, crisp apples, sweetened dried cranberries, tangy feta cheese, and easy stovetop candied almonds. Plus a simple citrus vinaigrette that is sweet, tangy, and completely refreshing.
Mandarin Orange Salad
This salad is a complete hit whenever I serve it. It’s one of my go-to recipes for entertaining and especially during the holiday season when oranges and apples are in season. We love ripe clementines, but we also make it often with canned mandarin oranges — in fact, that’s probably my kid’s favorite way to enjoy it! They inhale mandarin oranges!
The citrus vinaigrette is such a refreshing dressing with both fresh orange juice and fresh lemon juice. The zest of the orange and lemon further intensifies the ctirus-y flavors. It’s also a great all-purpose dressing that goes well on pretty much any fruit-filled salad. We’ll usually make a double batch to enjoy throughout the week.
The candied almonds add a delicious crunch and a bit of additional sweetness to the salad. They’re also so quick and easy to make! There is only 2 ingredients and 1 skillet — no oven necessary!
Because the almonds are made in a skillet, they do require constant supervision. Unfortunately, skillet candied almonds can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds. My biggest tip here is to stir them constantly and watch carefully. As soon as the sugar begins to get sticky and wet, remove them from the burner and continue to stir in the skillet until the sugar is completely absorbed into the almonds and the almonds smell fragrant.
The recipe directs preparing more almonds than you’ll need/want for the mandarin orange salad, but sugaring the almonds works best with this volume. Store leftover almonds in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months or in the pantry for 2-3 weeks. Use leftover almonds as a snack, yogurt bowl topping, açaí bowl topping, or topping on a different salad.
This dressing does take a few minutes to whip together, but is overall simple to make and totally worth the effort.
- You will need a food processor or miniature blender jar to pulse the dressing; this helps break down the citrus zest so it infuses the dressing with tons of flavor without being overpowering in the salad.
- I recommend pulsing everything without the olive oil to avoid blending the oil. Sometimes when oil is blended it can take on a metallic flavor, so I like to avoid that by adding the oil after. You’ll want to make sure to still combine the olive oil so it emulsifies with the other ingredients; this can be done easily by shaking everything briskly in a sealed mason jar.
- Poppyseeds add a nice vibrant color and crunch to the salad, but they can be left out if desired.
- I recommend zesting the citrus with a microplane. A microplane makes the process quick and easy!
- Add dressing to personal preference — you may not want to use all the dressing on the mandarin orange salad — store any leftovers in the fridge for up to a week and use on other salads or to top leftover fruit with.
Mandarin Orange Salad Tips
- The citrus dressing can easily be adjusted to personal preference. Give it a quick taste test and slightly adapt if needed — you may want to add a bit more honey if you like dressings on the sweeter side or perhaps more dijon mustard if you want more tang.
- When serving this mandarin orange salad for a party/event or holiday meal I recommend making the candied almonds and dressing a day or two in advance. This makes the final assembly a breeze! It’s also a good idea to make both in advance as the almonds will have sufficient time to harden and the dressing has a chance to throughly chill and for the flavors to intensify.
- If you do make the dressing in advance, don’t be alarmed if it clumps are separates in the fridge. To fix this simply shake the dressing together again until smooth (If it’s still clumpy, let it stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes and then shake again; the clumps are the fats separating and solidifying).
- For an additional creamy element (beyond the cheese), add a diced or thinly sliced avocado
- Swap out dried tart cherries for the dried cranberries
- Use goat cheese instead of feta cheese
- Swap out candied pecans for the candied almonds
- Add in some additional fruit (blueberries or blackberries would be delicious in this mandarin orange salad!)
Main dishes that pair well with this mandarin orange salad
- Crock Pot Roast reader favorite!
- Shepherd’s Pie with the best mashed potato topping
- Sloppy Joes on toasted brioche buns
- Short Ribs made in the crockpot
- Chicken Stroganoff served over noodles
This mandarin orange salad has juicy oranges, crisp apples, sweetened dried cranberries, tangy feta cheese, and easy stovetop candied almonds. Plus a simple citrus vinaigrette that is sweet, tangy, and completely refreshing.
- 1 cup (95g) sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (75g) white granulated sugar
- 8 cups (5 oz; 145g) mixed green lettuce or fresh spinach
- 1 can (15 ounces) mandarin oranges (or 3 clementines, peeled and segmented)
- 2 large apples, thinly sliced (we like Fuji best in this salad)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
- 3/4 cup (94g) dried sweetened cranberries
- 3/4 cup (90g) crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup (98g) olive oil
- 1 large orange (2 teaspoons zest and 4 tablespoons juice (58g))
- 1 large lemon (1/2 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
- 2 and 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
CANDIED ALMONDS: In a large skillet, add the sliced almonds and white sugar. Place the heat to medium and stir near constantly. The sugar will begin to melt and become a sticky liquid and then stick to the almonds. This takes about 3-4 minutes -- watch carefully and stir near constantly to avoid burning the nuts. As soon as the sugar begins to look liquid-y, remove the pan from heat and continue stirring until nuts are completely coated in the sugar. Dump the candied almonds onto a sheet of parchment paper and let harden. Break apart.
SALAD: Add the lettuce to a large bowl or salad platter. Peel and segment oranges or throughly drain a can of mandarin oranges. Add to the salad. Thinly slice the apples and, if desired, toss with lemon juice. Add to the salad along with the dried cranberries and feta cheese.
DRESSING: combine all of the ingredients together except for the oil and poppyseed in a blender. Blend until all ingredients are well incorporated and zest has broken down. Transfer dressing to a mason jar and add in the olive oil and poppyseeds. Place the lid on the jar and shake until well combined.
ENJOY: Right before eating, add the dressing to the salad (add to taste -- you may not need it all) and candied almonds (add as many as you'd like; we typically add about 1/3 cup (See Note 2). Toss and enjoy immediately.
STORAGE: This salad doesn't sit well with the dressing, so only dress what will be enjoyed same day. Store any leftover salad and dressing separately. Almonds and cheese should also be stored separately. Apples will brown if cut in advance.
Note 1: This dressing makes more dressing than you'll likely use for the salad. If you want the halved version (I do this often so nothing goes bad) it is: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 large orange (1 teaspoons zest and 2 tablespoons juice), 1 large lemon (1/4 teaspoon zest and 1 tablespoons juice), 1 and 1/4 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, heaping 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt, 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
Note 2: There will be more almonds than you'll need/want for the salad, but sugaring the almonds works best with this volume. Store leftover almonds in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months or in the pantry for 2-3 weeks. Use leftover almonds as a snack, yogurt bowl topping, acai bowl topping, or salad topping.