Mandarin Orange Salad

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A great holiday entertaining salad -- mandarin orange, apples, cranberries, feta cheese, and easy stovetop candied almonds all covered in a delicious orange poppyseed dressing. via chelseasmessyapron.com

This Mandarin Orange Salad is loaded with juicy oranges, crisp apples, sweetened dried cranberries, tangy feta cheese, and easy stovetop candied almonds. Add a simple citrus vinaigrette that is sweet, tangy, and completely refreshing to finish this delicious salad.

This salad is a holiday classic that pairs perfectly with other side dishes such as mashed potatoesroasted vegetablesbrussel sprouts, and/or a sweet potato casserole!

Overhead view of Mandarin Orange Salad on a large platter with sliced fruit on top.

Mandarin Orange Salad

This salad is a complete hit whenever I serve it. It’s one of my go-to recipes for entertaining, 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.

Process shots: making candied almonds. Combining sugar and slivered almonds; heating until the sugar melts; stirring while cooking, until the mixture starts to clump; the finished candied almonds.

Candied almonds

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 are only two ingredients and one skillet — no oven necessary!

Because the candied almonds are made in a skillet, they do require constant supervision. If you’re not careful, the 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 everything smells fragrant.

The recipe makes 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.

Process shots of making the dressing: process the ingredients in a blender; add in olive oil and poppy seeds; shake to combine; pour over the salad.

Citrus Vinaigrette

This dressing only takes a few minutes to whip together, and is quite easy to make–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 brilliant 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 everything is smooth. 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.
  • Poppy seeds add a nice vibrant color and crunch to the salad, but they can be left out if you prefer.
  • 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.

Images of the luscious toppings for this salad: thinly sliced apples, mandarin oranges, feta cheese, dried cranberries and candied almonds.

Mandarin Orange Salad tips

  • The citrus dressing can easily be adjusted to personal preference. Give it a quick taste test and adapt as 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 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 plenty of time to harden and the dressing has a chance to thoroughly chill and for the flavors to intensify.
  • If you do make the dressing in advance, don’t be alarmed if it clumps and 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).

Variations

  • 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 salad!)

Overhead view of the apples, feta, cranberries, mandarin oranges and candied almonds that top this scrumptious salad.

Main dishes that pair well with Mandarin Orange Salad

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Mandarin Orange Salad

5 from 8 votes
This Mandarin Orange Salad has juicy oranges, crisp apples, sweetened dried cranberries, tangy feta cheese, and easy stovetop candied almonds. A simple citrus vinaigrette that is sweet, tangy, and completely refreshing tops everything off.
Print Recipe

Mandarin Orange Salad

5 from 8 votes
This Mandarin Orange Salad has juicy oranges, crisp apples, sweetened dried cranberries, tangy feta cheese, and easy stovetop candied almonds. A simple citrus vinaigrette that is sweet, tangy, and completely refreshing tops everything off.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword Mandarin Orange Salad
Prep Time 25 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 - 6 as a side
Calories 460kcal
Cost $5.68

Ingredients

Salad

  • 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

Dressing (Note 1)

  • 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

Instructions

  • CANDIED ALMONDS: Place the sliced almonds and white sugar in a large skillet and heat to medium and stir nearly 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 turns to liquid, remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until nuts are completely coated in the sugar. Spread 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 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 poppy seeds 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 poppy seeds. 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 the same day. Store any leftover salad and dressing separately. Almonds and cheese should also be stored separately. Apples will brown if cut in advance.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: This dressing makes more dressing than you'll likely use for the salad. If you want to make a half recipe (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.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 6as a side | Calories: 460kcal | Carbohydrates: 60.9g | Protein: 6.9g | Fat: 25.1g | Cholesterol: 11.1mg | Sodium: 132.4mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 48.4g

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38 Comments

  1. This sounds like a great event and I had fun looking at the pictures, Chelsea!

    I also love this salad because all the ingredients you used to make this salad are absolutely flavourful. Hope you have a lovely weekend 😉

    ps: I also love your new blog design 😉

  2. Your pictures seriously are soo pretty. Just hoping we can get to half the quality of your photos one day.
    Also, we all started a new health challenge, so this recipe is perfect. 🙂

  3. When I was a kid, I also love to prepare those “dinner parties.” Whenever I stayed home alone, I would wait for my parents with a “surprise”. At lat, they asked me one time: “Could you not prepare a surprise for us when we’re gone?” lol

    1. You’ll use 2 teaspoons zest and 4 tablespoons juice of the orange which should be about the full juice of an orange (of course depends on the size!)

  4. Good salad but be careful not to use too much dressing, which makes it too wet.i would use less orange juice next time.

  5. 5 stars
    Had a few oranges laying around and wanted to use them before they go bad. Made this recipe with fresh oranges. Added mixed grapes and cucumbers. Turned out really good. It was like a party in my mouth…. ?

  6. 5 stars
    This was delicious. Had lunch at St Hubert yesterday and had their Bangkok salad. It inspired me to try to make it at home. I halved this recipe, added bean sprouts and chose spinach, fresh blood oranges and made candied pecans. Added 2 grilled chicken breasts marinated in a herbs and garlic marinade and toasted a slice of multigrain bread, lightly buttered. I will add quinoa to the leftovers. I’m looking forward to supper.

  7. 5 stars
    I made this for a dinner party and it was one of the most delicious salad ingredient combinations I’ve ever eaten. My guests were gushing with complements, even the men that aren’t bug salad eaters! I’ll make this one again very soon!

  8. 5 stars
    I’ve been making this salad with a store bought raspberry walnut vinaigrette for a long time now. I made your orange poppyseed dressing and it was delicious! Very tasty! My new go too dressing!

  9. We had this yummy salad for dinner tonight. We marinated a piece of salmon in some of the dressing, baked it & served in on top! We also used candied pecans from Trader Joe’s. Soooo good!

  10. I used this recipe in one of our charity events, friends and guests loves it. Most of them who tried it, ordered a bottle. Amazing dressing.

  11. 5 stars
    I just made this salad exactly as written using my freshly picked lettuce and spinach. It was fantastic!
    Thank you!

  12. 5 stars
    Made this recipe twice this week and followed it exactly. We served it to guests who couldn’t stop raving about it. It was excellent. Thank you for a great recipe.

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