Mandarin Orange Salad with Pomegranates and Candied Pecans

published Nov 15, 2022
christmas
Mandarin Orange Salad Recipe

Bright, leafy greens, juicy orange slices, and little pops of jewel-tones pomegranate seeds are what makes this salad a beautifully festive Christmas salad.

Serves4 to 6

Prep25 minutes

Cook2 minutes

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Credit: Meleyna Nomura

Mandarin orange salad would be beautiful as part of a holiday dinner table. In fact, it’s sometimes referred to as Christmas salad. While I couldn’t trace the origins of the name, I suspect it has something to do with the colors and seasonality. Bright leafy greens, juicy mandarin orange slices, and little pops of jewel-toned pomegranate seeds are delicious, festive, and seasonal. Candied nuts and a poppy seed vinaigrette tie the whole thing together.

Key Ingredients in Mandarin Orange Salad

  • Escarole: The slightly bitter green is both sturdy and leafy, providing great structure for the sweet fruit and nuts. But you can use any spring mix or even baby spinach if you like.
  • Mandarins: Christmas time is peak citrus season. Any sweet citrus works for this salad, but a mandarin’s sweet-tart flavor profile is quite nice here. Feel free to use a trio of different types of oranges for a variety of color and flavor. Not citrus season? You can use a drained can of mandarin oranges instead.

How to Cut Mandarin Oranges for this Salad

These mandarin oranges are cut into segments, or “suprêmes.” Basically, you cut away all of the peel, then cut between the membranes for sweet little juicy slices of oranges. It’s a little bit of knife work that gives you a really lovely result — especially nice for a holiday! Here’s how to do it.

  • Level the orange. Cut the ends off of the orange so that the orange can stand upright.
  • Remove the rind. With the orange standing upright, cut the rind away from top to bottom, following the curve of the fruit and leaving as much fruit as possible. 
  • Cut out the segments. Hold the orange over a bowl (to catch the juices). Use a paring knife to cut out each segment between the membranes, letting them drop into the bowl.

Mandarin Orange Salad Recipe

Bright, leafy greens, juicy orange slices, and little pops of jewel-tones pomegranate seeds are what makes this salad a beautifully festive Christmas salad.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 2 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup

    pecan halves

  • 3 tablespoons

    maple syrup, divided

  • 1 medium head

    escarole (about 12 ounces)

  • 3

    medium mandarin oranges

  • 1/2

    small shallot

  • 2 tablespoons

    white wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon

    poppy seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/3 cup

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    pomegranate seeds or arils, divided

Instructions

  1. Line a small baking sheet or plate with parchment paper. Place 1/2 cup pecan halves in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until starting to toast, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the maple syrup is reduced and almost evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

  2. Immediately scrape onto the parchment. Separate the nuts into a single layer with the spatula and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining salad ingredients.

  3. Tear or cut 1 medium head escarole into bite-sized pieces (about 10 cups). Place in a large bowl.

  4. Segment 3 medium mandarin oranges one at a time: Trim off the top and bottom of the orange stem. Position the orange cut-side down. Following the curve of the fruit and working around the orange, cut away the rind from top to bottom, leaving as much fruit as possible. Hold the orange over a liquid measuring cup (to catch the juices) and use a paring knife to cut out each segment between the membranes. Place the segments in a small bowl. Once all of the segments have been cut out, squeeze the remaining membrane and pith over the measuring cup to extract all of the juice. Discard the membrane and pith. You should have about 1/4 cup juice.

  5. Mince 1/2 small shallot until you have 1 tablespoon and add to the cup of juice. Add 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil.

  6. Pour half the dressing over the escarole and toss to coat. Add half of the orange segments, half of the candied pecans, and 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate arils, and toss again. Top with the remaining orange segments, candied pecans, and remaining 2 tablespoons pomegranate arils. Drizzle a little more dressing over the top. Serve immediately with the remaining dressing on the side.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: 1 (about 10-ounce) can mandarin oranges in juice can be substituted for the fresh mandarins. Drain before using, and use 1/4 cup orange juice in the dressing. Walnuts can be used in place of the pecans.

Make ahead: The escarole can be prepared, the pecans candied, the oranges segmented, and the dressing made up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate the escarole, oranges, and dressing in separate airtight containers, and store the pecans in an airtight container at room temperature.