Retro Southern Pear Salad

updated Sep 20, 2022
thanksgiving
Pear Salad Recipe

In this ulta-retro fare, delicate canned pears are topped with a dollop of creamy mayo and garnished with shreds of sharp cheddar and a vibrant maraschino cherry.

Serves4 to 6

Prep6 minutes

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Photo of pear salad.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

Southerners have a knack for creating dishes using unexpected ingredients. Three prime examples: strawberry pretzel salad, pineapple casserole, and tomato cracker salad. Pear salad may rank among the most unusual, but it’s one that deserves a try!

Delicate canned pears are topped with a dollop of creamy mayo and garnished with shreds of sharp cheddar cheese and a vibrant maraschino cherry. It’s an easy-to-assemble side dish that adds color and fun retro flair to the dinner table. And it’s tasty, too: The juices from the pear and cherries mingle with the mayonnaise to create a salad dressing-ish sauce that’s great paired with the crunchy lettuce leaves and savory cheddar.

Where Did Pear Salad Originate?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origin of this old-fashioned canned pear salad, but we do know that the salad was often served in Southern homes during the 1950s and 1960s. The salad is made from inexpensive and pantry-friendly ingredients, and because it was easily prepared it was a cinch to include it on holidays and Sunday dinners.

What Type of Pears Are Best for Pear Salad?

It is important to look closely at the label when choosing canned pears for pear salad, as there are a variety of forms available.

  • Pear halves: Choosing pear halves, rather than diced pears, is essential for the presentation of this salad. Expect about 6 pear halves per 15-ounce can.
  • Syrup: Pear halves come packed in heavy syrup, light syrup, or in juice. Any of these varieties work well in this salad. Choose the one that you prefer.

How Do You Cut Pears for Pear Salad?

There’s no need to cut canned pear halves for this salad. Simply gently drain the pears, making sure not to break the fragile fruit, then arrange them on the lettuce leaves.

What Cheese Is Good with Pears?

Cheddar cheese is the traditional choice for this retro pear salad. It’s best to freshly grate yellow sharp cheddar cheese on the small holes of a box grater. Larger pieces of shredded cheese will overwhelm the delicate fruit, while pre-shredded cheeses often contain powdery anti-caking additives, which can add a gritty texture.

If you’re looking for a pear-and-cheese combo in other recipes, we’d suggest these roasted pears with bacon and blue cheese, or this fun pear-and-ricotta stuffed pasta.

Pear Salad Recipe

In this ulta-retro fare, delicate canned pears are topped with a dollop of creamy mayo and garnished with shreds of sharp cheddar and a vibrant maraschino cherry.

Prep time 6 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 6 leaves

    green leaf or iceberg lettuce

  • 1/2 ounce

    sharp cheddar cheese (1/4 cup finely shredded)

  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can

    pear halves in heavy syrup or juice

  • 6 teaspoons

    mayonnaise, divided

  • 6

    maraschino cherries

Instructions

  1. Tear 6 lettuce in half and arrange on individual plates. Finely shred 1/2 ounce sharp cheddar cheese on the small holes of a box grater (about 1/4 cup).

  2. Drain 1 can pear halves, discarding the liquid or reserving it for another use. Arrange 1 to 2 pear halves cut side-up on the lettuce. Spoon 1 teaspoon mayonnaise into the center of each pear half. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the pear halves, then top each with a maraschino cherry.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pear salad can be prepared up to 6 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days.