When it comes to Thanksgiving menu planning at the Avasthi household, my brother and I usually stick to a tried and true formula. We know what works and our shopping list looks about the same every single year. However, the one menu item that always seems to result in several groans and eye rolls is my suggestion of a fall salad recipe for the table. Yeah, I get it—is a salad really something that people look forward to on Thanksgiving? When you’re comparing it to Thanksgiving sides like mashed potatoes and buttery rolls sitting next to it, probably not. But every year I insist on making a salad because personally, I like having something fresh and green on my plate surrounded by shades of beige. And every year, without fail, I’m basically the only person eating the salad.
So this year, as I start to plan out our Thanksgiving menu, I wanted to pull together a salad recipe that not only I would enjoy, but that would elicit a little more enthusiasm from my dinner companions at the table, too. Enter: all the delicious fall flavors with a bite of freshness that’s the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving menu this year.
Sometimes, it’s hard to get excited about a salad, so having a few standout ingredients that all complement each other is critical. No one wants just a plate of greens, especially at Thanksgiving. For this version, I used some classic fall ingredients and elevated them through interesting preparation.
The star here is the sweet potatoes, obviously. The bonus is that you can then use this as both the salad and the sweet potato dish on your table. I used the smallest sweet potatoes I could find at the store, small enough that they fit into the palm of my hand. Getting them nice and tender in the oven with a little char elevated their sweet flavor, and made this salad feel a more decadent.
The other star here is the dates. Now, I have gone on record in the past to claim that I hate dates. I’m still not the biggest fan, but I have found when prepared in a certain way and paired with other ingredients, I can in fact get behind them. Caramelizing the dates in the oven with some olive oil and balsamic makes them nice and chewy with a really great flavor that works well with the sweet potatoes in this salad. It adds a nice textural component to the salad and feels special for the holiday occasion.
The other ingredients in this salad bring the fall feels: pomegranate seeds, crunchy pistachios, and creamy chunks of goat cheese. But what I really love is the big tears of cilantro. I love the freshness that they bring to this salad paired with the rest of the ingredients. I wouldn’t be opposed to skipping the lettuce altogether and just adding a whole bunch of cilantro to the plate for serving. Add a zingy dressing and you have a delicious plate of freshness to add to the holiday spread.
You can absolutely customize this salad as you like. If serving for dinner on a weeknight, I think some avocado would be great, even some apple slices for extra sweetness during the season. Switch out the greens with what you have on hand, and use your favorite dressings. Any way you serve it, this salad will be a fresh and delicious addition to your autumn dinner table.