Easy to throw together but also pretty to serve, we adore this pear salad recipe with candied walnuts. The complementary combination of sweet juicy pears, punchy arugula and savoury parmesan cheese makes it a delicious side salad for autumn gatherings.
- Why You’ll Love Pear Arugula Salad
- Which Pear Is Best For Salad?
- What Goes Well With Pears In A Salad?
- Why Do Pears Turn Brown?
- How To Ripen Pears Quickly?
- Recipe Overview
- Variations And Substitutions
- How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
- Great Mains for This Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love Pear Arugula Salad
As the months get cooler, salads are not always high on the list for side dishes. However, with all the heavier, comforting recipes we tend to cook during autumn and winter, I do prefer to have a lighter, refreshing side salad to match.
Although pears are generally available all year round, they are best in season during the cooler months, making them the perfect ingredient for autumn and winter salads.
This pear salad recipe is not only delicious but super easy to make. The complementary combination of honey sweet pears, punchy arugula, candied walnuts, tangy dried cranberries, crunchy pepitas and salty parmesan is too good to resist.
I adore this pear arugula salad as a quick side salad for roasts, stews and casseroles. The elegant presentation and combination of pears, walnuts and cranberries would also make it perfect for festive holiday celebrations like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Which Pear Is Best For Salad?
Pears are generally separated into two main groups – European or Asian. I love using both types in salads.
The pears we typically see in our supermarkets are European pears, like Packham or William Barlett. They generally have smooth bright green skin with a bell shape. There are other varieties of European pears like Bosc, Anjou and Comice that have red to brown coloured skin.
European pears are known to be sweet, juicy fruit. The flesh is firm when just ripe and gets progressively softer as it ripens.
Of course, European pears are delicious eaten fresh but are also fantastic when cooked like poaching or baking. They are often used in dessert cooking.
Asian pears like nashi have green skin and are round in shape. They have a higher water content with a honey sweetness. I find the texture to be more crisp and juicy.
The best kind of pear for salad is crisp and sweet, regardless of variety. Overripe pears are not suitable to eat fresh for salad because the texture is too soft.
What Goes Well With Pears In A Salad?
Pears, also known as pome fruit, are a part of the Rosaceae (rose) family. They belong in the same family as apples and quince. This is why apples and pears can often be substituted in recipes and have similar flavour pairings.
As they are naturally sweet, I like to match pears with contrasting flavours or textures to create balance in a salad.
Pear and arugula are a great combination because of the peppery contrast of the arugula against the sweetness of pears. Watercress is also another delicious combination because of its peppery flavours. One of my favourite watercress salad with apple and pear.
I also like to match pears with a variety of cheeses. Blue cheese like gorgonzola or roquefort, goat cheese and parmesan all match well with pears. The savoury and creamy tones work a treat with the sweetness.
Nuts and spices like walnut, pecan, cinnamon and nutmeg all mix well with pears. They all add warmth to pears creating the perfect autumn recipe.
Why Do Pears Turn Brown?
Both pears and apples start to turn brown when you cut them up because of the contact with oxygen. This is a natural process called enzymatic browning or oxidation.
Pears that have turned brown due to this process are safe to eat but just don’t look that pleasing.
You can easily reduce the oxidation by squeezing lemon juice directly on fruit or place in a bowl of water mixed with lemon juice or salt.
I normally use a salted water bath because I find the salt does not interfere with the flavours as much as lemon juice does.
How To Ripen Pears Quickly?
If your pears are not quite ripe, leave them at room temperature (not in the fridge) to speed up the ripening process.
Placing them in a brown paper bag will help speed up even more as this traps the ethylene gas that pears emit. Alternatively, leave in a fruit bowl with apples and bananas.
Flavour/Texture: This pear salad is refreshing, light, and flavourful with both sweet and savoury notes. I love the various interesting crunchy textures combined with pear, walnuts, pepitas and cranberries. Our creamy mustard dressing helps tie everything together.
Ease: The only cooking required for this salad is the candied walnuts. If you run out of time, then you can just use roasted walnuts bought from the store. This is a quick and easy pear salad to make.
Time: Even with the candied walnuts, the recipe will take about 20 minutes to prepare.
These are the ingredients you need for Pear Arugula Salad:
Pear: I used Barlett pears for this recipe, but you can choose any variety that is in season. Look for pears that are bright, firm and without bruises.
Arugula: Peppery greens that really add bite to a salad. I love arugula, also known as rocket leaves.
Walnuts: I love making candied walnuts, so it was a no brainer for me to add to the salad. Plus, it takes away some of the stringent bitter tastes of raw walnuts. You can just add toasted walnuts if you prefer not to add too much sugar to the salad.
Maple syrup: Maple syrup adds deep caramel flavours to the walnuts but can also use honey or butter with sugar to make candied walnuts.
Dried cranberries: So lovely to have pops of tart dried cranberries throughout the salad. It gives balance to the overall profile.
Pepitas: For extra crunch, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) give texture and nutty flavours. You can also use sunflower seeds as well.
Parmesan cheese: Pear and cheese are a natural pairing. I opted for shaved parmesan because that is what I had in the fridge at the time.
Variations And Substitutions
Substituting arugula: If you don’t enjoy the spiciness of arugula, you can substitute it for baby spinach leaves or mixed salad leaves. You can also combine a bit of everything so that you still have some peppery flavours throughout.
Variation of other nuts: Switch walnuts for pecans or hazelnuts. For a nut-free option, add extra pepita or add sunflower seeds.
Other pear and cheese combinations: You can switch up the cheese in the pear salad for a softer or more pungent variety. Try blue cheese like gorgonzola, goat cheese, bocconcini or even burrata.
Alternative salad dressing: If you prefer non-mayo creamy dressing, try our sweet mustard vinaigrette.
Step by step instructions for how to make Pear Arugula Salad:
How to Make Candied Walnuts
My recipe for candied walnuts is not only great to add to salads like our strawberry salad but is super delicious as a snack. I often make a double batch as my kids would finish them before I can to my salads. They are easy to make and stores well in an airtight container.
Add walnuts, maple syrup and a pinch of salt to a small fry pan and fry over medium-high heat.
Stir frequently until syrup is caramelised and walnuts have gained a golden colour.
Approximately will take about 2-3 minutes.
Remove from fry pan and let the candied walnuts cool down.
How to Prepare the Salad
Cut pear in half lengthwise, remove core and then thinly slice.
Add sliced pear into a bowl of salted water to stop oxidisation. You can also squeeze a little lemon juice over it instead.
Wash arugula and shake dry.
How to Make Creamy Mustard Dressing
Mix together in a small bowl olive oil, lemon juice, seeded mustard, honey, mayonnaise and salt.
Whisk until the dressing is well combined.
It can be left in the fridge until the salad is ready to serve.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a mixing bowl, add arugula, dried cranberries and pepitas.
Break up half of the candied walnuts with your hands and scatter into salad.
Drizzle with creamy pear salad dressing and mix well together.
Transfer tossed salad to a serving platter.
Add slices of pear on top.
Scatter the remaining candied walnuts and shave parmesan cheese over the salad.
Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Choose firm pears: I love crispy sweet pears for salad. Pears that are too ripe become a bit mushy for salad. Best to choose ripe but firm pears for this salad recipe.
If your pears are a bit too ripe for this pear walnut salad, try our Balsamic Maple Glazed Pear Salad.
Reduce oxidation on pears: As pears are the main ingredient of this salad, I would try my best to avoid serving brown pears. There is no real difference in taste but doesn’t look nice when you have patchy brown pear slices on your salad.
You can either cut the pears just before serving and add them to salad, place in salted water or squeeze lemon juice over them to stop them from turning brown.
Toss the salad well with dressing: Make sure the arugula salad with dried cranberries, pepitas and candied walnuts is dressed thoroughly with the creamy mustard dressing. I like the ingredients to meld in properly before serving.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with pear arugula salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
As cooler months roll around and fall turns into winter, we crave for some piping hot comfort food.
We absolutely love recipes such as Dutch oven pot roast, sausage tortellini soup and baked ziti with meatballs. Not only are they delicious, they’re exactly what you’ll need. Perfectly paired with our pear and arugula salad.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can prep all the ingredients ahead of time but best to dress closer to the time of serving. Also make sure you take steps to avoid the pears from going brown.
Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. You can keep it for another day.
If you have bought a big bag of arugula and are not sure what to do with leftovers, try our Egg Salad with Dill for brunch or our comforting Tricolour quinoa salad with roasted vegetables for dinner.
Even a simple green salad with arugula, shaved parmesan and balsamic vinegar is delicious. Plenty of options for leftover arugula.
Make the most of pear season with this delicious pear arugula salad recipe. It’s super easy and quick to make for everyday main meals but also special enough for our festive holidays.
I love the combination of sweet pear, punchy arugula, candied walnuts and salty parmesan together. Amazing balance of all the wonderful flavours our taste buds deserve!
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Pear Arugula Salad with Candied Walnuts
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- Add walnuts, maple syrup and a pinch of salt in a small fry pan and fry over medium-high heat.
- Stir frequently until syrup is caramelised and walnuts have gained a golden colour. This will take approximately about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from fry pan and let the candied walnuts cool down.
- Cut pear in half lengthwise, remove core and then thinly slice.
- Add sliced pear into a bowl of salted water to stop oxidisation.
- Wash arugula and shake dry.
- Mix together in a mason jar olive oil, lemon juice, seeded mustard, honey, mayonnaise and salt.
- Shake until the dressing is well combined.
- In a mixing bowl, add arugula, dried cranberries, pepitas and ¾ of candied walnuts.
- Drizzle with the creamy pear salad dressing and mix well together.
- Transfer tossed salad to a serving platter.
- Add slices of pear on top.
- Scatter the remaining candied walnuts and shave parmesan cheese over the salad.
- Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- You can substitute arugula with baby spinach leaves, mixed salad leaves or a combination of everything, so you still have some peppery flavours throughout.
- If you don’t have walnuts, you can switch to pecans or hazelnuts. For a nut-free option, add extra pepita or add sunflower seeds.
- Variation to parmesan, try blue cheese like gorgonzola, goat cheese, bocconcini or even burrata.
- Best to choose ripe but firm pears for this salad recipe. Pears that are too ripe become a bit mushy for salad.
- Make sure to add sliced pear into a bowl of salted water or use lemon juice to stop oxidisation.
- If you prefer a non-mayo creamy dressing, try our sweet mustard vinaigrette.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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