Classic Waldorf salad is a staple on American dinner tables. Named for the creation by Oscar Tschirky at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1896, this blend of apples, celery, mayonnaise and sometimes raisins or grapes is a tangy-sweet side dish you won’t want to miss.Jump to Recipe
What’s in a Waldorf Salad?
The Waldorf salad started out really simply: Just three ingredients (four if you count the lettuce) and included just apples, celery and mayonnaise. So it’s not really fair to say this version is a classic–no one is really making the original version anymore.
Today’s versions include everything from grapes, to raisins, carrots (like my version), nuts and sweetened dressings. Later versions included proteins like chicken.
They all work and I think it’s about picking the version that most closely matches the flavor profile you want to produce and what you remember the salad to be from past experience.
Can Waldorf salad be made ahead?
Yes! In fact I might argue that it tastes even better after an overnight melding in the fridge. The lemon juice in the mayonnaise and that gets added will keep the apples from darkening. You can make your salad two, maybe even three days ahead and it will be just fine when you need it.
Can this salad be frozen?
Absolutely not. Anytime you freeze a fresh fruit or vegetable, it will leak all the liquid out of its cells when thawed. That means those crunchy apples will go all soft and watery–and that will ruin your salad.
To assemble your waldorf salad:
Step one: Toast walnuts until just fragrant and allow to cool slightly. Dice apples (leave on the peels) in to bite size pieces along with the celery. Keep the celery small so the flavor doesn’t over power the apples when you eat it.
Grate the carrot and add it to the bowl.
Step two: Mix the mayonnaise (please use a good quality real mayonnaise) and lemon juice in a separate bowl so you can make sure all the flavors get distributed evenly, then pour that over the apple and celery mixture. You can use plain greek yogurt here as well, but it will have more tang than the mayonnaise.
Step three: Mix it all together and season with salt and pepper if you choose. Serve immediately if needed, but for better flavor, cover and chill the mixture in the fridge for 4-6 hours before serving. It will hold in the fridge for up to 3 days if made ahead.
What recipes go with Waldorf salad?
Most people serve this salad as part of a special holiday meal so sides and mains that go with it include things you might expect like:
Classic Waldorf Salad
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 4 cups red delicious apples diced (peels still on) in to 1/2" pieces, see note 1
- 4 stalks celery diced into 1/4" pieces
- 1 carrot grated (optional)
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise not Miracle Whip
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- bibb lettuce leaves optional for serving
Toast the walnuts
- In a small skillet over medium low heat, add the nuts (don't add any oil) and stir gently until the nuts start to gently sizzle and begin to smell toasty. About 5 to 6 minutes. Nuts burn easily so keep an eye on them and keep them moving in the pan. Turn off the heat and allow them to cool slightly before adding to the salad.
Assemble the Salad
- In a large bowl, add the walnuts, diced apples, celery, and carrot if you are using it. Set aside and make the dressing.
- In a small bowl blend the mayonnaise and the lemon juice.
- Add the dressing to the bowl and toss to coat the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately in bowls lined with bibb lettuce leaves or cover and refrigerate for up to two days.