The traditional Waldorf salad recipe includes apples, celery, mayonnaise and often walnuts as well. It was developed at the Waldorf Hotel in the mid-1800s and is still served there today, with a few modifications. Starting from a basic Waldorf salad recipe, there are plenty of ways to spice it up and make it more fresh, flavorful and interesting to serve as part of a fancy meal. Choose from a few of the possible substitutions or additions to make your own version of a Waldorf salad.
Adding additional fruits can give a Waldorf salad more flavor and texture. One easy option is to use half apples and half pears for a similar texture, but new depth of flavor. Or use several varieties of apples, like a tart Granny Smith and a sweet Gala, to bring more flavors into the salad. You can also add raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries or other small pieces of dried fruit to give the salad some little sweet, chewy bites. Another option is to add small wedges of fresh grapes or oranges for a light, crisp flavor.
Add protein to a Waldorf salad so you can serve it as a main dish instead of as a side. One easy option is to make a chicken Waldorf salad with shredded chicken or large chunks of sauteed chicken breasts mixed in. Another idea is to serve sliced chicken breast on top of a Waldorf salad and a bed of lettuce to make a Waldorf chicken salad. Other proteins that go well in or on a Waldorf salad include salmon, duck, turkey and tuna. If you have leftover meat in your refrigerator, just slice or chop it and add it to the Waldorf salad to use it up.
There are plenty of other things you can mix into a Waldorf salad. Whole Foods suggests adding minced fennel bulb for more crunch and a fresh flavor. People who do not like walnuts might enjoy a Waldorf salad with pecans instead, which has an earthier flavor. You can add grated or cubed cheese, such as Cheddar, Swiss or Parmesan, to the salad to give it a richer flavor that goes especially well with the apples. Fresh herbs also bring new life to a traditional Waldorf salad. Try adding chopped fresh rosemary, basil, parsley or mint. Use a whole sprig of the herb as a garnish alongside the salad.
The mayonnaise salad dressing makes a Waldorf salad unappealing to many people who are watching their fat intake or who don't like mayonnaise. Make a low-fat Waldorf salad by using yogurt in place of the mayonnaise. Greek yogurt works especially well, and its tart flavor adds depth and complements the apples and celery well. Another option is to use low-fat sour cream, or to mix a combination of mayonnaise, yogurt and sour cream. With these substitutions, add a little bit of honey to balance the tartness in the dressing. If you prefer the salad tart, try adding a splash of vinegar or lemon juice instead.