The Best Waldorf Salad Recipe

Ready in 15 minutes, this classic Waldorf salad recipe is a deliciously easy salad you will be making over and over again. A simple mixture of crisp apples, celery, grapes and walnuts tossed together with a creamy homemade mayonnaise dressing. We guarantee this will be a crowd pleaser. 

hand holding a small bowl of Waldorf salad above a larger plate of salad.

Why You’ll Love Our Waldorf Salad Recipe

The original Waldorf salad was first served in 1896. And it is still going strong today. 

I can see why. Easy, sweet and delicious

A simple mixture of crisp apples, celery, grapes and walnuts tossed together with a homemade mayonnaise dressing layered on a bed of refreshing lettuce leaves, you will love making this classic salad over and over again. 

Even though there are many modern variations to this classic chopped salad, I sometimes find simplicity is often the best. This is the reason why I think the traditional combination is the best Waldorf salad recipe.

Plus, this  Waldorf salad recipe is so quick to whip up. Literally, 15 minutes is all you need. Great for a last minute side salad or light lunch. The apple pairing also works perfectly as a side dish for roast pork.

And if you need to prep ahead, no problems. Waldorf salad can also be made ahead of time without the fear of it wilting or going soggy. Perfect for large gatherings, especially during Thanksgiving,  Christmas, or to take on a picnic. 

Why Is It Called A Waldorf Salad?

There are sometimes various versions of why certain classic salads were named, but for this recipe, there is no confusion. 

Created and first served at Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, the salad was named after the famous hotel.  

Where Did Waldorf Salad Originate?

Even though Waldorf salad originated at the luxury Waldorf Astoria Hotel, it was designed for the crowds and not necessarily fine dining. 

The original recipe for Waldorf Salad was created for a charity ball held at the hotel. It was so easy to put together and serve at a large event. 

Does Waldorf Salad Have Lettuce In It?

Created by Oscar Tschirky, the original recipe only included apples, celery and mayonnaise. Walnuts were later introduced in 1928. 

Technically you don’t add lettuce to the salad, but it is popular to layer Waldorf salad on top of a bed of lettuce.  

Modern versions of Waldorf salad include many different ingredients, which makes it easy for you to adapt for your guests. 

a brown plate holding celery, apples, grapes and a small bowl of walnuts

Recipe Overview

Flavour/Texture: It’s creamy, sweet and savoury, all rolled in one bite. I love how the sweetness of apples and grapes offsets the creamy mayonnaise salad dressing. Both celery and walnuts add extra crunch.

Ease: No real cooking is involved, just a few chopping motions and toasting some walnuts. Together with a very simple homemade creamy salad dressing, Waldorf is one of the easiest salad recipes you can make. 

Time: 10 minutes is all you need to cut up all the fruit and vegetables. 

Ingredients

These are the ingredients you need for Waldorf Salad: 

waldorf salad ingredients; apples, celery, grapes, walnuts, mayonnaise and lemon layered out on a black board

Apple: The best apples for Waldorf salad is Red Delicious, Pink Lady or Royal Gala. They are  medium-sweet red apples with crisp white juicy flesh. I prefer red apples to green apples as I like the pops of red in the salad and the sweetness against the creamy mayonnaise. 

Celery: Look for bright green crispy celery stalks. Any stalks that are limp are not suitable for salads. 

Grape: I prefer red grapes again for the colour and sweetness. Seedless grapes would be most preferred in a salad.

Walnut: Roasted walnuts will reduce the slightly astringent bitter flavour you get with raw walnuts, but you can also toss in raw walnuts if you don’t mind the taste. 

Lettuce: I use baby gem lettuce for the base of the salad as I find them to hold up well when layered with creamy dressings, just like our Little Gem Salad. However, you can use whatever variety is available, like romaine lettuce, bibb lettuce or even mixed salad leaves.

Mayonnaise: Good quality mayonnaise is always needed for creamy dressings. 

Lemon juice: This will help cut through the richness of the mayonnaise dressing. 

Variations and Substitutions

Substitution for mayonnaise: Using only mayonnaise in the Waldorf salad dressing can be a bit too heavy for some, so you can substitute the mayonnaise, all or half, with plain yoghurt or creme fraiche

This will also make Waldorf Salad an egg-free salad if you use yoghurt or creme fraiche instead of mayonnaise for the dressing. 

Nut free option: you can omit the walnuts from the salad for a nut-free option or substitute with pepitas.

Green apples and grapes: For a uniform look in the salad, you can substitute the red apples and grapes with green apples and grapes. Or you have a mixture of both.

Together with celery and lettuce, green apples and grapes will be an all-green salad, just like our spicy green cucumber avocado salad.

Extra protein: To bulk up and make it a main course salad, add pieces of grilled chicken, turkey or leftover rotisserie chicken. Or even match up with one of these delicious chicken salads.

Additional ingredients: The classic Waldorf salad recipe serves as a base for many variations. You can add additional ingredients complimenting apple, grape, celery and walnut combinations or switch them out to cater to your guests. Here are some ideas for you to play with:

  • Pear
  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Red onion
  • Sunflower seeds or pepitas
  • Pecans or almonds
  • Mini marshmallows 
  • Yoghurt and Dijon mustard in the dressing 

Sugar in the salad dressing: Many classic recipes will call for sugar in the salad dressing for Waldorf salad or sprinkled over the fruit. However, I didn’t add sugar in my recipe. I feel the sweetness in the red apples and grapes was sweet enough. 

Vegan option: Substitute mayonnaise in the dressing with your favourite vegan mayonnaise brand. 

Instructions

Step by step instructions for how to make Waldorf Salad:

How to Prepare the Salad

For this recipe, I decided to present the apples in two ways – cubed and sliced. You can either dice or slice apples. It is totally up to you.

Thinly slice half an apple.

Chop the remaining one and a half apples into small cubes. 

Place cut apple in a salted water bath to avoid it from turning brown. 

hand thinly slice apples on wooden chopping board
diced apple on a wooden chopping board

Trim and cut celery stalks into small pieces to yield 1 cup of chopped celery.

sliced celery on a wooden chopping board next to knife

Cut grapes in half.

cut grapes on a chopping board and in bowl

Wash and pat dry lettuce leaves. 

If you have raw walnuts, dry toast them in a large fry pan for a few minutes until golden brown. 

Roughly chop roasted walnuts.

walnuts dry toasting in fry pan

How to Make Waldorf Salad Dressing

In a small bowl, add mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Mix well together until combined.

a black bowl with mayonnaise dressing. Hand squeezing lemon juice into it.

How to Assemble the Salad

In a mixing bowl, add diced apples, celery, grapes and half of the walnuts together. 

Dress with mayonnaise salad dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Toss together. 

pouring mayonnaise dressing in a bowl with Waldorf salad ingredients

On a large platter, layer your lettuce leaves on the bottom. 

Tumble the tossed salad over the lettuce leaves. 

a plate with lettuce leaves and dressed Waldorf salad on top.

Sprinkle remaining walnuts over the top of salad. 

Gently place sliced apple in fan shapes around the salad.

Serve.

How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)

Crunchy apples are a must: Floury apples do not enhance this salad at all. Make sure your apples are fresh and crisp. I love how the crispy and juicy apple chunks go against the mayonnaise dressing.

Good quality mayonnaise: The salad dressing is very much all mayonnaise, so I would use a good quality brand or make your own. Poor quality oils, loads of sugar and preservatives make a mayonnaise poor in flavour and extremely unhealthy.

Don’t let the apples brown: I don’t think this screams high-class hotel haute cuisine when you have brown diced apples throughout the salad. Nothing wrong with the taste, just the overall look. And we know we eat with our eyes.

Make sure you toss the cut apples quickly with mayonnaise dressing, or if you are prepping ahead, place them in a salted water bath or squeeze some lemon on it to reduce oxidation.  

Mix the salad well: Make sure you toss the salad well with mayonnaise dressing so everything is properly coated. Lumps of creamy mayonnaise are not that pleasing on the tastebuds. 

Served chilled: Being a mayonnaise based dressing, I would like to serve this salad chilled. If prepping ahead of time, keep tossed salad in fridge until ready to serve. 

Great Mains for This Salad

What to serve with Waldorf salad recipe? Try these delicious main dish recipes:

This creamy yet refreshing salad is so full of crunch that it would be perfect for recipes such as air fryer salmon recipe and flavoursome peri peri chicken. Meanwhile, the pairing of pork and apples never get old so this Dutch oven pork tenderloin would be perfect!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this salad ahead of time?

Yes you can prepare this salad a couple of hours earlier with it tossed in the mayonnaise dressing. However, I wouldn’t keep it overnight. Best to consume the Waldorf salad fresh on the day. 

How long can I store the salad?

Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. You can keep it for 1-2 days. 

What is a Waldorf salad dressing made of?

I have prepared a very simple mayonnaise dressing for this recipe consisting of just mayonnaise and lemon juice, but you can add a little more oomph with Dijon mustard and yoghurt or creme fraiche. Our Creamy Mustard dressing could work as an alternative as well.


Even though a classic Waldorf salad is covered with mayonnaise and may not look appealing to some, the combination of apples, celery, grapes and walnuts somehow make it work.

The contrasting sweet, savoury and creamy flavours create a delicious and addictive salad. Plus it is so easy to make!

There are good reasons why Waldorf salad is a classic recipe. And I am so happy I get to share again and again. 

That’s all!

More No Cook Salad Recipes

a plate of Waldorf salad with gold fork and spoon

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A large plate with Waldorf Salad
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4.98 from 99 votes

The Best Waldorf Salad Recipe

Ready in 15 minutes, this classic Waldorf salad recipe is a deliciously easy salad you will be making over and over again. A simple mixture of crisp apples, celery, grapes and walnuts tossed together with a creamy homemade mayonnaise dressing. We guarantee this will be a crowd pleaser.
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Salad Dressing
Cuisine: International
Diet: Gluten Free, Halal, Low Lactose, Low Salt, Vegetarian
Dietary: Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 240kcal
Author: Sammy Eng

Ingredients

Salad

Salad Dressing

Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.

Instructions

Salad

  • Chop 1 + half apple in small cubes. Thinly slice the remaining half of the apple.
  • Trim and cut celery stalks into small pieces to yield 1 cup of chopped celery.
  • Cut grapes in half.
  • Wash and pat dry lettuce leaves.
  • Dry toast walnuts in a large fry pan for a few minutes until golden brown. Roughly chop roasted walnuts.

Salad Dressing

  • In a small bowl, add mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • Mix well together until combined.

Assembly

  • In a mixing bowl, add diced apples, celery, grapes and half of the walnuts together.
  • Dress with mayonnaise salad dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Toss together.
  • On a large platter, layer your lettuce leaves on the bottom.
  • Tumble the tossed salad over the lettuce leaves.
  • Sprinkle remaining walnuts over the top of salad.
  • Gently place sliced apple in fan shapes around the salad.
  • Serve

Notes

  • For best results, use fresh, crunchy apples and good quality mayonnaise.
  • Substitute the mayonnaise, all or half, with plain yoghurt or creme fraiche if the dressing is too heavy or if you need an egg-free salad recipe.
  • Omit the walnuts from the salad for a nut-free option or substitute with pepitas.
  • For a vegan option, substitute mayonnaise in the dressing with your favourite vegan mayonnaise brand.
  • You can substitute the red apples and grapes with green apples and grapes. Or you have a mixture of both.
  • To bulk up and make it a main course salad, add pieces of grilled chicken, turkey or leftover rotisserie chicken.
  • The classic Waldorf salad serves as a base for many variations. You can add additional ingredients complimenting apple, grape, celery and walnut combinations or switch them out to cater to your guests. Here are some ideas for you to play with:
  • Pear
  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Red onion
  • Sunflower seeds or pepitas
  • Pecans or almonds
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Yoghurt and Dijon mustard in the dressing

Nutrition

Calories: 240kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 254mg | Potassium: 313mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 229IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1mg

*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.

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11 Comments

  1. Kim Beaulieu says:

    5 stars
    This really is the BEST Waldorf salad. We loved it and can’t wait to make it again.

  2. 5 stars
    I love a good Waldorf salad and this one was so good! We are going to make this more often!

  3. 5 stars
    It’s been ages since I had a Waldorf salad, and when I saw your recipe, I knew I had to make it. It was easy to prepare and so very delicious!

  4. 5 stars
    It has been a long time since I had a Waldorf salad. Perfect for lunch or dinner. So cripsy and fresh and healthy too.

  5. Beth larson says:

    I’ve been making this for years and my mother before me. Use salad dressing not mayo and lemon juice. Add a little milk to thin it out. We prefer pecans but walnut’s will do. No lettuce needed.

    1. Sounds good Beth! We’re always open to the many different ways to make salad. I do like the idea of using pecans instead.

  6. 5 stars
    This was delicious! Love your presentation here.

    1. I have to make this for my sister for her office party. I have to make it the day before.
      Will it be okay until the luncheon the next day

      1. Yes you can. Just make everything separately but only mix in the dressing in the morning. Be sure to put the apples in salted water to ensure it doesn’t brown too much.

  7. Amy Liu Dong says:

    5 stars
    I love how simple and delicious this salad recipe is.
    Thank you for sharing this with us!

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