Easy Autumn Apple Pasta Salad Recipe made with fresh baby spinach, sweet apples, crisp celery, dried cherries, mandarin oranges, and buttery pecans, all tossed with a homemade Poppyseed Dressing. Enjoy this fresh, delicious, and festive apple pasta salad as a light lunch or holiday appetizer.
Pasta salads aren’t just for summer
I can hardly believe it, you guys! Rain is in the forecast for next week! It’s November…in California…and rain is in the forecast for Thanksgiving. Unless you live in California this may not seem like a big deal but for us parched Cali folks out here in the wild wild west, it’s about as exciting as it gets.
Since I’m not willing to let go of summer just yet (because yes, just last week it felt warm enough to be summer) I’ve decided to make a fun and festive autumn apple pasta salad to combine the seasons. Sweet fruit, fresh greens, earthy nuts, pasta, and a light poppyseed dressing. Make it a complete meal and add juicy baked chicken breasts.
How to make Autumn Apple Pasta Salad Recipe
To make this easy pasta salad simply,
First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add your pasta and cook until al dente (or until nearly cooked, but not all the way).
While the noodles are cooking, place all your salad dressing ingredients (EXCEPT for the poppyseeds) into the bowl of a small blender and blend until fully immersed, approximately 10-15 seconds. Gently stir in the poppy seeds and set dressing aside until ready to serve (if preparing ahead of time store dressing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator).
Check the pasta. By this point, your pasta should be ready. Drain the pasta and immediately run under cold water to stop the pasta from cooking further.
Next, mix the apple slices with the lemon juice in a large bowl (the lemon juice prevents the apple slices from browning). Drain the lemon juice and add the celery, cranberries, and pecans to the apple slices. In a separate bowl, add the cooked pasta, mandarin oranges, and half the poppyseed dressing. Mix well to combine.
Just before serving, add the pasta mixture and the spinach to the bowl with the apples and cranberries and drizzle with remaining poppyseed dressing. Toss to coat and serve immediately.
What apple should I use?
You guys, there are a lot of different apple types out there. I mean, think about how much space apples occupy in grocery stores! Sweet, tart, crispy, it can be overwhelming.
When it comes to apple picking, I tend to gravitate toward brightly colored red and pink apples. They’re pretty looking, crisp, and usually a mix of sweet and tart. I love Golden Delicious apples sliced and served with peanut butter, but when it comes to salads, crisp pink-colored apples are the way I roll.
Here are my top three choices for this salad recipe-
- Pink Lady (Cripps Pink)
- Honey Crisp
This awesome salad is tossed with an equally delicious poppyseed dressing. It takes just 5 minutes to prepare and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The perfect complement to all the flavors and textures that make this salad so delicious, I highly recommend making your own. Of course, feel free to pick up your favorite store-bought version if that’s easier.
All you need are the following simple ingredients,
- Olive oil
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- White Wine Vinegar
- Orange Juice and Zest
- Poppy Seeds
Pro tip – use a Microplane grater to zest your orange before juicing.
What to serve with this apple pasta salad
This fresh and easy salad takes just 25-minutes to toss together. Perfect as a light lunch, holiday side, or served as a base for a bigger meal, this yummy bowl of greens, apples, pasta, and mandarins love to be tossed with chicken (Greek, citrus, or spicy Jerk ), shrimp, garbanzo beans, or lightly marinated grilled steak.
One of my favorite salads to serve throughout the cooling autumn and winter months, I often serve it with a fruit salad, Baked Sweet Potato, or a bowl of homemade guacamole.
And let’s not forget, a glass of sangria and crumbly apple crisp are always welcome additions.
More salad recipes,
- Spinach, Pear, and Feta Salad
- Taco Salad Recipe
- Egg Salad Recipe (How to Make Egg Salad)
- Easy Three Bean Salad Recipe
- Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe
- Cucumber Salad Recipe
- Balsamic Tomato Basil Salad
If you try making this Autumn Salad Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Autumn Apple Pasta Salad with Poppyseed Dressing
- 10 ounces fresh baby spinach - or other favorite green
- 1.5 cups uncooked pasta - go with your favorite - just not noodles 🙂
- 3 stalks celery - chopped
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 2 medium apples - I used Fuji, cut into thin slices
- 1 lemon juiced
- ½ cup pecans
- 1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges - liquid drained
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tbso apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
- salt - to taste
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta until al dente (not quite fully cooked).
- While the noodles are cooking, prepare the dressing. Place all salad dressing ingredients (EXCEPT the poppyseeds) into the bowl of a blender and blend until fully immersed, approximately 10-15 seconds. Gently stir in the poppy seeds and set dressing aside until ready to serve (if preparing ahead of time store dressing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator).
- Check the pasta. When ready, drain the pasta and immediately run under cold water to stop the noodles from cooking further.
- In a large bowl, mix the apple slices with the lemon juice (the lemon juice prevents the apple slices from browning). Drain the lemon juice and add the celery, cranberries, and pecans.
- In a separate bowl, add the cooked pasta, mandarin oranges, and half the poppyseed dressing. Mix well to combine.
- Add the pasta mixture and the spinach to the bowl with the apples and cranberries and drizzle with remaining poppyseed dressing. Toss to coat.
- This salad is best served immediately. Enjoy!
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)