Cranberry Waldorf Salad

My mom has been making Cranberry Waldorf Salad on Thanksgiving day for as long as I can remember. We think the recipe was a hand-me-down from her much-adored sister (and my favorite aunt) – my glamorous, eccentric Aunt Polly. We always ate this “salad” along with our dinner even thought it sorta kinda resembles dessert. It’s sweet (apples, grapes) and tangy (cranberries), with the tender crunch of pecans and luscious cream holding it all together.

The original recipe called for 1/2 cup white sugar, a bag of miniature marshmallows, and a whole container of Cool-Whip! Since it includes so many sugary, forbidden things, I thought this favorite recipe was off the menu. But then I put on my Whole30 hat. I replaced the Cool-Whip with coconut milk, let dried apricots stand in for the white sugar, and eliminated the marshmallows all-together. (I never liked them much anyway.)

With all the fresh fruit and dried apricots, this is definitely a once-a-year treat, and I’m thrilled that this taste of tradition can be on our Thanksgiving table this year, without worrying that I’ll hurt myself by indulging.


Cranberry Waldorf Salad with Coconut Whipped Cream |
Cranberry Waldorf Salad

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (Thai Kitchen works best.)

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries

  • 16 dried apricots

  • 1 pound seedless grapes, cut in half

  • 2 medium apples, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

This requires a bit of forethought: place a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator, ideally overnight, but 3-4 hours will do. Also, this salad works best if you do the prep, let it sit overnight, then assemble shortly before eating. Trust me; it will be worth it!


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put your mixing bowl and beater in the freezer.


Wash the cranberries and set a few aside for garnish. Place the rest in the bowl of a food processor with the dried apricots and grind them until the mixture has the consistency of relish. (It’s OK! Go ahead… sneak a little bite. It’s tangy and delicious!)


In a large bowl, toss the cranberry-apricot relish with the cut apples and grapes. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator so they can get to know each other. Forget about them until the next day.


Meanwhile, spread the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast for 5-7 minutes until golden. Keep an eye on them; they can burn quickly. When they’re cool, chop the pecans and set aside – be sure to save a few unchopped for garnish. Resist the urge to eat them immediately. If you’re feeling lazy, you can use untoasted pecans; it will be fine.


When you’re ready to assemble the salad, take your can of coconut milk out of the fridge — don’t shake it — and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes, then…


It’s time to make the whipped cream! Remove the mixing bowl and beater from the freezer. Carefully open the can of coconut milk without shaking it, and scoop the thick, coconut cream into the chilled mixing bowl (toss the liquid that’s left over). Add the vanilla extract and beat the mixture on the highest speed of your mixer until it looks like whipped cream. This takes about 5-7 minutes.


When the cream is done, place the chopped pecans and fruit relish in a large bowl. Gently fold in the whipped cream and garnish with whole cranberries and nuts.

Coconut Mik Whipped Cream for Cranberry Waldorf Salad |

Print this recipe
Paleo Ambrosia Salad

In each issue of Paleo Magazine, I share the story of a traditional recipe and adapt it to fit into a healthier Paleo lifestyle. In a recent...

Read More
Spiced Nuts

Now that nuts are part of my everyday diet, I wondered if I would be less excited about my holiday spiced nuts this year. Lower...

Read More