Cranberry Waldorf Salad

This is the second of a handful of Thanksgiving recipes I’m posting this week. If you missed the others, check out Paleo Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Maple-Vanilla Frosting and Velvety Butternut Squash.

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


1 can full-fat coconut milk
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!


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

2. 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!)

3. 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.

4. 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.


1. 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…

2. 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.

3. 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.

How exciting is it that this is coconut milk?!

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41 Responses to “Cranberry Waldorf Salad”

  1. resonnant says:


  2. Funke says:

    Wow Mel!!! This looks soooo scrupmtious! My tummy rumbled when I saw the pictures. Will give this a try.

    When is your book coming out?

  3. Cate says:

    A mildly less fruity waldorf salad, but in my opinion still delicious, is apples, pecans, and celery. it has a good crunch and sweetness, but the celery brings it down a notch. excited to use the coconut whipped cream this year!

  4. So…is an acceptable variation of this recipe to make the coconut cream and eat it with a spoon? Just that part?

  5. Carrey Bull says:

    Holy cow!! I can’t wait to make this – probably tomorrow. Thanksgiving is at the station this year, and I’m trying to make it as Paleo as possible. Thank, Mel!

    • Mel says:

      Hooray! Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m making my Cranberry Waldorf tomorrow, too.

    • AustinGirl says:

      This ROCKED!! Thank you for bringing cranberry sauce back to my Thanksgiving!! It was so darn good that I kept swiping spoonfuls before it even got to the table. Apricots + cranberries is a brilliant combo…ditto the advice to make that part ahead of time, so they could blend flavors. Yuuummm and thank you thank you thank you!!

  6. Kathryn says:

    I made this for Thanksgiving today! I couldn’t get the whipped cream to look like yours in the picture but I’m hoping it’ll still be just as yummy! Any hints as to how to get it to look more like whipped cream? I used a metal bowl to hopefully get it colder but it just didn’t really get “whipped” looking!

  7. SnazzyGina says:

    Just made mine! Double recipe for a HUGE family gathering. From the few nibbles I had it was SUPER delish. Can’t wait to have a big serving later! YUM!! Thanks for the recipe. It’s a great paleo fruity treat.

    • Mel says:

      Hooray! Did you learn the secret that it tastes even better the next day? It doesn’t look quite as pretty but dang! it tastes good. Happy, happy!

  8. […] I (dis)like wallballs! Emotional eating: using “later” to overcome “now” Cranberry Waldorf salad / Velvety butternut […]

  9. Lydia says:

    I made this yesterday and it was amazing! Like Kathryn, I couldn’t get the coconut milk to whip up like yours, but nobody cared. It was delicious!

    Thank you for sharing the recipe with us.

    • Mel says:

      Awesome — glad you liked it! In case you didn’t see my response to Kathryn:

      When I made it on Thanksgiving, my whipped cream didn’t get quite as fluffy either. It was still thick and worked in the salad, but it didn’t get the fully whipped texture this time. The only thing I can suspect is that different brands have a slightly different fat content. I’m going to investigate and will update the recipe with the best brand. Thanks for letting me know!

  10. Nita says:

    Hi Mel,

    For fluffier whipped cream, I have always heard to use a glass bowl (not metal), to be sure that your bowl and beaters are absolutely free from any oils (even from your fingers), and if you can, put bowl & beaters in the freezer the night before and leave until ready to use. I know this helps.

    I haven’t tried this 2nd suggestion, but I wondered if you put the coconut milk in the freezer for just 15 mins, then transfer it to the fridge. This might help it get a lot colder, and the colder it is, the better it will whip. I’d be afraid to leave it in there longer than 10 or 15 mins. though, to avoid and freezing or ice crystals forming. I would give this suggestion a couple of tries before recommending it, but if anyone out there wants to try it, it could be a solution for flat cream.

  11. Ruth Ann says:

    Just a thought: i have a recipe that calls for whipped canned milk. We usually do the bowl in fridge, beaters, etc., but also if you live where there is snow, get a huge bowl of snow(or ice from fridge works in summer)place the bowl of milk on top of the snow and wah lah it beats up like a dream!!!

  12. […] went fancy and mixed a classic with one I found at my new favourite go-to recipe blog, The Clothing Makes the Girl.  I highly recommend this salad!  It was better than I thought it would […]

  13. […] is probably the simplest solution. My children love love love the Cranberry Waldorf Salad, so we make enough to share. Same goes for the roasted beets with pistachio butter and the sweet […]

  14. cfargal says:

    Thank you SO much for posting this recipe! I’m so PSYCHED that I can have a whipped cream look alike now! This will be on my Thanksgiving menu from now on! (And Christmas and family gatherings and…..

  15. Pam says:

    Love this recipe. I made it for one of my Thanksgiving sides and it was great. I followed your directions for the coconut milk and felt like the cream came out pretty fluffy. It just took a while. (I did have truwhip in the fridge just in case…..but didn’t need it.). Thanks for posting! I am excited to learn about your site, Mel.

  16. Becky says:

    Just wanted thank you for this recipe – it was SO delicious! My husband’s eyes got wide with excitement when he took his first bite.

    I took the suggestion of another commenter and substituted celery (2 sticks) for the grapes and omitted vanilla extract to make it less dessert-y. It was phenomenal! Tart, crunchy, and slightly sweet. The apricot flavors really emerged today (2 days later).

  17. […] real star of the show, however, was a cranberry waldorf salad from Melissa Joulwan at The Clothes Make the Girl. Based on our preferences and a desire for less […]

  18. Julie says:

    Fantastic recipe! I made this and the coconut-almond green beans. Both were a hit. The whole family liked these green beans better than the old traditional :) I think I’ll be making both recipes a lot in the future.

  19. […] 8 a.m. on Thursday cooking away and making sure everything turned out ok. I made a Whole-9 approved cranberry waldorf salad from The Clothes Make the Girl, Paleo “pumpkin” pie from The Whole9 Life, sweet potato […]

  20. […] our gifts were opened, my Mom and I got to work in the kitchen. I had Mellissa’s fruit salad to make (just about the healthiest thing that I ate all week), as well as a pumpkin […]

  21. Leah says:

    This recipe turned out delicious! I was concerned that it would be too tart to please my non-Paleo boyfriend and guests, but the flavors melded nicely and everyone loved it.

    • Mel says:

      Right on! Glad you all enjoyed it — the apricots do a great job of sweetening it up. YAY, apricots. And coconut milk, naturally 😉

  22. […] coffee or dairy in your regular recipes, and use it to make delicious curries. You can even make coconut whipped cream that is divine! Be careful with the brand you buy, as many are processed with non-WLC compliant […]

  23. Noosh says:

    Love this recipe! Could you tell me how many ounces your bag of cranberries was please? I have seen so many different ones.Thank you!!

  24. Rachel says:

    I’m doing Whole30 and vanilla extract isn’t compliant. Is there something I can replace it with?

  25. Patricia says:

    I want to try this recipe for thanksgiving. I’ve got some coconut creme in my pantry. Would that substitute? Thoughts?

  26. Rachel says:

    How far in advance can this be made and still be yummy and the right consistency? (I wouldn’t add the garnish pecans until just before serving.)

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