Arugula and Apple Salad with Goat Cheese and Pecans

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This Arugula and Apple Salad with Goat Cheese, Pecans, and a Lemon Vinaigrette is full of flavor and makes a perfect healthy side dish or main course with some added chicken, shrimp, chickpeas, or tofu.

213 CAL 20g CARBS 15g FAT 4g PROTEIN

When discussing favorite salads, arugula is always the common denominator. It’s peppery, lemony, and packed with nutrients, making it the perfect base for this Arugula and Apple Salad! Even better, this salad is the best base for a protein like this Pesto Chicken, Blackened Salmon, or Grilled Flank Steak.

Okay, let's talk about my favorite salad. This recipe has been around for a while on Slender Kitchen and even longer in my household. It started as a fall salad using just what I had in the pantry with a little honey vinaigrette. But over the years, I’ve perfected the ratios, the dressing, and the toppings.

Not only is the salad delicious, but it’s also incredibly easy to make. I make the dressing in a jar, usually doubling or tripling it to use as a marinade or on other salads. Then it’s just chopping the apple and assembling!

The result is an easy-to-make salad that can be paired with any protein or grain. You can top it with steak, salmon, or chicken or mix in quinoa, farro, or any other tasty grain to turn it into a full meal!

Why You’ll Love This Arugula and Apple Salad Recipe

This salad is one of my family’s favorite easy meals. Here’s why!

  • Fast to make: This salad comes together in just 15 minutes. The prep work is minimal because the arugula is already the right size, the goat cheese crumbles, and you can buy chopped pecans. All you have to do is cut the apple and mix the dressing ingredients.
  • Simple ingredients and all-natural sugar: This salad only requires 10 ingredients (including the homemade dressing) and uses all-natural sugar, keeping it easy and healthy!
  • Use it as a base: Not all salads can be paired with just any protein or grain, but this one can! This arugula salad would be good with shrimp, rotisserie chicken, canned tuna, or chickpeas.

Looking for more delicious salads? Try this Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, or this Celery Salad.

Ingredients for aragula and apple salad including fresh baby arugula, apples, red onions, lemon juice, honey, vinegar, and spices.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Before learning how to make the salad, let’s review what you need. I’ve also included substitution options for different tastes, dietary needs, and preferences.

  • Arugula: I prefer baby arugula because it’s bite-size and has a mild peppery flavor, making it more kid-friendly. Generally, the larger the arugula leaves, the more bitter the flavor. Spinach is a great substitution option that’s also mild.
  • Apples: I prefer Honeycrisp apples because they are sweet and crisp and hold up well when dressed. But really, any apple you enjoy eating works well. Other tasty fruits are pears, peaches, berries, and pomegranate seeds.
  • Pecans: Pecans are great because they are slightly creamy but offer the crunch any salad needs. You can swap them for walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, or almonds. If you’re nut-free, use sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead of pecans.
  • Soft Goat Cheese: This creamy and slightly salty cheese has more protein per serving than any comparable cheese! If you don't have goat cheese, you can substitute feta, blue cheese, manchego, or parmesan cheese. You can also leave it out or use vegan feta if you are dairy-free.
  • Red Onion: These are slightly sweet and tangy, making them a delicious compliment to the sweet apples and honey dressing. Swap green onions or shallots for a milder flavor than red onion. Or soak the onions in water before adding them to the salad.
  • The dressing: To make this, you will need lemon juice, olive oil, honey, white vinegar, salt, and pepper. If needed, you can use avocado oil and maple syrup instead of olive oil and honey. For a less acidic dressing, swap in orange juice for the lemon juice. You can swap in your favorite store-bought vinaigrette or this homemade healthy balsamic vinaigrette.

How To Make The Best Arugula Goat Cheese Salad

Follow these steps, and you’ll have a delicious salad in 15 minutes (ok, maybe less!).

1. Make the dressing

To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. I like to do this in a mason jar to seal it and shake it to combine. Taste and season to your liking.  

Customize your dressing:

  • Double up the lemon flavor by adding lemon zest as well
  • Swap in orange juice for lemon juice for a sweeter, less acidic dressing
  • Use balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, or red wine vinegar
  • Make it sweeter with more honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar
  • For a smoother texture, double or triple the olive oil
  • Make it creamy by adding a few dollops of Greek yogurt or light mayonnaise.

2 Toss it together

Combine the arugula, apple, pecans, and goat cheese with the dressing. Toss carefully with just enough dressing to coat everything. 

To serve it to a crowd, reserve a few red onions, apple slices, and goat cheese to arrange on top for a pretty presentation.

Arugula apple salad with pecans, goat cheese, red onions, and vinaigrette on the side.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

This salad is pretty simple, but here are some tips to make it the best arugula salad ever!

  1. Slice and chop the apples: This just keeps them bite size making it easier to take bites with a little bit of everything.
  2. Double the dressing: It’s such a tasty dressing with classic flavors that pair well with everything! Use it for salads, grain bowls, and as a marinade.
  3. Add the dressing right before serving: If you toss the salad and add the dressing too soon, the arugula will get soft. Arugula is not a hearty leafy green like kale, so it gets soggy quickly.

Ways To Customize This Salad

As I’ve mentioned, this salad is a great starting point. Here are a few ideas for making it your own!

  • Turn it into a warm grain bowl: Mix it with farro, quinoa, or brown rice. Add extra veggies like roasted sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or beets. Try adding avocado slices for another fun textural component!
  • Add some Italian flare: Use white balsamic vinegar instead of white wine vinegar, swap the apple for pomegranate seeds, and top with thinly sliced prosciutto.
  • Try fennel: If you love licorice, you will love this salad with fennel. Paired with smoked salmon for protein and blue cheese in place of goat cheese. This fennel apple salad is a slightly more elevated version of my beloved arugula salad.
  • Two types of greens: For a less peppery flavor, combine the arugula with some chopped Romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, or spring mix.

Arugula goat cheese salad with apples, pecans, and red onion served in a white bowl.

What To Serve With This Apple Arugula Salad

Pair this easy salad with any of these quick and healthy dinner ideas to make it a full meal.

Storage and Leftovers

This salad can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge without the dressing for up to 3 days. Toss the apples with lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

The dressing can be stored in the fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.

If you want to prep the whole salad with dressing in advance, I recommend swapping in a heartier green like kale. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about making this arugula salad.

I prefer a nice crunchy salad. It’s also helpful if it doesn’t brown too quickly. Some examples are Honeycrisp, Fuji, Pink Lady, Jazz, and First Kiss.

Just about anything! You can mix it into pasta or add it to a grain. You can add it to pizza or serve it under fish. In general, arugula is tangy with a strong flavor, so it pairs best with things with fat in them to contrast that bitterness (like cheese!).

The Recipe
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Arugula and Apple Salad with Goat Cheese and Pecans

213 CAL 20g CARBS 15g FAT 4g PROTEIN
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  • 4 oz. arugula
  • 2 apples, sliced
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/8 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar (more to taste)
  • Salt and pepper

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Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper to create the dressing.


Toss together remaining ingredients with the dressing.


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Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: about 2 cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 213
Calories from Fat 130
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 15g
Saturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 51mg
Total Carbohydrate 20g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 15g
Protein 4g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.


This salad is also delicious with balsamic vinaigrette instead of your homemade dressing.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Arugula and Apple Salad with Goat Cheese and Pecans
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December 22, 2021 - 11:28
Add a Rating:
So glad I found this recipe. It's light and healthy but absolutely delicious. I have made this many times now, and usually use a honeycrisp apple. I've made it with spinach and with arugula depending on what I had in the fridge. Total winner.
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Stephanie Lanzalotto
August 20, 2021 - 04:47
Add a Rating:
This salad is absolutely wonderful. I made it as written and I would not change a thing. I used one granny smith and one rave apple, both firm and a little tart. Delicious!
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September 22, 2019 - 09:06
Hello! Looking forward to trying this recipe. I wanted to let you know that there are onions in the pictures but they are not listed in the recipe. (You don't have to post this comment I just wasn't sure how else to let you know!)
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