Wedge of gorgonzola cheese, which is often included in the walnut salad.
With their nice crunchy and creamy nutty flavor, walnuts are a nice addition to many types of salads. In fact, walnuts can be added to almost any type of salad, but are most often found in those that contain other ingredients with flavors that complement that of the walnut. Among the most popular types of nut salad are those that include fresh or dried fruits, vegetables, and strong-flavored cheeses, as well as the combination of celery, fruit, nuts, and mayonnaise known as Waldorf salad. Sometimes the flavor of a walnut salad is enhanced by adding a sweet or spicy seasoning to the walnuts.
Arugula leaves are commonly used to make walnut salad.
Many cooks seek to build a walnut salad around a principle of contrasting flavors and textures. Because nuts have a smooth, creamy flavor and a crunchy bite, they tend to work well with strong flavors and also pair well with soft or chewy ingredients. So a walnut salad commonly features a strong-flavored green, like spinach or arugula, as well as a rich, robust cheese like gorgonzola or pecorino. They also pair well with certain fruits, such as tart, chewy dried cranberries or cherries, or subtly tangy fresh apples or pears.
Throughout the 20th century, the dish known as a Waldorf salad was one of the most popular types of walnut salad in the U.S. This salad, invented in New York’s Waldorf Hotel in the late 19th century, typically consists of celery, fruits like apples or grapes, nuts, and mayonnaise. However, as the public became increasingly health conscious in the late 20th century, the high fat content of this dish caused it to lose popularity. Some cooks have tried to improve the nutritional profile of the Waldorf salad by substituting low-fat dressing or yogurt for the mayonnaise in the dish.
Sometimes the flavor of a walnut salad is enhanced by adding seasonings to the walnuts. For example, some salad recipes call for candied pecans, or pecans that have been coated in sugar syrup as well as seasonings like cinnamon and vanilla and then baked until a crisp glaze forms. Sweetening nuts in this way can increase the flavor contrast between the nuts and savory ingredients like cheese or spicy dressings like vinaigrettes. In other cases, the nuts can be enhanced with spicy seasonings. For example, nuts can be dipped in beaten egg, mixed with spices like cayenne pepper and paprika, and then baked until a crisp coating develops.