A vibrant pear and radicchio salad. Sweet pears combine with bitter radicchio, tangy goat cheese, sweet-tart pomegranate arils, toasted pecans, and a quick and simple vinaigrette. Perfect for simple, healthy, seasonal Fall weeknight dinners or as a festive side salad for Thanksgiving and holiday entertaining. Gluten free and vegan friendly.
A simple pear and radicchio salad
This time of year often begs for cozy soups, stews, and hearty braised dishes, but I also love what this season offers for vibrant salads.
We’re highlighting some of the best of the season in this simple radicchio salad, and pairing fresh pears with crisp, burgundy-hued radicchio, then building upon that classic combination with buttery pecans, sweet and tart pomegranate arils, and creamy goat cheese crumbles.
While this radicchio and pear salad is quick and easy to prepare, the flavors are anything but simple. We’re hitting all the major taste notes – it’s a balanced combination of sweet, bitter, salty, tart/tangy, and nutty – and a wonderfully festive and delicious Fall salad that’s equally suited for holiday entertaining or weeknight dinners.
What is radicchio?
Radicchio is a colorful, Italian member of the chicory family, along with endive, frisee, and escarole. Related to lettuce, it resembles red cabbage, but is heartier, with a more pronounced bitter flavor.
The bitterness mellows and sweetens when cooked, but has an almost spicy quality raw. The flavor is generally less intense when in season (in the cooler winter months), and is a lovely complement to other sweet or salty ingredients.
Most radicchio is vibrantly red, even fuscia in color, with white veining. Chiogga (what I’ve used here) and the more elongated Treviso are two common varieties found in grocery stores in the U.S., with the latter more mild and delicate in flavor. You can use either for this radicchio salad!
Fall radicchio salad ingredients
This simple fall salad comes together quickly with a handful of fresh and healthy, seasonal ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make it.
- radicchio: also sometimes called Italian chicory. It’s a colorful, crunchy, slightly bitter base to build our sweet and salty, flavorful salad upon. For a more mild salad, you could also add some spring greens or other tender lettuce (see my notes below).
- pears: for sweetness and fruity flavor to balance the bitterness of the radicchio. Look for a crisp, firm, snackable variety such as Anjou or Bartlett.
- goat cheese: tangy, creamy, wonderful. I’m always reaching for goat cheese, but this salad would be equally delicious with crumbles of funky gorgonzola or salty, shaved pecorino.
- pomegranate: a handful of juicy, jewel-like pomegranate arils add sweetness and brightness.
- pecans: for a buttery, nutty crunch. Walnuts would also be lovely. Toasting the pecans for a few minutes first adds great flavor if you want to take the time. Decadent candied pecans would also be delish!
- vinaigrette: a light tossing with a simple homemade dressing of olive oil, champagne vinegar, honey (or maple syrup), and a little Dijon mustard and you’re ready to serve!
Find all the exact measurements and instructions below.
Note: If you’re tempted to nix the radicchio completely for a traditional salad blend, know that while you can substitute spring greens, I would keep at least half. The sweetness of the pears and pomegranate are the perfect balance to the ever-so-spicy bitterness of the radicchio, and the complex and contrasting flavors combined is what really makes this salad sing.
How to make a simple radicchio salad with pears
You’ll only need about 20 minutes to make this simple, colorful Fall salad.
- Start by removing any wilted outer leaves from the radicchio before roughly chopping or tearing the remaining leaves into bite sized pieces. Add your radicchio to a large bowl.
- Next, layer on slices of fresh pear, crumbles of goat cheese, and a handful each of pomegranate seeds and pecans. If you’re craving a little more bite you could also certainly add some thinly sliced/shaved shallots here too (or mince some for the vinaigrette). Don’t be afraid to season the salad with salt and pepper to draw out even more flavor.
- You can whisk together the quick vinaigrette in a small mixing bowl or shake it together in a repurposed jam jar. When you’re ready to serve, toss with the dressing. Happy cooking!!
Tip: Unlike many greens, radicchio holds up well – the salad and vinaigrette can both be made a little in advance and tossed together right before serving. I do like to wait until shortly before serving to slice the pears because they’re often fragile and may brown if cut too early.
Radicchio Salad FAQs
Look for a firm, crisp variety such as Anjou, Bartlett, or Bosc that has great texture and flavor for eating fresh, or tossed with a salad.
Yes – they’d be delicious! Asian pears are crisper, slightly less sweet, and more like apples than the classic pear varieties I recommend here, so you’ll want to slice them very thin (a mandolin works well for this).
Sure. This salad is vegetarian as written, but does include goat cheese, which provides a great balance to the radicchio and pear. However, you can omit the cheese completely or replace with a plant based cheese. Also be sure to use maple syrup instead of honey in the dressing.
Other pear recipes you’ll love:
If you make this pear, radicchio, and goat cheese salad, be sure to tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #forkknifeswoon and leave a comment and rating below letting me know how you liked it! ★★★★★ Star ratings are especially helpful because they help others find my recipes too. xo, LauraPrint