We love this fresh and easy apple salad recipe made with crisp apples, celery, fennel, and an easy creamy dressing. Jump to the Creamy Apple Salad with Celery and Fennel or read on to see how we make it.
How to Make Creamy, Delicious Apple Salad with Celery and Fennel
As I’m writing this, I’m hoping that you are looking at our recipe title and already thinking this salad will be delicious, but if by chance you aren’t convinced yet, let me try to fix that ?
This apple salad is one of the more fresh tasting and crisp salads we’ve shared with you. Apples provide a sweet note, celery adds freshness and since we quickly peel them of any stringy bits, it’s tender, and then fennel adds a light licorice (or anise) crunch. For another apple salad, try our farro and apple salad with arugula.
To bring everything together, we toss the apples, celery, and fennel in a creamy light dressing that’s more acidic than sweet and finish with fresh herbs and toasted pecans. The dressing is creamy thanks to crème fraîche, which tastes like a creamy, slightly less tangy sour cream. We love using crème fraîche in our kitchen, but if you don’t have it on hand, mayonnaise, sour cream, and even plain yogurt will work in its place.
We’ve served this as a side dish, almost treating it as you would coleslaw (here’s our traditional coleslaw recipe). We’ve also used it as a base for baked chicken breast, these juicy pork chops, and have even kept the whole meal vegetarian and piled a mixture of roasted vegetables or roasted squash on top.
You are only looking at about 10 minutes to make the salad and it keeps in the fridge surprisingly well. I was a little worried the apples would not keep well, but since we add a healthy amount of apple cider vinegar to the dressing, they stay crisp for a day or two in the fridge.
Tasty Recipe Variations
We love this apple salad the way it is, but there are so many variations you can try to make it your own. Here are a few of our favorites below:
- Add chopped or shredded kale, spinach, endive or pretty radicchio
- Add more veggies with chopped raw broccoli or cauliflower (or roast the broccoli or cauliflower first, and then add it to the salad)
- Toss in crumbled blue cheese, feta or creamy goat cheese
- Add smoky crumbled bacon or rendered and crispy pancetta or prosciutto
- Add plant-based protein with cooked or canned beans (I love white beans in salad, see our white bean salad with prosciutto for inspiration)
- Make it vegan / dairy-free! Leave out the crème fraîche and replace with a tablespoon or so more olive oil.
- Make it more like a Waldorf salad and add halved grapes and walnuts
More Apple Recipes
- Perfect Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples — This pork tenderloin is tender and delicious and roasted on top of sweet apples and onions.
- Warm Apple Cabbage Salad with Pecans — We just love this warmed red cabbage and apple salad with dried cranberries, pecans and feta cheese.
- Curry Coconut Apple Carrot Soup — We love hearty soups that are thick and satisfying. This recipe combines carrot with potatoes, apples, celery, coconut milk, and curry powder.
- Simple Apple Tart with a Flaky Crust — How to make a stunning apple tart with a buttery crust, thinly sliced apples, and toasted almonds.
- Easy Baked Cinnamon Apples — These are easy enough for tonight, but doubles as the perfect dessert for friends and family (or the holidays). These just might beat apple pie!
- Easy Apple Dutch Baby Pancake — How to make the best tall, fluffy Dutch baby pancakes with tender apples piled up in the middle.
- Our Favorite Apple Pie — This recipe guarantees apple pie with perfectly cooked (not mushy) apples surrounded by a thickened and gently spiced sauce all baked inside a flaky, golden brown crust.
Creamy Apple Salad with Celery and Fennel
Who said you need lettuce to make a salad? This easy apple salad with celery and fennel is crisp, fresh, creamy, and delicious. Serve this on the side or as a bed for grilled or roasted meats or to keep it vegetarian, try topping with roasted root vegetables or squash. We love using a crisp apple like Granny Smith, Fiji, or Honeycrisp. Taste the apples you are using first, if it seems on the tart side, consider adjusting the dressing with a little more honey or maple syrup.
You Will NeedApple Salad
2 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, peeled and sliced, see notes
1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
1 scallion or 4 chives, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts, lightly toasted, see notes
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or substitute sour cream, mayonnaise or plain yogurt, see notes
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1In a large salad bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, and honey or maple syrup until blended. Gradually add the oil, whisking constantly, until the dressing looks well blended and creamy.
2Whisk in the crème fraîche, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper. Taste, and then adjust with additional salt, vinegar or sweetener.
3Add the sliced apples, celery, fennel, scallions or chives, dill, and the nuts. Toss well.
4If you have any fennel fronds — the wispy tops of the fennel stalk that look similar to dill — scatter a few over the salad, and then serve.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Peeling celery is optional, but will remove the tough, sometimes stringy outer surface. Use a vegetable peeler to peel each stalk until the outer layer is smooth.
- Substituting crème fraîche — It tastes like a creamy slightly less tangy sour cream. Mayo, sour cream, and plain yogurt will work in its place. When substituting with sour cream or yogurt, you may need to increase the honey or maple syrup slightly to balance the extra tartness.
- To toast the nuts, spread the nuts out in an even layer on a sheet pan, and slide them them into a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven. Toast 6 to 8 minutes or until they smell toasty, shaking the pan halfway during cooking.
- Optional add-ins: Try tossing in some chopped kale or spinach, add extra punch and creaminess with cheese (blue cheese or goat cheese is perfect), or try crumbling in some cooked bacon or pancetta.
- Nutrition Facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste
This is my go to salad to impress! It’s delicious and all the ingredients work great together. People who are skeptical about apples and fennel in salad end up loving it every time!