This fresh fruit salad with honey-lemon dressing is the perfect healthy side dish for the holidays. To make preparation easy, I have a few simple techniques for selecting and cutting the ingredients.
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When a big colorful bowl of fruit salad shows up at the barbecue or hits the holiday dinner table, it usually disappears fast! The combination of naturally sweet ingredients is the top choice when replacing processed sugary desserts. This recipe highlights items that are most commonly available year-round. However, as the seasons change, you can easily switch out certain fruits to ensure that every bite is at its peak ripeness.
To enhance the flavor, I toss all the cut pieces in a simple honey-citrus dressing. As the fruit sits, the sugars draw to the surface to create a light syrup coating. This beautiful nutrient-dense dish is an easy way to get various phytonutrient-rich fruits into your day. Loving the idea of this recipe, I also have an avocado salad that’s healthy and delicious.
When choosing fruit for this salad, I select ingredients with a rainbow of colors, types, and textures. This variety ensures that you’re getting various nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and healthy antioxidants. I like to include a combination of citrus, apples, berries, melons, and tropical fruit, ideally those in season.
Most of these are available year-round depending on location due to different growing regions and imports. I use green apple, red grapes, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, pineapple, oranges, and kiwi for this fruit salad recipe.
Fruit category options
- Apples and Pears – Green granny smith for a slight tartness to balance the salad, or sweeter types like Fuji, golden delicious, or honeycrisp. Red apples tend to brown too quickly. Wait to cut the apples last as they oxidize on the surface and brown quicker than the other items. Pears like bartlett or anjou give a similar texture, but they are in season during the fall.
- Citrus – Navel oranges have a balanced sweetness and acidity. I like to cut them into segments. Use mandarin oranges for individual pieces that are easy to peel. Add grapefruit if you enjoy a more bitter flavor.
- Berries – Ripe strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and red or green grapes are a must. Raspberries are more delicate, so if using, place them on top last.
- Melons – Watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew add a juicy and refreshing element. Cut them down into bite-sized pieces so they don’t smash the other fruit.
- Tropical/Exotic – Pineapple, kiwi, mangoes, papaya, star fruit, and dragon fruit add vibrant colors and exciting textures. You can use sliced bananas, however, they brown very quickly, so wait to cut them right before serving.
- Stone Fruit – Peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums are delicious when sliced and diced. These are great to add when in season during the summer and fall.
Cutting the fruit
Similar to my summer fruit salad, each serving should contain small pieces of various fruits. I like to cut them down into bite-sized pieces, about ¾ to 1-inch in size. This size makes for hearty portions that mix well together, any smaller, and the dish becomes a topping or dip rather than a salad.
You can leave the smaller items like blueberries whole, although I recommend halving the grapes if they’re on the larger size. For the melons, I like to cut them down into cubes or use a melon baller to make pretty sphere shapes.
Toss with a dressing
You can certainly enjoy the fruit mix as is, but a sweet and tangy dressing will elevate the taste even further. I use equal portions of honey and lemon juice, plus fresh lemon zest, which contains citrus oils that add a pleasant aroma to the dressing. If desired, you can substitute lime juice or orange juice for a milder tartness.
Gently toss and let the fruit sit for a few minutes before serving. This process will create a syrup, glazing the pieces and infusing the flavors together. You can also sprinkle poppy seeds on top for a bit of crunch or thinly slice mint or basil for a herbaceous aroma.
Avoid using frozen products
I do not recommend using frozen fruit. When the juice in the plant solidifies, it expands as it crystallizes and hardens. Once defrosted, the fruit texture shrinks and starts to taste mushy. Also, the natural pigment leaks into the juice, staining the other items when mixed. In a fruit salad, it’s better to have firm pieces. Choose seasonal ingredients for the best taste. Save the frozen stuff for pies, crisps, jams, and sauces.
Using canned or jarred fruit
If you’re in a pinch for time or want to include a particular fruit that’s not in season, canned and jarred products are a good option. I find that pineapples, mandarin oranges, peaches, and pears retain their quality. Since they don’t need to be refrigerated, they are a quick and convenient choice.
Serve this with
Fruits are nutrient-dense, delivering fiber, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, low amounts of calories, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that you can only find in plants. Moderation is key. Each serving of this recipe is about 129 calories per 1 cup. Omit the honey-lemon dressing to reduce the sugar content.
Cut light-fleshed fruit like apples and bananas last, ideally right before or within an hour before serving. The polyphenolic compounds in their cell walls are prone to browning due to oxidation when exposed to oxygen. Toss them with some acidic juices that contain ascorbic acids like lemon or lime. Alternatively, add citrus fruit like orange. Some liquid will release with mixing.
When you add sugar to fruit
When you add a sweetener like honey that naturally contains fructose and glucose to cut pieces of fruit, it starts to draw out the juices in the cell walls due to osmosis. Over time, it slightly softens the surface of the fruit while soaking in the sugars. This process is called maceration and creates a thin syrup that coats and marinates the food for an enhanced taste.
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- ½ pound strawberries, hulled and quartered, about 1 ½ cups sliced
- 1 cup pineapple wedges, ¼-inch thick
- 2 large oranges, cut into segments, about 1 cup
- 1 cup red grapes
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- 2 kiwi, peeled, quartered, cut into ¼-inch thick slices, about ¾ cups
- 1 large green apple, ¾-inch dice, about 1 ½ cups
- ¼ cup honey, or pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- In a large bowl, add strawberries, pineapples, oranges, grapes, blueberries, black berries, kiwi, and green apples.
- In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
- Drizzle the dressing mixture over the fruit. Gently toss to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.
- Recipe Yield: About 8 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Storing: Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
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