This simple, yet elegant radicchio salad is the perfect recipe to make when you’re looking for an easy appetizer or side.Jump to Recipe
The Perfect Salad in Less Than 30 Minutes
There are countless reasons to fall in love with this radicchio salad recipe. First, the simple ingredients yield an elegant flavor profile that is well balanced and delectable. Second, the homemade maple vinaigrette is a dressing you’ll want to use on everything! Finally, the straight forward instructions allow for this recipe to be made in less than 30 minutes. Is there anything better than a delicious salad that is also easy to make?
There are so many more reasons that I love this dish. From the vibrant radicchio to the candied pecans from Santé Nuts, the flavors of this salad are unmated. Each ingredient compliments the other beautifully; creating a recipe that you can’t get enough of!
What is Radicchio?
This stunning red vegetable has seen an increase in popularity over the years. But what exactly is radicchio? The radicchio is part of the chicory family, which consists of leafy vegetables. Other veggies in this family included the Belgian endive, escarole, and frisée. Even dandelions are in this family! Chicories, while closely related to lettuce, are known for their slightly bitter bite, but are much more than that.
Vegetables in the chicory family are heartier than lettuce, and have a more earthy taste to them. While available year round, chicories typically come into season around late fall- but they last through early spring. During their peak season, you can often find chicories in seasonal fall and winter recipes. Although you can eat them raw, cooking chicories helps breaks down the bitter flavor.
The radicchio is famous for its vibrant red leaves with bright white veins. There are different kinds of radicchio; for example, the Treviso grows elongated while most types grow as round heads. The radicchio is sometimes confused for the purple or Napa cabbage, but is often smaller in size. Like all chicories, the radicchio has that infamous bitterness to it. Because of this, it’s best to pair radicchio with a sweeter leafy green or cook it down.
Removing the Bitterness from the Radicchio
There’s an easy trick to tempering the bitterness of radicchio without having to cook it! Simply place the radicchio in a bowl of ice water for 20-30 minutes. While you can extend the time and soak the radicchio for two hours, after half an hour the bite of the radicchio is toned down. You can soak the radicchio whole, as pictured above, or cut the radicchio into fine shreds before soaking. Cutting the radicchio before submerging it in ice water allows a greater amount of the bitter compounds to leach out. This is because the bitter compounds are water soluble! So, it ultimately depends on the level of bitterness you’re looking for.
Once the radicchio has sat for the desired time, we can start making the salad. Make sure the radicchio is fully dry before adding it. You can use a salad spinner or paper towels to ensure the leaves are throughly dry. Then, if you haven’t already, cut the radicchio. There are a number of ways to cut radicchio, but I like to keep the leaves on the bigger side to really highlight them in the salad. Here’s how I cut my radicchio:
- After you dry the radicchio, remove any outer leaves that have wilted.
- Take a sharp knife and cut the radicchio in half, lengthwise down the stem.
- Carefully remove the stem from each radicchio half.
- Slice the two pieces of radicchio in half, then into quarters.
If the pieces are still too big, you can cut them again. Much like the level of bitterness, this part is up to your preference. There’s no “right” way to cut the radicchio.
Pairing the Radicchio with a Leafy Green
As I mentioned above, a sweet green is often paired with the radicchio to temper the bitterness. However, because we submerged the radicchio in ice water, that bitterness level is already much lower. So, what leafy green should we pair the radicchio with?
- Arugula: This leaf vegetable has a fresh, tart, peppery flavor to it. Some even describe its taste as bitter. Because of this, it is not the best pairing for this radicchio salad.
- Spinach: Another leafy green vegetable, spinach can be eaten raw or cooked. When raw, this plant has a mild, slightly sweet taste to it that is very refreshing in salads.
- Lettuce: While I wouldn’t recommend using iceberg or romaine lettuce in this salad because of their crunchy texture, butter lettuce would be a good alternative. Butter lettuce has a silky-soft texture with a hint of sweetness that would pair beautifully with not only the radicchio but the other components of the salad as well.
- Kale: There are a number of different kinds of kale, from Tuscan kale to common curly kale. Kale often has a chewy yet succulent texture That being said, because baby kale has not matured yet, it doesn’t have the same taste or texture. Baby kale actually has a slightly sweet flavor to it and has a more tender texture.
While there are a number of other leafy greens we could dive into, these are only a few options for what to pair with the radicchio. To summarize it, you could pair spinach, butter lettuce or baby kale with the beautiful red chicory plant. The choice comes down to what flavor profile you’re looking for. Keep in mind that this salad will be paired with a maple vinaigrette that is sweet. So, we’re looking for a balance leafy green that will compliment the radicchio and other components to the salad. I chose to use baby kale because I prefer its tender texture and slightly sweet flavor.
Building the Radicchio Salad
Like with any recipe, this salad is all about building layers of flavor. As the base, we have the radicchio and chosen leafy green- I’ll be using baby kale for this salad recipe. Then, quinoa is utilized as the grain in this recipe. While not all salads need a grain, I love using quinoa because it builds a layer of texture and flavor without weighing down the vegetables. To really allow the produce to shine, this recipe only calls for a cup of quinoa.
Next up is the pears! I used Bartlett pears here because they have a sweeter flavor and softer texture. Furthermore, Bartlett pears are best in fresh recipes, like salads. The pears here really compliment the flavors of the produce and enhance the sweet flavors of the kale. The pears need no preparation besides being sliced and added to the salad. Finally, you can typically finds these pears year-round but their peak season is towards the end of winter or early spring.
While some people may not be a fan of adding cheese to salads, it is one of my favorite components. Of course, it has to be the right kind of cheese and salad. The addition of cheese unlocks a whole new level of flavor to the salad that can’t be replicated. This recipe relies on goat cheese for its mild, earthy and slightly tangy taste. I believe that the goat cheese brings out the savoriness of the quinoa (especially if you cook the quinoa in broth instead of water) and compliments the sweetness of the pears.
This radicchio salad wouldn’t be complete without the pecans! I’m a firm believe that all salads taste better with nuts, especially when they’re from Santé Nuts. Santé Nuts is a family-owned company thats crafts crave-worthy snacks. All their nuts are hand roasted and seasoned, making each batch one at a time. They have a wide variety of flavors, from sweet to savory, and feature three different kinds of nuts.
I paired their award-winning Candied Pecans with this radicchio salad because the sweetness and crunch of the pecans counteracts the intensity of the radicchio. The two are a match made in heaven! They’re actually often featured together in fall recipes due to the seasonality of the chicory. Furthermore, the glazed pecans go beautifully with the quinoa, pears and goat cheese. Ultimately, the nuts add the final layer to the salad and complete the recipe by bringing all of the ingredients together.
There are a number of other pecans from Santé Nuts that you can use in this recipe instead of the candied pecans, such as the Sweet & Spicy Pecans or the Bourbon Pecans. It’s always best to try them yourself before deciding which is your favorite. And lucky for you, I have a discount code that will get you 15% off your order from Santé Nuts. Just use the code ‘BOTTOMLESSPIT’ for 15% off your order from the Santé Nuts website.
How to Make the Maple Vinaigrette
There’s one final component to our radicchio salad that we can’t forget about… the homemade vinaigrette! This four ingredients vinaigrette is better than any store-bought brand, not to mention it has half the ingredients. This vinaigrette comes together in less than five minutes and yields a well balanced flavor profile. First, start by adding a fourth cup of olive oil to a mason jar. The olive oil acts as our neutral oil and is one of the healthiest oils we can use as the base of the vinaigrette. Next, drizzle in three tablespoons of maple syrup, two teaspoons of dijon mustard, and two teaspoons of red wine vinegar. The maple syrup acts as our sweetener here and provides a rich, sweet flavor. The dijon mustard is a staple in vinaigrettes because it helps balance the sweetness, while providing a tangy, sharp taste. This strong flavor picks up on notes from the goat cheese too! Finally, the necessary acidity comes from the red wine vinegar. If you don’t have red wine vinegar, you can swap it for white vinegar or white balsamic. Then, all that’s left to do is add a sprinkling of pepper and salt. This recipe yields the perfect amount to dress the salad, but you can make more and store it an air tight container up to seven days.
This radicchio salad is the perfect lunch because it’s light and refreshing, yet filling. While it’s also the perfect side or appetizer, there are ways to make it a little heartier if you want to serve it for dinner. An easy way to do so is to add more pears or quinoa. Cooking the quinoa in broth will not only add more flavor but also more nutrients. Below are a few other toppings that you can add to the radicchio salad:
- Grilled chicken: If you’re looking for the perfect protein to top this salad with, I recommend grilled chicken breast. Chicken, pears and pecans are a natural combination that is featured in countless salads. Grilling this protein will add a little char that will compliment the bitterness of the radicchio.
- Squash: What better way to turn this radicchio salad into the perfect fall recipe than by adding squash? Autumn is peak squash season and one of the many ways to take advantage of that is by introducing your favorite root vegetables to salads. While there are many squashes to choose from, I would recommend using delicata squash in this recipe. Delicata squash, also known as winter squash, has a sweet flavor that resembles brown butter when cooked. It has an edible skin and subtle inside that pairs beautifully with the maple vinaigrette and candied pecans!
- Fennel: If you’re serving this salad in winter, I can’t recommend fennel bulb shavings enough! This vegetable has a mild flavor to it that tastes like licorice or anise. When cooked, the fennel shavings transform into a sweeter, mellower version of itself. Winter is fennel’s peak season and a wonderful addition to this radicchio salad.
And just like that we have easy ways to take this spring salad into each season! These are only a few of my favorite toppings that I love at any time of year, but that also help transform this salad into a year round recipe.
Radicchio Pecan SaladCourse: Appetizers, Sides, Lunch, Main, SaladsDifficulty: Easy
Save this recipe for the next time you’re craving something vibrant, refreshing and delicious!
- For the Salad
1 head of radicchio
4 cups baby kale, washed
1 cup quinoa, cooked
1 Bartlett pear, cored and sliced
1 cup candied pecans from Sante Nuts, chopped
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
- For the Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
- Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Tip: Cook the quinoa in broth instead of water for a more flavorful finish. Allow the quinoa to cool, uncovered, once cooked.
- Wash the radicchio, then submerge in a large bowl of ice water for 20 minutes.
- During this time, make the vinaigrette. Add all of the ingredients to a mason jar and shake vigorously, then set to the side.
- After the allotted time, remove the radicchio from the water and dry with paper towels. Cut the radicchio in half, lengthwise down the stem. Remove the stem, then cut the two pieces in half before cutting again into quarters.
- Place in a large bowl with the baby kale. Then, core the pear and slice before adding to the salad.
- Once the quinoa has cooled to room temperature, add to the salad.
- Sprinkle the chopped pecans and crumbled goat cheese over the salad.
- Drizzle the maple vinaigrette over the salad, then use salad tongs to toss to evenly distribute the vinaigrette.
- Serve the salad and enjoy!
- Store in an air-tight container for up to four days. It stores best if the vinaigrette hasn’t been poured over.