Fruit salad is a classy and tasty addition to your menu. Bright, colorful, and undeniably healthy, fruit salad takes different forms. Learn how to dress up fruit salad and make seasonal variations.
Fruit salad is one of the most versatile dishes. You can serve it as a dessert with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Fruit salad can be a side dish that accompanies French toast or pancakes. You can enjoy it as a snack with some nuts before going for a jog.
Yes, it’s true that fruit salad is straightforward to make. Chop up fruit, add an optional dressing, and it’s ready.
Why read a recipe on it? Well, there are different variations you can make, various dressings to explore, and different mix-ins to take your fruit salad to the next level.
What does fruit salad contain?
Just like a vegetable salad, fruit salad can contain any fruits you want.
That said, some fruits are a better fit for fruit salad than others.
For example, I avoid adding the following to a fruit salad (again, this is my opinion; you could happily add these fruits to your fruit salad):
- Overpowering fruits: Durian, jackfruit
- Fruits that don’t taste sweet: Tomatoes, avocados, Red Delicious apples, tamarillos, olives
- Quick-to-brown fruits: Asian pears, bananas
- Unsuitably textured fruits: Passionfruit
- Fruits with pits and seeds (unless you remove the pits first): Cherries, pomegranates arils
NOTE: Bananas could fit this list too because they brown quickly and look unappetizing. But bananas are OK if you’re planning to eat the fruit salad immediately after cutting and assembling.
Obviously, avoid spoiled or mushy fruits. Not only do mushy and mealy fruits like overripe apples contribute an awful texture to your salad but you also risk having fermented, acetone-tasting fruit spoil all the flavors salad. No good.
TIP: When in doubt, toss the fruit out!
I dislike some airline and hotel breakfast fruit salads that pack the fruity mixture with large chunks of bland “filler” fruits. You know the like—huge chunks of honeydew melon, bland apples and pears, or dry orange slices.
Perhaps the tastier fruits like blueberries, grapes, and pineapple have been selectively picked out by early birds who arrived before me. Nonetheless, those big bland fruit salads are boring!
Here are my favorite fruits for fruit salad. I like this selection because these fruits are easy to find. Each brings something to the table in terms of flavor, texture, or color.
- Berries (fresh): Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries (cut up if the strawberries are large), blackberries
- Apples (thinly sliced or bite-sized cubes): Flavorful and crisp varieties like Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith apples
- Pears: Bosc and Concorde varieties hold their shape well when ripe.
- Citrus: Oranges, grapefruit, mandarins
- Kiwifruit: Green and gold are both great
- Stone fruits (always with the pit removed and cut into bite-sized pieces): Peaches, nectarines, apricots, pluots
- Melon (seedless and cut into bite-sized chunks): Watermelon, honeydew melon (small chunks!), cantaloupe / rockmelon, muskmelons (especially Hami melon and Korean melon).
- Tropical fruits (correctly deseeded, peeled, and chopped): Pineapple, mango, papaya, mangosteen, dragon fruit
NOTE: I don’t love plums in fruit salad because they can taste really sour. The pit can be near impossible to cut out.
How can you make fruit salad better?
In addition to adding fruits that go well together in a fruit salad (see above) and cutting them into grape-sized pieces, you can change the taste of fruit salad by adding dressing, toppings, and mix-ins.
For example, you could make fruit salad taste light and refreshing with a citrus and honey dressing. You could make fruit salad way sweeter by adding a syrup. Or you could make fruit salad creamy by adding yogurt, mayonnaise, or sour cream (sounds eww to me, but to each his own 🤷♀️).
Fruit salad dressing
Here are different kinds of dressing you can whip up and toss your chopped fruit in.
- Lime or lemon juice + honey (see recipe below)
- Orange juice + honey or maple syrup
- Simple syrup (2:1 water to sugar for a less sweet syrup)
- Syrup from canned fruit
- Fruit-flavored yogurt (e.g. strawberry or peach sweetened yogurt)
- Vanilla pudding
- Vanilla bean ice cream
- Sour cream, crème fraîche, cream cheese, mayonnaise
- Thin (burnt) caramel sauce
NOTE: Your fruit salad can stand alone without dressing. I often avoid dressing for a quicker and healthier fruit salad. Even when I use dressing, it’s usually syrup from canned peaches or pears because it’s conveniently available (and I can add the pears or peaches to the fruit salad).
- Whipped cream
- Gummy bears
- Crumbled Oreos
- Chopped and slivered nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, roasted cashews)
- Mini chocolate chips
- Shredded coconut
- Fresh herbs (especially if you’re making a citrus salad)
TIP: Make Ambrosia salad by mixing fresh fruit salad with flavored yogurt, whipped cream, and marshmallows. You’ll have a creamy, fluffy, extra fancy fruit salad.
Fruit salad variations
Another way you can put a spin on your fruit salad—besides adding a dressing and toppings—is by creating a themed fruit salad. There are many theme ideas. You could base the fruit salad on seasons (winter, summer, fall), geography (tropical, locally grown), and occasion (grilled fruit salad, anyone?).
Here are a couple of ideas on fruit salad variations that are fun and easy to prepare.
Winter fruit salad: Make a fruit salad with cubed apples, persimmon, pears, and kiwifruit.
You could sprinkle some cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and sliced almonds for a festive touch. Or make a lemon and honey dressing (lemons are in season during winter).
Citrus fruit salad: Peel and slice oranges, blood oranges, grapefruits to make a citrus salad.
Top with a gingerbread caramel sauce or this honey and lemon Dijon dressing. You can sprinkle on freshly chopped mint or lemon balm.
Tropical fruit salad: Cubed mango, papaya, pineapple, starfruit, lychee, dragon fruit, and so on. Add roasted coconut chips or shredded coconut on top.
You could dress the salad with a lime and honey or lime and palm sugar dressing. Even a lightly sweetened coconut milk dressing could work well.
Smoked fruit salad: Add wedges of watermelon, apples, peaches, and bananas to your smoker for 30 minutes.
Mix these smoked fruits with some ripe and juicy fruits like berries for an unexpected twist on the traditional fruit salad.
Grilled fruit salad: Grill firm peaches, mangoes, crunchy pears, apples, and pineapples until they have beautiful grill marks. Then you can slice and cube them to add to your salad.
Great to serve as a side next to grilled fish or chicken.
Fruit kebabs: Cut firm fruits into similar-sized cubes (grapes, strawberries, kiwifruit, pineapple, mango, melons, apples). Thread a bamboo skewer through the fruits to hold them together. You can enjoy the fruit kebabs as is.
TIP: If you want to dress them, you can lay the kebabs on a plate and drizzle a lemon-honey dressing over them. You can also grill them for a few minutes.
How can you make fruit salad healthier?
Fruit salad that’s made of fresh fruit is pretty healthy. Avoid adding sugary salad dressings and highly processed toppings or mix-ins will make your fruit salad healthier.
You could add a small quantity of cubed roasted root vegetables, such as carrots, fennel, beets, sweet potatoes. Roasted sweeter varieties of winter squash, such as butternut squash, acorn squash, and kabocha squash, would work well too.
NOTE: Only add the roasted vegetables if you’d like them in your fruit salad. Fruit salad is already very healthy.
Tips for success
- Some fruits, such as blood orange, are strong in color. When cut, they can dye other paler fruits, such as apples and pears. If you don’t like a tie-dye-colored fruit salad, avoid strongly colored fruits and vegetables, including blood orange, plums, beets, and carrots. Grapes, blackberries, and blueberries won’t shed color if you don’t cut them.
- To prevent certain fruits from browning, like apples and pears, follow the instructions below.
- Fruit salad often tastes better the next day when the flavors have a chance to absorb the dressing and meld together.
- For food safety, according to the FDA, make sure you carefully wash the fruits under clean running water to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.
Easy homemade fresh fruit salad with lemon-honey dressing
- Chopping Board
- Citrus Juicer
- Mixing Bowl
- 1 bunch grapes
- 1 large mango
- 1 punnet blueberries
- 3 medium oranges
- 2 medium apples
- 5 large kiwifruit
- 1 small mandarins
Fruit salad dressing
- 1 medium Lemon
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) honey, add to taste
- Gather the ingredients.
- Cut the fruits into bite-sized pieces.
Prepare the dressing
- Juice the lemon. Add the honey to the lemon juice.
- Heat the dressing for 15 seconds in the microwave to help the honey melt. Mix the honey and lemon juice together until evenly combined.
Assemble the salad
- Add the chopped fruits to a bowl. Mix the dressing in and toss until combined.
- Enjoy your homemade fruit salad!
Can you make this in advance?
Yes, though some fruits might go brown or get soggy if left for too long cut up and soaked in the salad dressing.
If you want to make fruit salad in advance, opt for small fruits with skins or fruits that minimally ooze out water when cut up. Fruits that meet these criteria include berries, melons (especially cantaloupe and honeydew melon), pineapple, grapes, figs, and kiwifruit.
How to stop fruit salad turning brown
Some fruits oxidize and turn brown (apples, peaches, pears, mangoes, pineapple). You can dip them into a saline solution to avoid browning. According to this experiment, saline is more effective than diluted lemon juice to prevent browning.
Kitchen experiment: I dipped 2 slices of apple into a saline solution made from ½ teaspoon of kosher salt in about 1 cup of warm water. I left the apples for 2 minutes. I removed them from the water and proceeded to cut the slices into cubes for the fruit salad.
NOTE: I rinsed 1 slice in unsalted water. Then I gave Alex the rinsed (no longer salty) slice and an unrinsed salted slice of apple. Because he couldn’t tell the difference in taste, I didn’t bother rinsing anymore apple slices.
Here’s a comparison between 4 slices cut from the same apple at different times. You can see that, after 2 hours, the unsalted/untreated apple slices are browner.
Can you store fruit salad overnight?
Yes. Store the fruit salad in the fridge overnight and longer.
How to store leftovers
According to the USDA, it’s best to store the cut fruits in “covered containers”, which will keep them fresh for longer.
How to keep fruit salad fresh
In addition to the saline solution trick for fresh fruits that tend to brown easily, I recommend a lemon juice + honey or lime juice + honey salad dressing.
The acidity helps keep the fruit colors bright without causing the fruits to become soggy.
How long does fresh fruit salad last?
I recommend consuming the fruit salad within 1-2 days.
For the best flavors, remove the fruit salad from the fridge 15 minutes before serving to allow the fruits to come to room temperature. I find cold fruit salad lacks the flavor intensity compared to fruit salad that is closer to room temperature.
Can you freeze fruit salad?
No, the frozen fruits will become mushy upon defrosting. The texture will be disappointing. Fruit salad is best eaten fresh (or at most, within a few days of refrigeration).