Ensalada de Nochebuena, or “Christmas Eve salad,” is a traditional dish made with beets, apples, oranges, pineapple, jicama, and pomegranate arils mixed with cilantro and chopped pecans. It’s tossed in a sweet, creamy dressing made from media crema, orange juice, and sugar.
Why I Love This Recipe
- It’s unique! Ensalada de Nochebuena is a unique dish that’s great as a large shared plate for parties and family gatherings. But it’s less popular than many other Christmas staples, so it’s likely to be something new for your family to enjoy.
- It’s perfect for the holidays. The salad is visually stunning and looks beautiful on the holiday table! It’s very colorful and vibrant from the red and purple of the beets and pomegranate seeds, the green of the cilantro, the white of the jicama, and the orange and yellow of the orange and pineapple.
- It balances out the Christmas feast. The dish is fresh, light, and bright. It works wonderfully to counterbalance the many traditional and heavy Mexican Christmas foods.
What is Ensalada de Nochebuena?
Ensalada de Nochebuena, or “Christmas Eve Salad,” is a festive and colorful dish served on Nochebuena, a traditional Christmas Eve celebration in some parts of Mexico.
It’s unique in that it combines the flavors and textures of various fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including beets and pomegranates, which add a festive and vibrant color to the salad.
Recipes vary wildly depending on the region in Mexico, with all sorts of exciting inclusions, from minced chipotles to roasted peanuts. Still, one controversial ingredient persists across all of them – beets.
- Beets: This may seem odd to include in a sweet salad, but the earthiness they add really works with all the flavors! You can use fresh or canned beets.
- Jicama: This root vegetable adds crunch, earthiness, sweetness, and juiciness. If you’ve never had jicama, the flavor is a cross between an apple, a potato, a water chestnut, and a pear.
- Mixed fruit (red apples, navel oranges, and fresh pineapple): These fruits are the foundation of any classic fruit salad, so they work well with the sweet dressing.
- Pomegranate seeds: Pomegranate arils add a wonderful texture as well as a vibrant color that’s perfect for Christmas.
- Cilantro: Adds some freshness and a savory element that makes a difference in balancing and brightening this dish.
- Chopped pecans: Much like the pomegranate, chopped pecans add great flavor and texture to the dish. You could also use walnuts or almonds if you prefer.
- Media crema: This Mexican “table cream” is similar to plain yogurt and sour cream, and is used in many Mexican recipes. It’s typically found in the international foods aisle of many large grocery stores and in most Hispanic grocery stores. If you can’t find it near you, I recommend using plain yogurt instead.
- Orange juice: This is mixed with the media crema for sweetness and flavor.
- Sugar: A little granulated sugar is mixed into the dressing for a touch of sweetness.
How to Make Ensalada de Nochebuena
Add the beets, apples, oranges, pineapple, jicama, pomegranate seeds, cilantro, and pecans to a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the media crema, orange juice, and sugar. Pour it on top of the mixed fruit.
Toss together to coat and serve immediately.
I love topping this salad with some extra chopped nuts and pomegranate seeds, but you can also add in a drizzle of honey, some fresh lime juice, or pumpkin seeds (pepitas)!
- Slice the fruit into equal-sized chunks, so you get a balanced amount in each bite and serving.
- You can use canned and sliced beets instead of fresh ones to save time. You’ll need 1 drained can of sliced beets.
- Media crema can be found in most grocery stores’ baking or Hispanic aisles. You can substitute plain Greek yogurt or sweetened condensed milk if you can’t find media crema. If you use sweetened condensed milk, omit the sugar.
My favorite cutting board: This recipe is a lot of chopping! So ensure you have a great cutting board that is pretty easy on your knives.
Glass mixing bowl set: These are the bowls I use in my kitchen. They’re great for prep and easy to clean as they’re dishwasher safe.
Make ahead and Storage
- The fruit and dressing can be prepped 1 day in advance. Store them separately in the fridge, and toss them together right before serving.
- You can cover this dish with plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
For the salad
- 3 large cooked beets, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 large red apples, washed and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 large navel oranges, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced into bite-sized chunks
- 1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- ⅓ cup chopped cilantro
- ¾ cup chopped pecans
For the dressing
- 1 (7.6-ounce) can media crema*
- 3 tablespoons orange juice (about 1 small-medium orange)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more as needed
- Toss together all the ingredients for the salad in a large mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.
- Pour the dressing onto the salad, toss together to coat, and serve.
- Beets: You can use canned and sliced beets instead of fresh. You’ll need 1 (14.5-ounce) can of sliced beets.
- Apples: Red Delicious, Gala, and Honeycrisp are great.
- Media crema: This can be found in the baking or Hispanic aisle of most grocery stores. If you can’t find media crema, you can substitute plain yogurt or sweetened condensed milk. If you use sweetened condensed milk, omit the sugar.