This easy to prepare Pear Salad with homemade maple-bacon vinaigrette is a beautiful dish to serve for lunch or as a first course during the fall and winter months. Don’t miss the sommelier wine pairings, just before the recipe card in the post!
I love a good salad during the fall and winter months. It’s a great time of year to pair sweet and savory flavors, and it’s primetime at the market for fruits like pears and citrus.
This Pear Salad tosses delicate frisée leaves with a warm bacon-Dijon vinaigrette, pecans (caramelized or toasted, your choice), and crumbled blue cheese. It’s sweet, salty, peppery, and tangy all in one delectable bite.
Plus, it’s beautiful to look at on the plate. Whether you’re treating yourself to lunch with a wedge of artisan bread, or serving it as a starter course for a holiday dinner, this Pear Salad is ready to impress.
What Pear Varieties Should I Use in Pear Salad?
You can use just about any pear in salad depending on your preferences for sweetness and texture.
I used firm, yet ripe d’Anjou pears for the photographs in this post, mainly because they were what looked the loveliest at the market the day I went shopping. Either the green or red varieties of d’Anjou work well in salad. They have a mild flavor with notes of honey.
Other Types of Pears at the Market
Bartlett pears are your classic pear variety, and are widely available in markets. Depending on their ripeness, they can be very juicy and have a distinctively “pear” flavor. For salads, I like to use them when they’re ripened to a yellow-green color (Bartlett’s change color as they ripen), for a sweet, but not overly juicy slice.
If you like very crisp pears, Bosc or Asian are a great choice. Bosc pears have a brownish skin and a taller neck than other varieties and sweeten beautifully when ripe.
Asian pears have a texture reminiscent of apples. You’ll often find them with a protective sleeve around them that looks like netting. They have a floral, mildly melon-like flavor.
You can use the rounder and juicier Comice variety for pear salad (one of my favorite pear varieties), but keep in mind that they’re much sweeter than other pears. I do find that their sweetness offsets the more bitter flavors of the frisee nicely.
Owed to their delicate texture, Comice pears might break up a bit when they’re tossed with the lettuce. Toss gently, or even better, arrange them on the top of the salad after tossing.
All pears will start to oxidize (brown) when the air hits the flesh. To counteract this between slicing and serving your salad, you can dip them in a bowl containing half quantities each of water and lemon juice.
About Friseé (Lettuce, but not technically)
Frisée is a member of the chicory family, along with endive, radicchio, and escarole. It’s technically a leafy green and not a “lettuce,” though it’s commonly referred to as the latter. You’ll find frisée used French bistro classics, such as Salad Lyonnaise.
Frisée has a bitter, peppery flavor and a delicate, curly texture that variegates from soft yellow to darker greens within a single head. You might also find it at the market labeled as “curly endive.”
The frisée leaves are particularly delicious in this salad, paired with the warm maple-bacon vinaigrette and pears. We love the balance of flavors between bitter, sweet, salty, and tangy.
If bitter greens aren’t your favorite, you could easily make this salad with baby spinach or your favorite spring mix. Both would work beautifully with the flavors in the pear salad, without frisée’s more assertive bite.
Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
If I had to choose a favorite type of salad, anything drizzled with warm bacon vinaigrette would win, hands down. It’s smoky, tangy, and you don’t need a lot of it to dress your greens.
I gave the dressing for this pear salad a hint of fall by adding a little maple syrup. Maple and bacon are such a classic pairing, and they work so well with the apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard in this recipe.
Warm Bacon Vinaigrette is so easy to make on the stove. All you need to do is crisp the bacon, sauté shallots in the drippings with a bit of olive oil, whisk in your Dijon mustard, vinegar, and maple syrup, and simmer for a few minutes until thickened. It takes, maybe, 15 minutes total to prepare.
As much as I love grainy mustard, I would recommend using a smooth Dijon here. The mustard works as an emulsifier for the dressing. I’ve made this recipe several times with grainy and it just didn’t have that luscious texture that I was looking for to dress the pear salad.
Warm Bacon Vinaigrette should be served just as it sounds, warm, not piping hot. So, let it cool down slightly after preparing it. You want it to just lightly wilt the greens, and a warm temperature will achieve that.
Complete this salad with a wine pairing! Hugh Preece, Sommelier and Italian Wine Ambassador – Vinitaly Academy, suggests enjoying the following wines:
Traditional Pairing: Ceretto Langhe D.O.C. Arneis ‘Blange’, Piedmont
“This poised white is fresh, lively, and full of floral and peach flavors, with a hint of grapefruit and minerality, finishes with a touch of almond.”
Daring Pairing: Mastroberardino Falanghina del Sannio D.O.C, Campania
“Light-bodied and crisp, this stony white shows aromas of ripe pineapples and citrus fruits, fresh tarragon and Meyer lemon zest and persistent notes of honeysuckle and toasted almond, with a chalk-tinged-finish.”
Pear Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)
- 4 oz center-cut bacon (I use thick cut), diced
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus, additional, if needed)
- 2 tablespoons finely-chopped shallots
- 8 cups frisee lettuce , torn
- 2 large pears , cored and sliced ⅛- to ¼-inch thick
- ½ cup halved pecans or caramelized pecans
- ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese (I use Danish blue)
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- Whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup. Set aside.
- Place bacon in a cold nonstick skillet. Cook over medium high heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- You should have about 3 tablespoons of bacon fat left in the pan. Add enough olive oil to the pan to have 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) fat total.
- Add shallots to the pan and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Slowly and carefully add apple cider vinegar mixture, whisking to combine. Season with ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper. Simmer for about 2 minutes, just until the dressing coats the back of a spoon.
- Add about half of the reserved bacon back into the dressing, saving the rest to sprinkle over the salad. Let the dressing cool until just warm and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl, toss together frisee, sliced pears, about half of the dressing, and pecans. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately, topped with crumbled blue cheese, an extra drizzling of dressing, and the remaining crumbled bacon, if desired.