Easy Ensalada de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve Salad)

Plan now to make this Ensalada de Nochebuena, a Mexican Christmas Eve Salad featuring pomegranates, oranges and beets that will add festive flair to your holiday table.

Ensalada de Noche Buena is a traditional Christmas Eve Salad

Ensalada de Noche Buena is a traditional Christmas Eve Salad

Around December 21st, during the winter solstice when the days are short and darkness blankets the northern stretches of our vast continent, I’m grateful for a splash of colour. And Ensalada de Nochebuena —  a traditional salad of beets, pineapple, pomegranates and oranges — enjoyed on Christmas Eve throughout Mexico, is guaranteed to lift your spirits.

Pomegranate Season Coincides with the Christmas Season and New Years

Another reason to make Ensalada de Nochebuena is that December also happens to be pomegranate season! Pomegranate season typically runs from the end of October through to early February.

Pomegranates on a table at Christmas

Pomegranates are in season from October to February

Packed with Vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants, pomegranates have a burst-in-your-mouth flavour that’s as invigorating as an early morning walk on a white sand beach.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the tiny red jewels of nectar holding the seeds inside a pomegranate are actually called arils? These pockets of juice are also packed with fiber.

So eat them whole and impress your friends by using “aril” in your next game of Scrabble.

Other Key Ingredients in Ensalada de NocheBuena

Other key ingredients in Ensalada de Nochebuena Mexicana include pepitoria (raw pumpkin seeds that will be toasted and sprinkled on top), fresh oranges, firm cooked beets, apple and pineapple.

Ingredients for Ensalada de Nochebuena Mexicana include fresh oranges, jicama, pomegranate, pineapple and beets

Ingredients for Ensalada de Nochebuena include fresh oranges, jicama, pomegranate, pineapple, apple and beets

In Mexico, it’s also traditional to include jicama, the edible root that’s also known as the Mexican turnip or potato. However, if you can’t find jicama and are tempted to substitute either turnip or potato for jicama, don’t do it! A jicama isn’t as starchy as potato and has a mild flavour almost like an apple.

chopped fresh vegetables for ensalada de noche buena

chopped fresh vegetables for ensalada de noche buena

Tip: Your best bet if you can’t find any jicama at your local market, is to omit it or substitute something completely different such as a chopped green apple or thinly sliced fennel.

Fennel will add a completely difference flavour to the ensalada but it adds a nice white crispness which helps with the composition. It’s a Italian variation to serve salad of beets, organes and fennel.

platter of fennel, celery and chicory

You can substitute fennel ( shown here in the middle of the platter) for jicama if needed

You can substitute fennel ( shown here in the middle of the platter) for jicama if needed. The light anise flavour and bright white flesh of fennel is actually a surprisingly delicious addition to this salad.

The key if you do plan to use fennel is to use only the inner sections and slice it very thinly.

When selecting your oranges, opt for seedless oranges.

oranges and pomegranates Photo by Israel Egío on Unsplash

Oranges and pomegranates are in season Photo by Israel Egío on Unsplash

You can go for any combination of citrus fruits such as blood oranges and grapefruit or even mandarin oranges. The secret is to make sure you remove all the pith.

Tip: When slicing pineapple for this recipe, save the husk of your fresh pineapple to use for authentic Guatemalan Ponche de Frutas. 

How to Create your Christmas Eve Salad

There are as many variations of Ensalada de Nochebuena as there are cooks but I prefer to make mine a composed salad so that the colours from the beets and the pomegranates don’t run over the other ingredients.

Once you’ve prepared and composed the fruit for your salad, whip up the salad dressing in a separate bowl.

salad dressing for ensalada de nochebuena

Once the salad is formed, drizzle the salad dressing across the fruit

A popular variation of the Ensalada de Nochebuena features jamaica (from the dried hibiscus flower). The tart liquid is added to the chopped ingredients for a different, much juicier fruit side dish.

For this recipe for a composed Ensalada de Nochebuena, just pour the salad dressed over the composed fruit and vegetables. You don’t need to stir it.

Layer the fruit, pomegranate seeds on top of a bed of lettuce

Pour the salad dressed over the layers of fruit set on a bed of lettuce

Squeeze fresh lime juice over the salad to add a burst of freshness and to help prevent the apples from discolouring. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and pepitoria.

ensalada de nochebuena with fresh lime juice

Squeeze fresh lime on your salad for a finishing touch

If you have any leftovers, you can simply mix the fruit and vegetables together and you get to enjoy both versions — composed and mixed!

Easy Ensalada de Nochebuena Recipe for Navidad

What I like most is that this pomegranate-laced salad is refreshingly different than anything else you’ll eat (such as tamales) during Navidad in Mexico or Guatemala. It’s also incredibly easy to make,  low in fat and packed with vitamins and minerals.

 

Ensalada de NocheBuena is a traditional Christmas Eve salad in Mexico

Ensalada de NocheBuena is a traditional Christmas Eve salad in Mexico

There’s no reason to make this Ensalada de Nochebuena recipe only during the Christmas holiday season. The jewelled colours of this salad make it a beautiful side dish for New Year’s Eve or even Valentine’s Day.

It’s so bright and cheerful it positively bursts with happiness.

If you’ve tried this recipe for Ensalada de Nochebuena, please rate the recipe and let me know how the dish turned out in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious recipes from the world’s most fascinating food, drink and sun destinations.

4.67 from 3 votes
Ensalada de NocheBuena is a traditional Christmas Eve salad in Mexico
Ensalada de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve Salad)
Prep Time
20 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

An easy, cheerful salad traditionally served on Christmas Eve in Mexico but delicious any time.

Course: pomegranate, Salad
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Christmas recipe, ensalada de nochebuena, pomegranate orange and beet salad
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 306 kcal
Author: Michele Peterson
Ingredients
  • 4 medium beets boiled, peeled and sliced
  • 2 whole oranges peeled and sliced
  • 1 large red apple Gala or Delicious, peeled and sliced
  • 1 whole pomegranate seeds only
  • 3 slices fresh pineapple cut into chunks
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime
  • 1 cup jicama peeled and thinly sliced optional
  • 1/2 cup pepitoria pumpkin seeds toasted in a skillet
  • 1 cup lettuce romaine or meslun
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise Hellman's
  • 5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Prepare all the fruit (except pomegranate) and chill separately
  2. Prepare jicama (peel and slice) if available
  3. Line a salad dish or plate with lettuce leaves
  4. Fill the bowl wth prepared fruit or arrange the chilled fruit on a plate
  5. Mix salad dressing in a glass jar, shake and drizzle over fruit
  6. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and toasted pepitoria
  7. Squeeze the juice of a lime over top
Recipe Notes
  • If you can't find jicama, it's possible to substitute another crisp vegetable such as fennel 
  • If you have extra pomegranate seeds just store them covered in the refrigerator for up to three days. 
  • Unopened pomegranates stay fresh in the fridge for up to three weeks so stock up while they're in season!  
  • Extend this salad by using mixed greens as a base. Just double the dressing, toss the extra with baby kale or arugula salad and layer the beets, oranges and other fruit on top.  
Nutrition Facts
Ensalada de Nochebuena (Christmas Eve Salad)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 306 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 24g 37%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 1mg 0%
Sodium 175mg 7%
Potassium 276mg 8%
Total Carbohydrates 21g 7%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 14g
Protein 3g 6%
Vitamin A 3.1%
Vitamin C 49%
Calcium 2.2%
Iron 7.7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This easy recipe for Ensalada de Nochebuena, a Mexican Christmas Eve Salad features pomegranate, oranges and beets and adds festive flair to your holiday table. #Holiday #Healthy #Navidad #Christmas #salad #Vegan

For more holiday recipes, check out these festive ideas:

Salsa Verde (Green Tomatillo salsa) by The Mexykan 

Healthy Holiday Ponche (fruit punch) from Guatemala 

Hot Rum and Bourbon Toddy 

Easy Guatemalan Guacamole

Originally published in 2015.

Updated: November 2018

Michele Peterson
Michele Peterson
Dividing her time between Toronto, Mexico and Guatemala (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer, blogger, editor and publisher who specializes in travel, cuisine and luxury lifestyles.
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Showing 7 comments
  • Shelley
    Reply

    Mmmm the Ensalada de Nochebuena looks so colourful and delicious. I think I’ll try this for New Years!

  • Yasha Langford
    Reply

    Looks amazing! But I’m not in the right place for all the ingredients at the moment…

  • Donna Janke
    Reply

    The Ensalada de Nochebuena looks and sounds delicious. I don’t know how easily I can find pomegranate or pomegranate seeds, but I would like to try making this salad,

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply

    The name of the salad alone won me over! What great color!

  • Donna Meyer
    Reply

    This looks delicious and since I live in Mexico (San Miguel de Allende) I have easy access to all the ingredients. I’ve been looking for a good lunch recipe to serve for a workshop I’m teaching soon that will include vegetarians and vegans. I think I just found it! Thanks Michelle!

  • The GypsyNesters
    Reply

    Looks really good, and would really hold the winter chill at bay up north. Have to give it a try.

  • Sue Reddel
    Reply

    This beautiful salad also looks like a perfect New Years Day meal. Lots of healthy and tasty fruits can’t wait to try it.

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