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A classic Waldorf salad

Apples, celery, walnuts and a dash of high society: yes sir, this is one fine salad.

By Alice Storey
  • 10 mins preparation
  • 5 mins cooking
  • Serves 6
  • Print
Waldorf salad
If you're after a dish with a serious society pedigree, you really can't go past the esteemed Waldorf salad. As with most iconic dishes, its provenance is murky. One theory is that it was created by the Waldorf Lunch System, an early 20th-century lunchroom chain whose logo, at one time, was an apple.
Conventional wisdom, however, has it that the dish was created for a society supper for 1500 guests at New York City's Waldorf Hotel in 1893 (a precursor to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which opened in 1931).
Credit for the salad's creation is given to Oscar Tschirky, the hotel's maître d', a man apparently held in high esteem by the society types who frequented the hotel. But despite his standing and the fact that the Waldorf salad became a staple in restaurants and hotel dining rooms, early opinions on the dish weren't unanimously positive. The New Yorkers's food editor at the time, Sheila Hibben, was vocal in her disapproval, stating that Tschirky's combination of apples and mayonnaise "bred the sorry mixture of sweet salads" and steered the American housewife in the wrong culinary direction.
In its original form, the recipe for Waldorf salad was very brief. It appeared in Tschirky's book ,The Cook Book by "Oscar" of The Waldorf, and instructed simply: "Peel two raw apples and cut them into small pieces, say about half an inch square, also cut some celery the same way, and mix it with the apple. Be very careful not to let any seeds of the apples be mixed with it. The salad must be dressed with a good mayonnaise." The now ubiquitous walnuts were added later, as was the custom of presenting the salad on a bed of lettuce.
We've lightened it all up a little in or recipe. The lettuce bed becomes a tumble of radicchio and witlof leaves, adding a slight bitter note and colour contrast. Apple and celery remain, of course, and as for the mayonnaise, we concur with Oscar. Whip up a batch of your own and this is one salad that can't be beaten.


  • 75 gm walnuts, plus extra to serve
  • 2 red apples such as pink lady
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ celery, finely sliced widthways, heart leaves reserved for serving
  • 1 radicchio, leaves torn
  • 2 witlof, leaves separated
  • 200 gm red seedless grapes
  • 1 cup (firmly packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp chardonnay vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 130 ml olive oil
  • 25 ml walnut oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste


  • 1
    For mayonnaise, process egg yolks,vinegar and mustard in a food processor until well combined. With motor running, add combined oils in a thin steady stream, then add lemon juice to taste. Season to taste. Makes about 200ml. Store leftover mayonnaise in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  • 2
    Preheat oven to 180C. Spread walnuts over an oven tray and toast until golden(3-5 minutes). Set aside to cool.
  • 3
    Cut apples into julienne and combine with half the lemon juice in a bowl. Add walnuts, celery, radicchio, witlof, grapes and parsley. Add 2 tbsp mayonnaise (adding more to taste) and remaining lemon juice, toss to combine. Season to taste, scatter with celery leaves and extra walnuts and serve immediately.


For best results, use stalks from the inner part of the celery for this recipe; they're the most tender.