For most, the “holiday season,” like it is in the US, actually means only a handful of days that are the holidays themselves.
But other countries, like it is in Mexico, have a true holiday season, lasting from early December all the way through January 6. Amid this season of celebration, one of the biggest feasts still does happen on Christmas Eve, and it’s here you’ll most likely find some ever-mandatory ensalada nochebuena Christmas salad.
How Christmas is Celebrated in Mexico
Even despite some recent trends of Americanization, Christmas in Mexico is still observed completely differently compared to its neighbors up North.
While each region differs from one another in their exact celebrations, the overall Christmas season will officially kick off on December 3 with a nine-day celebration for the Virgin of Guadalupe, which is another name for the Virgin Mary. During this novena, or nine consecutive days of prayer and observance, people all over Mexico might make a pilgrimage to the world-famous Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe just above Mexico City. After nine days of observance and prayer, the novena concludes with a feast on December 12.
And then, just four days later, come the posadas. Between December 16 to Christmas Eve on the 24th, communities and neighborhoods around Mexico will recreate the nativity scene and build around it a procession of “weary travelers” in search of shelter around the scene. Once everyone in the procession has received “shelter,” there is usually an accompanying feast and a large piñata for the children to break.
The last posada on Christmas Eve, or la Noche Buena, will have an especially large feast, and it’s here where you’ll often see this deliciously light ensalada nochebuena as part of the spread.
About the Ensalada Nochebuena Christmas Salad
As with most other Mexican Christmas traditions, each region has their own special recipe for this Christmas salad. The main ingredient constants, however, will be beets and leafy greens. In more tropical areas of Mexico, you might see an ensalada nochebuena with fruits like pineapple or plantains, whereas more tepid regions might have apples or jicama instead. Most recipes will have some sort of crunchy nut, like pine nuts or peanuts, as well.
Either way, the general principle for an ensalada nochebuena is to have a light, refreshing and chilled salad mixing fruits and vegetables. The dressing for the salad is made with a citrus juice base – most commonly orange juice but some recipes might have lemon – and use an abundance of fresh herbs like mint.
Our Take on the Recipe
Given the simplicity of this Christmas salad, there weren’t a tremendous amount of tweaks and changes we made to the original ensalada nochebuena recipe. For the leafy greens component, we did, however, substitute regular lettuce for kale. We did so both because kale carries more nutrients but also because the starker taste of kale actually contrasted well with the sweetness of the fruits.
For our particular dressing, we used freshly squeezed orange juice as the citrus base. We had seen other recipes using lemon juice instead, but it was our personal preference to use orange juice and to carry a less tart, more refreshing taste to the dressing.
Finally, more because ingredients like jicama and plantains weren’t of particularly good quality in our area, we omitted them from our final recipe adaptation. If you can find them in good quality in your area, however, then we’d highly suggest adding them to your salad as well.
Other than that, this ensalada nochebuena recipe is simple, healthy, and very quick to make.
Even if you don’t have a posada celebration in your upcoming holiday plans, this Christmas salad will be a very welcome light and refreshing addition to your festive meal spread!
Have you tried this Christmas salad before? Do you celebrate las posadas? Comment below!
- 2-3 medium sized beets, cooked and diced
- ⅓ fresh pineapple, cubed
- 1 large red apple, peeled and diced
- 1 large orange, cut into triangular pieces
- 1-2 bananas, cut into ~1/4 inch slices
- 1 heaping handful of kale, roughly chopped
- 1 medium sized jicama, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 plantain, cut into ¼ inch slices (optional)
- ¼ cup peanuts
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds (for garnish)
- 3 tablespoons of orange juice
- 2 tablespoons vinegar (preferably red wine or pomegranate)
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 handful of mint, finely chopped
- Whisk together your orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, and mint into a small mixing bowl. Once it's all well-mixed, pour your ensalada nochebuena dressing into your larger, final serving bowl
- Into the larger bowl, add your beets, pineapple, orange, apple, and banana. Toss everything around in the vinaigrette
- Next, add in your kale and peanuts, and toss again
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds and lime, and enjoy!