While you can pick up a carton of fruit salad at any grocery store, the best fruit salad is one that you make at home. And, for this red fruit salad, you'll focus on the fruit that everyone seems to love: fresh berries and cherries, and forgo all the rest.
What is it?
As its name implies, this fresh fruit salad is made entirely with red fruit. It can include plums, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, and other red fruit. These ingredients are often people's favorite fruits, so the salad's always a win - especially when you're feeding guests.
It's a sweet, fresh summer dish that you can serve as both a side dish and a dessert, and it works especially well for potlucks, summer picnics, and Fourth of July barbecues.
What's in it?
A good fruit salad needs a few key ingredients: fruit, acid, and a sweetener. In addition to these key three ingredients, you'll benefit from adding herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of the fruit and chopped nuts, flaked coconut, or another similar ingredient that can give it texture and crunch.
In this red fruit salad, you'll find cherries and berries, toasted almonds, and a vanilla simple syrup.
- Red fruit or "fruits rouges" may refer specifically to berries (especially red berries) in French, feel free to use any red fruit you happen to like. Strawberries and raspberries are a natural choice, but so are cherries, loganberries, red plums, and red-fleshed black plums as well as pomegranate seeds, and black or red grapes.
- Vanilla bean syrup is the source of sweetener. It has a sweet, floral note that marries well with both cherries and berries. You can also use a combination of honey and vanilla extract, too. Or another sweetener that you prefer.
- Red wine vinegar may seem like a curious addition, but most fruit salads need a bit of acid to liven them up and pull all the fruits' flavors together. Lemon or lime juice is a natural choice, but red wine vinegar has acidity as well as a fruity flavor that complements red fruit.
- Toasted almonds bring a bit of crunch to the salad, and a pleasant flavor.
Fruit Salad Tips
Fruit salads are, above all else flexible and easy recipe to make. And this red fruit salad is no exception. As long as you can chop and stir, you can make it, but there are a few tips you'll want to keep in mind.
- Chop your fruit into bite-sized pieces of relatively uniform size. Inconsistently sized pieces can make the salad difficult to serve and difficult to eat.
- Your fruit should be uniformly ripe. Unripe fruit can change the texture and flavor of the salad, so make sure everything you add to your bowl is at the peak of ripeness.
- Add a sweetener, because it helps bring balance to your fruit salad. In this recipe, we use vanilla bean simple syrup, but honey is also a popular choice.
- Cool the vanilla bean simple syrup to room temperature, or it will cook your fruit and cause it to wilt.
- Avoid watermelon. While watermelon is a type of red fruit, it contains a lot of water, which can make your fruit salad weep and collect a significant amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan. We skip it, but if you want to add some, serve the salad right away and don't plan to keep any leftovers.
- Your salad needs a bit of acid, and this can come from citrus juice, but I like to add a little red wine vinegar because its sourness has notes of red fruit, like grapes, and it brings more to the table than lemon juice alone.
- Make the salad yours by adding different red fruit (such as currants or red plums), adjusting the sweetener, or adding herbs and spices that you enjoy. A cardamom-coriander simple syrup works just as well as one made with vanilla.
Red Fruit Salad Recipe
- Small saucepan
- large bowl
Make the simple syrup.
- Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan.
- Split a vanilla bean lengthwise and then scrape its seeds into the sugar and water mixture. Drop in the spent pod, and bring it all to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until all the sugar dissolves, and the syrup is clear - about 3 minutes. Allow the syrup cool to room temperature.
- Pluck out the spent vanilla pod, and reserve ⅓ cup syrup for the salad. Pour the remaining syrup into a mason jar, and seal tightly. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Make the red fruit salad.
- Dump the strawberries, cherries, and raspberries into a medium mixing bowl. Add ¼ cup reserved simple syrup, almond extract, sliced almonds, and red wine vinegar. Stir gently to incorporate all the ingredients without crushing the fragile berries. Serve right away, and store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Variations + Substitutions
Use honey and vanilla extract in place of simple syrup. A few tablespoons of honey is sufficient, since it's slightly sweeter than simple syrup. Make sure you use runny honey because you'll have trouble incorporating thicker, crystallized honey into the cold fruit.
Any red fruit works well in the salad, so you might try plums, red grapes, loganberries, currants, or pomegranate arils in place of some or part of the strawberries, watermelon, cherries, and raspberries.
Any toasted nut works well in place of almonds. While almonds partner beautifully with strawberries, cherries, and raspberries, you can use just about any nut or seed in this recipe. Peanuts, hazelnuts, flaked coconut, and pumpkin seeds are all nice.
Try other herbs in place of vanilla and almond extract. You can infuse the simple syrup with lemongrass, ginger, mint, or any herb you happen to like, and it'll give the fruit salad an extra boost of flavor.
For a blue fruit salad, opt for blueberries, purple grapes, blackberries, blackcurrants, or even ripe Mission figs.
For a green fruit salad, opt for green fruits such as kiwi, green apples, and green grapes.
The salad will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days; however, it's best eaten the day you make it.
Yes. If you're traveling with the salad, keep the vanilla syrup, the toasted almonds, and the fruit in separate containers. Then, combine them on-site for about 10 minutes before you serve it.
No, but it sure helps to bring all the flavors together.
No. Freezing breaks down the cellular structure of fruit. If you use frozen fruit in a fruit salad, the fruit will soften too much and turn to liquid.