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This watercress salad recipe is a nutrition powerhouse! Made with green apple, cucumber, almonds, pecorino, and a lemon vinaigrette dressing, this side salad is light, crisp, refreshing, and a little bit peppery. Ready in just 20 minutes!

Watercress salad with apples, cucumber, pecorino, and almonds on a white plate.

Looking to change things up from your go-to leafy green salads? Enter: watercress. This small leafy green is jam-packed with nutrition benefits and has a beautiful unique and peppery flavour!

This simple watercress apple salad is so wonderfully light and crisp – perfect to enjoy at any time of the year and alongside your favourite proteins, like seafood, chicken, or eggs.

Want more salad recipe inspiration? Check out my roundup of 20+ spring and summer salad recipes for more ideas!

Watercress salad with apples, cucumber, pecorino, and almonds on a white plate.

Watercress nutrition benefits

This underrated leafy green is a serious nutrition powerhouse!! In fact, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) ranked it number 1 on their Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables list, with a nutrient density score of 100.

Watercress is particularly high in vitamin K, with one cup providing over 100% of your daily needs. Vitamin K is critical for blood clotting and healthy bones.

Watercress is also rich in other nutrients, like:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin A
  • calcium
  • manganese

…and contains smaller amounts of vitamin E, multiple B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and copper.

Like other leafy greens, watercress is also high in antioxidants which help to fight oxidative damage and lower your risk of chronic diseases, like cancer and cardiovascular disease.

What does watercress taste like?

Watercress leaves are small and light in size and texture.

From a taste perspective, I’d describe them as slightly peppery – somewhat similar to baby arugula (rocket), for reference!

Recipe ingredient flatlay.

Ingredients + possible substitutes

  1. Watercress: Watercress is a dark leafy green vegetable which has distinctly small, roundish leaves attached to a stem. You can sometimes find it in the lettuce section of your grocery store (with the various clamshells and/or bags of lettuce), but I often find it still attached to it’s roots and soil in the general produce section! If you can’t find it, the closest substitutes in terms of flavour would be baby arugula (rocket) or radish sprouts – they have a similar pepperiness to them.
  2. Apple: While you can use any apple you like, I chose to use a green apple variety (granny smith) for something a little more tart!
  3. Cucumber: You can use either an English cucumber or Persian cucumbers (my personal favourite!!)
  4. Almonds: I used pre-sliced almonds, but you are welcome to use raw almonds and chop them up yourself.  Otherwise, you may use walnuts instead. For a nut-free option, simply omit or swap with something like pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
  5. Pecorino cheese: While you may also use freshly grated parmesan for this recipe, I loved switching things up and using pecorino instead! It goes great with watercress, and offers a slightly creamier, brighter, and tangier flavour. For a dairy-free or vegan option, substitute with your favourite dairy-free alternative.
  6. Olive oil: Choose a high-quality extra virgin olive oil as the base of the simple salad dressing.
  7. Lemon: Fresh lemon juice is added to this salad dressing as well. Its bright, citrusy flavour helps to neutralize the pepperiness of the watercress.
  8. White wine vinegar: This white vinegar has a milder flavour that isn’t overpowering. It makes for an excellent lemon vinaigrette. You may use apple cider vinegar in its place if needed!
  9. Garlic powder: I enjoy using garlic powder for salad dressings as it dissolves really well and has a bit of a more subtle garlic flavour. That said, feel free to use freshly minced garlic cloves if you want a more garlicky punch.

Full ingredient measurements and detailed instructions are located in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post!

How to prep + clean watercress

If you find watercress still attached to soil, don’t fear – it’s super easy to prepare!

Two bunches of watercress attached to soil.

Simply cut the stems close to the soil to separate the leaves and stems from their roots.

Watercress leaves cleaned in salad spinner.

Then, transfer the leaves and stems to a salad spinner and rinse well under cool water, making sure to wash away any of the dirt. Spin until dry and they’re ready to use!

What pairs well with this salad

This watercress salad has a super crisp and refreshing flavour, making it an excellent side dish for your favourite protein. Watercress goes well with:

  • salmonI paired it with salmon when I made this recipe 🙂
  • other seafood, like scallops, shrimp, or white fish (I think this herb crusted cod would be wonderful with it)
  • meat, like roasted chicken, lamb, duck, or beef
  • eggs – like an omelette, scramble, or frittata
Watercress salad recipe tossed in lemon dressing.

More simple salad recipes:

Did you give this Watercress Salad Recipe a try? Let me know by leaving a comment and recipe rating below!

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Get the Recipe: 20-Minute Watercress Salad (Healthy + Refreshing)

This watercress salad recipe is a nutrition powerhouse! Made with green apple, cucumber, almonds, pecorino, and a lemon vinaigrette dressing, this side salad is light, crisp, and refreshing. Ready in just 20 minutes!
Watercress salad with apples, cucumber, pecorino, and almonds on a white plate.
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Ingredients

  • Approx. 4 cups watercress (or 2 standard bunches)
  • 1 large green apple, chopped (I used Granny Smith)
  • 1.5 cups cucumber, chopped (approx. 2 Persian cucumbers or 1/2 an English cucumber)
  • 1/2 cup almonds, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pecorino cheese, freshly grated

Lemon vinaigrette dressing:

Instructions

  • PREP WATERCRESS: If using watercress still attached to its roots and soil, simply cut near the soil to separate the leaves and stems. Place leaves in a salad spinner and rinse dirt off with cold water. Spin until dry.
  • MAKE DRESSING: In a small bowl or jar with a lid, whisk or shake all dressing ingredients together.
  • PLATE SALAD: In a large mixing bowl, add watercress, chopped apples, chopped cucumber, sliced almonds, and pecorino cheese.
  • ADD DRESSING: Pour dressing overtop and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately!

Notes

*NUMBER OF SERVINGS:
  • If this salad is your only side to a protein dish, this recipe as written will make about 2 larger (more entree-style) servings.
  • If it’s part of an assortment of side dishes, this recipe as written will be good for about 4 people!
 
*LEFTOVERS & MAKING AHEAD:
  • This salad is best enjoyed immediately, but can be kept for up to 1 day in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • If making in advance, keep the salad dressing in a separate jar until ready to serve. You may also prefer chopping up the apple immediately before serving, to prevent it from browning!
 
*RECIPE MODIFICATIONS:
  • If you can’t find watercress, the best substitutes would be baby arugula (rocket) or radish sprouts – they have a similar peppery taste to them.
  • You may use any type of apple, but I enjoyed this with a green apple as it’s a little more tart!
  • I used pre-sliced almonds, but you are welcome to chop raw almonds on your own. Otherwise, you may use walnuts instead. For a nut-free option, simply omit or swap with something like pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
  • You may use freshly-grated parmesan in place of pecorino, if preferred. 
  • If necessary, you may use apple cider vinegar in place of white wine vinegar (although it does have a stronger flavour).
  • You may use freshly minced garlic cloves in place of garlic powder if you prefer a more garlicky punch. I’d aim for about 2 cloves!

Nutrition

As a dietitian, I create recipes with whole food ingredients that provide the nutrients needed for optimal health. My nutrition philosophy does not focus on numbers; however, I understand that this information can be helpful.

Do note that the nutrition info provided is an estimate and I cannot guarantee correctness of the displayed values. These numbers will differ depending on brands used, recipe modifications, and amount eaten. If you require specific nutrition information due to medical reasons, please consult with your dietitian or physician.

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know by leaving a recipe rating below, or by tagging @walderwellness on Instagram. I love seeing your beautiful creations!

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Pinterest graphic for a simple watercress salad recipe.
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