Creamy Grape Salad is a refreshing dish for any crowd. Throw it together with a handful of simple ingredients – grapes, cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla extract, sugar and pecans.
It is my privilege to bring you a recipe from another beloved Alabama farm family. After decades as a home economist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Jeannie Holliger of Wilcox County, has a host of amazing recipes, and this is just one of them. The sweet and tangy dressing is perfect with the tart flavor of the grapes and the crunch of brown sugar.
Now, I can hear y’all now… “I love this, Stacey!” or “Ew, Stacey. What are you doing here?” But, either way there is no denying the fun, quirky feel of a grape salad. Almost every Easter that I can remember, this vintage side dish has been a menu staple for our family lunch.
Like the polarizing jello salad or pear salad, this Creamy Grape Salad usually warrants strong reactions… until you taste it. There is no denying the mouthwatering flavors of this cool, creamy, and refreshing dish.
Perfect for parties, potlucks, picnics, and family gatherings, try out this easy-to-assemble Creamy Grape Salad for a crowd pleaser and conversation starter.
What is grape salad?
Grape salad is a popular dish usually frequenting the tables many of us find ourselves around during the Spring and Summer months in the South. Much like any other salad, grape salad is a mixture of simple ingredients thrown together and tossed about in a creamy dressing.
Typically the base is of course, fresh grapes… any kind of seedless grapes will do, although I do prefer a combination of green and red grapes. The variety gives the dish some great color.
Then, you add in the creamy goodness – sour cream and cream cheese with a dash of vanilla extract and a scoop of sugar. Mix that all up. Finally, sprinkle a sweet and savory topping, like brown sugar and chopped pecans for a crunch. And, there you have it!
How do I soften cream cheese?
When making this Creamy Grape Salad, it is important to soften your cream cheese before making the dressing so everything blends together easily. There are several ways you can soften cream cheese for your perfect cream cheese mixture. You can choose any of the following methods.
- Submerge in a large mixing bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.
- Microwave the cream cheese in 15-second intervals. Don’t over nuke it though! No one wants scorched cream cheese. What a travesty!
- Leave out your cream cheese on the counter at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Place in your hands while still in the packaging for about 15 minutes. Press the packaging back and forth in your palms until you can feel it is creamy and approximately room temperature.
Once your cream cheese is a soft and easily-stirred consistency, you are good to go!
Can I make grape salad in advance?
Grape salad can absolutely be made in advance. This is another reason why I love making this as a side dish. It’s a quick and easy recipe that you can make ahead of time, and then you can move on to your more shelf-life-sensitive dishes.
Especially teamed up with your more ambitious holiday meals, this grape salad can be made ahead or thrown together last minute. If you are making ahead, simply store your grape salad in an airtight container or cover snuggly with plastic wrap for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Just wait until serving to add the brown sugar and pecan topping.
What should I serve with grape salad?
This delicious recipe makes a great stand alone treat for a hot summer day. But, it can also be an excellent side dish. Here are a few main course ideas that would go great with grape salad:
- My Saltine Crusted Chicken Tenders
- A good old fashioned Hot Dog with Chili Sauce.
- Fried Catfish.
- Burgers, like Sloppy Joes or even a Brat Burger
- Baked ham or turkey and Southern cornbread dressing
Grapes – Any seedless grapes would do, but I prefer a combination of both red and green grapes. I love to use both for the color and diverse flavors – the tartness of the green grape and the sweetness of the red grape really balance each other out so well. You will need to wash your grapes and then lay them out to dry on a paper towel. If you have little ones joining you at the table, it is always a good idea to quarter your whole grapes to prevent a choking hazard.
Cream Cheese – Any kind of plain cream cheese will do for this recipe. I’m always partial to the full-fat cream cheese for it’s creaminess and rich flavor. But, if you need to be a bit more nutrition conscious, then knock yourself out. Reduced fat or non-fat will do perfectly fine – it’ll just change the flavor and texture a bit.
Sour Cream – The type of sour cream you use is totally up to you. Or, you could substitute sour cream for a plain or vanilla yogurt.
Sugar – I know some people are particular about their sugar. But, in this case any old granulated sugar will do.
Vanilla Extract – If you have vanilla extract already in your pantry, use that! Any brand or even generic will fit the bill.
Brown Sugar – You may use light or dark brown sugar – whichever is your preference. Just make sure to firmly pack the brown sugar when you are measuring. There’s no skimping on the sugar around here!
Pecans – Toasted pecans are my favorite topping for this recipe. When toasted, pecans really add a punch of flavor you won’t find in raw pecans. However, you can absolutely use pecans that are not toasted.
If you do choose to toast your pecans, simply place them on a sheet pan in a preheated oven at 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes or until you can smell their yummy fragrance. Finally, allow them to cool completely before making your topping mixture.
Variations and Additions
With this Creamy Grape Salad recipe, there are so many options for variations and additions. You can really take this recipe and make it your own. And, please do! Just be sure to share with me what you come up with! I love seeing what you create! You can even post of photo of your completed dish in the comments below. Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning:
- Add your favorite candy bars! Chop up Snickers, Heath, or Twix candy bars and sprinkle them on the top of the salad.
- Swap sour cream for yogurt. I love to substitute vanilla yogurt for sour cream in this particular recipe. It turns down the tang and boosts the sweetness a bit. I even hear of my more health conscious friends using greek yogurt for a bit of added protein.
- Add in other fruits. Strawberries are a great addition to this recipe. You could even add in chopped apples or some mandarin oranges. Now my mouth is really watering. Yum!
Creamy Grape Salad
- 2 pounds seedless green grapes (about 4 cups)
- 2 pounds seedless red grapes (about 4 cups)
- 1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans
- Wash the grapes and spread them out on paper towels to dry.
- In a large bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the softened cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add the grapes and gently fold to coat them in the dressing. Place in a serving bowl or dish. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Sprinkle brown sugar and toasted pecans over the top just before serving. Serve chilled. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Nutritional values provided are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.
Simply divine recipe, Stacey! I halved all the ingredients since I only needed about 4-6 servings. Having never toasted pecans before making this, I learned how easy it is to do and how much more delicious they are that way instead of raw. I don’t think many fruit salad recipes are as easy, interesting, or scrumptious as this one.
Thank you so much, Mary Catherine! So glad you enjoyed it! Toasting the pecans really makes a difference!
The first time I made grape salad I did it the day before serving and added the brown sugar to the top. By the time I served it, the sugar had melted making it look like someone had spit tobacco all over the salad! Listen to Stacey and wait until just before serving to add the brown sugar to the top. 🙂
Great reminder! Thanks, Janet!
A perfect summer salad! My recipe has crushed Butterfinger candy bar as a topping.
That sounds great! I mention a few of those alternate topping options up in the post. It certainly gives the dish a different texture and flavor. Thanks for sharing!
This is a great addition to any meal. It is not only delicious but pretty as well! Great for the Holidays!!!
I couldn’t agree more! Thanks!