In 1893, Oscar Tschirky, a Swiss immigrant and maitre d’hotel for the newly built Waldorf Hotel in New York City, created this simple apple-celery-mayonnaise salad for the hotel’s premier charity event honoring St. Mary’s Hospital for Children. Oscar Tschirky wrote a cookbook including this and other hotel recipes called The Cook Book by ‘Oscar’ of the Waldorf, published in 1896.
The salad was a hit, maybe due to its notoriety, maybe due to its simplicity. The original recipe was just those three ingredients, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste.
Though the salad seems old fashioned to me now, when I grew up back in the 1970’s, this was a common fall staple. I’m not sure measuring the ingredients was even very important. It was easy enough to estimate quantities roughly and decide when it looked “right.” Back then, people often added red grapes, raisins or walnuts to the original three ingredients. My mother-in-law was the first person I knew who substituted chopped dates for raisins.
For today’s recipe, I used Honeycrisp apples, although Granny Smith and Fuji apples were commonly used in the past. You may substitute vegan mayonnaise if you like, which is what I did. Experiment by substituting a tablespoon of Dijon mustard or champagne vinegar instead of the lemon juice. If you do, you will not be the first!
- Waldorf Salad
- Serves: 4
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise (or plain yogurt)*
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 3 sweet apples, cored and chopped (I used Honeycrisp.)
- ¼ cup chopped (de-seeded) dates
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery
- 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
- 4 large lettuce leaves for serving
- *Substitute vegan mayonnaise or yogurt if desired.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk the dressing together, including the mayonnaise (or yogurt), lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Add the apple, celery, dates and walnuts.
- Toss the dressing with the fruit.
- Spoon salad onto a bed of fresh lettuce to serve.