Ensalada de Noche Buena Christmas Eve salad DSC2163

Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve salad)

A few days ago, I admitted that I hate beets. Now, you’d think I’d announced I hate sunshine or bluebonnets the way people reacted. “How did this happen?” said one. “I don’t understand,” said another.

Finally, however, a few stood with me in solidarity. And we all agreed that beets taste like dirt.

But then I kept running into a recipe that appealed to me: ensalada de Noche Buena or Christmas Eve salad. It’s a colorful mix of oranges, jicama, apples, pomegranate seeds, peanuts and yes, beets.

As the name implies, this salad is traditionally served on Christmas Eve in Mexico and the Southwest. I’d never heard of it, but I read about it in Texas Highways magazine and learned that it’s also quite popular in West Texas along the Texas-Mexico border.

Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve salad) | Homesick Texan

I began to research this salad and found that no two recipes are alike. I love this in a dish as it means that people will be very opinionated about it and yet there’s no right or wrong way to create it. For instance, I learned that some people add bananas and pineapple to their salad, which makes it feel more tropical. Others add crushed peppermint candy to their salad, playing up the holiday aspect of the dish. There were countless other variations that I saw but the one thing that they all had in common was that they all called for, yes, beets.

Well then. It soon became clear to me that if I wanted to eat ensalada de Noche Buena I’d have to get over my aversion. So I went to the farmers market and bought a beet. Assuming bigger is better, I bought one that was the size of a bowling ball and then spent the rest of the day roasting the darn thing. (Please note, if you’ve never cooked beets before, smaller is definitely better.)

Hours later when the beet was finally cooked, I tossed it with sliced oranges, jicama, apples, peanuts, cilantro, pomegranate seeds and lettuce and then dressed it with a tangy mix of mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice and chipotle chiles. With an all-star roster of ingredients like that, how could it not be great? Crunchy, tangy, sweet and fiery—ensalada de Noche Buena is indeed a stupendous dish.

Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve salad) | Homesick Texan

So if you think you don’t like beets, consider this a wonderful introduction to their charms. And if you’re already a fan, you should definitely add this dish to your repertoire. And yes, I am now a fan of beets—consider me a changed woman.

4.50 from 2 votes

Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve salad)

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


For the salad:

  • 1 pound beets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 pounds navel oranges peeled and diced
  • 1 pound jicama peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pound apples cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • Seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • 6 cups torn Romaine lettuce leaves

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 canned chipotle chile minced
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Clean the beets and remove any leafy stems, reserving for another use. Place the beets on a sheet of foil and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and then wrap the beets in the foil. Place foil-wrapped beets on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until you can easily stick a fork into the beets. Once cool, rub the beets with a paper towel to remove the skin. Slice the beets into half-moon shapes and place the sliced beets into a large bowl.
  • Add to the beet bowl the diced oranges, jicama, apples, cilantro, peanuts, pomegranate seeds and Romaine lettuce. Toss until well combined.
  • To make the dressing, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, orange juice and chipotle chile. Taste and add salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Anonymous says:

    The salad was a great success this evening -everyone loved it

  2. so glad you're on the beet bandwagon! made this for Christmas Eve–with some sweet little beets I acquired at the Houston Farmers Market a few days before. thank you for sharing, it was delicious.

  3. Okay, I made the salad. 3 hours of chopping (okay, I'm slow…) and I love the roast beets! So easy! I used a navel orange called cara cara which is a little pinker, like a grapefruit. The only suggestion I have is that the ingredients should be kept separate and the salad should be plated with the dressing drizzled over it. I tossed everything but the lettuce and it was a big PINK mess, unlike the beautiful picture in your blog. 😉 Still, it was a great alternative to the tired old ambrosia.

  4. Looks great! Of course, I already like beets okay. They don't taste like dirt to me. Black eyed peas do, but somehow I love them.

    My family has taken to eating beet greens, cooked like spinach. Now THAT'S not good. Nor do I like them raw; ugh. I did sample some daikon radish greens. They are quite tasty raw in a salad.

  5. Miss Meat and Potatoes says:

    So happy to hear you changed your mind about beets. I go back and forth with them, sometimes they taste 'off' to me and other times I absolutely crave their earthiness. Your dressing however sounds like it would be good on just about anything – including dirt:) Hope you had a very Merry TX Christmas and that you are making progress on your manuscript. Can't wait!!