Apple Salad with Cider-Benne Vinaigrette

A zesty dish full of bright fall flavors from Tennessee’s RT Lodge

Photo: Courtesy Diana Barton Public Relations

Brighten up your holiday side offerings with this refreshing recipe from Trevor Stockton, the executive chef of the Restaurant at RT Lodge in Maryville, Tennessee. “This apple salad, with the combination of the sweet apple cider reduction and the crisp, tart Granny Smith apple and peppery arugula, is a great example of a fresh dish in a season that typically sees a lot of rich, warm foods,” Stockton says. “Here, it’s all about balance.”

photo: Courtesy Diana Barton Public Relations


  • Apple Salad with Cider-Benne Vinaigrette (Yield: 4 servings)

  • For the salad:

    • 2 apples, Granny Smith or another tart variety

    • 6 cups arugula

    • ½ cup yogurt (RT Lodge makes theirs in-house, but you can use Greek yogurt or labneh)

    • ¼ cup benne seeds (the restaurant uses Anson Mills; can be substituted with sesame seeds)

    • ½ bunch parsley

    • 2 shallots

    • A handful of bacon bits (the restaurant makes theirs with Benton’s bacon)

  • For the cider-benne vinaigrette (yields: 3 cups)

    • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. dijon mustard

    • ½ gallon fresh apple cider (reduce in a sauce pot over medium heat until 1 cup remains)

    • ⅔ cup champagne vinegar

    • ¼ cup benne seed oil (can be replaced with sesame oil but you will only need 1 tbsp.)

    • ¾ cup grapeseed oil


  1. Make vinaigrette: Combine dijon mustard, ½ cup cider reduction, and champagne vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in benne seed oil and then grapeseed oil. 

  2. Make salad: Pick, rinse, and chop parsley. Peel and mince shallot. Cut apples to desired size (Stockton likes to slice them on a mandoline into matchstick-size pieces). Spread yogurt on the bottom of the serving platter or bowl. Place arugula, apples, shallot, and parsley in a mixing bowl.

  3. Season with black pepper and a small amount of sea salt. Toss with the desired amount of dressing and place on top of the yogurt. Sprinkle bacon bits and benne seeds on top to finish.

  4. Storing tip: The cider-benne vinaigrette will save in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.