Pink Grapefruit and Watercress Salad

grapefruit and watercress salald dressing

This unique Pink Grapefruit and Watercress Salad is delicious and packed with nutrition.

grapefruit and watercress salald

I grew up with a meat and potatoes kind of mom. She was a great cook, but she specialized in chops, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, that kind of stuff. We did have salads, but they tended to be diced iceberg and cucumbers. With Wishbone dressing, of course.

There was one time however, when all that was turned on its head. It was when she came to visit after my first daughter was born. She was there waiting for us when we arrived home from the hospital. We were completely bedraggled and exhausted, clutching our new little treasure in our arms, and the first thing my mother did was make me a huge watercress salad. I have no idea where she got the notion, or even where she got the watercress, but let me tell you that salad was the most utterly invigorating, life-affirming meal I’ve ever eaten. Maybe it was the exhaustion of childbirth, or the stress of trying to breastfeed, or maybe it was because, in the midst of  having to deal with being a mother myself for the first time, my mother was feeding me… I don’t know, but I gobbled that thing down like nobody’s business and with every bite I felt stronger, and little more able to manage. To this day I’m convinced that watercress has magical healing powers.

grapefruit and watercress salad with sumac

If you peeked down at the recipe you already know this salad is an interesting blend of some beautiful and healthy ingredients. You might have also have noticed that it has Yotam Ottolenghi’s stamp on it. The sumac might have given it away. I tweaked his formula a little bit, and I don’t believe in getting too precise with salad recipes, I think it inhibits creative spontaneity. A rule of thumb is one good handful of greens for each serving, followed by the other ingredients according to your taste. The important thing here is the artful combination.

grapefruit watercress and sumac salad

Every element brings its own special ‘edge’ to this salad. Start with the watercress…it’s incredibly peppery. You can eat the whole thing, leaves, stems and all, they taste great and have a wonderful light crunch. The pink grapefruit is sort of sweet, but also slightly sour with a touch bitterness. The endive adds more pleasant bitterness, and the red onion brings crunch and a sweet-hot tang to the party. The herby basil pierces through it all, but I have to say it’s the dressing that really rocks this salad.

grapefruit and watercress salald dressing

It’s a combination of pink grapefruit juice, reduced down to a syrup, mixed with olive oil, lemon, hot chili pepper, and lots of tangy sumac. Sumac is a middle eastern spice that looks like chili powder and has a vivid citrusy taste. Yotam uses a touch of sugar, I substituted honey. The dressing is phenomenal.

grapefruit and sumac dressing


grapefruit, watercress and sumac salad

Pink Grapefruit and Watercress Salad with Sumac
*recipe slightly adapted from Plenty More

3.29 from 14 votes

Pink Grapefruit and Watercress Salad

Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Author Sue Moran


for the salad

  • 2 red or pink grapefruits
  • 1 bunch of watercress about 2 handfuls
  • 1 small head red Belgian endive
  • 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion very thinly sliced
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves torn or left whole if they are small


  • 1 cup fresh pink grapefruit juice from the grapefruits, above
  • 1/2 tsp hot chili pepper flakes
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • a pinch of salt


  • Cut off one end of the grapefruits and run a small serrated knife along the rind to remove it. Cut in between each of the membranes to remove the segments of fruit. Set the fruit in a colander to drain over a plate. Squeeze the remains of each grapefruit to get all of the juice out of it. Gather any juice that has drained from the segments, and put it all together in a small saucepan. There should be about a cup.
  • Add the chili pepper to the juice and boil the juice down until it is a thick syrup. This shouldn't take too long, maybe 15 minutes or so.
  • When it is thick, combine it with the rest of the dressing ingredients in a small jar and give it a vigorous shaking until it has emulsified.
  • Meanwhile assemble the salad ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle the dressing over it, toss lightly, and serve.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.



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  • Reply
    February 9, 2015 at 9:06 am

    This might be one of the prettiest salads I’ve ever seen and Ottolenghi can do no wrong in my eyes. Love the honey sub and bookmarking this for the next time I pick up some watercress!!

    • Reply
      February 9, 2015 at 9:14 am

      I so agree, I am really smitten by his recipes…I have never made anything that I didn’t LOVE. Thanks for visiting Alana!

  • Reply
    Jen L | Tartine and Apron Strings
    February 6, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Hi, I’m so excited to try your salad dressing. Been looking for a nice, well-rounded pink grapefruit dressing! This looks like it! GOLD!

  • Reply
    Cathy Godfrey
    January 31, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    I am not familiar with the use of sumac. Where do I find it?
    I love your blogs and have printed off many of your recipes. I would love to have the pictures as well!

    • Reply
      January 31, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Hi Cathy — sumac is a middle eastern spice, it kind of looks like chili powder, and it has a citrusy tangy flavor, it’s very good. More and more stores are carrying it, but you can always order it online from Amazon or an online spice store like this one,

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    January 30, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    I’ve been on a citrus kick lately and this salad is calling my name – love the bright flavors!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2015 at 5:44 am

    i used to hate grapefruit but now i have an appreciation for its sour punch. great salad, sue!

    • Reply
      January 30, 2015 at 7:12 am

      Especially the red and pink varieties, they are pretty sweet. I have a HUGE white grapefruit tree in my backyard and I hardly ever pick them…I have to develop an appreciation for the really sour ones.

  • Reply
    Julia |
    January 29, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    What a gorgeous salad! Love that you put grapefruit in there – I thought I was the only one who eats grapefruit this way. 🙂

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    January 29, 2015 at 12:12 am

    Spectacular photos! You can’t beat a good dressing – I love a good dressing. A good dressing can make even a sad salad sing. This sounds as special as those images.

  • Reply
    Kitchen Belleicious
    January 28, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    in any and every salad I eat the one thing I wish i could have is watercress in it. I love watercress. i love the slightly different texture and the subtle flavor. I LOVE IT

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    January 28, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Another absolutely gorgeous salad Sue. Love your mom story too – that is so sweet. Isn’t it amazing how certain foods bring back those memories – clear as a bright summer day. Love your photos – they are amazing – love the salad it is gorgeous and all this dreary, wet, cold winter weather has me dreaming of salads like this! Bravo!

  • Reply
    [email protected]+Riffs
    January 28, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Great flavor combo! Such a nice, refreshing salad. And it’s gorgeous — always a good thing. 🙂 Thanks.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    January 28, 2015 at 9:35 am

    LOVE watercress salad. These look divine!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    January 28, 2015 at 6:25 am

    Beautiful salad (and great photos!) Love the flavours and watercress is such a nice change from the usual greens.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2015 at 6:27 am

      thanks Jennifer, I had forgotten what a great taste watercress has, it really punches up a salad.

  • Reply
    Vicki Bensinger
    January 28, 2015 at 3:52 am

    What a beautiful salad. I was just looking through Plenty More last night and all the recipes are so healthy. I love the grapefruit vinaigrette it sounds so flavorful.

    Your writing is beautiful as are your photos. I enjoyed reading about your memories and the impact a simple green had on your life. Now I can’t wait to try this myself. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2015 at 6:28 am

      I look at my copy at night too, makes for sweet dreams 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris @ The Café Sucré Farine
    January 28, 2015 at 3:18 am

    Looks fantastic Sue! My mom was like yours, a wonderful cook but plain and simple was always the name of the game. I think I might have fainted if she would have made a watercress salad 🙂 I love the memories that are created with food!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2015 at 3:12 am

    Your photography is stunning. I always look forward to your posts.

    • Reply
      December 23, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Thank you Julie <3

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