Fruit salad tends to be a summer staple which makes sense, I suppose. Summer tends to be when most fruits are in season after all. But this cinnamon fruit salad is more of an autumn affair — and that's just how I like it.
Sure, you can make cinnamon fruit salad any time of year. But it's at its best when made with fruits that peak at the end of summer and beginning of fall.
My favorite kind of recipes are ones that leave lots of room to get creative, and this recipe falls squarely in that category. Apples, bananas, and strawberries are a must, imo — but then it's up to you to add whatever other fruits you like. Raspberries, orange or tangerine wedges, blueberries, pitted cherries, blackberries, and pears are all right at home in here too.
The reason you have so much room to get creative with your favorite fruit combos is because the real secret to this fruit salad are two key ingredients: orange juice and cinnamon.
A splash of orange juice adds a bright, acidic, citrusy flavor, and helps keep the apples from browning in a bad way. A generous sprinkle of ground cinnamon browns the apples (and everything else) in a really good way, combining with the orange juice and fresh fruit juices to create a cinnamon syrup that evenly coats all the fruit.
When it comes to vegetable salads we don't think twice about a glug of salad dressing, but this is one of few fruit salads I can think of that has a dressing of its own. (If you have any favorite "dressed" fruit salads, link them in the comments! I'm so curious!). It's such a nice touch and brings out new, slightly different flavors from the apples and bananas especially.
Of course, the other not-so-secret ingredient to this fruit salad's enduring popularity are the chocolate chips and walnuts. My mom used to make this fruit salad all the time when I was growing up; It turns out the secret to getting kids to eat all of their fruit salad is a generous scoop of chocolate chips. And the crunchy toasted walnuts (or pecans, tbh!) are the perfect autumn finishing touch.
If the cinnamon hasn't solidified this fruit salad as a fall favorite, the warm flavors from the crunchy nuts and the sweet chocolate morsels definitely will.
This cinnamon fruit salad is so, so good at a BBQ or picnic and it's great in a packed lunch, too. I love it because it's so simple — the splash of OJ, dash of cinnamon, chocolate chips, and nuts are the things that make it unique. Beyond that you can really make the combination of fruits you choose include your own. Have fun with it!
a mess-free way to slice a banana
Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking: Slicing bananas...
You've probably been slicing bananas just fine your whole life. Do you really need a trick or tip for a "right" way to slice bananas? Maybe!!! I don't know.
But what I do know is that my life changed forever the day I learned this little trick. And I've never sliced bananas any other way since. So if this is how you've always sliced bananas, congrats, you're a genius. If it's not, well, buckle up. I'm about to blow your mind.
a few quick notes on fruit salad
- The acid in the orange juice breaks down the bananas rather quickly making them a little mushy or soft around the edges. I like that texture, but if it's not your thing, wait to add the banana slices until right before serving.
- You can use any type of apple or combination of apples you like! Same with your preferred nuts and chocolate. I like mini chocolate chips, but my mom used to make this with the big chocolate chips. I've even made it with hand-chopped semi-sweet baker's chocolate before. My preference is for the mini chips, but you do you! You can also swap the walnuts for pecans or even slivered almonds.
- I usually thinly slice my apples, quarter my strawberries, and slice the bananas into rounds. I like the variety of shapes and sizes in my cinnamon fruit salad. But if you prefer a fruit salad with more uniform fruit pieces go right ahead and dice everything.
- I use Vietnamese cinnamon (sometimes called Saigon cinnamon) because it tends to have a stronger, sweeter cinnamon flavor than generic cinnamon. Any cinnamon will work, but if you have the option to use Vietnamese cinnamon, I recommend it!
other recipes you might like
cinnamon fruit salad with chocolate chips and walnuts
- 2 medium apples (thinly sliced or diced)
- 1 banana (thinly sliced)
- ½ pound strawberries (thinly sliced)
- any other fruit or berries of your choosing
- ⅛ cup orange juice
- ½ tablespoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup mini chocolate chips
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts (toasted)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange chopped walnuts on a sheet pan and toast on the top rack of the oven for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through.
- While the nuts are toasting, prep the rest of the fruit and combine it in a large bowl.
- Stir the fruit with the orange juice and cinnamon, adding more of each if desired, to taste.
- Stir in the chocolate chips and toasted walnuts immediately before serving. Top with additional chocolate chips and toasted walnuts if desired.
- This fruit salad is best enjoyed same-day as the orange juice begins turning the bananas slightly mushy after that.
- If you want to keep the bananas as firm as possible, wait to slide and add them until right before serving.