Share your favorite grape salad recipe here

Minnesota is upset — outraged, if you will — over this article in the New York Times.

The Grey Lady “scoured the nation” and found that when it comes to Minnesota, grape salad and Thanksgiving are one in the same.

This grape salad, which falls into the same category of old-fashioned party dishes as molded Jell-O salad, comes from a Minnesota-born heiress, who tells me it was always part of the holiday buffet in her family. It couldn’t be simpler to prepare and has only three ingredients: grapes, sour cream and brown sugar.

Rather like a creamy fruit salad with a crisp sugar topping, it really is delicious, though the concept sounded strange to me before I first tasted it. Other versions, I hear, call for softened cream cheese and nondairy “whipped topping”; I can’t say I’ll be trying that. Some cooks caramelize the brown sugar under the broiler and some don’t, but I definitely recommend this step, which gives the dish a crème brûlée aura.

The Twitterverse pushed back. Hard. Nobody had ever heard of grape salad.

Facebook too.


Linda Holmes, who writes NPR’s Monkey See blog, once served time lived here and today defends the culinary history of the state.

So please understand: The New York Times has examined the entire state of Minnesota and said, “You know what evokes your state? A bowl of grapes mixed with sour cream, covered with sugar, and heated up. That’s you. That’s how you are.” After this, I imagine them laughing, high-fiving, and refilling a glass of chardonnay. We all have our preconceptions, after all.

It’s enough to make a nice Midwestern-by-training girl put her hands on her hips and say, “Hey, you know what evokes your state? YOUR FACE.” (You’d have to see the delivery; it’s very devastating.)

They could have done something with morel mushrooms. Or wild rice, if they hadn’t brazenly given it to Wisconsin (the unkindest cut of all — their thing is cheese!). If Maine can have Lobster Mac and Cheese, how about something with walleye? Heck, I would have preferred Spam, which may not be gourmet cuisine but at least does have a connection to the state, unlike grapes, which do not.

Look, I’m not saying nobody in the state has ever eaten a grape salad. It’s heated up grapes and sour cream with sugar on it; somebody has eaten that in any state where there are families coming up with simple dishes — in fact, somebody has eaten that in any state where there are mostly empty refrigerators and college students. Somebody has also, at some point, dipped Doritos in peanut butter and washed them down with Yoo-Hoo, in spite of the fact that recreational marijuana use is still illegal by federal law. But that does not mean Dorito Peanut Butter Crunch is a dish, and it definitely does not mean it is a Thanksgiving classic.

This is one of those times when you do want to read the comments attached to an NPR blog post, by the way.

As for the man who wrote the piece, David Tanis seemed a tad huffy when called on it.

There was another dead giveaway that grape salad isn’t a dietary staple in Minnesota: You can’t cut it in half to avoid taking the last of it.

  • BJ

    Good thing you posted this my tweet machine was confusing me with all the grape talk.

  • Robert Moffitt
  • Heather

    Once I met a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan, who didn’t realize that Manhattan is an island. Maybe David Tanis knows her.

  • Kassie

    Today I’ve thought about grapes, sour cream and sugar, heated up, about four times. Each time I gag. I’ve seen grapes in cool whip “fruit salad” and used in other horrifying ways, but never in the totally nasty way described. Eeeewwww.

  • Jerry

    What really hurts is that Arkansas get turkey because it is one of the larger turkey producers. Well, guess which state produces around 50% more turkeys than Arkansas.

  • Jeff R.

    Green bean casserole – cream of mushroom soup + fried onions – classic.

  • boB from WA

    For WA – Glazed Shiitake Mushrooms With Bok Choy? For Thanksgiving? Seriously? I wonder if the author had ingested one too many mushrooms from their time out here, (if they were here at all).

  • Nikki

    I was once served something akin to the grape salad at tea… in NYC.

  • KTN

    Start with sour ones, add just little indignation and voila, grape salad.

  • JWest

    I’m glad the twitter verse and MPR lit up over this. I have done extensive polling (face to face at work) and NO ONE has ever heard of this stuff. I thought it was a secret dish known only to those born here and never to be revealed to transplants.

    • jaime

      I was born here and no one in my family (who were also all born here) has ever heard of this. I think this qualifies as a totally legit, scientific study. And probably more research than the reporter did… 🙂

  • Greg W

    Well played on that last line of the post, Bob.

  • Megan

    My Mom makes this salad. Purple and Green grapes, sour cream, cream cheese, chopped nuts and brown sugar. Its really quite good, she got it out of Taste of Home Magazine. It has become a stable at family gatherings like Easter brunch, but only recently. Really something more mayonnaise biased, or green jello would be more common in MN. I think the Times got hung up on the stereotype that all ‘salads’ in MN are desserts in other parts of the country. Like the “Snickers Salad”, whip cream Jello salad etc

    • joetron2030

      I’ve had a Snickers Salad! LOL

  • Pamela Armbrust

    My favorite salad with grapes and sour cream includes chicken, mandarin oranges, slivered almonds and mayonnaise.

  • John

    Favorite grape salad recipe: ferment grapes, place resulting liquid in bottle, drink.