This filling kale salad with warm wild rice and roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans, goat cheese, and sweet-tart dried cranberries is dressed with an apple cider and maple dressing full of fall flavors.
Fall is the opportune time for transitioning from the lighter-flavored salads of summer to hearty salads with mega staying power that keeps you satiated all day. Like my spinach salad with hot bacon dressing and spicy roasted chickpeas, and my chopped Mexican kale salad, this kale salad with wild rice, roasted butternut squash, and goat cheese is a lofty salad with lots of textures and big flavors.
Lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale) is sliced into ribbons with shallots and then massaged with a sweet and tangy apple cider and maple dressing. It all gets tossed with nutty wild rice, sweet caramelized roasted butternut squash, tart-dried cranberries, earthy thyme, crunchy toasted pecans, and creamy goat cheese. It’s so satisfying and perfect as a stylish side dish or mouthful main meal, healthy and bursting with vibrant color and texture.
What’s In This Kale Salad
This warm kale salad is bursting with fall ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Butternut squash
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Lacinato kale
- Wild rice
- Toasted pecans
- Dried cranberries
- Goat cheese
- Apple cider vinegar
- Maple syrup
- Grainy mustard
- Fresh thyme
Make the Apple Cider and Maple Dressing
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup in a small bowl (or just add to a jar). Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking (or shaking) to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper.
How to Make This Kale Salad
If you’ve prepped the hefty ingredients ahead of time, this salad comes together quickly. If making it on the fly, it still takes just under 30 minutes to toss together.
Cook the wild rice and toast the pecans. Cook the wild rice while toasting the pecans in a skillet, keeping an eye out so they don’t burn. You can add both ingredients warm to the salad, or set them aside to cool before tossing.
Meanwhile, roast the butternut squash. Follow the directions for roasted butternut squash here, or keep reading…Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add squash to a large sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss the squash so it is evenly coated, and arrange in an even layer. Place in the oven to roast for about 15-20 minutes, or until squash is golden brown and bottoms are caramelized.
Massage the kale and assemble the salad. Soften the kale by massaging it with some cider dressing while adding the sliced shallots to mellow their heat. Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat with 2-3 tablespoons more dressing, adding more if needed.
Substitutions and Additions
- Substitute roasted walnuts or pepitas for the pecans
- Because it has a deeper flavor, I prefer lacinato kale, but curly kale works as well
- Try cooked quinoa or orzo in place of the wild rice
- You could use aged white cheddar, blue cheese, or creamy gorgonzola instead of goat cheese
- Try dried cherries in lieu of cranberries
- For added protein, baked chicken or roasted chicken would be a delicious addition
What to Serve with This Kale Salad
I love eating this salad as a main course because even though it’s vegetarian, it’s very hearty. However, if you wanted to enjoy it as a side, that’s a great option as well. Here’s what I would serve with it:
- Honey Mustard Chicken
- Chicken Marsala Gnocchi
- Herb Butter Rotisserie Turkey
- Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- The Best Baked Chicken Breast
- Ravioli with Browned Butter and Crispy Sage
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Kale Salad with Wild Rice and Roasted Butternut Squash
For the Salad
- 2 cups butternut squash , (from a 2 pound butternut squash), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bunches lacinato kale , (about 8 cups), washed, stemmed, and cut into ribbons
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot , from 1 shallot
- 1 cup uncooked wild rice
- ⅓ cup toasted pecan halves
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup goat cheese , crumbled
Apple Cider and Maple Dressing
- 4 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons whole grain/stone ground mustard
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme , minced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add squash to a large sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss the squash so it is evenly coated, arranging in an even layer. Place in the oven to roast for about 15-20 minutes, or until squash is golden brown and bottoms are caramelized.
- While the squash roasts, cook the wild rice according to the package directions. Toast the pecans in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Make the dressing by whisking the vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup in a small bowl (or add to a jar with a fitte lid.) Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking (or shaking) to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper. If you like it more on the sweeter side, add more maple syrup to taste.
- Add the kale and shallot to a large bowl and massage it with a tablespoon of the cider dressing until the leaves begin to tenderize and soften. Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat with 2-3 more tablespoons or so of the dressing, adding more if needed. This salad is best served the day of making but while not as fresh tasting, can be refrigerated overnight.
More Fall Salads to Try
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Roasted Beets
- Autumn Cobb Salad
- Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing and Spicy Roasted Chickpeas
- Salad with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Candied Pecans
- Spinach Salad with Turkey and Spiralized Apples and Butternut Squash
- Kale Salad with Cranberries, Apple, and Cheddar Cheese
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