This easy, healthy, delicious kale salad with cranberries, sliced apples, sharp white cheddar cheese, and crunchy sunflower seeds is massaged tender with a maple syrup sweetened apple cider dressing for a savory and sweet salad everyone at the table will love.
A Delicious Kale Salad that Doesn’t Taste Raw
Kale has easily become one of the most healthful ingredients in salads today. The health benefits of kale and the virtues of eating this superfood raw—like in salad—are many, including being one of the most nutrient dense foods around. Besides being high in fiber to help you feel full (and regular), every 1 cup of raw kale providing nearly 3 grams of protein and contains more vitamin C than an orange.
With stats like that, you really can’t ignore kale’s super delicious super powers any longer.
This easy kale salad is one you can make up any night of the week, yet it’s pretty enough to add to any holiday dinner table.
But even better, because kale likes to sit and soak in it’s dressing and still hold it’s leafy shape, this kale salad is awesome for the buffet table or to take to potlucks, too. In fact, the last photo in this post is from when I pulled it straight from the fridge and into a bowl to eat for lunch 2 days after I made it.
Now that’s a trendy salad that stands the test of time.
How to Make Kale Salad Tender
The thing about kale salad that can give it a bad rap is those little leaves can taste a bit rough and raw when not served cooked. I’ve made several salads where kale is the star like my Chopped Mexican Kale Salad with roasted butternut squash and my Kale Caesar Pasta Salad where raw kale leaves are the star of the show.
And there’s a simple remedy for making kale leaves salad ready in a few easy steps.
How to soften kale for salads:
- Remove the woody ribs from the kale leaves and chop into bite size pieces.
- Add the chopped leaves to a large bowl, sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt, then drizzle with the dressing you’re using for the salad, or about a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Gently massage the leaves with your fingers until they soften and darken a bit.
- You can let the kale sit for a bit if you’d like, or head straight into creating your salad.
How to Customize Your Kale Salad
This salad can be made any time of year, and adapted to fit pretty much whatever you have in the fridge or pantry.
The flavor rules I like to follow for kale salad are:
Add something sweet. This time around I added slivered apple and sweetened dried cranberries to give the body of the salad a candied fall flavor. Butternut squash that’s been roasted in the oven is also a great way to add sweetness and vitamins at the same time.
Add something crunchy. Typically I go for nuts for the crunch, and the apple adds some too. Roasted nuts are more flavorful than plain and are always worth the effort. Buy roasted nuts like the sunflower seeds I used here, or roast them yourself in a dry pan over medium high heat or in a toaster oven. Just be sure to watch them super carefully because they’ll turn on you in an instant.
see more: 30 Super Savory Salads To Make Now
Add something cheesy. Cheese is the magic ingredient that will get pretty much any kale skeptic to cross the bridge over to the goodness side. And honestly, most any cheese will absolutely work here. I mean, I’ve never tried cream cheese, but I bet it could work in a pinch.
Add a tangy vinaigrette style dressing. Olive oil and kosher salt are the magic softeners for kale, so keeping with a vinaigrette is a good idea here. I used cider vinegar and grainy mustard for the tang, and maple syrup for sweetening. But nearly any vinegar and sweetener will do. Or, keep it super super simple with plain old olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon.
Other ingredients you can add to this salad:
- Cooked grains like wild rice, quinoa, or farro
- Roasted butternut squash
- Parmesan cheese, goat cheese, blue, or feta
- Chickpeas or black beans
- Carrots, broccoli, or roasted cauliflower
- Other nuts like toasted almonds, pecans, or pine nuts
- Pomegranate seeds or currants
- Shredded chicken, tuna, salmon, or roasted tofu
Recipes to Serve With This Salad to Make It a Meal
- 5 Ingredient Thai Pumpkin Soup
- Herb Butter Rotisserie Turkey
- A Healthier Meatloaf With Tomato Glaze
- Baked Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Marinara
- Gnocchi With Pomodoro Sauce
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Bookmark this recipe and leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Kale Salad with Cranberries, Apple, and Cheddar Cheese
- 8 cups kale , chopped with stems removed
- 1 cup apple , slivered
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese , diced
- 1/8 cup shallot , thinly slivered
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds , toasted
Apple Cider and Maple Dressing
- 4 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- First, make the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, mustard and maple syrup in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking constantly to emulsify. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you like it more on the sweeter side, add more maple syrup to taste.
- Add the kale to a large bowl and massage it with a tablespoon of the cider dressing until the leaves begin to tenderize and soften.
- Add the apple, cranberries, cheddar cheese, and shallot to the dressing and toss to coat with 2 more tablespoons or so of the dressing, adding more if needed. Top with the toasted sunflower seeds and serve.
More Healthy Salads You’ll Want to Make Too
- Autumn Cobb Salad
- Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing
- Arugula Salad With Shaved Parmesan Three Ways
- Autumn Couscous Salad
- Quinoa And Kale Protein Power Salad
Craving more life balance, less stress, and better health? Check out my Nourished Planner, the daily planner to help create simplicity and under-schedule your life.
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