This is the best recipe for Kale Salad! Made with a sweet and tangy dressing, fresh apples, tart cranberries, and toasted nuts, this simple recipe for kale salad is full of flavor, texture, and nutrients!
Kale has a reputation for being very tough and bitter. But there is a secret to preparing kale that will make your kale salads tender and full of delicious flavor.
You need to massage and marinate the kale. If you THINK you don't like kale salads, chances are it hasn't been massaged!
Massaging kale simply means rubbing the dressing into the kale leaves. This will help to break down the tough fibers of the kale leaves and allow the kale to absorb the flavors of the dressing.
And let's take a minute to talk about the dressing for this Kale Salad. This recipe features a Maple Dijon Dressing that pairs beautifully with the strong, earthy flavor of the kale. The maple syrup and Dijon add flavor, the apple cider vinegar helps to break down the tough fibers in the kale and the olive oil adds a rich finish. It is perfection.
While massaging the kale with the delicious dressing will make a world of difference in terms of flavor and texture to the salad, by adding sweet apples, dried cranberries, and toasted nuts, you will have a memorable Kale Salad that you will crave again, and again.
Notes on Ingredients
- Kale: You can use either curly kale or Lacinato Kale, which is also referred to as Dinosaur Kale or Tuscan Kale. Instead of purchasing a bunch of kale, you can also use bagged kale that has already been washed and stems removed.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Vinegar is key to adding acidity to the salad and apple cider vinegar is the best pair to the Dijon, apples, and maple syrup. However, feel free to use red wine vinegar in its place.
- Olive Oil: Be sure to use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Maple Syrup: The maple syrup is a perfect pair with the Dijon and apples and gives the dressing a rich finish. However, you can use honey if you don't have maple syrup on hand.
- Apples: Select a sweet, firm apple such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Gala for a sweet burst of fresh apple flavor. If you prefer tart apples, Granny Smith will work well in this Kale Apple Salad.
- Nuts (optional): If you don't have a nut allergy, I strongly recommend adding toasted walnuts or pecans for a nice crunch.
- Blueberries (optional): I added blueberries to my Kale Apple Salad once simply because they needed to be used. And let me tell you, it was magic! The burst of fresh blueberry flavor was perfection against the tart cranberries and sweet apples. If they are seasonal and you have them on hand, use them. If not, omit them and your salad will still be delicious.
How to Make Kale Salad
- Remove the thick stem from each stalk of kale and discard.
- Rib the kale into bite-sized pieces or roll the kale leaves up into ribbons and chop them into bite-size pieces.
- Wash and dry the kale well. I recommend using a salad spinner or a clean kitchen towel to dry the kale well, as that will help the dressing adhere to the leaves, which is key to a good kale salad.
- Once washed and dry, place the kale into a large mixing bowl and set to the side.
- In a small jar or bowl, combine the maple syrup, Dijon mustard, vinegar, salt, pepper, onion powder, and olive oil. Shake or whisk the dressing until the ingredients are emulsified.
- Add half the dressing to the prepared kale and using your hands, rub the dressing all through the kale, massaging the kale for a minute or two to really work the dressing into the leaves.
- At this point, cover the dressed kale and remaining dressing, and refrigerate the kale for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days, giving the kale time to fully break down and become tender.
- Before serving the salad, add the nuts to a dry skillet and toast over medium heat, tossing every 30 seconds until your nose smells the nuts. This should only take 2-3 minutes. You don't want to burn the nuts, so don't walk away from the skillet. I have made that mistake before.
- Once you remove the nuts from the heat, chop the nuts, wash the blueberries if using, and wash and chop the apples into bite-sized pieces.
- Add the apples, cranberries, nuts, and blueberries to the salad, tossing to coat.
- Serve the salad with the remaining dressing on the side.
More Delicious Kale Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe for Kale Salad, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Kale Salad with Apples
Maple Dijon Dressing
- For the dressing, whisk or shake the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, pepper, onion powder, mustard, and olive oil together until emulsified.
- Remove the tough stem from the kale and chop or tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Wash and dry the kale really well and then place the prepared kale into a large mixing bowl.
- Add half the dressing to the prepared kale and using your hands, rub the dressing all through the kale, massaging the kale for a minute or two to really work the dressing into the leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the kale tenderize and become flavorful from the dressing.
- If your nuts are not toasted, add the nuts to a dry skillet and toast over medium heat, tossing every 30 seconds until your nose smells the nuts. This should only take 2-3 minutes. Remove the nuts from the heat, cool them slightly, and chop them into bite-sized pieces.
- Before serving the kale salad, add the diced apples, dried cranberries, blueberries if using, and nuts and toss to distribute. Serve the kale salad immediately with the additional dressing on the side.
This post was originally shared in 2018 but updated in 2022 with new photos.