A hearty, warm, kale apple walnut salad with vibrant cranberry vinaigrette is healthy and delicious! Serve it as a side or an entree.
Sweet apples and earthy walnuts pair beautifully with fresh, massaged kale in this warm salad.
Choosing the ingredients
You can use curly kale or dinosaur kale in this recipe. Both massage down beautifully. Dinosaur kale tends to be more mild in flavor, so if you find kale salads to be bitter, I'd recommend going that direction.
For the apples, choose something sweet with a good, crisp texture. Some good apple options for this kale salad are:
- Autumn Glory
- Pink Lady
This recipe starts with massaged kale, so remove the ribs from your kale and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Add it to a bowl along with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
Massage the kale until it turns bright green, then toss in sweet, chopped apple, crunchy walnuts, and a little minced onion.
Set the salad aside while you make the dressing.
To make the ginger cranberry dressing, you simply combine fresh cranberries, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ginger, and maple syrup in your blender. Blend until the dressing is totally smooth.
Now, it's time to warm the dressing! You can either microwave it for a minute or so to warm it or do this on the stovetop. Either way, try not to let it come to a boil. If it does hit a boil, it's not a disaster, you just don't want the dressing to cook down and thicken.
Toss the kale salad with the warm vinaigrette, and get ready to wow your guests!
If you don't do nuts, you can use pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds instead of walnuts. They'll still deliver that earthy crunch!
If it's just walnuts you can't or don't like to eat, you can also use other nuts. Pecans, cashews, or sliced almonds all work well in this salad.
What to serve with this salad
This makes a delicious side salad or entree. As an entree, it will serve three to four people, and as a side it serves up to six.
If you're serving this as a side, try pairing it with one of these main dishes:
Or go the soup-and-a-salad route and serve it with:
Storage and make-ahead directions
If you're making this ahead, don't add the walnuts, apples, or the dressing until just before serving. The walnuts soften with time, and you don't want the apples to brown, so don't slice them until it's time to serve.
And, of course, you want that dressing separate so you can warm it before adding.
The rest of the salad can be stored in the fridge for up to a day ahead of time.
Leftover fully-assembled salad will keep for up to two days in an airtight container in the fridge. Like I mention above, the walnuts will soften and the apples may brown a bit, but it will still taste delicious. Serve leftovers cold or at room temperature.
Kale Apple Walnut Salad Recipe
For the massaged kale salad
- 8 cups chopped kale - ribs removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- juice of 1 fresh lemon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 red apple - chopped into bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup cup minced red onion
For the cranberry vinaigrette
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1" piece of fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
Make the salad
- In a large bowl, combine the kale, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. With clean hands, massage the kale until it turns rich, dark brown and begins to wilt.
- Toss in the apple, walnuts, and onion, making sure everything gets coated in the oil and lemon. The lemon is going to help prevent the apples from browning, so be thorough!
Make the dressing
- Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a microwave safe bowl and warm that way or heat in a small pan on medium until you just start to see bubbles form. Do not bring to a boil!
- Toss the salad with the warm dressing, and serve immediately.
Frequently asked questions
Warm salad might sound gross, but chances are you've eaten one without even knowing it! I'm not talking about heating up a bowl of lettuce, because that would be gross.
A warm salad is any salad with warm elements. That could mean a warm dressing, like in this kale apple walnut salad. It could also mean dishing up warm veggies over greens, like my butternut squash kale salad or using a warm protein, like my crispy tofu salad.
Warm salads are a good way to sneak in some veggies while still dishing up a cozy bowl of food.
You can certainly eat raw kale without massaging, but the texture can be a bit unpleasant. Massaging kale breaks it down to make it less tough. It almost gets the same texture you'd achieve from very lightly steaming it, but no cooking required.
Massaging also coats that kale in seasonings, which is a great chance to add some contrasting flavors, like lemon and salt.
Massaging with lemon juice and salt helps remove some of kale's bitter flavor, as does pairing it with sweet elements, like apples and the cranberry dressing.
The type of kale you choose also makes a difference. If you find kale's bitterness off-putting, I recommend opting for dinosaur (aka lacinto) kale. It has a less bitter flavor than curly or Russian kale.
To massage kale, add a little bit of salt, something acidic, and (usually) a little bit of oil. Then, get in there with clean hands and gently massage it until it turns a beautiful, bright green. It doesn't take long! The salt, acid, and massaging motion work together to soften the kale to the perfect texture.
I always opt for apples that I'd also eat on their own when I'm choosing one for a salad. Opt for apples that have a nice, sweet flavor and non-mealy texture, like Fiji, Autumn Glory, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, or Gala.
Yes! This salad is naturally gluten-free.