This Cranberry Kale Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans and Feta is the perfect Fall salad! Tender kale, tart cranberries, creamy feta, and nutty quinoa are tossed in a super simple vinaigrette and topped with buttery homemade candied pecans.
Sometimes you just need a big green superfood salad in your face.
Especially when the holiday season is about to hit aaaaaaaand you have a cute party dress that needs to fit less like a sausage casing and more like a glove. Yes I’m 110% talking from experience here. It’s only October already have several shindigs scheduled this year PLUS our annual USMC Birthday Ball and ohmygosh guys, I need to get my act together!
We’ll still be partaking in our regularly scheduled cheesiness all season long but mama needs some salad in her face too! #balance
Anyways! Back to the salad! It’s super duper healthy but thanks to a kiss of sweetness from the cranberries and pecans, it’s still totally fun and beyond flavorful! My goal is to make salads that people actually want to eat. Love to eat. Need to eat.
I absolutely positively want/love/need this salad.
Cranberry Kale Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans and Feta
Yes you can sub spinach for kale. Or spring mix. Or arugula. Or a combination of all three (YUM!) But it won’t KALE ya to try something new! The tender massaged kale in this recipe is enough to totally change your mind about this leafy green veggie.
:: pin it for later ::
Cranberry Kale Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans and Feta
Yield 2-4 servings
- 1/2 cup dried quinoa
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 bunch of kale
- 1/2 cup chopped broccoli (optional)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
LIGHT + LEMONY DRESSING
- 1/4 cup light or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice (or try lime juice!)
- 1-2 tsp white wine vinegar, to taste
- 1/8-1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8-1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 TBSP unsalted butter
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- the teeniest pinch of salt
- First rinse and drain your quinoa using a mesh strainer or sieve .
- Bring a medium saucepan to medium heat and lightly toast the quinoa to remove any excess water. Stir as it toasts for just a few minutes. This step is optional but really adds to the nuttiness and fluff factor of the quinoa!
- Next add your water, set burner to high, and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar, for 12-13 minutes or until quinoa is fluffy and the liquid has been absorbed.
- While the quinoa cooks, chop and prep the remaining ingredients and whisk together your dressing ingredients.
- Remove kale leaves from the stem.
- Wash and dry the leaves, then chop into bite sized pieces
- Next gently massage the kale with a drizzle of olive oil. This makes the leaves extra tender and silky, and also makes key nutrients even easier to absorb. Woot!
- For the super simple vinaigrette, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Feel free to sweeten if desired with honey or maple syrup. Let your tastebuds be your guide! I went the vinaigrette route and only needed a kiss of dressing on my salad.
- Snag your now-fluffy quinoa from the pot and give it a little fluff with a fork.
- For a chilled salad, you can pop the quinoa in the fridge for a few minutes prior to adding your veggies or simply let it cool on the countertop for a few minutes for a room temperature quinoa bowl. Totally up to you!
- In a large bowl, toss together, kale, quinoa, and broccoli, then top with crumbled feta.
- Toss lightly with a drizzle of dressing just before serving, leaving the rest to be added as needed.
FOR THE CANDIED PECANS:
- Heat a skillet or saucepan to medium heat and butter to melt.
- Next add in your pecans, brown sugar, and the teeniest bit of salt.
- Saute for 5-6 minutes and pour over parchment paper, using a spatula to separate the nuts. Otherwise you'll have yummy pecan brittle that you'll want to break apart over your salad, which is no big deal either! Yum! Allow to cool for several minutes until the coating hardens and your pecans have officially been candied! Woot!
- Try not to eat them all before they hit the salad. I'm oh so guilty of this! They can also be made in advance if you have a bit more self control than I do.
Kale keeps REALLY well in the fridge, so feel free to prep, wash, and dry the entire bunch. Then just save whatever you're not using for later. See below for a few kale-tastic recipes!
This is the kind of salad you can load up with all your seasonal favorites! Since I’m serving this up as cold weather fare, I highly suggest beelining for anything from beets to apples to orange segments as tasty additions to this healthy salad.
For this cranberry kale quinoa salad recipe, I decided to use a half bunch of kale. To feed a crowd, feel free to use the whole bunch and double the recipe. (You can even triple it if needed for holiday hosting) If you’e using just half the kale like I did, here are some ideas for what to make for your remaining kale:
- Roasted Garlic Kale Pesto and Veggie Pasta – LOVE this!
- Honey Glazed Chicken and Southwest Kale Salad
- Tropical Mango Kale Smoothie – a P&C reader favorite
- Chopped Greek Kale Salad
- Pesto Penne with Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale – perfect for Fall/Winter!
- Strawberry Kale Salad
I’m pretty sure my remaining kale is destined for a crispy plate of kale chips. Homemade kale chips are amazing! Especially when you use my trick to get them super duper light and crispy (no dehydrator needed!)
hungry for more?
New on P&C:
- Cheesy Garlic Parmesan Spinach Spaghetti Squash
- Easy Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Spinach Mushroom Leek Long Life Noodles
- Apple Cranberry Spinach Salad