This tasty vegetarian Kale Apple Cranberry Salad features tender kale and fluffy quinoa tossed with cranberries, apple, carrots, and a zippy lemon dressing.
It’s no secret that I love a good kale salad.
I’ve published over 15 tasty kale salad recipes here on P&C and will probably have a few more up my sleeve by the end of the year.
It’s one of those underestimated veggies that totally gets a bad rap b/c it’s so often prepared wrong. Don’t pack a bowl with dry kale leaves and expect a good time. NOPE!!! Instead add a drizzle of oil or lemon juice to the greens and gently “massage” the kale until it’s dark green and tender.
This little rubdown makes all the difference from “ugh kale” to “KALE YEAH!”
Unlike lettuce, you can load it with grains, veggies, and a little dressing, then pop it in the fridge for later without worrying about it getting soggy. It’s fantastic for meal prep and tastes great the next day!
I was craving a little bit of everything when I threw together this yummy apple cranberry kale salad and, as you can tell, the result was totally blog-worthy!
I’m actually scarfing a leftover bowl of this kale salad right now while typing this. SO GOOD!
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
Ingredients Needed for this Tasty Apple Cranberry Kale Salad
- dried cranberries
- roasted sunflower seeds
- candied pecans or walnuts
- homemade dressing (recipe included below)
For the quinoa you can use white, red, or tri-color quinoa. They all work great!
I used curly kale (my favorite!) but lacinato kale can be used as well.
As for the apples, honeycrisp apples are my favorite to use in salads because they’re sweet and crisp and slice up so well. The lemon dressing helps keep the apples fresh and prevents browning which is always a perk!
Crispy candied pecans or candied walnuts are amazing in this kale salad. You can use homemade candied nuts (I’ll include the recipe at the bottom of this post) or simply grab store-bought. If you’re nut-free or sugar-free you can 100% skip this salad topper.
Kale Salad Dressing
Be sure to use fresh lemon and fresh garlic here – it makes a world of difference flavor-wise! I like to use avocado oil but olive oil works as well!
- 1/4 cup avocado oil or light olive oil
- 3-4 TBSP fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 small clove garlic – peeled and pressed/grated/minced
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup to sweeten (optional)
The addition of a sweetener is 100% optional here, simply use it to help customize the tartness of the lemon dressing to your taste.
To make the dressing, simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Alternatively you can add the ingredients to a lidded mason jar and shake well to emulsify.
Vegetarian Kale Apple Cranberry Salad with Quinoa
This salad is great the first day and even excellent the next day too! Feel free to use it as part of your weekly meal prep if you’d like to make it in advance for easy lunches. It should keep approx. 3-4 days
Cranberry Apple Kale Salad with Quinoa
- ¼ cup avocado oil or light olive oil
- 3-4 TBSP fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 small clove garlic peeled and pressed/grated/minced
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp honey or maple syrup to sweeten (optional)
HOMEMADE CANDIED PECANS
- ½ cup chopped pecans (the smaller the better)
- 2 tsp unsalted butter
- 1 TBSP light brown sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- First rinse and drain your quinoa using a mesh strainer/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, prep the remaining ingredients, make your candied pecans, 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 dressing, simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Alternatively you can add the ingredients to a lidded mason jar and shake well to emulsify. The addition of a sweetener is 100% optional here, simply use it to help customize the tartness of the lemon dressing to your taste.
- 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, carrots.
- Remove the core and stem from a small honeycrisp apple and slice into thin matchsticks. I usually add about a cup to my salad plus extra to taste.
- Toss lightly with a drizzle of whisked/shaken dressing just before serving, leaving the rest to be added to taste. Enjoy!
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.
- Sauté 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.
- Allow to cool for several minutes until the coating hardens and your pecans have officially been candied!
Homemade Candied Pecans
You can use store-bought candied pecans or walnuts for this salad if preferred. They’re so easy to make at home so I usually just whip up my own. Here’s the recipe!
- 1 cup chopped pecans (the smaller the better)
- 1 TBSP unsalted butter
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
To make the candied pecans, heat a small 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.
Allow to cool for several minutes until the coating hardens and your pecans have officially been candied!
This technique can also be used with walnuts if you’d prefer adding candied walnuts to your salad. You can also opt for a combination of both.
KALE YEAH! More Tasty Kale Recipes to Try
- NEW! Kale Taco Salad with Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
- Lemon Orzo with Parmesan, Kale, and Cherry Tomatoes
- Cheesy Broccoli Kale Pesto Pizza
- Sweet Potato Kale Soup via The Dizzy Cook
- Cheesy Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Looking for more kale salads? Check out my 15 Tasty Kale Salad Recipes post.
If you get a chance to try this tasty kale apple cranberry salad, let me know!
Leave some love in the comment form below or tag your photos with @peasandcrayons on Instagram so I can happy dance over your creation. I can’t wait to see what you whip up!
Ready for soup season? I’ll be back soon with some tasty new Fall recipes. Get excited!