A delicious Kale Salad with cranberries, apple and a bright lemon vinaigrette. This easy salad recipe is the perfect side dish for a weeknight dinner or a holiday meal!
When I’m looking for an easy salad that will impress, I turn to this kale salad recipe. This beautiful salad has a delicious combination of flavors and textures. Crunchy apples and pepitas, sweet cranberries, creamy goat cheese and a tangy dressing come together to make this simple kale salad completely irresistible!
If you’re still learning to enjoy kale, a massaged kale salad is a good place to start. Raw kale leaves can be tough and sometimes bitter. Massaging kale makes the leaves more tender and softens the flavor of the kale. So if the flavor and texture of raw kale leaves is a bit much for you, you’ll probably still enjoy this kale salad!
Another way to soften the texture and flavor of kale is to let the leaves marinate in an acidic dressing. The lemon juice in the dressing for this massaged kale salad helps to soften the kale. My Lemon Kale Salad recipe also uses this trick.
Kale Salad Recipe Ingredients
You’ll need only a few simple ingredients to make a crave-worthy kale salad. Below you’ll find more ideas of what to add to your kale salads.
- Kale: I usually make this salad with common curly kale, which has curly bright green leaves. You can also use lacinato kale, which has softer, dark green leaves. If using lacinato kale, you do not have to massage it because the leaves are already softer in texture.
- Lemon Juice & Olive Oil: Drizzling a small amount of lemon juice and olive oil over the kale leaves helps to soften them when you massage the kale.
- Apple: I like to use a sweet-tart variety of apple, such as Honeycrisp, but feel free to use your favorite type of apple. You can chop or thinly slice the apple.
- Dried Cranberries: These add a pop of color and sweetness.
- Pepitas: These small green pumpkin seeds add crunch. Pecans, sliced almonds or sunflower seeds are great substitutes. Or, if you’re feeling fancy add Candied Pecans to this salad.
- Goat Cheese: Creamy, tangy goat cheese is the perfect complement to the other salad ingredients. Feel free to use feta cheese if you prefer.
Kale Salad Dressing
The dressing for this salad is a tangy lemon vinaigrette. It’s the perfect light and bright dressing for this healthy salad!
- Olive Oil: Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Lemon Juice: Brings acidity to the vinaigrette and makes it tangy. If you don’t have lemons on hand, you can substitute apple cider vinegar.
- Honey: For a touch of sweetness. Pure maple syrup is a good substitute.
- Salt & Pepper: Adjust the amounts to your tastes.
Find the full printable recipe with ingredient amounts and instructions in the recipe card below.
How to Make a Kale Salad
Grab a bunch of kale at the farmer’s market or grocery store, and let’s make the best kale salad!
Start by making the dressing. In a small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Then whisk until well combined. You can dip a kale leaf into the dressing and taste it to see if any of the ingredients need adjusting. For example, if it’s too sweet you can add a little more lemon juice or olive oil.
Then, prep the kale. Cut or tear the kale leaves off of the tough kale stalks. Discard the stalks and chop or tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Wash the leaves well in cold water. Dry the kale (I use a salad spinner) and place it in a large bowl. Here are more tips on how to prepare kale.
Next, massage the kale. I like to drizzle a little lemon juice and olive oil over the kale first to help it soften.
How to Massage Kale
Drizzle a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice over the kale leaves. This will help to soften the kale as you massage it. Use your fingers to massage the kale until it wilts down, softens and becomes darker in color, squeezing the kale gently in your hands. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
Softer varieties of kale, such as lacinato kale, do not need to be massaged.
Finally, toss the salad dressing with the massaged kale leaves. Add the chopped apple, dried cranberries, pepitas and goat cheese to the salad. Then enjoy!
This recipe is flexible! Try a few of these delicious ways to change up this recipe:
- For a fresh alternative to the dried cranberries, substitute pomegranate seeds, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries.
- Add chopped pear instead of apple.
- Add chopped avocado or cooled roasted sweet potatoes.
- To make a vegan kale salad, omit the goat cheese and use pure maple syrup instead of honey in the dressing. As written this recipe is gluten-free.
This salad is best the day it is made, but if you have leftover salad it will still be good on the second day. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one day. If you wish to prepare the salad ahead of time, I recommend washing and chopping the kale and preparing the dressing up to 2 days ahead. Store them separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator and then assemble the salad right before serving. If the dressing separates or solidifies in the refrigerator, let it sit at room temperature and then shake/whisk before using. The rest of the salad components are very fast to prep!
More Delicious Kale Salads
- Kale Avocado Salad
- Kale Quinoa Salad
- Butternut Squash Salad
- Broccoli Kale Salad
- Meal Prep Kale Salads
This is our go-to kale salad recipe, perfect for everyday! If you give it a try, leave a comment below to let me know how it turned out. You might also like our favorite simple Arugula Salad, this basic Green Salad Recipe and this zesty Italian Salad.
For the Salad Dressing
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons honey, or pure maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon coarse Kosher salt, or to taste
- black pepper, to taste
For the Salad
- 1 bunch common green curly kale, about 8 cups, loosely packed
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 apple, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- ⅓ cup pepitas, or pecans
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Make the Salad Dressing
- Combine salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl, using salt and black pepper to taste, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Make the Salad
- Cut the kale leaves off of the tough stalks and discard the stalks. Chop the kale into bite-sized pieces and wash thoroughly in cold water. Drain, dry, and place kale in a large bowl.
- Drizzle 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon olive oil over the kale. Using your hands, massage the kale until it wilts, softens, and turns darker in color, about 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the salad dressing over the kale and toss to distribute evenly.
- Add the chopped apple, dried cranberries, pepitas and goat cheese to the salad and mix briefly to combine.
- Salad is best served the day it is made, but is still good on the second day.
- If using lacinato kale, skip the massaging step.
- Leftover salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.