Fall kale salad features tender kale, toasted pecans, and pepitas combined with crisp seasonal apples, cranberries, and roasted acorn squash. Toss the salad in my delicious maple-spiced vinaigrette to finish your new fall staple. Plus, the autumn-themed salad is gluten-free, grain-free, and vegan!
What You Need to Make this Recipe
- Kale: Create the base for the salad using massaged curly or Tuscan kale.
- Apple: Crisp, tart green and sweet honey-crisp apples are not only beautiful to look at, but they add the perfect crunch. You can also use sweet pink lady apples.
- Nuts: Toast the pecans and pepitas for a warm addition to the salad.
- Seeds: Seeds are nice and crunchy alongside the nuts and kale. I like using pepitas or sunflower seeds.
- Dried Cranberries: Rehydrate and add dried cranberries for a nice pop of color. You can also use pomegranate seeds.
- Squash: Prepare and season one small acorn squash, and roast it to perfection in the oven or air fryer. For more instructions, follow our guide on how to cook acorn squash.
- Fall Kale Salad Dressing: Prepare homemade orange maple vinaigrette with orange juice, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard, finely diced shallot, garlic, salt, and ground black pepper.
Additions and Substitutions
- Greens: Add chopped Brussels sprouts, arugula, or shaved fennel. You can also use my arugula and spinach salad as a base instead of kale.
- Nuts: Replace toasted pecans with walnuts, pistachios, or almonds.
- Squash: In place of acorn squash, this salad also works well with sweet potatoes, roasted butternut squash, and kabocha squash prepared the same way.
- Dairy: Top the salad with crumbled goat cheese, feta, or shaved asiago.
- Dressing: Use the dressing in this recipe or try my sherry shallot dressing, homemade salad dressing or apple cider vinaigrette.
- Grains: Include grains like quinoa or couscous to make the salad more filling.
How to Make Fall Kale Salad
The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step 1: Combine the ingredients for the dressing in an airtight container and whisk to incorporate.
Step 2: Cut the acorn squash and add it to an air fryer or oven to cook for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
Step 3: While the squash is cooking, prepare the salad by layer the chopped kale onto two serving plates, and adding the sliced apples and cranberries.
Step 4: Dry toast the pecans and pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes; toss them over the salad.
Step 5: Remove the squash from the air fryer basket and place them onto the salad. Drizzle with dressing or serve it on the side, and enjoy!
The Secret to Delicious Kale Salad
How to Massage Kale Leaves
Massaging kale for salad is a technique used to improve its texture and taste. Kale leaves can be fibrous, and massaging them helps to break down some of the toughness and bitterness, making the kale more enjoyable to eat.
How to Pair This Fall Kale Salad
What to Do With the Leftovers
- Storage – I recommend storing the salad and dressing separately. Store the base for my fall kale salad in an airtight container in the fridge for three days. Add the salad dressing to an airtight jar and store it in the refrigerator for one week.
Frequently Asked Questions
How healthy is kale salad?
Kale is very nutritious and contains vitamins A , K , C , calcium , and potassium . The dried fruit, squash, nuts, and seeds take this salad to the next level, and it feels like you’re eating the rainbow.
However, if the sugar from maple syrup is a concern, consider using liquid monk fruit and olive oil instead of orange juice. It will be less sweet, but it’s a tasty alternative.
More Salad Recipes:
- Vegetable Chopped Salad
- Avocado Cucumber Tomato Salad
- Homemade Coleslaw with Mint and Cilantro
- Cucumber Carrot Salad
Fall Kale Salad
- 2 bunches kale, thinly sliced
- 1 green or honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup dried cranberries, rehydrated
- ½ cup pecans, chopped or whole, and toasted
- 1 tablespoon pepitas, toasted
- 1 small acorn squash, cubed
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ½ small shallot, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Combine the ingredients for the dressing in an airtight container and whisk to incorporate.
- Cut the acorn squash and add it to an air fryer or oven to cook for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
- While the squash is cooking, prepare the salad by layer the chopped kale onto two serving plates, and adding the sliced apples and cranberries.
- Dry toast the pecans and pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes; toss them over the salad.
- Remove the squash from the air fryer basket and place them onto the salad. Drizzle with dressing or serve it on the side, and enjoy!
- If using curly kale, massage it for 2-3 minutes before adding it to the serving plate.
- The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.