Autumn Kale Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
A super delicious salad with super healthy ingredients! This Autumn Kale Salad features fall flavours from kale, apples, and roasted squash paired with a an easy maple balsamic dressing. Serve it as a side dish or meal prep it for lunches!
To me, not much screams fall more than a loaded salad full of seasonal autumn ingredients. Kale, apples, winter squash, and pecans all tossed in a maple vinaigrette? How much more screams fall than that?
This salad is a great dish to bring with you to your fall and winter holiday gatherings! It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free and vegan so chances are most people can enjoy it! If you have a nut allergy, you can always omit the pecans and add pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead. It also makes a wonderful meal prep option, prep the salad on Sunday and you’ve got lunch for the next few days!
Now if you’re hesitant about kale, know that you’re not alone. Raw kale on its own is tough, fibrous, and bitter, I hear ya! Who wants to eat that? Rabbits, maybe? There are a few tricks to making kale so delicious that you’d want to eat it for lunch every day. Read on to find out what they are!
How to Make Kale Delicious:
Remove the kale leaves from the stems. The kale stems are tough and honestly difficulty to chew. This makes for a not-so-pleasant salad eating experience. Worried about food waste? Save the kale stems to cook in your next soup or stew!
Take your scissors to it. Sounds funny, but I’m not kidding! No one likes big leaves of greens in their salad that they can’t even fit in their mouth. Once you’ve ripped the kale leaves from the stems, place them in a bowl and grab your handy (and clean) kitchen scissors. Holding the scissor handles with two hands, chop the kale into smaller, bite-sized leaves.
Massage. That. Kale. You may have heard about “massaged kale” before at restaurants or in recipes. It works! Once your kale is chopped, clean your hands and yup, give it a massage. Rub the kale leaves between your fingers for a couple minutes. Doing this helps to break down the toughness and make it more tender and pleasing to eat.
What’s In This Autumn Kale Salad:
Kale, of course! There are many varieties of kale you can choose from like Curly Kale, Lacinato Kale (also known as Dino Kale), and Red Russian Kale. I stuck with the more traditional Curly Kale for this recipe!
Apples. Feel free to use your favourite variety of apple!
Winter squash. There are many types of winter squash, like butternut, buttercup, kabocha, delicata squash and more. I roasted up some delicata squash for this salad, but I think roasted butternut squash would be equally good!
Lentils. In order to make a salad more satisfying, I always recommend adding protein. For this salad, I added cooked brown lentils. They’re a great source of plant-based protein and fibre.
Pecans. For some crunch! Walnuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds would also be great.
How to Make Maple Balsamic Dressing:
Grab a mason jar and to it add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pure maple syrup, dijon mustard, and some salt and pepper. Seal the lid and shake it all together for an easy, delicious maple balsamic salad dressing!
I recommend adding a little dressing to the chopped kale and toss it all together before adding the remaining salad ingredients and dressing. This also helps to soften the kale and let all of the dressing flavours soak into the leaves.
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Autumn Kale Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing
For the Kale:
- 1 medium bunch curly kale, washed and stems removed
- 1 pinch sea salt
For the Roasted Squash:
- 1 medium delicata squash, can sub butternut squash
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- sea salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
For the Salad Toppings:
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 3/4 cup cooked brown lentils
- 1 large apple, diced
- 1/2 cup raisins
For the Kale:
- Add the kale with stems removed to a large salad bowl. Sprinkle on a pinch of sea salt and begin to massage the kale, rubbing the leaves firmly between your fingers for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
For the Roasted Squash:
- Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare squash by washing the outer skin. Slice the squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Slice again into half-moon shapes and transfer to a mixing bow.
- Toss squash with oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a greased rimmed baking sheet and arrange evenly.
- Bake for 10 minutes and then flip squash. Bake again for 10-15 more minutes until browned on both sides. Remove from oven and allow roasted squash to cool.
For the Dressing:
- Add all of the dressing ingredients to a mason jar. Tightly seal the lid and shake the jar until dressing ingredients are combined.
For the Salad:
- Add half of the dressing to the chopped, massaged kale in your salad bowl. Toss kale with dressing until well combined.
- Add roasted squash all salad toppings including pecan halves, cooked lentils, diced apple, and raisins.
- Pour on remaining salad dressing and toss well to combine all salad ingredients. Serve and enjoy!