This sweet kale salad with cranberries is packed with crunchy candied pecans, sweet cranberries and tart mandarin oranges. With purple radicchio for a slight bitterness and crisp kale, it’s the perfect summer-to-fall salad for your dinner table.
Healthy Kale Salad with Cranberries
Served with a homemade honey mustard dressing, this kale salad with cranberries is bursting with crispy and tangy goodness. With juicy mandarin oranges for sweetness and radicchio to balance out the flavors, this 10-minute side dish will become your new favorite.
Made with fresh kale and lots of dried cranberries, every bite will let your taste buds know the holiday season has arrived. The sprinkle of little caramelized crunch nuggets (candied pecans) also adds warmth and toastiness. Extra fruit like peaches or berries are always welcome too! What really does it for me, though, is that it turns into a main dish in seconds with a little bit of chicken or turkey.
Tossed in an easy gourmet dressing, this kale cranberry salad masterpiece is perfectly tied together and waiting to find its way to your table. Eating your greens has never been so packed with vibrant colors, exciting textures, and fall flavors. Dig in!
Why You’ll Love This Kale Cranberry Salad
Even if you’re not a usual fan of salad, this kale salad with cranberries will win everyone over in one bite.
- Easy. How difficult can a 10-minute side dish be? It only requires 4 steps.
- Healthy. The homemade dressing means there are no funny ingredients in your food. No added sugars or excess sodium.
- Prep-friendly. Make the dressing and candied pecans in advance for an almost instant side salad throughout the week.
- Convenient. This recipe lets you swap the kale for other greens, use store-bought dressing, and canned fruit if that’s what you’ve got on hand.
The homemade honey mustard dressing is the secret to this salad’s flavor. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact amounts.
For the Salad
- Kale – It needs to be fresh, not frozen.
- Radicchio – It adds bitterness, but you can leave it out.
- Mandarin orange segments – Use fresh or canned.
- Dried cranberries – Dried blueberries are a great swap.
- Green onions
To Make the Candied Pecans
- Pecans – Don’t use salted pecans.
- Brown sugar – Light or dark brown sugar work.
- Maple syrup – Raw honey and agave syrup are great swaps.
- Butter – Feel free to use salted or unsalted.
For the Dressing
- Apple cider vinegar – Don’t use white vinegar, please.
- Olive oil – Melted coconut oil or avocado oil are great for this.
- Stone ground mustard – Don’t use the yellow processed stuff.
- Raw honey – Feel free to use maple syrup.
- Dried basil – Don’t use fresh basil here.
- Red pepper flakes – You can skip it.
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Kale Salad with Cranberries
You get a fresh salad, homemade candied pecans, and a healthy dressing in 10 minutes. That’s my definition of the perfect recipe! Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for more detailed instructions.
- Prep the kale. Place the kale in a large bowl and sprinkle in some salt. Use your hands to massage the leaves for 2-3 minutes or until they turn forest green and are fragrant. Don’t skip this otherwise the kale will be tough and chewy. If you’ve never done this before, read about How to Prepare Kale here. Set it aside.
- Make the candied pecans. Place the butter and pecans in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Cook them for 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the sugar and maple syrup. Cook for another 2 minutes or until the sugar melts and the mixture coats the pecans. Remove them from the heat and set them aside on a plate.
- Make the dressing. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. The olive oil and vinegar should no longer be separated.
- Assemble it. Add the radicchio, mandarin oranges, cranberries, and green onions to the bowl with kale. Serve it with the dressing on the side or drizzle it in. Top with candied pecans and enjoy.
Tips for Success
These tips will help you master any kale salad, especially one with homemade candied pecans.
- Use store-bought. When you don’t have time to whip up a homemade dressing, use your favorite organic store-bought one.
- Re-crisp it. If your kale has been in the fridge for a couple of days, crisp it up again for a fabulous salad. Fill a bowl with water and add lots of ice. Soak the kale for 10-15 minutes and then remove it from the bowl. Strain it and pat it dry with a clean kitchen towel.
- Add a fat or acid. Drizzling the kale with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil or lemon juice before massaging it will help the leaves soften quicker.
- Prep ahead. Make the dressing and candied pecans in advance so all you have to do is mix everything right before dinner.
- Hold the pecans. Especially if you’re making the salad in advance, hold the pecans until right before serving. Adding them in beforehand means they’ll absorb moisture and lose their crunch.
- Avoid parchment. Never place freshly made candied pecans on parchment paper because the sticky mixture will set on the paper and create a huge mess. Always use a heat-proof bowl or plate.
A handful of extra ingredients and swaps can spice things up to make sure this kale cranberry salad never gets boring.
- Add fruit. Berries, pomegranate seeds, slice peaches, etc add more fruity goodness to every bite.
- Add nuts. Almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are wonderful swaps or add-ins to give this salad more crunch.
- Swap the greens. If you’re not a fan of kale, use spinach or your favorite salad-mix.
- Add protein. Sliced chicken, leftover shredded turkey, and quinoa are great protein options to turn this salad into the main dish.
- Change the dressing. Poppyseed dressing or a balsamic vinaigrette work perfectly with the flavors in this recipe.
What to Serve With Kale Salad
This kale salad with cranberries is the perfect side dish when served with turkey dinners. My Epic Maple Smoked Turkey and Garlic Herb Turkey are great options for the holidays. If you’re switching things up this year, my Instant Pot Whole Chicken is an easier, smaller dish you can whip up too. For other veggie sides, pair it with my Honey Glazed Carrots and Air Fryer Green Beans.
Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days. If possible, store the salad and dressing separately so that the kale doesn’t wilt. The candied pecans should be stored at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. When ready to serve, just toss it all together for a “freshly made” salad.
More Kale Recipes to Try
This quick kale salad with cranberries and honey mustard dressing is packed with fall flavors everyone will love.
- Prep the Kale: Add kale pieces to a large bowl. Add a dash of sea salt. Using your hands massage the kale to break down and soften. About 2-3 minutes. The kale will turn more of a forest green and smell fragrant, that’s when you know you’re done. Set aside.
- Make Candied Pecans: Heat a medium skillet to medium high heat. Add butter and pecans to the pan. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring the entire time. Add in brown sugar and maple syrup, cook an additional 2- minutes, until the butter and sugar are melted and coat the pecans. Remove the pan and let cool on a plate or sheet of tin foil.
- Make the Dressing: Add apple cider vinegar, olive oil, stone ground mustard, raw honey, dry basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to a medium bowl. Using a whisk, mix the dressing together until the oil and vinegar no longer separate.
- Assemble the Salad: To the bowl with the kale add radicchio, mandarin oranges, cranberries, and green onions. Right before serving, top the salad with candied pecans then drizzle with dressing and gently toss. Serve.
Keywords: kale salad with cranberries, kale cranberry salad
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