We all need a go-to kale crunch salad in our life! This one has the perfect amount of bite from pepitas and apples, plus a chili vinaigrette that pulls everything together.
I can’t believe I don’t already have a kale salad recipe on this site! It’s as much of a staple in my house as the perfect smoothie or my favorite baked oatmeal (both of which I can practically make in my sleep).
A simple kale salad always seems to be just the thing you need at the end of the week when the fridge is basically bare. There’s the kale, just hanging out and waiting for you to transform it into something special. Even if it’s wilted, a punchy side dish is within reach. Here’s how:
- curly kale (I think it works better in salad than the dino variety)
- apple, like honeycrisp or these fun “Lucy Rose” apples with the red center
- pepitas aka shelled pumpkin seeds
- chili vinaigrette ingredients including extra virgin olive oil, lemon, maple syrup, red pepper flakes and a bit of salt to season
This salad is actually inspired by something I had at a Denver restaurant, Acorn (which is sadly no longer open). Their kale salad was so simple but I still think about it years later. Their version used a Japanese spice blend which can be a little harder to find, so here we used red pepper flakes to bring some heat. The original also had parmesan cheese but I wanted to keep this one vegan (feel free to add some!).
How to Massage Kale for Salad
All right so you may have heard the term “massaged kale” and wondered what the heck this means. Basically kale is one vegetable that has great potential, but can be a little… well, “blah” if you serve it raw.
To really make kale shine, you’ll want to use your hands to work some acid into the leaves. This causes it to break down and tenderize so it’s a lot more pleasing to eat. As a bonus, the dressing is evenly distributed and the whole thing just works so much better.
Pro tip: never serve a bowl of raw kale with dressing on the side. Just don’t.
Once the kale is bright green and softened, add the rest of your mix-ins. The cool thing about this type of salad? It keeps for days in the fridge! Unlike other greens that get mega soggy after a few hours, dressed kale keeps getting more tender and is great as leftovers.
How to Julienne Apples
Next up, prep those apples! Julienned fruits and vegetables work great in salads because you aren’t biting into any huge chunks. The apple is subtle but adds a nice pop of sweetness. Slicing it this way is a simple three-step process:
- Cut the apple in half, through the stem.
- Slice each half thinly into half-moons with a very sharp knife or a mandoline.
- Stack a few of these half-moons on top of each other and cut into matchsticks. Remove the pieces with the core.
Once you get everything prepped, all you have to do is toss it together and hello beautiful kale crunch salad. The flavors aren’t overpowering, so you can really serve this with almost any main dish you like.
I love the idea of adding this to holiday menus too. Since this is a no-cook dish, you don’t have to worry about it taking up oven space which is perfect if you’re contributing to a big spread.
Kale Salad FAQs
Yes! That’s the beauty of a kale salad. You can prep and dress the kale up to one day before. I would recommend waiting on cutting the apples until just before serving, since they’ll most likely brown fast. Wait on adding the pepitas too, since they might lose some of their crunch (and this is a kale crunch salad after all 😅).
You totally can. I actually love the idea of using a candied nut too, if you don’t mind some added sugar. Trader Joe’s makes pumpkin spiced pepitas that would be fantastic in this. Other options: sliced almonds or sunflower seeds. I wouldn’t recommend large, whole nuts.
Use a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar instead.
Use arugula and toss in the dressing just before serving.
However you serve this, you’ll love having such a simple no-fuss salad in your repertoire!
More great vegetable sides:Print
Kale Crunch Salad with Chili Vinaigrette
This kale crunch salad has the perfect amount of bite from pepitas and apples, plus a chili vinaigrette that pairs perfectly with the sweetness from the apples.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Sides
- Method: No-Cook
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt, to taste
- 6 ounces curly kale, chopped (1 large bunch or about 6 cups)
- 1 honeycrisp apple, julienned
- 1/4 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
- Make the dressing: to a large bowl, add lemon juice, syrup and chili flakes. Whisk until well incorporated. Stream in olive oil while whisking. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Add the kale to the bowl with the dressing and use clean hands to massage for 1-2 minutes until it becomes bright green and is slightly softer.
- Add apples and pepitas. Toss well. Finish with a few additional apples and pepitas and garnish with lemon wedges.
- The equipment section above includes affiliate links to things I use often in my kitchen and recommend.
- Sub any nuts or seeds for the pepitas if you don’t have them or can’t find them. You can also use the pumpkin spiced pepitas from Trader Joe’s if you can find them!
- Serving Size: 1.5 cups
- Calories: 118 calories
- Fat: 7 grams
- Carbohydrates: 12 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
Keywords: vegan side dish, thanksgiving side dish, meal prep salad, apple recipes
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