Kale Crunch Salad
on May 17, 2021, Updated Sep 20, 2023
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A serious winner of a salad, with kale, napa cabbage, hulled pumpkin seeds, and an addicting dressing.
In this recipe, robust kale, crunchy napa cabbage, crisp pumpkin seeds, and a handful of grated Parmesan come together for the most satisfying of salads. The dressing pulls it all together: a tangy blend of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, apple juice (or cider), maple syrup, Dijon, and garlic.
While the recipe may sound vaguely autumnal, take my word for it — you will want to eat this all year round. Serve it, perhaps, with Baked Chicken Legs with Herbs and Lemon, Creamy Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Potatoes, or a Grilled Top Sirloin Steak.
The trajectory of the rise, fall, and then plateauing of kale salads is one that elicits a lot of opinions. Some people are happy that kale is no longer a ubiquitous thing. After all, it spent a long moment in the sun as a given in most salads, a must in grain bowls, and an integral part of so many other recipes, from Creamed Kale to Kale Pesto. Other people — like me, dear reader — still love kale but are not sad to watch it take its more appropriate place in the larger wide world of vegetables. With that said, I still love kale salads.
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Chick-fil-A Kale Crunch Salad
If anyone has doubts about the pervasiveness of kale in our diets, they should look no further than fast food restaurants. It’s a certain sign that a vegetable has locked itself into mainstream eating when you see it on the likes of menus such as Chick-fil-A.
Their bestselling salad contains green cabbage and kale with a maple syrup and cider dressing, and a package of slivered almonds, and it has met with a groundswell of fandom. Luckily for us, this salad is easily replicated as home — and I have to say, wow, this copycat Chik-fil-A kale crunch is a serious winner of a salad.
Kale Crunch Salad: A serious winner of a salad, with kale, Napa cabbage, hulled pumpkin seeds, and an addicting dressing.Tweet This
For the Apple Dijon Dressing
- Extra-virgin olive oil – The important first ingredient for an emulsified dressing is always some good-quality olive oil.
- Apple cider vinegar – Starting off with an apple theme here. Use apple cider vinegar for the acid base of this dressing.
- Apple juice or cider – This makes this salad dressing sweeter and counteracts the bitterness of the kale. Don’t skip it!
- Maple syrup – Another essential sweetener that also screams Fall.
- Dijon mustard – Dijon will make your dressing even creamier and adds some spice to the mix.
- Garlic – Finely minced, please.
For the Kale Salad
- Kale – Strip your kale of all thick stems before cooking with it. (If you need a refresher on how to prepare kale, check out How to Cook With Kale.)
- Napa cabbage – My version of this salad uses napa cabbage, which I find lighter and more lettuce-y than regular cabbage
- Almonds or pepitas – While almonds are certainly an option, if there are allergies in your house (as there are in mine), then pepitas, or (hulled pumpkin seeds) are a terrific option, providing the crunch in the promise of the salad.
- Parmesan cheese – Adding a handful of grated Parmesan at the end is optional, but it makes the salad as far as I’m concerned.
- Apple – It’s your choice what kind of apple you opt for, but I like the red varieties for a pop of color. Core and dice it before using, of course.
- Chopped dried fruit – Cranberries and cherries also provide that pop of color and a chewy, sweet-tartness.
How to Make Kale Crunch Salad
- Make the dressing: Combine the extra-virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, apple cider or juice, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Pour dressing on kale: Place the kale in a mixing or serving bowl and pour over the dressing.
- Toss and massage: Using your hands, toss the kale with the dressing and massage the kale as you do this so that the leaves soften and start to absorb the dressing.
- Add in cabbage and let sit: Let sit for a few minutes, then toss in the cabbage, combine well, and let sit for another 10 minutes.
- Add extra add-ins and serve: Then toss in the nuts or pepitas and any other add-ins you like, such as grated Parmesan. Serve.
Yes, it’s great! The trick to making sure that this bitter green goes down easily is to cut it into thinner, easily-biteable pieces. Then, pair the greens with a dressing that has a bit of sweetness and good olive oil, like the apple-infused one in this recipe. Massaging the kale a bit in the dressing softens the kale and makes it easier to chew and swallow as well.
In terms of nutrition, kale beats lettuce by a mile. Kale is rich in calcium, iron, fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C (via Mayo Clinic). Lettuce simply can’t compete with the health benefits of kale!
What to Serve With Kale Crunch Salad
More Kale Salad Recipes
- Romaine, Kale, and Broccoli Salad
- Kale, Cabbage, and Mint Salad with Peanut Dressing
- Kale Quinoa Salad with Honey, Lemon, and Dijon Dressing
- Mixed Green Salad with Creamy Sesame Dressing
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Kale Crunch Salad
For the Apple Dijon Dressing:
For the Kale Salad:
- 3 cups roughly chopped kale (stripped of any thick stems)
- 2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
- ½ cup toasted almonds or pepitas
- ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan (optional, but recommended)
- 1 apple (your choice) (cored and diced)
- ½ cup dried cranberries (or cherries, or other chopped dried fruit)
- Make the dressing: In a small container or bowl, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, apple cider or juice, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Place the kale in a mixing or serving bowl and pour over the dressing. Using your hands, toss and kale with the dressing and massage the kale as you do this so that the leaves soften and start to absorb the dressing. Let sit for a few minutes, then toss in the cabbage, combine well, and let sit for another 10 minutes.
- Then toss in the nuts or pepitas, the Parmesan if using, and any other add-ins you like. Serve.
- My version of this salad uses napa cabbage, which I find lighter and more lettuce-y than regular cabbage.
- While almonds are certainly an option, if there are allergies in your house (as there are in mine) then pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) are a terrific option, providing the crunch in the promise of the salad.