A healthy, fall Kale Salad with Chicken made with roasted butternut squash, apples, pecans, and goat cheese with a maple-Dijon vinaigrette.
Fall Kale Salad with Chicken
This healthy fall chopped salad combines the warm flavors of fall in a light, crisp, and refreshing chopped salad. Rotisserie chicken is an easy protein, and the only cooking is roasting the butternut squash. And since kale is hearty and won’t wilt in the fridge, it’s a great make-ahead meal. More fall salad recipes you will love are this Harvest Kale Salad with Winter Squash, Fall Brussels Sprout Salad with Apples, and Turkey Harvest Cobb Salad.
Why This Chicken Kale Salad Works
- Delicious: This kale salad with chicken recipe combines many flavors and textures to produce a salad you’ll crave all autumn. Each component adds something different: tart craisins, crisp apples, creamy goat cheese, hearty kale, sweet butternut squash, juicy chicken, and crunchy pecans.
- High Protein: The chicken, nuts, butternut, and cheese provide protein, giving each serving 30 grams.
- Healthy: Besides the significant amount of protein, this salad packs in a variety of vitamins and minerals, thanks to all the fruits and veggies. Plus, it has 8.5 grams of fiber and only 504 calories.
- Gluten-Free: If you’re gluten-free, don’t miss this salad! All the ingredients naturally don’t have gluten.
- Make Ahead: Kale salad is perfect for meal prep since it doesn’t get soggy. Make the salad once and enjoy it for lunches over the next few days.
Harvest Salad Ingredients
- Butternut Squash: Dice 12 ounces of butternut into half-inch cubes. To save time, buy prechopped squash at the supermarket.
- Olive Oil to drizzle on the squash before roasting
- Fall Kale Salad Vinaigrette: Olive oil, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard
- Kale: You’ll need five cups of shredded kale.
- Apple: My favorite apples for kale salads are crisp, sweet ones, like Honeycrisp or Pink Lady. Cut the apple right before serving.
- Pecans: Toast and chop a third cup of pecans.
- Dried Fruit: Use dried cranberries (craisins) or golden raisins.
- Chicken: Buy a rotisserie chicken and dice the breast meat. If you have leftover chicken or want to cook your own chicken, go for it.
- Goat Cheese: Sprinkle two ounces of goat cheese over the salad.
How to Make Kale Salad with Chicken
- Butternut Squash: Toss the squash with a teaspoon of oil, half a teaspoon of kosher salt, and an eighth teaspoon of black pepper. Spread it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes at 400°F.
- Massage the Kale: Drizzle the kale with a teaspoon of olive oil and massage it for about three minutes to tenderize it.
- Apple Cider Vinaigrette: Whisk the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and remaining salt, and pepper. Gradually pour in olive oil, whisking until incorporated.
- Assemble the Salads: Divide the massaged kale into four bowls. Top with a quarter of the roasted butternut, diced apple, pecans, craisins, chicken, and goat cheese. Finish each salad with 1 ½ tablespoons.
- Squash: Swap butternut squash for sweet potato or acorn squash.
- Protein: Switch out the chicken with salmon or deli turkey.
- Cheese: Substitute goat cheese for feta or blue cheese.
- Dairy-Free: Omit the goat cheese.
- Apple: Swap the apple with a pear.
- Dried Fruit: Sub apricots, dates, or currants.
- Nuts: Use walnuts or almonds instead of pecans.
- Vinegar: Switch out apple cider vinegar for balsamic or white vinegar.
- Sweetener: Replace maple with honey or agave.
Best Type of Kale for Salads
The main two types of kale are lacinato kale (also called dinosaur or Tuscan kale) and curly kale. Since lacinato is more tender, it’s better for salads.
Massaging Kale for Salad
Massaging kale for salads is essential! It breaks down the tough leaves, making them much more palatable. Just pour a little oil or dressing over the kale and massage it for a few minutes until it becomes darker green and softer.
Does kale get soggy in dressing?
Kale is a hearty leafy green for salads that doesn’t get soggy when coated in dressing. It actually gets more tender the longer it sits in the dressing, making it perfect for meal prep or serving at parties.
How to Meal Prep Kale Salad
This easy kale salad with chicken will last up to four days if you make the salad the same day you buy the rotisserie chicken. Cooked chicken only lasts four days in the refrigerator, so if your chicken is older, eat the salad sooner. For the freshest salad, store it in airtight containers and wait to add the pecans and apples until right before eating.
More Kale Salad Recipes You’ll Love
- Kale and Butternut Squash Salad with Pears and Almonds
- Kale Salad with Quinoa and Cranberries
- Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato, Dried Cherries, Feta, & Pepitas
- Quinoa Salad with Kale, Cranberries and Mint
- Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Parmesan and Pecans
Fall Kale Salad with Chicken
- 12 ounces diced butternut squash, 1/2 inch dice
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 5 cups shredded kale, I like lacinato kale
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 medium apple, such as Honeycrisp or Pink Lady
- 1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- 1/4 cup unsweetened craisins or golden raisins
- 2 cups diced rotisserie chicken breast
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Toss the butternut with 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the kale with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Massage the oil into the kale to help tenderize it, about 3 minutes.
- To make the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar, syrup, and mustard with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. While you whisk, gradually stream in remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and whisk until incorporated.
- Just before serving, cut the apple into roughly ½-inch dice.
- To assemble the salad, divide the prepped kale among 4 bowls. Top with the roasted butternut, diced apple, pecans, craisins, chicken, and crumbled goat cheese.
- Drizzle vinaigrette over the entire bowl, about 1 1/2 tablespoons each.