This hearty, fall Kale Salad with Quinoa and Cranberries is made even better by massaging the kale which helps break down the tough cell structure and gives the raw kale a softer texture and gentler flavor.
Kale Salad with Quinoa and Cranberries
This salad is delicious as a meatless main dish, or a great addition to any holiday table. I often massage the kale with oil when I use it raw in salads like this simple Massaged Raw Kale Salad and in this Breakfast BLT Salad. Or for an easy side dish idea for kale, try this braised kale recipe.
This kale salad recipe is from my friend Serena Wolf’s new cookbook, The Dude Diet Dinnertime (affiliate link) which gives hungry dudes and their families drool-worthy dinners. Her book is filled with 125 clean-ish recipes like Super Sloppy Josés, Turkey Reuben Patty Melts, Chicago Dog Baked Potatoes and Chicken Parm Quinoa Bake.
For this salad, it’s easy to switch out ingredients in this salad if you prefer something else or don’t have one of the ingredients on hand. Don’t have dried cranberries? No problem! Swap them with whatever dried fruit you have in your pantry, like dried cherries, figs, or dates. For more fall salad ideas, try Spinach and Butternut Squash Salad with Gorgonzola or Leftover Turkey Harvest Cobb Salad.
This kale salad has great texture and is super hearty thanks to the quinoa and almonds, which add protein. To make it even more filling, you could add grilled chicken or salmon.
The dressing is a basic vinaigrette made more flavorful with the addition of garlic and shallots and a touch of sweetness from the maple.
Because kale is so hearty, it also makes a great meal-prep salad option. It won’t wilt like mixed greens would. Simply transfer it to four bowls and refrigerate for up to five days.
Which kale is best for salads?
Lacinato kale is the best type of kale for salads. It’s also known as dinosaur kale and Tuscan kale. Lacinato is more tender than curly kale, which is typically better in cooked dishes like pastas or soups.
How do you soften raw kale?
Massaging raw kale with dressing softens it. Just pour the dressing on the kale and start rubbing it into the leaves until the kale gets darker in color and more tender. Massaging is the most important step in prepping raw kale for a salad. You definitely don’t want to skip it!
This recipe is meant to be a road map for creating your perfect kale salad, so play with your favorite nuts, dried fruits, cheeses, and whole grains. Some ideas for different mix-ins are walnuts, pecans, dried cherries, dried dates, white cheddar, goat cheese, farro, and couscous.
You can also try curly kale, although it tastes slightly grassier than lacinato.
More Kale Salads You Will Love:
- Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Dried Cherries
- Chicken Kale Salad with Peanut Vinaigrette
- Harvest Kale Salad with Roasted Winter Squash
- Massaged Raw Kale Salad
- Breakfast BLT Salad
Kale Salad with Quinoa and Cranberries
For the dressing:
- 1 large garlic clove, grated or finely minced
- 1 small shallot, minced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, center ribs removed, leaves finely chopped
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
- Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl and set aside while you prep the kale. (This will soften the shallots and allow the flavors to get friendly).
- Add the chopped kale to the bowl with the dressing. Massage the kale in handfuls—literally rub the leaves between your fingers—for a minute or two, until the leaves soften and darken in color. (Yes, I know giving your salad a rubdown is a little weird, but it’s worth it. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.) Briefly set aside.
- Toast the almonds. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. (Do not put any oil in the pan!) Add the almonds to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan regularly, until golden brown and fragrant. Immediately transfer to a small bowl.
- Add the quinoa, along with half of the almonds and half of the cranberries to the kale and toss to combine.
- Transfer your salad to a serving platter or plates, top with the remaining almonds and cranberries, and sprinkle with the cheese.