Kale Salad with Quinoa and Cranberries

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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.

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.

Massaged kale

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!

Variations

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.

The dressing is a basic vinaigrette made more flavorful with the addition of garlic and shallots and a touch of sweetness from the maple.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.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. #kalesalad #kale #skinnytaste #massagedkaleThis 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.

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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.
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4.77 from 26 votes
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Kale Salad with Quinoa and Cranberries

7
7
5
SP
226 Cals 6 Protein 27 Carbs 11 Fats
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Yield: 4 servings
COURSE: Dinner, Salad, Side Dish
CUISINE: American
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.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

YOU DO YOU: 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. You can also try curly kale, although it tastes slightly more grassy than lacinato.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of salad, Calories: 226kcal, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 1.5g, Cholesterol: 2mg, Sodium: 149mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g
Blue Smart Points: 7
Green Smart Points: 7
Purple Smart Points: 5
Points +: 6
Keywords: kale salad, kale salad with cranberries, kale salad with quinoa

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50 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this salad!! I didn’t have quinoa but I had everything else (although I had baby kale from Trader Joe’s instead of the kale mentioned in the recipe). It came out absolutely delicious. Just a touch of sweet but not too overpowering. Will absolutely be making this again!! 

  2. I loved this salad! I added green apple, blue cheese, and avocado. Will definitely make this again!

  3. I am usually not a kale person but this salad was amazing! I made it for lunches and never got sick of it. Can’t wait to try again with different additions.

  4. Really liked this. Perhaps a bit too much acid for my taste, but easily remedied by reducing the lemon juice a bit. I blended the dressing briefly because I don’t like tasting chunks of raw garlic or shallots. Will definitely make again. 

  5. I have never heard of massaging kale, I am intrigued and curious, if there are any negative effects to doing this well in advanced? Was looking for recipes ideas for lunch. So would prep in the evening for the next day. Thanks!

  6. I have tried several kale salads. This one is the BEST… absolutely perfect combination of ingredients! Thank you so much for sharing😄

  7. I guess some people didn’t actually read this post, where it clearly says this is a road map to your perfect kale salad. Why some people get on here and write negative reviews is beyond me. Anyway, I thought it was great. I added a little honey to the dressing per my taste and topped with pomegranate arils. I could definitely picture some sliced apples, salmon, or chicken on this salad. Thank you for the recipe.

  8. Would adding shrimp work with this salad? I want to tie it into the Feast of the Seven Fishes this Christmas but don’t know how the flavors will all work.

  9. I would love to know which Skinny Taste Cookbook this recipe is from.  It’s a delicious tasting recipe.  Thank you!

  10. First time making this recipe and I did it during a Zoom Cooking Class that I was teaching with some of my coworkers. All I have to say is MASSAGE THAT KALE! Wow, and to think I almost skipped this step. Love how versatile this recipe can be. Will try with goat cheese, as mentioned above, next time. Thank you, Gina!

  11. Awesome fall salad! I used blue cheese instead of parmesean and it was a nice sharp, salty addition. Will add some chicken to it next time!

  12. perfect! even my kids and husband liked this kale salad!

  13. Awesome. Tastes so good.

  14. Made this for lunches this week. Fair warning pack gum as you may lose a friend after eating the dressing lol. It was delicious and filling. Would make this again.

  15. I routinely make this kale salad.  The flavors the lemon brings, the dried cranberries, the crunch of almonds makes it so yummy.  I even added shredded Brussel sprouts when my kale was not as much as needed.

  16. I wonder why my review didn’t get published? Because I didn’t like the salad? It was just okay. I won’t be making it again. It was lackluster and needs something to give it oomph.

  17. It was okay. I added more roasted root vegetables to give it more oomph. That helped. It definitely needs more flavors to carry it from okay to “oomph.” I probably won’t be making this again, but there’s nothing “wrong” with it. Just not that great.

  18. I made this for the Thanksgiving salad (doubling the recipe), and on the way out the door, I overheard someone say, “The food was so good this year, even the Salad was amazing!” People even took it home as part of their Thanksgiving leftovers. I would definitely classify this autumnal salad as a hit!

  19. This has been one of my go-to salads this holiday season!! It’s so delicious, hearty yet healthy. And it holds up to time and you can make ahead and mix in the nuts later. Soooo good, thank you GINA!!! Love this!

  20. This was so so so good!  I tasted it while mixing it all together and had to stop myself from eating a full serving!  I used onion instead of shallot and just lemon juice instead of fresh squeezed.

  21. I’m honestly surprised how delicious this turned out. I skipped the almonds and it was still yummy.

  22. So I’m trying to do meals that my daughter and I can eat around 6 and my husband can eat whenever he gets home. Since that can be anywhere from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., it’s difficult. The later he is, the less he wants to heat something up and I’m tired of washing the slow cooker…
    I bought a rotisserie chicken and made this salad. It was delicious and so easy.
    Thank you Gina for saving so many of us! Especially those of us who had never cooked in their lives before finding you!!!

  23. I made this salad to add to our Thanksgiving table, and wow was it a hit! I used baby kale because that’s what my local a Trader Joe’s had available and it worked out perfectly! I will definitely be making this again. thanks for such a great recipe! 

  24. If I want to travel with this and serve for thanksgiving, should I make all components and mix/massage/dress at my destination? Can I reheat quinoa to take the chill off and warm up the salad a bit? thanks!

  25. I really enjoyed the ingenuity of this salad! As my father is allergic to cranberries, I substituted them for dried cherries and fresh strawberries. The fruit is a pop of sweetness and tartness, working in harmony with the quinoa and the kale. I also added some baby spinach to the salad as it is one of my favorite greens. As a whole, this is a great healthy recipe!

  26. What a delicious and beautiful Fall salad! I added baby spinach and quartered beets! Just wonderful. Another keeper recipe!

  27. This was a really good salad. I will be making this again & doubling to have lunch leftovers for the week!

  28. Hi! 
    This looks great to make for lunch! I’m wondering if this would work for meal prepping for the work week or if the kale would get soggy? Any tips?

    Thanks!

  29. Love this salad!!!  Really flavourful and keeps in the fridge for a few days – which is handy for a quick lunch.  Thanks Gina!

  30. Another winner Gina!  The flavors are so vibrant. I have been looking for a kale and quinoa salad. This is is!  Thank you!  As we begin this Thanksgiving week, grateful for all your effort to making lightened up recipes!  

  31. do you suggest refrigerating after assembling to make salad and quinoa cold or serve with quinoa warm? 

  32. I have tried for years to like kale, but i never really succeeded .  But this salad…wow!  Maybe it was massaging the leaves, I don’t know…but I loved it!  Thank you, Gina!

  33. Hi Gina, this looks great! Is it 7 points on the green, blue or purple program? With the new WW program I’m getting confused 🤪 Thank you! 

  34. Are your recipes updated to reflect the new WW program ? Green, Blue and Purple?

    • I am working on it.

    • She mentioned in her blog post with the weekly menu that her and her team are working on it. There are over 2,000 recipes that will need updated which will take lots of time and patience. To determine the points on the different plans you can enter the ingredients into your recipe builder on the app.

      Thank you Gina and the Skinnytaste team for all you do!

      • For a free website, you offer so much. I can tell that you enjoy doing what you do, and that you want people to enjoy healthy eating. I appreciate all that you do on Skinny Taste! I have lost almost 30 lbs by cooking your delicious recipes and following WW. When I say cooking your recipes, I mean exclusively have I followed you. I love what you do, and you are one of my Thanksgiving blessings. 😊

      • YES! A true labor of love, and I am so happy to hear that!! Thank you!

  35. I Calculated’ the purple points for one serving to be 3. I love kale and I’m plan on picking some fresh kale from my garden today. Love love love your recipes!