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Kale Salad with Apples and Roasted Butternut Squash

Kale Apple and Butternut Salad in a white serving bowl
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Winter Kale Salad with Apples and Roasted Butternut Squash is as lovely as it is delicious. Pops of white, red, purple and orange create a beautiful display against the leafy greens. It will be the most delicious centerpiece of any dinner table. And friends, if salad can be comfort food (Pssst … it can!), THIS salad definitely is!

This delectable salad makes use of produce that’s readily available in the winter months. The recipe has a well-balanced combination of textures. Lightly caramelized and tender butternut squash, crisp apple slices and crunchy pecans rest on a bed of torn kale and slivered red onion. My winter kale salad really IS the whole package — flavor, texture and beauty.

Kale and Apple Salad is a refreshing and nourishing side alongside chicken, pork or beef dishes. You could even add protein in the form of meat or beans to create a salad that becomes a hearty meal, if you prefer.

It’s naturally gluten and dairy free and contains no refined sugars.

Additionally, all that delicious produce is dressed up with a tart-sweet lemon poppy seed vinaigrette which is a perfect complement to this easy winter kale salad. It’s lightly sweet and acidic flavors balance any rich or heavy dishes elsewhere in your meal.

Enjoy my Kale Salad with Apples recipe, my friend. “Good for you” can be absolutely delicious!

Kale Butternut and Apple Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Vinaigrette

It’s Winter. Why Salad?

Why not? What is it about salads? I LOVE them so much! I could live on truly excellent salads and homemade bread and be happy all the rest of my days.

And I’m not talking about a handful of iceberg lettuce with some salad dressing. (Though I love iceberg and it does have its place.) I mean a salad loaded with the best in seasonal greens, vegetables and fruit. A salad that is beautiful and studded with ingredients that have different textures and a variety of flavors. A salad that makes you feel nourished, restored and satisfied.

A bed of greens and veggies is the perfect place to add eggs, fruit, nuts, meat and cheese, too. (And don’t forget the crusty bread or some homemade croutons!) Truly good salads can be a whole meal. The very best of good salads are the ones you want to eat again and again.

Kale Butternut and Apple Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Vinaigrette

When my kids, (who now have kids of their own), were small, I used to say, “Let’s make a lovely salad.” And they knew exactly what I meant. It was going to have EVERYTHING in it. And, it was going to be delicious. Now, I make “lovely salads” with my grandkids. It’s a good family tradition to pass along.

Winter Kale Salad with Apples and Butternut Squash is definitely a “lovely salad”. While the ingredients may not seem like a common pairing at first glance, your mind will be blown when you taste this delicious dish. Let’s take a look at what’s in it.

The Ingredients

Fresh Kale: I like to buy it by the bunch. I find that the already cut and bagged kale at the store is rarely prepared properly, is loaded with the tough woody stem pieces and has dried out terribly. Buy fresh kale, by the bunch, and you’ll never be disappointed. It’s easy to prep. I’ll show you how, below.

fresh kale leaves in a glass of water

Frozen Butternut Squash: This is a convenience item for me. I can buy it in 10 oz. bags in the freezer section at my local store. It saves me having to peel, seed and cube a butternut squash. You can do the same thing with fresh butternut squash if you like. The cooking time will just be longer than with the frozen. 2 cups of fresh squash cubes will be plenty, if you decide to substitute.

Honey Crisp (or Gala) Apple: I love these two because they are crisp varieties and have a good balance of sweet and tart in their flavor. Any of your favorite eating apples will work.

Red Onion: You won’t need much. Just one very thin slice you can separate into rings.

Pecans: Nuts are great crunch and texture in a salad. Plus, they add protein and healthy fats, which help you feel full longer. I chose pecans because they’re my favorite. Use what you like best.

Avocado Oil and salt & pepper : A Tablespoon of oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to toss the squash in is all you’ll need to get the squash roasted to perfection.

Dressing: Use any of your favorite salad dressings for this yummy Kale and Apple Salad, but I highly recommend my simple Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette. It’s bright and citrus-y and pairs beautifully with the salad ingredients. The recipe is included in the card, below.

How to Prepare Kale for Making Salad

Kale is a hearty dark green that stands up to cooking better than any other I can think of. It also makes delicious salads if you prep it correctly. Plus the earthy flavor can accommodate heavier seasonings and accompaniments.

When not properly stored or prepared, raw kale can be rough and dry. Sometimes, people don’t realize how unpleasant the thick stems can be and often make the mistake of chopping them into their salads or recipes right along with the leaves.

That won’t be you, though. You’re going to know all the best practices now and will always be able to enjoy your kale at its fresh best.

removing kale leaves from the stems

When you bring fresh kale home, cut 1 to 2 inches off the bottom of the stems and then place them in a glass or container of cold water, just like you would with a bouquet of flowers. They will keep and be at their fresh best about three or 4 days in the water (changing out the water each day). The water hydrates the leaves and makes them crunchy and firm.

To prep the kale for salad, tear the leafy greens off the stems. If you start at the top and pull downward, the greens will easily come away from the stem. I toss the stems in my vegetable stock freezer bag and use the leafy greens in recipes.

For this recipe, I want the kale in bite-size pieces. So, I tear the greens into the size I want. I avoid cutting any variety of greens with a knife as that tends to cause browning of the edges quicker.

Kale FAQs

Do I Need to Massage Kale?

The short answer is no. If you are going to be using giant pieces of kale in a recipe then it might make sense. It will break down the cellulose in the leaves and make them more tender. However if you are tearing your kale into small pieces or chopping it, it is completely unnecessary.

You may have heard someone talk about “massaging” kale. They use salt and oil or citrus juice to literally massage the leaves and make them softer. This is NOT my personal preference as it yields an almost “wilted greens” texture. I prefer crisp and crunchy, well hydrated kale in my salad. You choose what you and your family like best.

Once your kale is removed from the stems, torn into bite-size pieces it’s ready for making Winter Kale Salad with Apples and Butternut Squash. The kale is not massaged and it. is. scrumptious. The acid in the lemon poppy seed dressing tenderizes the leaves without any need for massaging.

How to Serve Kale Salad with Apples

We love Kale Salad with Apples and Butternut Squash alongside juicy and succulent Air Fryer Cornish Hens with crispy skin and roasted veggies.

It’s perfection as a light refreshing side dish for Easy Crock Pot Cube Steak.

Kale salad is also a lovely side for Lentils and Rice Casserole. Substitute vegetable broth for chicken to make the casserole ingredients vegan and serve a filling and delicious vegan supper.

For a scrumptiously vegan Sunday dinner or holiday meal, pair this delicious Kale and Apple Salad with a delectable Vegetable Wellington from Angela at Divalicious Recipes.

Whichever of your favorite main courses you decide to pair it with this Kale Salad with Apples and Butternut Squash is sure to be a hit!

How to Make Winter Kale Salad with Apples and Roasted Butternut Squash

Roast the Butternut Squash

Start by preheating the oven to 425°. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. (This isn’t a necessity, but it makes cleaning the pan a breeze.)

Pour the frozen butternut squash cubes into a bowl and break apart any cubes that have stuck together. Pour the avocado oil over the squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss the cubes until they are all evenly coated and seasoned.

Pour the squash onto the prepared baking sheet, being careful that they are arranged in a single layer.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. The squash cubes should be tender when done and some of them will be brown and caramelized on the bottom.

Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack while you prep the rest of the salad.

Prep the Salad Ingredients

Remove the leafy greens of the kale from their stems and tear the greens into bite-sized pieces. Place the kale in a bowl.

Core a Honey Crisp or Gala apple. No need to peel it. The peels add beautiful color and vitamins. Cut the apple into thin slices about 1/8″ thick. Add the slices to the salad bowl.

Cut a thin slice of red onion. Like the apple, try to cut it not more than 1/8″ thick. Separate the slice into individual rings. If the rings are too large, simply break them into manageable strips and then, add them to the bowl.

Pour in the pecans and add the cooled butternut squash cubes.

Toss all the ingredients together to evenly distribute them throughout the dish.

Make the Vinaigrette

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together. I mix them right in my measuring cup.

Add 1/2 cup of the Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette to the salad bowl and toss the Winter Kale Salad to coat all the ingredients. The citrus will keep the apples from turning brown and soften the kale just enough to be the perfect texture. Alternatively, you can use a vinaigrette or dressing that you prefer.

You guys! You’re going to love this salad. Actually, I want to be EATING this salad while I’m typing and adding these pictures for you. It’s so good! It truly is a “lovely salad”. Enjoy!

The Recipe

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Kale Butternut and Apple Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Vinaigrette

Winter Kale Salad with Apples and Roasted Butternut Squash


  • Author: Glenda Embree
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Kale, apples, roasted butternut squash, pecans and red onions come together to create a beautiful dance of textures and flavors in this scrumptious comfort food salad.  Tossed with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing, it bursts with flavor that will keep you coming back for more.  So simple and so good!


Ingredients

Units Scale

For the Butternut Squash:

  • 1 (10 oz.) bag frozen butternut squash ( or 2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1” cubes )
  • 1 Tablespoon avocado oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the Salad:

  • 34 cups kale leaves, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small honey crisp (or gala) apple, cored and cut into thin slices
  • 1 thin slice red onion, separated into sticks
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup raw unfiltered honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • zest of 1 lemon

Instructions

For the Butternut Squash:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° and cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. (This isn’t a necessity, but it makes cleaning the pan a breeze.)
  2. Pour the frozen butternut squash cubes into a bowl and break apart any cubes that have stuck together. Pour the avocado oil over the squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss the cubes until they are all evenly coated and seasoned.
  3. Pour the squash onto the prepared baking sheet, being careful that they are arranged in a single layer.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. The squash cubes should be tender when done and some of them will be brown and caramelized on the bottom.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack while you prep the rest of the salad.

For the Salad:

  1. Remove the leafy greens of the kale from their stems and tear the greens into bite-sized pieces. Place the kale in a bowl.
  2. Core a Honey Crisp or Gala apple. No need to peel it. The peels add beautiful color and vitamins. Cut the apple into thin slices about ⅛” thick. Add the slices to the salad bowl.
  3. Cut a thin slice of red onion. Like the apple, try to cut it not more than ⅛” thick. Separate the slice into individual rings. If the rings are too large, simply break them into manageable strips and then, add them to the bowl.
  4. Pour in the pecans and add the cooled butternut squash cubes. 
  5. Toss all the ingredients together to evenly distribute them throughout the dish. 

For the Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette:

  1. Whisk all the Vinaigrette ingredients together until thoroughly blended. 
  2. Add ½ cup of the Lemon Poppy Seed Vinaigrette to the salad bowl and toss the Winter Kale Salad to coat all the ingredients. The citrus will keep the apples from turning brown and soften the kale just enough to be the perfect texture. (Alternatively, you can use a vinaigrette or dressing that you prefer.)
  3. Transfer to a nice serving dish and serve with the leftover dressing on the side.

 

Notes

This salad keeps in the fridge for about 48 hours.  It’s great in lunches and as a side for your favorite main dishes.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetables
  • Method: roasting
  • Cuisine: American

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glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

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