Chopped Kale Salad with Cranberries is tossed in a delightful maple and orange vinaigrette and then topped with toasted pecans, pumpkin seeds, onions and goat cheese. It makes a wonderful Christmas and Thanksgiving salad recipe that is full of Fall and Winter flavors!
Chopped Kale Salad with Cranberries for Thanksgiving!
One of my all-time favorite things to do is to take common flavor combinations and implement them in a completely different recipe. This chopped kale salad with cranberries is the perfect example of this!
Instead of making a sweet cranberry orange sauce or cranberry and orange muffins, why not toss those tart and sweet flavors into a nutritious kale salad recipe.
Not only is this chopped kale salad with cranberries and an orange vinaigrette super nutritious for you, but it is also loaded with Fall and Winter flavors that make it a pretty impressive Christmas and Thanksgiving salad recipe.
So without further ado, let’s dive into how to prepare kale for salad, how to make a maple orange vinaigrette dressing, the best way to make this Thanksgiving salad recipe in advance, and what to eat with kale salad.
Kale Salad Honesty
Let me be completely honest with you here…
I DESPISED kale. For a VERY long time. Like until a few years ago when my MIL made this Confetti Kale Salad.
The bar was set low and I thought I would take a few bites, swallow, and need to fight back the urge to make a face.
But instead, I was pleasantly surprised and not only tolerated the chopped kale salad, but actually enjoyed it! Do you want to know the trick?
She chopped up the kale into small, bite-sized pieces and let the dressing sit on the kale for a bit. What resulted was a super tender, not bitter, and completely edible kale salad.
So while my taste buds have definitely expanded over the past few years, I still 1000% suggest finely chopping your kale before turning it into a delicious kale with cranberries salad recipe.
How to Prepare Kale for Salad
As mentioned previously, the best way to prepare kale for salad is to chop it. These are the steps you should follow when preparing kale for salad:
- Buy the large bunches of organic kale, not the boxed and washed kind. I promise, it tastes SO much better and will not make you gag!
- Rinse and dry your kale thoroughly.
- Cut the large, fibrous stems off the kale leaves by making a v-shaped cut. Don’t be too shy here. If it feels thick to you, imagine what it would taste like!
- Once the large fibrous stems of kale have been removed, carefully chop the kale with a sharp knife. Notice I say CAREFULLY here. I have cut my thumb twice in the past few years and both times were while chopping kale and not paying attention.
- Refrigerate your kale until ready to make into a tasty kale salad recipe. Make sure you do not chop your kale more than 24 hours in advance to prevent it from turning brown.
How to Make a Maple Orange Vinaigrette
Making homemade salad dressings is one of the easiest ways to make your Christmas or Thanksgiving salad recipe really stand out. You can make the orange vinaigrette a few days in advance, store in the refrigerator, and then pull it out when you are ready to mix up your cranberry kale salad.
Much like many other vinaigrette dressing recipes, these are the key ingredients in this Maple Orange Vinaigrette:
- Oil – we use a good olive oil in this orange vinaigrette, but feel free to use avocado oil, too!
- Vinegar – apple cider vinegar has a touch of sweetness and a good bit of acidity that will help balance out the sweetness from the maple syrup.
- Sweet – maple syrup is the conveyor of sweetness and compliments the orange perfectly.
- Flavor – Orange juice and orange zest combine to give the majority of the flavor to this orange vinaigrette recipe. It also adds a touch of sweetness, a bit of acidity, and a burst of freshness!
London’s Tip #1: Add a bit of lemon, lime, or orange zest to give citrus salad dressings that extra zing of freshness!
Once you have all of your maple orange vinaigrette ingredients, place them in a small food processor (my preference!) or small blender (like a Nutribullet) and blend until completely smooth and the vinaigrette begins to thicken.
London’s Tip #2: If you store your maple orange vinaigrette in the refrigerator before you make your kale salad, you will want to let it come to room temperature, pop it in the processor, and blend it until smooth again.
Thanksgiving Salad Recipe in Advance
We all know that Thanksgiving Day can be completely bonkers and the last thing you want to have to remember is to make your maple orange vinaigrette enough in advance to let the kale sit with it for 10 minutes.
So my advice to you… prep a lot of this kale salad with cranberries a day in advance and have it ready to go when the Thanksgiving salad recipe is needed!
- Chop your kale up to 24 hours in advance. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
London’s Tip #3: Your refrigerator might be bursting with food during this time, so place the chopped kale in a gallon-sized zip-top bag with a paper towel in it to save on space!
- Make the maple orange vinaigrette up to 3 days in advance. Store in the refrigerator and pop it in the processor or blender for a minute before using.
- Toast the pecans up to a few days in advance. Store them in a ziplock back at room temperature. (If you place them in the refrigerator they will get soggy!
London’s Tip #4: Be sure to use a light-colored baking sheet to ensure the nuts do not burn.
- Measure out the pumpkin seeds and cranberries and add them to the pecan ziplock bag.
What To Eat with Kale Salad
This chopped kale salad with cranberries is perfect as a Christmas or Thanksgiving salad recipe, but it is also fabulous on a regular weeknight. But what should you eat with kale salad?
Here are a few of my favorite recipes to go alongside this chopped kale salad with cranberries:
- Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breast
- Stuffed Acorn Squash with Ground Turkey
- Maple Glazed Oven Baked Chicken Thighs and Veggies
- Or just add a bit of chicken or salmon and make it a meal on it’s own!
Kale Salad with Cranberries
Chopped Kale Salad with Cranberries is tossed in a delightful maple and orange vinaigrette and then topped with toasted pecans, pumpkin seeds, onions and goat cheese.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place coarsely chopped pecans on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in oven for 4-5 minutes, or until fragrant.*
Before serving combine the kale and maple-orange vinaigrette. Toss to completely coat the kale with the salad dressing and let sit for 10-20 minutes to soften the kale.
- Just before serving top with pecans, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, onions, and goat cheese (optional) in a large serving bowl and toss to combine.
*Be sure to use a light-colored baking sheet to ensure the nuts do not burn.
**Use a small blender or food processor for the best emulsification. Larger appliances will take longer to make a creamy vinaigrette.
***You can store leftover tossed kale salad for up to 24 hours, although the kale will begin to wilt slightly. It is best to keep the vinaigrette and kale separate if you would like to enjoy the salad for a few days.