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!

Thanksgiving salad recipe in a clear bowl with oranges, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds surrounding it.

 

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 saladhow 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 recipe in a clear bowl with wooden spoons.

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.

Chopped kale salad with cranberries, pecans, orange vinaigrette, and goat cheese in a clear serving bowl.

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.

Maple orange vinaigrette being poured over a chopped kale salad recipe in a clear bowl with wooden spoons.

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!

Cook’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.

Cook’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.

Oranges, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and pecans in clear bowls with a bunch of kale.

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!

  1. Chop your kale up to 24 hours in advance.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

    Cook’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!

  2. 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.
  3. Toast the pecans up to a few days in advance.  Store them in a ziplock bag at room temperature.  (If you place them in the refrigerator they will get soggy!)

    Cook’s Tip #4: Be sure to use a light-colored baking sheet to ensure the nuts do not burn. 

  4. Measure out the pumpkin seeds and cranberries and add them to the pecan ziplock bag.

Chopped kale salad with cranberries, pecans, and goat cheese in a Pyrex bowl on a grey background.

More Healthy Salad Recipes

Welcome in the warmer months with this delightful Spring Mix Salad, Fruit Cocktail, or Cucumber Tomato Salad.

Change up your normal salad routine with this Fig Salad and this Asian Cucumber Salad.

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:

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4.89 from 9 votes

Kale Salad with Cranberries

This chopped Kale Salad with Cranberries is tossed in a homemade maple orange vinaigrette and topped with toasted pecans, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese.
Yield 6 servings
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 5 minutes
Total 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 bunch kale finely chopped
  • ½ cup toasted pecans coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup cranberries dried
  • ¼ cup sweet onion finely chopped
  • 2 oz. goat cheese optional

Maple Orange Vinaigrette

  • 1 Tbsp. orange juice fresh
  • 1 Tbsp. orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup pure
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • tsp. salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • New! Get this recipe in Meal Plan #4

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 400℉.
  • Place coarsely chopped pecans on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in oven for 4-5 minutes, or until fragrant.*
  • Combine all maple orange vinaigrette ingredients in a 16-oz. mason jar and shake for 1-2 minutes, or until well combined. You can also make it in a mini food processor or high-speed blender.
  • 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 toasted pecans, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, onions, and goat cheese in a large serving bowl and toss to combine. 

Tap stars to rate!

4.89 from 9 votes

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 208kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 4mg, Sodium: 79mg, Potassium: 130mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 1055IU, Vitamin C: 17mg, Calcium: 42mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Comments

    1. Yay! So happy you enjoyed it, Cass! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review and rating 🙂

  1. 5 stars
    I made this delicious salad this evening for dinner. I made it the star of the show with a side of a baked sweet potato and diced cornish hen from last night’s dinner. Sooo good! Hubby enjoyed it too! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Oh that’s awesome!! This salad definitely deserves center stage lol. So happy you and the hubby enjoyed it so much – thanks for your comment and rating 🙂

  2. I washed my kale, put it in between towels to dry and left it too long. My kale is a bit limpy. I have already cut them. Can I get them crispier? Never made a kale salad before.

    1. Hi Jean! If you have a salad spinner I would try throwing it in that. Otherwise, just enjoy the salad within 24 hours! The taste should not be affected at all. Thanks for your question!

  3. 5 stars
    OMG this salad looks amazing, and I fully plan on enjoying for Thanksgiving!! Love healthier and tasty salads like this!