Entertaining/ Side/ Vegetarian

Kale Salad with Cranberries

October 15, 2019
kale salad with cranberries, goat cheese, and hazelnuts with red wine vinaigrette and bowl of chopped hazelnuts

It’s been a minute since kale salads staged a takeover of restaurant menus everywhere, and perhaps you are over them. I hear you. But stay with me to find out why you may not want to ban kale from your dining table just yet. Kale was dubbed a superfood for good reason—it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, packing Vitamin C, Vitamin K, fiber, B vitamins and antioxidants into a single serving. And while you may laugh at all the kale-bashing out there (my favorite: “this kale salad tastes like I’d rather be fat”), I promise you that this Kale Salad with Cranberries is seriously delicious. 

To make this salad, you’ll start with a simple red wine vinaigrette that you will use to dress the greens. Once that has a chance to soak into the leaves, you’ll add hazelnuts that have been roasted, peeled, and chopped. This recipe gives me the opportunity to tell you about two of my favorite tips for working with kale and hazelnuts—neither are as intimidating as you might think. From there, you’ll add dried cranberries and crumbled goat cheese. Put it all together and you have a perfect fall lunch or colorful side for a roast chicken or turkey dinner.

Or, serve a big kale salad on your Thanksgiving table, and you won’t feel as guilty for indulging in several helpings of mashed potatoes. To me, the richness of traditional holiday foods can be overwhelming. Adding raw vegetables and the punch of an acidic vinaigrette complements the meal and brightens your table. And, this salad is vegetarian and gluten-free, so will please a variety of dinner guests.

How do you make Kale Salad with Cranberries?

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 Celsius). Put hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Toast nuts in the oven for 8-10 minutes—the skins will become quite dark, and you will begin to smell them toasting.

toasted hazelnuts on parchment paper

While nuts are toasting, make your vinaigrette. First whisk together red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and maple syrup. Then whisk in the olive oil. Whisk in salt and pepper. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. When hazelnuts are done, remove from oven, and pour them into a clean kitchen towel. Pull the sides of the towel up around the nuts so they are enclosed tightly in a ball at the bottom of the towel. Twist the top of the towel so none of the nuts will escape. Then rub the hazelnuts against each other through the towel—the friction will cause the skins to peel off. Open the towel and take out the hazelnuts. Magic!

peeled hazelnuts in kitchen towel

For any unpeeled nuts, you can try the towel trick again, or you can peel them with your fingers. Leave any stubborn peels on—remember, done is better than perfect. Roughly chop the hazelnuts. Now, prepare the kale. Rinse kale and pat dry. Then fold each kale leaf over on its center stalk, and slice the greens away from the stalk.

slicing kale leaves off the stalk

When you have done a few leaves, stack the greens on top of each other and slice in 1/2 inch slices. (Discard the stalks—they are too tough to ever soften up in a salad.)

You can also rip the kale leaves off their stalks and then rip into small pieces, but I think the knife technique is faster and results in more even, bite-sized pieces. Put the sliced kale into a large bowl and add a few tablespoons of vinaigrette. Use your hands to massage the dressing into the leaves—this will help tenderize the leaves. Add more dressing if you need more to coat the leaves. Otherwise, leave the rest for serving. Let kale sit for 5-10 minutes to let the leaves absorb the dressing and soften up. Then add dried cranberries and hazelnuts and toss. Dollop goat cheese over the top of the salad and serve with extra dressing. 

What are the health benefits of kale?

As mentioned above, kale is nutrient-dense. A single cup serving includes over 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A (from beta-carotene), vitamin K, and vitamin C. Believe it or not, a cup of kale contains more vitamin C than an orange! It also includes significant amounts of manganese, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B6. It’s low in calories but high in fiber. Kale also includes antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol, which are flavonoids that may have effects ranging from lowering blood pressure to fighting cancer and depression. 

What ingredients can I substitute with this kale salad recipe?

This kale salad recipe is very forgiving. You can substitute arugula or baby spinach for the kale, or substitute another kind of nuts for the hazelnuts. Sliced almonds or pecans would also be delicious. Replace dried cranberries with dried cherries or even chopped dried apricots. Many different dressings would also complement this salad, including my Apple Cider Vinegar Salad Dressing

Can kale salad be made ahead?

Yes, one of the advantages of a kale salad is that it holds up well even after you have added the salad dressing. If you want to make it in advance, you can dress the kale and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. Toast and prep the hazelnuts, but wait to toss them with the kale until you are ready to serve. I would also wait to add the cranberries and goat cheese until you are ready to serve. 

How long does Kale Salad with Cranberries last in the fridge?

Once it is dressed, kale will continue to soften up over time. However, raw kale is tough enough to begin with that having it sit overnight or longer in the refrigerator will not result in an unpleasant texture. Eat within 3 days, and if you’re able to store the kale separately from the cranberries, nuts, and goat cheese, your salad should taste just as good on Day 3! If you’ve already tossed it all together, you can still keep in the fridge for a few days, but you may lose some of the crunch of the hazelnuts. The cranberries may also turn your goat cheese pink where they are touching. 

If you enjoy this salad recipe, please check out some of my other delicious salads and salad dressings like these:

Looking for more holiday dishes or recipes for entertaining? Head on over to my Entertaining recipes section. 

two bowls of kale salad with cranberries, plus napkins and forks
Kale Salad with Cranberries

Kale Salad with Cranberries

Yield: Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Kale Salad with Cranberries combines chopped kale in a red wine vinaigrette with dried cranberries, toasted hazelnuts, and creamy goat cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. hazelnuts
  • 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1 t. dijon mustard
  • 1 t. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch curly kale (roughy 11oz or 310 g)
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 Celsius).
    2. Put hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
    3. Toast nuts in the oven for 8-10 minutes—the skins will become quite dark, and you will begin to smell them toasting.
    4. While nuts are toasting, make your vinaigrette. First whisk together red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and maple syrup. Then whisk in the olive oil. Whisk in salt and pepper. Taste and add more seasoning if needed.
    5. When hazelnuts are done, remove from oven, and pour them into a clean kitchen towel. Pull the sides of the towel up around the nuts so they are enclosed tightly in a ball at the bottom of the towel. Twist the top of the towel so none of the nuts will escape. Then rub the hazelnuts against each other through the towel—the friction will cause the skins to peel off. Open the towel and take out the hazelnuts.
    6. If there are unpeeled nuts, you can try the towel trick again, or you can peel them with your fingers. Any stubborn peels can be left on.
    7. Roughly chop the hazelnuts.
    8. Now, prepare the kale. Rinse kale and pat dry. Then fold each kale leaf over on its center stalk, and slice the greens away from the stalk.
    9. When you have done a few leaves, stack the greens on top of each other and slice into 1/2 inch chunks. (Discard the stalks—they are too tough to every soften up in a salad.)
    10. Put the sliced kale into a large bowl and add a few tablespoons of vinaigrette. Use your hands to massage the dressing into the leaves—this will help tenderize the leaves. Add more dressing if you need more to coat the leaves. Otherwise, leave the rest for serving.
    11. Let kale sit for 5-10 minutes to let the leaves absorb the dressing and soften up.
    12. Then add dried cranberries and hazelnuts and toss.
    13. Dollop goat cheese over the top of the salad and serve.

Notes

To prepare the kale, you can also rip the kale leaves off their stalks and then rip into small pieces, but I think the knife technique is faster and results in more even pieces.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 391 Total Fat: 31g Saturated Fat: 8g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 22g Cholesterol: 19mg Sodium: 529mg Carbohydrates: 23g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 17g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 9g
Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.

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  • Alexandra @ It's Not Complicated Recipes
    October 16, 2019 at 9:09 am

    I absolutely love kale! This is my kind of salad. I love the colours with the cranberries too – a great festive dish!

    • Chef Molly
      October 17, 2019 at 9:04 am

      Yes, I love it for a holiday meal!