Fall is the perfect time to enjoy leafy green salads packed with seasonal vegetables. This vegan kale salad is one of my favorites – it's easy to make, flavorful, and healthy. The recipe calls for crunchy apples, cranberries, and toasted pecans, making it a delicious and nutritious way to fuel your autumn adventures. Give it a try!
This fall kale salad is the perfect addition to your holiday nut roast, and pairs very well with heavier main dishes like a sweet potato apple crunch, a vegetable casserole, and gluten-free cornbread, and cornbread stuffing.
We always make big salads, and keep them dressing-free, so we can keep any leftovers in the refrigerator and add more fresh veggies when we are ready to eat them. Then we simply add this homemade salad dressing like our herby balsamic vinaigrette directly to the serving plates.
This kale spinach salad calls for staple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.
For the Maple Balsamic vinaigrette:
- extra virgin olive oil
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- pure maple syrup
- Dijon mustard
- apple cider vinegar
- balsamic vinegar
- garlic powder
For the Kale Spinach Salad:
- raw kale, stripped of any thick stems
- baby spinach
- red apple
- Raw pecans
- dried cranberries
Optional: extra-firm tofu to make a complete meal instead of a side dish. You can also have it with a grilled tofu marinade or crispy tofu cubes.
To make this kale crunch salad recipe, start by toasting the measuring your ingredients.
Set the raw pecan in a skillet until lightly toasted
Finely slice the red apple
Make the apple cider vinaigrette by mixing all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or a mason jar.
Give the citrus-balsamic vinaigrette a good stir.
Massage kale leaves in a large mixing bowl; Then add half of the dressing for it to absorb the flavors.
Add the spinach, sliced apples, dried cranberries, and the rest of the dressing. Toss the toasted pecans on top and any other toppings.
Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste, although not necessary.
Hint: save two tablespoons of the dressing if you plan to grill the extra firm tofu for your meal. Add it to the skillet on medium-high heat and stir-fry for two minutes on each side until lightly brown.
One of the beauties of this salad is its versatility; here are some proven and tried substitutions.
- Curly kale - instead of chopped kale, use lacinato kale (dinosaur kale) or other leafy greens such as chopped Swiss Chard, shredded green cabbage, red cabbage, or even shredded Brussels sprouts.
- Pecans - use walnuts, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), slivered almonds, or toasted almonds. You can also use brown sugar candied nuts.
- Dried cranberries - instead, you can use dried cherries, raisins, or sultanas.
- Red apple - use any kind of apples, strawberries, pears, or fresh peaches.
- Mustard - replace for dijon mustard to make an apple dijon dressing.
- Garlic powder - use one minced fresh garlic instead.
- Lemon juice - feel free to replace it with lime juice to make this citrus balsamic vinaigrette.
- Maple syrup - instead, you can use agave syrup, homemade date paste, or vegan honey (affiliate link).
- Spicy - add cayenne pepper to the dressing to imbue heat into the vinaigrette, red chili flakes, or more freshly ground pepper.
- Extra flavor - add a slice of finely chopped red onion or shallot to the dressing, just like we do on our go-to homemade vinaigrette.
- Deluxe - add avocado slices, gluten-free croutons, or crispy onions.
- More antioxidants - add freshly shredded avocado, flax, sesame, or sunflower seeds.
- Orange balsamic dressing - use the juice of half an orange instead of lemon.
- Basil balsamic vinaigrette - add a teaspoon of dried basil or vegan basil pesto.
To make this crunch kale salad nut-free, avoid adding pecan nuts or any other nuts to your salad bowl.
For this balsamic maple dressing, we find it super helpful to use a lemon press (affiliate link) whenever we use lemon or lime juice in a recipe.
If you have this kale crunch salad with tofu, make sure you use a non-stick skillet for the best results.
This fall kale salad is best consumed fresh since the kale and spinach will wilt after coming in contact with the maple mustard dressing.
Also, the toasted pecans will become mushy after a couple of hours.
Store this maple balsamic vinaigrette recipe leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than two days.
If you plan to make this salad ahead for your Fall Holidays, Thanksgiving, or Christmas Holidays, we recommend making the dressing before and adding it to the salad a couple of minutes before serving.
The maple vinaigrette ingredients and salad recipes generally don't stand up well to freezing.
The key to balance in a salad dressing is to keep the oil-vinegar proportions 3 to 1. If you don't have one of the suggested kinds of vinegar, you can simply double the quantity of the one you have.
🥬 More kale recipes
Kale is a big deal; it is considered a superfood, given its vast benefits, so we try to use this friend in as many recipes as possible, such as our simple green juice, post-workout smoothie, and making crispy kale as a healthy snack.
We even make kale pesto or a strawberry dressing to toss into our pasta, vegan poke bowls, or tofu scramble.
If you try this kale apple cranberry salad, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don't forget to tag a photo #ourplantbasedworld on Instagram. Cheers!
Vegan Kale Salad (The Best Fall Kale Crunch Salad)
For the Apple Mustard Dressing yields ½ cup
- 3 tablespoons olive oil extra-virgin
- 1 tablespoon lemon juiced, about half lime
- 1 tablespoons maple syrup or agave syrup
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ½ apple cider vinegar
- ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
For the Kale Salad
- 4 cups kale roughly chopped , stripped thick stems
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 red apple cored and sliced
- ½ cup pecans toasted, or almonds, walnuts
- ½ cup cranberries dried, cherries, or other chopped dried fruit
- 4 slices extra-firm tofu stir-fried in 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. 5 mins cook, 2 on each side
- ½ cup pepitas pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup vegan parmesan cheese
- sesame seeds white
- lettuce for extra crunch
- Toast the pecans: in medium heat for a couple of minutes until fragrant; remove from heat.
- Make the salad dressing: in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lime juice, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Place the kale in a serving bowl and massage the kale to make it tender, then add the spinach and pour over the dressing. Let the salad sit for a few minutes, then toss in the toasted pecans and cranberries and any other add ins you like. Serve.
- Optional stir-fry tofu: if adding tofu to your salad. Cut your firm tofu into large slices, then add one tablespoon of dressing into a skillet on medium-high heat for each tofu slice. Stir fry on each side for 2 ½ minutes, a total time 5 of minutes.
🌡️ Food safety
We sometimes take for granted that we have years (or decades) of cooking experience that the average visitor may not. Add to, or remove from, the list below with health and safety tips.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
Totally delicious salad! We are going to use the dressing over and over because it's so versatile!
Gina Abernathy says
You had me at kale.. Fall is around the corner and that means planting more kale in the garden. Always grow it alongside the turnips and collards.
What a fabulous looking and sounding salad. My family would love this.
The BEST! Honestly, kale is one of my least favourite vegetables, but you guys made it very nice indeed! I loved the combo of balsamic and Dijon in the dressing! And wow, cranberries in a salad are my new favourite thing!
Hey Ieva, thank you very much for your review. It makes us really happy that we elevated Kale although it is not your favorite. IT is all about having the right dressing and combining it with tasty ingredients! 🙂
This salad is so perfect for fall! Love that the dressing is so simple to throw together but packs so much flavor - it makes it feel really fancy even though it comes together so quickly!
love this kale salad! I've been trying to find more balsamic dressing recipes, and this one is absolutely incredible! Super easy to make, and the perfect healthy lunch!
The maple blassamic dressing was really tasty. Great salad!
This is such a fantastic salad! The dressing is so flavorful and we love the sweetness from the maple. So yummy!
Hi Amy, we are glad you enjoyed this salad. Maple gives it a deliciously sweet note that, combined with the dijon mustard and balsamic, is hard to resist!
Claudia Lamascolo says
A great addition to my diet and salads as this is different and I am tired of the same old thing cant wait to try this
Shadi Hasanzade says
It looks so delicious and easy!This is such an easy and delicious recipe, I cannot wait to make it again!
One of my favorite salads! I love using kale every time I can, so this recipe is perfect!
Jacqueline Meldrum says
You are so right. Kale needs to be massaged to soften it and I love that dressing. Just yum!
Totally! It makes a big difference in texture and also makes it able to absorb all those maple dressing flavors!