Fresh apples, crispy bacon, tart cranberries and tender kale are all tossed together with a sweet maple dressing and sprinkled with creamy goat cheese!
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again…I’m such a sucker when it comes to having a good salad. And I’m always down for any type of salad, during any season with (almost) any ingredient too. But I’ll completely be honest and tell you that I’ve never really had one with bacon in it until I discovered this baby! (And holy cow was that a game changer!) Suddenly it was like my taste buds came alive after just one bite of this sweet and salty goodness and then vowed to never look back again… (Ok that might be a little dramatic, but trust me loves this salad has it all!) If you’re looking for a simple and easy salad that really packs a punch with flavor and textures, then you NEED this apple bacon and cranberry salad ASAP!
This salad is so simple to prepare because all of it’s ingredients are incredibly simple too! (In fact I already had most of them on hand and just needed to pick up some goat cheese to pull it all together.) Here’s everything you’ll need to make it below.
- Honeycrisp apples: I love using honeycrisp apples for this salad because they’re super sweet and are always so crisp and fresh. (You can also use a different type of apple too. I would suggest using sweeter apples though and not a tart apple like granny smith.)
- Dried cranberries: Adds a little bit of tang without overpowering the other ingredients.
- Bacon: I highly recommend you use REAL bacon for this salad and NOT store bought bacon bits. (The bacon bits are good for when you’re in a pinch, but real bacon just adds that crispy crunchiness that takes this salad to a whole new level!)
- Goat cheese: Adds a subtle creaminess to balance out all the flavors. (You can also use feta cheese instead too!)
- Kale: Provides a sturdy base to stand up to the rest of your ingredients.
- Maple Vinaigrette: Ties all of your ingredients together. (See below for my homemade recipe – hint: it’s only 3 ingredients!)
Do I have to use kale for this apple bacon and cranberry salad?
Absolutely not loves! I personally love using kale because it holds up really well to the other ingredients and still makes great leftovers the next day. But mixed greens or even spinach would work just as well too! If you are using kale, make sure to massage it for at least 5 minutes before eating it though. Directions for how to massage kale are below. 🙂
- Cut the kale leaves off the stem or “rib”. Then cut the leaves into bite sized pieces.
- Drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil and a little bit of your dressing over the kale. (Sometimes I’ll use avocado oil spray instead of olive oil. Just use a few squirts.)
- Rub the kale together with your hands to fully incorporate the oil and lemon juice throughout. Do this for 5 minutes. (The kale should begin to soften and turn a bright vibrant green color. You’ll also notice that the amount of kale you have might “shrink” as well.)
- At this point, the kale can be stored in the fridge while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
How to bake bacon in the oven
Baking bacon might seem like a weird concept to some, but it’s actually become my preferred method of cooking it over the years. 1) Because it’s much easier to cook A LOT of pieces at one time. 2) You’re not having to use any extra oil so the bacon doesn’t seem quite so greasy. 3) I’m able to get them perfectly crisp every single time (without any random burnt edges! 😉 )
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. (Every oven is different so if you know that your oven runs “cooler” than most, preheat it to 425 degrees instead.)
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lay your bacon out in an even layer. (Make sure the bacon pieces are not touching each other.) You can also use a broiler pan instead too. (A pan that has holes in it to let the grease drip through.)
- Place the bacon in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. (I would start checking them at 10 minutes to make sure they aren’t burning and go from there.)
- Once done, take your bacon out of the oven and use a pair of tongs to transfer the pieces to a tray that’s lined with paper towels. Let the bacon cool completely! (Sometimes I’ll use extra paper towels to splotch any extra grease that’s still sitting on top of the bacon pieces.)
*Note: Don’t worry if your bacon feels “limp” when you transfer it to the tray. The bacon will crisp up the longer it cools.
How to make an easy maple vinaigrette
If you like sweeter dressings then you’re going to absolutely fall in love with this one! I will warn you, on it’s own it can be very sweet and tangy. But once it’s on the salad it completely mellows out and ties all the flavors together perfectly!
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 Tbsp extra light tasting olive oil (Start with 2 Tbsp and taste it. If the dressing is too sweet/tangy for you then add a third Tbsp. Here ‘s the oil we love using for salads Bertolli Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil.)
Simply whisk all of these ingredients together in a small bowl and pour it over your salad when you’re ready to serve!
This salad is perfect for potlucks, holiday parties, a simple side dish for dinner or even heck, even a great light lunch if you want to treat yourself too! (Plus it’s always a huge crowd favorite! 😉 ) I hope you all enjoy this apple bacon and cranberry salad just as much as we do!
More recipes like this:
- Healthy Italian Sub Salad
- Pear & Gorgonzola Salad with Candied Walnuts
- Strawberry Kale Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
- Grape & Feta Kale Salad
[Made one of my recipes? Make sure to tag my social media @kalefornia_kravings – I love seeing what you create!]
Apple Bacon & Cranberry Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
For the salad:
- 1 bunch of kale, leaves cut off the stem and chopped into pieces (Can also be replaced with mixed green or spinach too)
- 1-2 medium honeycrisp apples, chopped
- 6-7 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ⅓ cup goat cheese crumbles (can be replaced with feta)
For the vinaigrette:
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp olive oil*
To make the vinaigrette:
- Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and store it in the fridge while you prepare the rest of your salad.
To make the salad:
- If using kale, place the kale leaves in a large bowl and drizzle them with 1 tsp of olive oil and a little bit of your prepared dressing. Take your hands and massage the kale for 5 minutes until it begins to soften and turns a bright green color.
- Add your apples, bacon and dried cranberries and toss the salad together with the rest of your dressing.
- Sprinkle with goat cheese right before serving.