Cherry, Goat Cheese & Toasted Pecan Kale Salad

Sweet cherries, creamy goat cheese & crunchy toasted pecans are all tossed in an easy lemon-honey dressing! It’s the perfect refreshing side dish for summer!

Cherry, goat cheese and pecan kale salad is such a great side dish for summer! It's light and refreshing and so easy to make too!

If there’s one thing that’s been on repeat for me this summer, it’s definitely been fruity kale salads! They’ve just been so refreshing and such a great way to use of my fresh summer produce that I can’t seem to get enough! And this cherry, goat cheese and toasted pecan kale salad is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It’s sweet, creamy, crunchy and (most importantly), so easy to make!

Ingredients

I think the reason I love kale salads so much is because they’re so easy to make,and really only require a few ingredients. Plus they can easily be made ahead of time too so they’re great for meal prepping. Here are all the ingredients you’ll need below.

  • Kale
  • Cherries: I used rainier and sweet red cherries, but feel free to use your favorite!
  • Goat cheese: Can be replaced with feta cheese
  • Pecans: Can be replaced walnuts, pistachios or almonds. (Directions for toasting the nuts are below.)
  • Lemons: Used to massage the kale
  • Avocado oil/spray: I prefer using an avocado spray to massage the kale but you can also use regular avocado oil or even extra virgin/extra light olive oil too.
  • Lemon-honey vinaigrette: See my recipe below!

Do I need to massage my kale?

Yes yes yes! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, MASSAGING YOUR KALE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP for making a kale salad. Not only does it soften the leaves to make them easier to eat, but it also brings out the flavor of the kale and makes it not taste quite as bitter. My easy go-to directions for massaging kale are below.

  1. Cut the kale leaves off the stem or “rib”. Then cut the leaves into bite sized pieces.
  2. Drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil and the juice from 1/2 lemon over the kale. (Sometimes I’ll use avocado oil spray instead of olive oil. Just use a few squirts.)
  3. 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.)
  4. At this point, the kale can be stored in the fridge until your ready to use it. It should last for up to 1 week.

How to make an easy lemon-honey vinaigrette

This is by far my favorite dressing when it comes to kale salads! It’s tangy, slightly sweet and so so easy to make!

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 4 tsp honey
  • Splash of extra light tasting olive oil (It’s very important to use EXTRA LIGHT TASTING olive oil if you don’t want a strong oily taste. I also use maybe 1-2 tsp of oil for this dressing too.)
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste

Whisk all of these ingredients together in a bowl and store it in the fridge while you prepare your salad.

This dressing should last for about 1 week in the fridge.

How do I make toasted pecans?

I always say that toasting nuts for a salad is completely optional, but personally I think it adds so much flavor and gives your salad that extra special something to put it over the top! (Plus because pecans are more of a soft nut too, it really helps to crisp them up and adds that perfect crunch to your salad. 🙂 ) Here’s my go-to recipe for toasting nuts below!

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then spread your pecans out on the baking sheet and bake them for 5-6 minutes or until they just start to darken. Take them out of the oven to cool and store them in an airtight container until you’re ready to eat!

*These directions will work for any type of nut you wish to use!

I hope you all enjoy this cherry, goat cheese kale salad just as much as we do! Have the best day loves!

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Cherry, Goat Cheese & Toasted Pecan Kale Salad

Fresh cherries, creamy goat cheese and toasted pecans are all topped over kale and tossed with tangy lemon-honey vinaigrette! It's the best side salad for summer!
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Easy, Gluten free
Keyword: cherry, goat cheese, kale salad, toasted pecans
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Caitlin

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 bunch of kale, leaves cut off the "rib" & chopped
  • cups cherries, pitted & halved
  • ½ cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • ¾ cup pecans, toasted*
  • ½ of a lemon, juiced (for massaging the kale)
  • Avocado oil/spray (for massaging the kale, see substitutions below)

For the dressing:

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 4 tsp honey
  • Splash of extra light olive oil (maybe about 1-2 tsp)
  • Cracked pepper, to taste

Instructions

To make the dressing:

  • Whisk all of your ingredients together in a bowl. Store it in the fridge while you prepare your salad.

To make the salad:

  • Place the kale in a bowl and drizzle it with your lemon juice & a small amount of your avocado oil/spray. Rub the kale together with your hands to fully coat it in the oil and lemon juice. Do this for 5 minutes or until it begins to soften and turn a bright green color.
  • Add the cherries and goat cheese and pour the vinaigrette over the top. Toss the salad and sprinkle it with your toasted pecans just before serving.

Notes

Avocado oil substitution: Sometimes I’ll use extra light olive oil in place of the avocado oil/spray. 
*You can replace the pecans with walnuts, almonds or pistachios. (Follow the same toasting instructions for all nuts below.)
To make toasted pecans:
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread your pecans out on the sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes. Let them cool and store them in an airtight container.

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