Loaded with nourishing ingredients & tastes amazing! This apple cranberry bacon kale salad is easy enough for a weeknight yet festive to serve as a holiday side dish!
Kale salads are my jam – especially during Fall! The fresh fall produce partnered with the kale’s subtle flavor is a match made in heaven. But I have to say this apple cranberry bacon kale salad has to be one of my favorites!
It’s loaded with sweet crisp apples, tart cranberries and crispy bacon tossed in a simple cider vinaigrette and topped with creamy goat cheese. The sweet, salty and savory flavors in this one is unmatched!
We usually like to save this salad for the holidays, mainly Thanksgiving. I personally think it’s one of the best Thanksgiving side dishes because it’s easy to make, most of the ingredients can be prepped beforehand and it’s festive and vibrant colors are always so appealing. (I feel like most people tend to overlook salads on the holidays but when one does show up, it’s always appreciated.) You’re guests are going to love this salad!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Kale: We love using green curly kale for ours. (Lacinato kale would be a great alternative.)
Apples: Sweeter apples work the best! Honeycrisp, Cosmic crisp or Fuji apples are all great options.
Dried cranberries: These add a tart component to your salad that tastes delicious with the rest of your ingredients.
Bacon: Use fresh bacon for the best results. Store-bought bacon bits can be used instead but nothing compares to the taste and texture of real bacon.
Goat cheese: Always buy a log of goat cheese and crumble it yourselves. It has much better flavor and a creamier texture than most store bought goat cheese crumbles.
Olive oil: We always use Extra Light Tasting olive oil for our vinaigrettes and dressings. It’s more mild in flavor and has a thinner consistency that helps to elevate the rest of the salad’s flavors. (Click HERE for the one we use.) You’ll also need a splash of olive oil to massage the kale leaves with later.
Maple syrup: Used as the sweet component in your vinaigrette. (Always use real maple syrup for the best results.)
Apple cider vinegar: I’d suggest using an apple cider vinegar without “the Mother” in it. Most vinegars with “the Mother” tend to have a much stronger and bitter flavor that can overpower your vinaigrette and salad ingredients.
Spices: Salt and cracked black pepper are needed to season your vinaigrette. You’ll be seasoning it to taste so feel free to use your preferred amount.
How To Make Apple Cranberry Bacon Kale Salad
1. Cook the bacon. Cook the bacon using your preferred method. (We’ll usually cut our bacon into bite-sized pieces then sauté it in a skillet over medium heat until it’s brown and crispy. It takes about 10-15 minutes to cook and comes out perfect every time.)
2. Make the dressing. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a bowl or small measuring glass. Then cover and keep it chilled in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the salad.
3. Massage the kale. Cut the kale leaves off each stem and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle a splash of olive oil over the leaves and use your hands to gently rub them together for at least 5 minutes. (The kale should soften, shrink in size and turn a bright vibrant green color. Sometimes we’ll spray the leaves with cooking spray if we don’t have enough olive oil.)
4. Toss! Add the bacon bits, diced apples and dried cranberries to the bowl with your kale and pour your desired amount of vinaigrette over the top. Toss the salad until it’s coated to your liking.
5. Serve. Sprinkle goat cheese over each individual salad and serve immediately.
Because it’s sweet and salty flavors, this kale salad is a great addition to any dinner spread. Rich savory meat dishes, saucy chicken or even delicate seafood dishes all pair well with it. We love serving this salad with my apple and brie stuffed chicken or maple mustard glazed salmon. It’s delicious!
This salad would also make an incredible Thanksgiving salad! With so many heavy sides like starchy sweet potatoes and stuffing, a lighter kale salad is a fantastic change of pace.
For making homemade bacon bits: Place your bacon in the freezer to firm up a bit and use a very sharp non serrated knife for cutting. (This makes cutting the bacon so much easier!)
You can massage the kale, cook the bacon and make the dressing 1-2 days in advance before planning to serve. Keep the vinaigrette and massaged kale stored in air tight containers in the refrigerator and the bacon stored at room temperature in the pantry.
Making this salad for Thanksgiving? Depending on the number of guests you have, you may need to double the recipe below. The original recipe makes enough for 2 larger side salads or 4 smaller side salads depending on what else you’re serving with it.
- Do I have to massage my kale? Yes! Massaging the kale helps to soften and break down it’s fibers making it easier to eat and digest. (It also brings out the kale’s subtle flavor.)
- Should I peel the skin off my apples? This is a personal preference but it’s not needed. I like to keep the skin on for it’s nutrients and it makes the salad look pretty and appetizing.
Why you’ll love this kale salad recipe!
- An easy holiday side dish! This salad is loaded with festive holiday ingredients! It’s sweet & refreshing flavors are a delicious complement to the usual heavy sides being served.
- Perfect for non-kale lovers! Everyone loves apples, cranberries and of course – bacon! Your guests will be so focused on the other ingredients they won’t even notice they’re eating kale.😉
- Easy to double or triple! Whether you’re making a side salad for 2 or a larger holiday salad for 12, this recipe’s ingredients are so easy to alter.
[Made one of my recipes? Make sure to tag my Instagram @kalefornia_kravings & leave a review in the comments. I love seeing what you create!]
Apple Cranberry Bacon Kale Salad
For the kale salad:
- 1 bunch green curly kale, leaves cut off the stem & chopped
- 1 apple, cored & diced (Honeycrisp or cosmic crisp are the best)
- 6-7 slices of bacon, cooked & crumbled or chopped*
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ⅓ cup goat cheese, crumbled
- Olive oil, for massaging the kale
For the vinaigrette:
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- Salt, to taste
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- Make the vinaigrette. Whisk the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup together then season with salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Cover and store the vinaigrette in the refrigerator.
- Massage the kale. Add the kale leaves to a large bowl and drizzle a splash of olive oil over the top. Use your hands to gently rub the leaves together for at least 5 minutes or until they begin to soften and shrink in size. (Sometimes we'll spray the leaves with cooking spray if we don't have enough olive oil.)
- Toss. Add the diced apples, bacon bits and dried cranberries to the bowl with your kale. Pour your desired amount of vinaigrette over the top and toss until the salad is coated to your liking.
- Serve. Sprinkle goat cheese over each individual bowl and serve immediately.