Chopped Apple & Mandarin Salad with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

Sweet, tangy and freshness in every single bite! This delicious salad is the perfect dish to kick off the new year!

A light and refreshing kale salad made with chopped apples, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and toasted pecans! It's then tossed in the best homemade poppy seed dressing!

The New Year is here loves and now is the perfect time to add some fresh and healthy recipes to your every day routine! (Which is probably why I’ve been so obsessed with salads lately… 😉 But can you really blame me when they look this good?!) It’s sweet, tangy, incredibly fresh and has just the right amout of crunch too. This chopped apple and mandarin salad with creamy poppy seed dressing will become a favorite of yours in no time!


  • Kale: Provides a sturdy base for your salad and is mild in flavor.
  • Apples: Adds a nice crisp bite to your salad! I love using honeycrisp apples for this recipe becasue they’re super sweet and are very crisp when you cut into them! (Some other good varieties to use would be fuji or sugarbee apples too.)
  • Mandarin oranges: Adds a burst of freshness! (You can use fresh or mandarins for this recipe. I prefer using fresh whenever I can find them but they’re just a little more work with having to peel them.)
  • Dried cranberries: These are a little tart which help to balance out the sweetness of the fresh fruit.
  • Toasted pecans: Adds alittle extra crunch to your salad and it’s nutty flavors pairs so well with the rest of your ingredients.
  • Creamy poppy seed dressing: See the recipe below for my homemade dressing! (You can also use your favorite store bought dressing too!)
This quick and easy apple and mandarin salad recipe is always a hit with our guests! It's creamy, full of fresh ingedients and is bursting with fresh citrus and apple flavor!

How to massage kale

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again…MASSAGE YOUR KALE people! This really is the key when it comes to maknig a great kale salad. Not only does it ssoften the leaves and make them easier to eat/digest them, but it also brings out the kale’s natural mild flavor which is an amazing base for almost any salad. And it couldn’t be any easier to do too!

  1. Cut the kale leaves off the stem or “rib”. Then cut the leaves into bite sized pieces.
  2. Drizzle 1 Tbsp of your dressing over the kale. (Or you can use 1 Tbsp of olive oil instead but I like to “infuse” the kale with my salad dressing flavor.)
  3. Rub the kale together with your hands to fully incorporate the dressing/olive oil 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 will start to “shrink” too.)
  4. At this point, the kale can be stored in the fridge until your ready to make your salad.
This healthy side salad is the perfect way to kick off the new year! It's full of fresh apples and mandarin oranges and is all tossed in an easy poppy seed dressing!

How to make a healthier poppy seed dressing

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (I like using extra light tasting olive oil.)
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  1. Whisk all of your ingredients together in a bowl and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

What makes this salad dressing healthier?

Most poppy seed dressing recipes you’ll find today are made with a ton of sugar. (Hence the reason I love it becasue it’s so sweet. 😉 ) But not this one loves! This lightened up verison is not only low in sugar, but it’s also protein packed and better for your gut health too! Here are the swaps I used:

  • Maple syrup instead of white sugar: Maple syrup is more natural and we don’t need too much to sweeten the dressing.
  • Greek yogurt instead of mayo: Greek yogurt is full of probiotics and protein and still provides a “creaminess” to your dressing.
  • Apple cider vinegar (ACV): Provides prebiotics to help support a healthy gut and immune system while also delivers that little bit of tang to kick this dressing up a notch! (I always get my ACV from Sprouts because they have the best price and I can get it organic too!)
This is the kale salad you need to bring to all of your potlucks and parties this year! It's simple, easy to make and tastes incredibly delicious too!


  • Dairy free: Use your favorite dairy free yogurt instead of the greek yogurt in your dressing. (Note the dressing might have a slightly different consistency but will still have great flavor!)
  • Try adding fresh pomegranate arils instead of dried cranberries for an added burst of freshness!
  • Switch up the nuts! Don’t like pecans? No problem. This salad would be amazing with walnuts, pepitas or even sliced almonds too!

I hope you all enjoy this apple and mandarin poppy seed salad just as much as my family does! Have the very best day!

More recipes you may like:

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Chopped Apple & Mandarin Salad with Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing

Loaded with fresh crisp apples, juicy mandarins and dried cranberries and all tossed in the best homemade poppy seed dressing! This easy salad is the perfect side dish for any occasion!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Gluten free
Keyword: apple, gluten free, healthy, mandarin oranges, poppy seed, salad
Servings: 2 servings
Author: Caitlin


For the poppy seed dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds

For the salad:

  • 1 bunch of kale, leaves cut off the stem and chopped
  • 1 large honeycrisp apple, chopped
  • 4 fresh mandarin oranges, peeled and divided into segments
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • cup pecans


To toast your pecans:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread your pecans out on the pan in an even layer and toast them in the oven for 5-6 minutes. Allow them to cool while you prepare the rest of your salad.

To make the dressing:

  • Whisk all fo your dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or jar. Store your dressing in the fridge until you're ready to eat.

To make the salad:

  • Place your chopped kale leaves in a large bowl and drizzle 1 tablespoon of your dressing over them. (You can also use 1 tablespoon of olive oil instead but I like to “infuse” the kale with my salad dressing flavor.) Then rub the leaves together with your hands to fully incorporate the dressing/olive oil throughout. Do this for 5 minutes or until the kale softens and turns a bright green color.
  • Then add your apples, mandarin oranges and dried cranberries and drizzle your remaining dressing to taste. Toss the salad together and serve with toasted pecans on top.

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