Kale cranberry salad is an easy summer salad that's filled with nutritious ingredients. Kale, cranberries, and almonds are tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette dressing.
Looking for a fresh, flavorful, and light salad for summer? You'll love this kale cranberry salad because it's easy to make and you need only a handful of simple ingredients.
Kale, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds are tossed in a light and fresh tasting lemon vinaigrette. Lemon adds a touch of bright citrus flavor to the homemade salad dressing.
This salad is perfect for a light lunch or as a side dish with your favorite protein for dinner. Looking for more kale salads? You may also enjoy my recipe for kale apple slaw.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Kale - You'll need one large bunch of curly kale for this recipe, or about 8 ounces.
- Cranberries - Can be substituted with golden raisins if desired.
- Almonds - Can be substituted with chopped pecans or walnuts.
- Olive oil - The base of the vinaigrette dressing. Can be substituted with any light tasting cooking oil you have on hand.
- Lemon - Lemon zest and lemon juice can be substituted with orange zest and orange juice for a different flavor.
- Maple syrup - Can be substituted with honey or other liquid sweetener you have on hand. Keep in mind that this salad will no longer be vegan if using honey.
- Dijon mustard - Can be substituted with yellow mustard if needed.
- Salt & pepper - Adds flavor to the vinaigrette dressing.
How to prepare kale
If you've never worked with kale before, it is a hearty, leafy green with a chewy texture and earthy, peppery flavor. Because it is tough and hearty, it needs a little extra preparation before it's ready for your salad.
- First, remove the ribs from your kale - this part is thick, harder to chew, and not ideal for a raw salad. Use a chef's knife to separate the center ribs from the leaves and then discard.
- Chop your kale leaves into easy to eat, bite-size pieces.
- Massage your kale. Because kale is tough, you want to soften it a bit before dressing your salad. Once the kale is cleaned, chopped, and in a salad bowl, use clean hands and start massaging your kale. It's kind of like kneading bread. Scrunch it up and toss it around in the bowl until it looks a little darker green and feels more tender. This should take less than a minute.
Frequently asked questions
The amount of dressing in this recipe is meant to lightly coat your salad. There shouldn't be any excess pooling at the bottom of the bowl. It may not look like enough dressing until it's all tossed together.
Yes, raw kale is perfectly edible. I recommend massaging your kale before adding the remaining ingredients to tenderize it slightly. See the section above on how to prepare kale (these directions are also included in the recipe card below).
Kale salad is ideal when served the same day for best texture and flavor, but leftovers will keep for up to two days in the refrigerator.
To make it a complete meal, add grilled chicken, shredded rotisserie chicken, or a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans. Other great salad toppings include grated carrot, crumbled feta cheese, goat cheese, and sunflower seeds.
Kale Cranberry Salad
- 8 ounces curly kale
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or orange juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, or orange zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- Remove ribs from kale by slicing down each side of the rib with a knife. Then, chop kale leaves into bite size pieces and add to a large bowl. Massage kale leaves for one minute - lightly knead and scrunch leaves with clean hands until kale appears slightly darker and more tender. Add cranberries and almonds to kale and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, add olive oil, dijon mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine, then pour over kale and gently toss until salad is evenly coated. Serve immediately.
- This recipe will make six side salads or four larger lunch-sized salads.
- 8 ounces kale = about one bunch of grocery store kale.
- Almonds can be substituted with chopped walnuts or pecans.
- Maple syrup can be substituted with honey or other liquid sweetener (if using honey, the recipe will no longer be vegan).
- Salad is best enjoyed the same day, but will keep for two or more days in the refrigerator as a leftover.
- If making ahead, prepare salad and vinaigrette in separate bowls, then toss salad in dressing just before serving.