This Autumn Kale Salad with an oil-free dressing will transform the way you think about kale salad!I have a confession. This might be hard for you to believe since I run a whole blog based on healthy eating. Okay, here it goes: I don’t really love kale. Wait…whaaaat? Did you just hear me correctly?
Let’s be honest. If you take a big bowl of plain, raw kale, it just doesn’t taste good. Nobody was more shocked than me when it became the foodie world’s darling. Who’s with me here? Do you think kale is a hard-to-swallow green?
What I do love about kale is its nutritional stats. Did you know kale has over 45 different flavonoids, the nutrient group known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits? I could go on and on, but just know that kale is one of the best foods on the planet, nutritionally speaking. It’s pretty amazing that such a nutritional rockstar has become so trendy.
But its taste.
We can fix that. If you aren’t into kale, I can show you how to make it a new favorite. While plain kale and I will never be BFFs, I have learned over the years how to make it taste as great as its nutritional stats. Even raw kale, in a salad, can be fantastic.
First, we have to take care of the texture issue. Kale is a tough green. Big pieces of raw kale are not easy to chew. So chop it finely. Really, really, finely. Now let’s give kale a little help in the taste department. Toppings are key. A little sweetness helps counter kale’s natural bitterness. Here we have chopped dates for the sweetness, tart, crisp apple for more contrast in both flavor and texture, and some crunchy toasted pecans for additional balance. Some cinnamon-spiked butternut squash gets added at the end. This is an autumn salad, after all.
Here we have an oil-free dressing that you will want to eat by the spoonful. It’s that good. As pretty as it looks, you can’t just drizzle it on top and call it a day. You have to toss that salad to coat the kale leaves. You can put a little of the dressing aside so you have extra to drizzle on top at the end, if you prefer. But make sure you coat each kale leaf in the dressing.Now you’ve got yourself a company-worthy kale salad that will help everyone, even the kale-haters, to understand why kale has been become a vegetable celebrity.
Autumn Kale Salad
Serves 8 as a side, 4 as a main course salad
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
1 medium (about 1 1/2-2 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and medium diced
1 tablespoon avocado oil, or oil of choice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 cups finely chopped kale (any variety, or use a mix)
1 large granny smith apple, cut into cubes
2/3 cup pecan pieces, toasted
12 dates, roughly chopped
for the dressing
4 tablespoons cashew butter (other nut or seed butters may be substituted, but cashew butter is my favorite here)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1-3 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the diced butternut squash on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, cinnamon, and salt and use your hands to evenly coat the squash pieces. Roast in the preheated oven until the squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes.
While the squash is cooking prepare your toppings and dressing. To toast the pecans, place them in a small skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until they are lightly browned and fragrant.
To make the salad, first combine the kale, apple, pecans, and dates. Top with the dressing and toss to coat well. If desired, reserve a small amount of the dressing to drizzle on top of individual salads for aesthetic purposes. Now gently add the cooked butternut squash and lightly toss. Enjoy!