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Kale Salad with Apples and Pumpkin Seed Clusters

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Calories: 601
Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seed Clusters and apple slices in a bowl

A colorful, healthy kale salad recipe that’s loaded with crisp apples, goat cheese and pumpkin seeds, then tossed with creamy apple cider vinegar dressing.

A Simple Raw Kale Salad, All Dressed Up For Fall

While it’s true that in fall, our food thoughts turn towards rib-sticking meals that warm from the inside out, we also still crave (and need) to work in some lighter meals, too! After a night or two of heavy stews or pastas, we’re ready to hit the reset button, and this autumnal kale salad recipe saves the day every time. It keeps beautifully—most raw kale salads do—and so it’s a great recipe to make ahead of time and store in the fridge for last minute, healthy lunches. Brimming with crisp, sweet red apples and crunchy little clusters of pumpkin seeds, it’s an edible, healthful celebration of this harvest season.

kale, apples, honey, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese, cinnamon, olive oil

How to Prepare Kale for Salad

If you’ve never made a raw kale salad before, and find yourself a little intimidated by the rough and tough leafy green, don’t fret! It’s pretty easy. Kale is indeed a bit tough, but those dense, almost squeaky leaves are loaded with vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese—in other words, they’re worth a little work!

  1. To begin with, you should know that even though we call for Italian kale (also called cavolo nero or lacinato kale) you can make this salad with any kind of kale that you have on hand, buy at the store or find at the farmers market (or in your CSA box!)—curly kale, purple kale, whatever! They’ll all work.
  2. Give your kale a good wash! Those leaves tend to hang on to dirt, so a really good wash is always a good idea.
  3. Run your knife along the stem to take the leaves off, and discard the stems (or save them to use in homemade veggie stock, if you’re cool like that!).
  4. Cut the leaves into small, thin pieces.
pumpkin seeds, sugar cinnamon in a pan
candied Pumpkin Seed Clusters in a saute pan

The Creamiest, Best Creamy Kale Salad Dressing Recipe

We had a lot of fun dreaming up this dressing, if you couldn’t tell. We played around with the idea of two of autumn’s great bounties—apples and pumpkin seeds—to create the salad, and we wanted to dressing to echo that idea of fall flavors. Apple cider AND apple cider vinegar add sweetness and acidity, while honey and cinnamon take things totally over the top. And as for the mayo? Well, a little mayo never hurt anyone—particularly when paired with a super healthy kale salad. Here’s what’s in this delicious kale salad dressing:

  • Olive oil
  • Apple cider
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Mayonnaise
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seed Clusters in a pan
Dressing made with Olive oil, Apple cider, Apple cider vinegar, Mayonnaise, Honey and Cinnamon

About Those Pumpkin Seed Clusters

Sure, you could toss some toasted pumpkin seeds right into this salad and call it a day. They’d be toasty and crunchy and lovely. But! If you’ve got an extra few minutes, make these lovely, slightly sweet, crunchy pumpkin seed clusters. They make this raw kale salad absolutely magical, and they’re nice to have around for nibbling, too. Here’s what’s in them:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cinnamon
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sugar
Kale Salad with Pupkin Seed Clusters 7
bowl of kale

How to Make a Kale Salad

Like all great salads, this one is mostly about assembly. Just gather your ingredients, massage the kale (always a must!) and assemble. Then dig in! Here’s how we do it:

  1. Make your kale salad dressing—the dressing lasts up to two weeks, so you can do this way ahead of time if you’d like to.
  2. Make the pumpkin seed clusters.
  3. Wash and cut the kale.
  4. Matchstick the apples! We do this at the last minute, because apples tend to brown.
  5. Dress the kale and massage it—get in there with your hands and work the dressing into the leafy greens. This will take some of the toughness out of the kale, and make it more pleasant to eat raw.
  6. Toss in the goat apples, pumpkin seed clusters and a little goat cheese, and eat up!
Kale Salad with Pupkin Seed Clusters 10
Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seed Clusters, apple slices, goat cheese and a creamy maple dressing in a bowl

More Healthy Salad Recipes

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Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seed Clusters and apple slices in a bowl

Happy Fall to You!

Try this yummy kale salad recipe, and let us know how you like it, OK? Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Kale Salad with Apples and Pumpkin Seed Clusters

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 15 min
  • Calories: 601

Ingredients

Salad

Pumpkin Seed Clusters

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Creamy Apple Cider Dressing

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Make the pumpkin seed clusters. Line a large plate with parchment paper.

  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the pumpkin seeds from the skillet.

  3. Add the sugar to the same skillet over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, stir the sugar constantly, cooking until it is evenly melted and light brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the toasted pumpkin seeds to the pan and add the cinnamon and pepper and stir to coat well. Pour the mixture onto the prepared plate. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, break apart into clusters.

  4. Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, mayonnaise, honey, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Whisk until combined and smooth.

  5. Assemble the salad. In a large bowl, combine the kale with ½ cup of the dressing. Using clean hands, squeeze or “massage” the kale while also distributing the dressing evenly until it is well coated and tender. . Massaging the kale will also make the kale more tender. Add more dressing as needed.

  6. Top the finished kale salad with the apple matchsticks, goat cheese, and pumpkin seed clusters.

*note: Kale will keep its crunch for a couple of days, even when dressed. This salad is great to make-ahead recipe for weekday lunches.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories 601
  • Protein 26 g
  • Carbohydrates 37 g
  • Total Fat 47 g
  • Dietary Fiber 9 g
  • Cholesterol 18 mg
  • sodium 368 mg
  • Total Sugars 21 g

Kale Salad with Apples and Pumpkin Seed Clusters

Questions & Reviews

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  • Rebekah

    This is on my Thanksgiving menu! For the pumpkin seeds would seeds roasted from our pie pumpkins work? Or would the little green ones work better?

    You could use the ones from your pumpkins! It'd be a bit different, but probably delicious. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Courtney

    If I wanted to add some non-meat protein to this, what would you suggest? Chickpeas? Cannellini beans?

    Chickpeas or cannellini beans would be great! The pumpkin seed clusters also are a decent source of protein!

  • Mary

    Hi! I tried making the pumpkin seed clusters, and my sugar started to melt but it soon turned into hardened clumps and wouldn't dissolve at all. Any advice on what went wrong?

    I'm not sure what went wrong. I've made this a few times, Natalie just re-shot the photos and I had it at a friends house and the pumpkin seeds worked just fine! I might play around with it a little and see if I can tweak it so that won't keep happening. I'll look into it.

  • Kirsten

    This salad was DEVINE! The best thing to warm a long cold, snowy week in Colorado. The kale holds up BEAUTIFULLY in a lunch box several days later. I didn't know if I would like the cinnamon in the dressing, but it was fantastic. I added some garlic to the dressing because I love garlic. Beyond great.

    Thank you Kirsten! We are so glad you love this salad!

  • Kendra

    AMAZING!!! Loved this salad! Great combination of flavors for a fall day. I used mixed greens vs kale and added some roasted chicken. Will be another go to favorite!

    Yay! So glad you loved it!

  • Jo Vischer

    The BEST fall salad!! Soooo yummy!

    So glad you loved it! Thank you!!

  • Chrisse Reynolds

    Finally made this today..... it’s been on my list for a while! The dressing was great and everything went really well together. I couldn’t get the pumpkin seeds to work on the stove top, but when i subbed maple syrup for the sugar and popped them in the toaster oven for a few minutes, that did the trick. Thanks for a fun recipe 😀