Autumn Kale and Apple Salad

I’m moving forward full speed ahead with indulging my autumn obsession, despite the fact that it’s still 95 degrees outside. A good compromise between the crushing heat and my desire for all things fall is a fall-inspired salad. So this week I made this insanely delish Autumn Kale and Apple Salad. It’s so good, guys. Like so, so, so good. Like, “oops, I just ate a half pound of kale,” good.

Overhead view of a plate full of Autumn Kale and Apple Salad, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette and a black fork on the side of the plate.

Kale Substitutions

I know, not everyone loves kale as much as I do, and I can respect that. This salad would also be great on a more tender green, like spinach or spring mix. If using a tender salad green, just skip the step where I massaged the dressing into the kale.

Blue Cheese Substitutions

If you can’t do blue cheese, don’t worry. Feta or chevre (goat cheese) would also be amazing. You could even shred something like white cheddar onto this salad!

What Type of Apple Should I Use?

I used Jazz apples, which is a nice crisp and fairly tart apple. I suggest getting an apple variety that is at least semi-tart, since you have a good deal of sweetness from the candied walnuts. Check out this cool apple comparison chart from Sprouts Farmer’s Market for reference. 

Close up side view of Autumn Kale and Apple Salad on the plate with dressing.

How to Store Autumn Kale and Apple Salad

If you’re not going to serve all four servings (or two larger sized servings) of this salad at once, it’s best to keep the ingredients separate until just before serving. The kale will continue to wilt from the dressing when refrigerated, and I personally think the salad is best when the dressing is massaged into the salad just before serving. That keeps the kale fluffy, but not dry or tough.

 
Close up overhead view of Autumn Kale and Apple Salad, with balsamic vinaigrette and a fork on the side.
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Autumn Kale and Apple Salad

All the flavors of fall come together in this Autumn Kale and Apple Salad, with candied walnuts and a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
Keyword: Fall Food, kale salad, Side Dish
Total Cost: $5.09 recipe /. $1.27 serving
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Servings: 4 side salads

Ingredients

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup olive oil ($0.55)
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar ($0.41)
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise ($0.17)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard ($0.09)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)

Candied Walnuts

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped ($0.60)
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter ($0.07)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.08)
  • 1 pinch salt ($0.01)

Salad

  • 8 oz. torn kale leaves (about 12 cups) ($2.13)
  • 1 apple ($0.52)
  • 2 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese ($0.30)

Instructions

  • Make the balsamic vinaigrette first, so the flavors have time to blend. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mayonnaise, Dijon, minced garlic, dried basil, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to a jar, bowl, or blender. Close the jar and shake, whisk in the bowl, or blend until the dressing is smooth. Set the dressing aside.
  • Next make the candied walnuts. Add the butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt to a small non-stick skillet. Heat over medium while stirring, just until the brown sugar begins to melt and sizzle around the edges (one minute).
  • Add the chopped walnuts to the skillet and stir to combine with the partially melted brown sugar. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring every 10-15 seconds, until the brown sugar fully melts (looks glossy instead of grainy) and completely coats the walnuts.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat immediately and pour the hot candied walnuts out onto a piece of parchment. Spread the walnut pieces out in a single layer and let cool (about 10 minutes).
  • Add the torn kale leaves to a large bowl. Add about 2 Tbsp of the balsamic vinaigrette and massage the dressing into the torn kale leaves for about 2 minutes. The kale will wilt to about half the volume.
  • Cut the apple into four quarters, then cut the core off of each piece. Slice each quarter of the apple into thin pieces.
  • Divide the massaged kale between four plates. Add apple slices, a tablespoon or two of candied walnuts, and about 1/2 Tbsp blue cheese to each salad. Drizzle a little more balsamic vinaigrette over each, then serve!
Tried this recipe?Mention @budgetbytes or tag #budgetbytes on Instagram!

Scroll down to see the step by step photos!

Close up front view of an Autumn Kale and Apple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

How to Make Autumn Kale and Apple Salad – Step by Step Photos

Balsamic vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar

Start with the homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Add 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp mayonnaise, 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 clove of garlic (minced), 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1/4 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper in a jar, bowl, or blender.

Finished homemade balsamic vinaigrette on a spoon over the mouth of the mason jar

Close and shake the jar, use a whisk in a bowl, or blend the dressing in a blender until smooth. Set the dressing aside.

Brown sugar, butter, and salt in a small skillet

Next, make the candied walnuts. Add 1/2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, and a pinch of salt to a small non-stick skillet. Heat over medium while stirring just until the brown sugar begins to melt a bit and sizzle around the edges (about one minute). It should still be a little grainy (see photo below).

Walnuts added to skillet with molten brown sugar

Once the brown sugar has begun to melt (but still looks grainy), add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium, stirring every 10-15 seconds, until the brown sugar is fully melted (looks glossy, not grainy) and fully coats the walnuts (about 3 minutes).

Candied walnuts cooling on parchment

Pour the candied walnuts out onto a sheet of parchment, spreading them into a single layer, and allow them to cool. The candy coating will harden as they cool.

Bag of torn kale leaves

Now it’s time to prepare the kale. I used a LOT of kale (8 oz. or about 12 cups) because when you massage the dressing into the kale leaves they deflate by about half. So, I used about 2/3 of this large 12 oz. bag of torn kale leaves.

Balsamic Vinaigrette being drizzled over kale in a bowl

Place the torn kale leaves in a very large bowl, then drizzle about 2 Tbsp of the balsamic vinaigrette over top. Use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale (this should only take about 2 minutes). The kale will become dark and glossy when the dressing is massaged in.

Sliced jazz apple on a cutting board with a chef's knife.

Cut an apple into quarters, then cut the core off each quarter. Slice each quarter into thins strips.

Portion kale onto plates

Divide the massaged kale between four plates (or two if you want two larger meal-sized salads).

Apple slices added to salads

Add the apple slices to the salads.

 

Blue cheese sprinkled over each salad.

Add candied walnuts and sprinkle about 1/2 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese over each salad.

Balsamic vinaigrette being drizzled over an Autumn Kale and Apple Salad with a spoon

Finally, drizzle a little more of the balsamic vinaigrette over top, then serve!

Close up overhead view of Autumn Kale and Apple Salad, with balsamic vinaigrette and a fork on the side.

Seriously, tho.  🤤