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.
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.
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.
Can I Use Store-Bought Dressing?
Yes, if you don’t yet have a well stocked pantry and don’t have the ingredients on hand for the homemade balsamic vinaigrette, you can go ahead and use a store bought balsamic vinaigrette. But I promise, the homemade is 100x better, so at least consider picking up the ingredients for it. They’re shelf stable and you’ll be able to make an amazing salad dressing whenever you want!
Autumn Kale and Apple Salad
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped ($0.60)
- 1/2 Tbsp butter ($0.07)
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar ($0.08)
- 1 pinch salt ($0.01)
- 8 oz. torn kale leaves (about 12 cups) ($2.13)
- 1 apple ($0.52)
- 2 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese ($0.30)
- 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!
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Scroll down to see the step by step photos!
How to Make Autumn Kale and Apple Salad – Step by Step Photos
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.
Close and shake the jar, use a whisk in a bowl, or blend the dressing in a blender until smooth. Set the dressing aside.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
Cut an apple into quarters, then cut the core off each quarter. Slice each quarter into thins strips.
Divide the massaged kale between four plates (or two if you want two larger meal-sized salads).
Add the apple slices to the salads.
Add candied walnuts and sprinkle about 1/2 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese over each salad.
Finally, drizzle a little more of the balsamic vinaigrette over top, then serve!
Seriously, tho. 🤤