Kale Salad With Apple, Blue Cheese & Maple Pecans
This Kale Salad With Apple and Blue Cheese is one of my favorite salads to make when the season’s apples begin to arrive in September. This salad pairs crisp, sweet-tart apples with the earthy, green goodness of kale and adds pops of creamy salty blue cheese and maple pecans. It is all tied together with my favorite maple balsamic dressing. This salad is fresh, filling, and ready for fall, Great served as a fall appetizer salad or a main course.
VEGETARIAN ✓ LOW CARB ✓ KETO ✓ GLUTEN-FREE ✓
Table of contents
Kale salads are one of my favorite things. I grow A LOT of kale, it is the first thing I plant in the garden in the spring, and the last thing to leave in the winter. (Last year, I even overwintered a few plants here in Vermont, uncovered no less!) Kale is so incredibly good for you, it is very easy to grow, and it is quite sturdy once harvested – which makes it great base for fall salads.
Kale is is often referred to as a “superfood” due to its exceptional nutritional density and numerous health benefits. This leafy green is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it a nutritional powerhouse. Its high content of vitamins K, A, and C, along with various phytonutrients, not only supports bone health, vision, and immunity but also helps combat oxidative stress, making kale a standout superfood for overall well-being. Additionally, kale’s rich fiber content aids digestion, promotes weight management, and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases. This, coupled with how easy it is to grow, make kale one of my first choices in salad greens for everyday eating.
Apples are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants which support the immune system and have anti-inflammatory and heart-protective effects. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which supports digestive health, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and promotes a feeling of fullness. There are many varieties of apples to choose from, ranging from sweet to tart. Some are best suited to eating fresh and others to cooking and baking. Read more below on the best apples for salads.
Blue Cheese has many varieties and they vary greatly in taste and texture. The earliest versions of blue cheese were produced in France (Roquefort) and Italy (Gorgonzola). The style later moved throughout Europe and England (Stilton) and finally to North America. The texture and flavor can range from crumbly, salty, and sharp to soft, creamy, and earthy.
Pecans have a deliciously rich, buttery texture and sweetness, the addition of maple to them makes them all the more decadent. The pecan is a nut from a particular species of hickory trees which is native to Northern Mexico and the Southern United States. Pecans are full of protein, healthy fats, and fiber, and are cholesterol-free, sodium-free, and low in carbohydrates. This recipe uses the sweet, salty, (spicy if you want) homemade Maple Pecans – get the recipe for them here: Homemade Maple Pecans
Maple Balsamic Dressing is one of my go to salad dressings that I have been making for decades, It is a wonderfully tangy and sweet salad dressing. My recipe uses balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, maple syrup, dijon mustard, and fresh garlic. See how to make it below.
What kinds of apples are best in salads?
Apples add a snappy crunch and a hint of sweetness to salads. When choosing apple varieties for salads, you want to choose those that offer a crisp texture and a balanced sweet-tart flavor. Apples that are suggested for eating fresh are what you want to use, as the cooking varieties can have a mealier texture. Some excellent apple varieties for salads are listed below, ordered here from sweet to tart:
- Honeycrisp: Known for their exceptionally sweet and juicy flesh, Honeycrisp apples are among the sweetest varieties available.
- Fuji: Fuji apples are also quite sweet, offering a pleasing balance of sweetness and juiciness.
- Gala: Gala apples are sweet and mildly fruity, making them a popular choice for those who prefer sweeter apples.
- Empire: Empire apples provide a sweet-tart balance, leaning more towards the sweet side.
- Pink Lady (Cripps Pink): Pink Lady apples are sweet with a hint of tartness, offering a well-rounded flavor profile.
- McIntosh: McIntosh apples have a sweet-tart flavor, with a bit more tartness compared to some of the sweeter varieties.
- Granny Smith: Granny Smith apples are known for their tartness, making them the tartest among the varieties mentioned.
There are many other heirloom and old world varieties of apples available seasonally at orchards and local markets. I love trying new (to me) varieties each year. I prefer a more tart apple, so my preferences are toward the bottom of this list – what are your favorites?
How To Make Maple Balsamic Dressing
As I mentioned above, this Maple Balsamic Dressing is one of my go to salad dressings. I have been making this salad dressing since college, It is so easy to make and pairs beautifully with so many salads. My recipe uses balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, maple syrup, dijon mustard, and fresh garlic. Simply mix all the ingredients together until they are incorporated into a thick dressing.
How To Style This Salad
The first thing to consider when styling a salad, is the role the ingredients have in the final dish. Are there stand-alone ingredients that deserve to be given their own space, like with my Peach, Tomato & Burrata Salad – or do the ingredients need to be mixed together in order to blend the flavors and create a more uniform experience, like with my Avocado, Egg & Arugula Salad With Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette.
This Kale Salad with Apples, Blue Cheese, and Maple Pecans looks best served in a composed style, meaning plated and arranged with purpose. First, right before serving, lightly toss the kale with a bit of the dressing to coat, then arrange as shown above.
That being said, this salad is also great when tossed, with every bite being equally coated with dressing and hints of blue cheese. For entertaining, I would do the former, but for myself I would toss everything together.
Tips & Tricks
Here are a few things that might help:
- Toss the kale with a bit of the dressing first, to coat and add flavor to each bite. This will also soften the kale slightly.
- Remove the blue cheese from the fridge half an hour to an hour before serving to allow the flavor to open up.
- Cut the apples right before serving so they do not brown.
- Use good quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Top with sea salt and a grind of black pepper.
Here are some suggested substitutions to make this salad a better fit for your palate, preferences, and diet. If you are looking for specific substitutions, let me know in the comments below!
- Cheese Alternatives: Feta, Goat Cheese, Cheddar, Gouda
- Alternative Greens: Arugula, Spinach, Mesclun Salad Mix, Lettuce
- Make It Dairy Free: Omit the cheese.
- Make It More Keto-Friendly: Reduce the amount of apple. Half of an apple (the serving size here) has 10 grams of net carbs. Use plain toasted nuts.
- Pecan Alternatives: Walnuts, Pepitas
- Maple Pecan Alternatives: Plain toasted nuts.
More Seasonal Salad Recipes To Try
If you make this Kale Salad With Apple, Blue Cheese & Maple Pecans be sure to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you. And if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram, I’d love to see!
How To Make: Kale Salad With Apple, Blue Cheese & Maple Pecans
|4 - 6 Cups Curly Kale For larger, dinner size bowls, add more kale.|
|2 Apples, Sliced In Narrow Slices|
|1/2 Cup Blue Cheese, Crumbled Or In Chunks To Taste|
|1/2 Cup Candied Pecans, Or More To Taste|
For The Maple Balsamic Dressing
|1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil|
|3 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar|
|1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup|
|1 Tsp. Dijon Mustard|
|1 Garlic Clove, Minced|