This simple, delicious kale crunch salad is made with curly kale, green apple, red cabbage, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and is tossed in a zesty apple cider vinaigrette. Ready in just 10 minutes, it’s the perfect quick lunch, dinner, or side dish. A Chick-fil-A copycat salad!
Best kale crunch salad recipe
Some people love kale, others don’t. So, if you’re on the fence, you need to try this super simple, sweet, and zesty kale crunch salad. I promise it’s so delicious that even kale-haters will LOVE it!
I have tons of salad recipes on my site, but I always return to this one when entertaining or feeding picky eaters. There is something about the leafy, zesty kale in combination with the crunchy cabbage and sweet green apple sticks. It takes the “scariness” of salads being a boring health food away. Some other favorites are this cucumber carrot salad and orzo pesto salad.
I took the base ingredients of the Chick-fil-A version and elevated them to make a tastier, more flavorful, and healthier version of their classic kale crunch salad. We use both green and red cabbage, thinly sliced green apples for natural sweetness, roasted slivered almonds for a crunch, and dried cranberries for a little texture. Plus, the homemade apple cider, honey, and Dijon mustard vinaigrette perfectly blend all the salad elements.
You can add grilled chicken, salmon, shrimp, or tofu to this salad to add protein and make it a complete meal. It’s super customizable, and everyone will love it!
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- Vibrant Flavors: Fresh kale, green apple, red cabbage, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and zesty apple cider vinaigrette create a satisfying burst of flavors.
- Texture Variety: Enjoy a delightful mix of crunchy almonds with the crispness of kale and apple for a satisfying crunch in every bite.
- Quick and Easy: Ready in just 10 minutes, this recipe offers a quick and simple solution for a delicious meal or side dish.
- Versatility: Perfect for lunch, dinner, or a side, this salad is a versatile and wholesome option.
- Chick-fil-A Inspiration: Capture the beloved Chick-fil-A taste at home, adding a touch of familiarity to your dining experience.
- Try this strawberry goat cheese salad or mango salad recipe next!
You only need a few ingredients to make this kale crunch salad recipe. It is so easy to make in under 10 minutes, and everyone will love it! Here is a list, so you have everything prepared, but scroll down to the recipe card for more details:
Kale Crunch Salad:
- Kale: Start with classic curly kale; remove stems and chop. Lacinato and Tuscan kale are alternative options.
- Purple Cabbage: Include 1 cup of shredded purple cabbage for color and added crunch, a playful twist on the Chick-fil-A classic. You can substitute with extra green cabbage if needed.
- Green Cabbage: Mix in shredded green cabbage. You can substitute with extra purple cabbage if needed.
- Granny Smith Apple: Introduce match-stick-sized slices of green apple for a delightful sour-sweet element. Feel free to use another type of apple as a substitution.
- Dried Cranberries: I love dried cranberries. They are sweet and have the best texture. Add in 1/3 cup or swap them out for dried raisins or dried golden raisins.
- Almonds: For the main “crunch” component in this salad, add some roasted chopped or slivered almonds. If needed, you can substitute them with walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or cashews.
Easy Apple Cider Vinaigrette:
- Olive Oil: First up, you will need some extra-virgin olive oil as the base of this delicious kale crunch salad.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: For some acidity and a great flavor. You can also use white vinegar or balsamic (for a sweeter note).
- Lemon Juice: Squeeze in juice from one small lemon or half a large one for a citrusy kick.
- Dijon Mustard: I promise you cannot taste it, but adding Dijon mustard to this salad dressing makes it extra rich and flavorful.
- Honey (or Maple Syrup): Add 2 or 3 teaspoons of honey for sweetness; for a vegan option, substitute with maple syrup.
- Garlic: Infuse the dressing with flavor by adding one clove of garlic.
- Salt & Pepper: Season to taste with salt and pepper for an extra layer of flavor.
Kitchen tools needed
You only need a few kitchen utensils to make this fresh kale crunch salad. Clean-up will be easy! Here is a list:
- Cutting board
- Kitchen knife
- Small bowl or mason jar
- Large mixing bowl
- Measuring Tools: 1/4 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 Tablespoon, and 1/3 cup.
How to make a kale crunch salad
This kale crunch salad is so easy to make in a few simple steps. It’s zesty, tangy, crunchy, and ready. in 10 minutes. Here are step-by-step directions for any level cook and pictures for visual reference:
First, whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together until the olive oil is emulsified in a small bowl or mason jar. Then, taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference.
After that, place the chopped kale into a large mixing bowl and pour half of the dressing on top. Then, massage the kale with your hands for 2-3 minutes until the kale is no longer rigid.
Next, add in the purple and green cabbage, apple pieces, dried cranberries, and roasted almonds.
Finally, toss the salad and top with the remaining dressing. Enjoy!
Expert recipe tips:
- Remove big stems from the kale leaves. Nobody wants a hard-to-chew piece of kale in their salad!
- Message the kale. Kale can be hard to digest, so massage it with your hands in 1/2 of the vinaigrette to ensure it is soft, and the fibers break down.
- Taste the dressing and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Everyone has different flavor preferences, so taste the dressing and adjust it to how you like it before using it.
- Let the salad “marinate” for 10 minutes before serving. This ensures that the salad has maximum flavor.
Easy ingredients substitutions:
I only recommend substituting 1 or 2 ingredients since the original recipe is so delicious! Here are my recommendations:
- Curly Green Kale: Substitute with lacinato or Tuscan kale. If you don’t like kale, you can use a crisp lettuce like the hearts of romaine. There is no need to “message” Romaine if you use it.
- Almonds: You any type of nut. I like walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, or cashews. If you are nut-free, just leave them off.
- Granny Smith Apple: Substitute with another type of crisp apple like a Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, or Fuji one.
- Garlic Clove: Use 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Dried Cranberries: You can use dried raisins or dried golden raisins.
- Honey: Use maple syrup. This also ensures that the salad is 100% vegan.
What to serve with a kale crunch salad:
- Grilled Chicken or Salmon: Pair the salad with grilled chicken or salmon for a protein boost. The best options are this juicy grilled chicken, air fryer chicken thighs, or this everything bagel crusted salmon.
- Quinoa or Brown Rice: Serve alongside quinoa or brown rice for a hearty meal.
- Soup: Enjoy with a light soup for a refreshing combination. Try tomato soup, pumpkin sweet potato soup, cauliflower leek potato soup, or carrot and butternut squash soup.
- Grilled Vegetables: Serve with a side of grilled veggies for added flavor.
- Pasta Dish: Enjoy alongside a simple pasta dish. Try this lemon caper pasta or this chicken broccoli pasta bake.
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes: Add roasted sweet potatoes for a sweet and savory touch.
- Sandwiches or Wraps: Perfect as a side dish for sandwiches or wraps. Try this open-face tuna melts, air fryer tuna melt, or this Mediterranean tuna melt sandwich.
- Crispy Tofu or Tempeh: Pair with crispy tofu or tempeh for a vegetarian option. Try these super crispy tofu bite or these crispy vegan tofu schnitzel.
- Grain Bowls: Create a grain bowl with kale salad and additional toppings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do you need to message kale?
Massaging kale is essential as it helps to break down its tough fibers, making it more tender and palatable. This simple step also enhances the flavor and texture of this kale salad.
Can I prepare the kale crunch salad in advance?
Yes, you can certainly prepare this kale crunch salad ahead of time. Both kale salads tend to reach their peak deliciousness when given a day or two for the flavors to meld.
Is this salad vegan?
This kale crunch salad is vegan. Just ensure to use maple syrup in the homemade vinaigrette, not honey.
Is it gluten-free?
Yes, this salad is 100% naturally gluten-free.
How do I store kale to keep it fresh?
Store kale in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, removing excess air, and keeping it away from ethylene-producing fruits.
Can I freeze kale?
Yes, kale can be frozen for later use in smoothies or cooked dishes. Wash, chop, and blanch it before freezing.
Can I make it nut-free?
To make this salad nut-free, just leave off the almonds. I recommend adding roasted chickpeas or croutons to get the same crunch factor.
How do I remove the bitterness from kale?
Massaging kale with olive oil or dressing helps break down the fibers and reduce bitterness. Removing the stems and chopping can also improve the taste.
How to store kale salad:
For best results, store dressed leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 day. If the salad is undressed, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
If you loved this salad recipe, try these next!
- Cucumber Carrot Salad
- Greek Spinach Salad
- Broccolini Salad
- Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad
- Orzo Pesto Salad
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
Did you make this recipe?
If you make this recipe, be sure to comment and rate it down below. Also, don’t forget to tag me @healthfulblondie on Instagram and use the hashtag #healthfulblondie so I can see your delicious creation and share it with my followers!
Kale Crunch Salad
- 4 cups kale, (stems removed, chopped) I used curly kale, but Lacinato and Tuscan Kale work too
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1 cup shredded green cabbage
- 1 medium granny smith (green) apple , cut into thin sticks
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries
- ⅓ cup roasted almonds, chopped or slivered
- In a small bowl whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together until the olive oil is emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference.
- Place the chopped kale into a large mixing bowl and pour ½ of the dressing on top. Massage the kale with your hands for 2-3 minutes, until the kale is no longer rigid.
- Add in the purple and green cabbage, apple pieces, dried cranberries, and roasted almonds.
- Toss the salad and top with the remaining dressing. Enjoy!
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