This tuscan kale salad is so juicy, fresh, and wholesome. It has just enough flair to be indulgent and so delicious, rather than another boring kale salad. Because listen: healthy food doesn’t need to taste like health food.
It's piled up with juicy mandarins, chewy dried cranberries, fresh crumbles of goat cheese, and my favorite part-- crunchy clusters of caramelized pepitas. A sweet-tart maple orange vinaigrette pulls it all together and packs this salad with flavor. It's a gorgeous autumn kale salad that is so good as the weather cools down.
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what is tuscan kale?
Tuscan kale is a variety of kale that has flat, dark, relatively smooth leaves. It has a TON of names: lacinato kale, dinosaur kale, cavalo nero, black kale, flat leaf kale.
I love to use tuscan kale because the leaves are smooth and softer than curly kale. It’s also much easier to clean, which is especially important for raw uses-- like salads. Kale actually gets sweeter as temperatures drop, which is why this salad is so good in fall and winter!
why this is the best tuscan kale salad recipe:
Massaged kale: You can eat lacinato kale salads without massaging the leaves-- it’s totally up to you. But the more kale salads I eat, the more I like the softer ones. Massaging the kale with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt tenderizes the texture and softens the chew. The salad is easier to eat, and the leaves also soak up the dressing much better!
Seasonal flavors: Kale is the sweetest and most beautiful when the weather is cold, so I love to play up the cozy flavors of the season in this salad. Roasty maple syrup, candied pepitas, cranberries, warm ginger and fresh citrus combine into the most delicious cold-weather salad. What grows together, goes together!
Prep-able: Whether you’re entertaining for a crowd or just trying to get ahead of the dinner rush and plan a nice meal for your family; prep is so useful. This salad can be made ahead in a variety of different ways so you can actually make the salad for dinner, and feel less overwhelmed in the process. Read on for prep help!
what you need for this tuscan kale salad:
- tuscan kale
- goat cheese
- orange juice
- apple cider vinegar
- maple syrup
- dried sweetened cranberries
- olive oil
- flaky salt
how to make this tuscan kale salad:
- Make candied pepitas.
- Whisk together the salad dressing.
- Slice the kale; transfer to a large serving bowl.
- Massage the kale with olive oil and salt.
- Toss the leaves with a little bit of dressing.
- Top with mandarins, goat cheese, cranberries and candied pepitas.
- Drizzle with more dressing and serve.
how to cut lacinato kale for salad:
- Use a sharp knife to cut the leaves away from the tough center stem; discard the stem.
- Stack 4- 5 leaves, press down firmly and slice crosswise into ½-inch thick ribbons
- Repeat stacking and slicing until all of the kale is cut!
Note: Most lacinato kale is long and slender, with each leaf only being about 2 inches wide. This makes it easy to simply slice the stack of leaves. That being said, if the leaves are much wider, you can roll the stack up like a cigar. This “tightens” the leaves and makes slicing easier!
ways to prep this salad ahead:
Candied pepitas: can be made up to 3 days ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Remember that sugar loves water, and anything candied will absorb moisture from the air and eventually get sticky and soft.
Dressing: Make this dressing up to 3 days ahead and store in a jar in the fridge. It will separate and the olive oil will harden, but that’s okay. Gently warm it in the microwave for 10- 15 seconds to liquefy then whisk. Pro tip: use an immersion blender to really emulsify the dressing so it’s extra thick!
Slice and prep kale: Kale is a hearty green, so you can chop and clean the leaves up to 2 days ahead. Store them in a ziptop bag in the fridge with the air pressed out.
Clementines: Peel the Clementines up to 1 day ahead, break them into segments and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
make this autumn kale salad your own!
Salads are one of the best ways to get creative in the kitchen. Following a recipe to a T is a little crazy. Use this recipe as a flavor guide, but I hope you feel free to use what you’ve got on hand! Here are some variations and additions:
- Sliced avocado
- Dried cherries
- Candied almonds, pecans or walnuts
- Skip the cheese, or go salty with grated pecorino or crumbled feta
- Use baby kale for an extra gorgeous salad!
- Mixed in shredded brussels sprouts
- Swap the clementines for sliced apples or pears
- Use canned mandarins in place of fresh clementines
more kale salad recipes to try:Print
tuscan kale salad
This tuscan kale salad is so juicy, fresh, and wholesome. Topped with fresh mandarins, cranberries, goat cheese, candied pepitas and a maple orange dressing-- it’s perfect for fall!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 6
- Category: Salad
- Method: Toss
- Cuisine: Ameriacn
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- ½ cup raw pepitas
- pinch of flaky salt
maple orange dressing:
- 2 tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- ¼ tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
tuscan kale salad:
- 2 bunches tuscan kale (also known as lacinato, dinosaur or black kale)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- kosher salt
- 4 clementines, peeled and segmented (can substitute 1 15-oz can mandarin oranges, drained)
- ½ cup dried sweetened cranberries
- 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
- Combine sugar and water in a non-stick skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Add pepitas and cook, stirring often, until syrup thickens, coats the nuts, and begins to crystallize. Continue to cook and stiri until sugar melts and begins to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet and spread it an even layer. Sprinkle with flaky salt and let cool completely.
- Break up into small pieces and store in an airtight container.
maple orange dressing:
Whisk together orange juice, vinegar, maple syrup, ginger, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until combined and thick. Taste and add more salt or pepper, if desired.
tuscan kale salad:
- Cut or tear kale leaves away from thick stems. Stack a few leaves and slice ½ inch thick ribbons. Place in the basket of a salad spinner and continue stacking and slicing the remaining kale leaves.
- Rinse kale under running water, using your fingers to clean the leaves. Spin dry and transfer to a large serving bowl.
- Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt, then use your hands to massage the kale until it darkens and softens, about 2- 3 minutes.
- Toss softened kale with a few tablespoons of maple orange dressing. Top with clementines, cranberries, goat cheese, and candied pepitas. Drizzle more dressing over top (you may not need all of it) and serve.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 352
- Sugar: 14g
- Sodium: 159mg
- Fat: 28g
- Saturated Fat: 6.2g
- Unsaturated Fat: 20.2g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 21g
- Fiber: 3.2g
- Protein: 8.3g
- Cholesterol: 8.7mg
Keywords: tuscan kale salad