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Between the sweet and spicy pecans and the punchy pomegranate, this baby kale salad is just a vehicle to get all that goodness into your mouth! Combine all of it with a tangy vinaigrette and you've got yourself a ridiculously enjoyable salad!
Also, try this kale salad recipe – it has bacon in it!
You could easily have this baby kale salad for lunch on its own, or you can serve it alongside a full meal to add a nice pop of bright flavor and color. This salad takes 15 minutes to toss together, and you'll be so happy you did!
What is baby kale?
Baby kale is simply tender, young, kale leaves. You can eat the whole leaf without having to remove the stem as it is still very delicate.
The flavor is milder than fully grown kale, which makes it a good choice if you don't love kale.
You'll often find it sold in packages near the salad greens in the produce section of your grocery store.
Can I use regular kale instead?
Yes! But you will have to remove the stem and chop the leaves first.
And don't skip massaging the kale; it's extra important with fully grown kale. You can also let the dressing sit on the kale leaves for 10 minutes before you eat them, to help soften them even more.
Ingredients to make baby kale salad
Every bite of this salad is delicious thanks to the perfect balance of flavors – the spicy candied pecans offer warmth and crunch, while the pomegranate seeds give a pop of freshness. The vinaigrette adds some acid and the baby kale is earthy and peppery. It really is good.
Here's what you'll need to make this baby kale salad:
- Baby kale: Add 4 packed cups of baby kale to this recipe, providing the base for your salad. This will add a giant nutritional punch to your meal and even if you're serving kids (or green-adverse adults), they probably won't notice the kale over the candied pecans and pomegranate seeds!
- Pomegranate: You can find whole pomegranates in most grocery stores, but they're usually stocked in fall and early winter in North America.
- Ground pepper: This is optional to sprinkle or crack some fresh pepper over the baby kale salad to serve.
- Candied pecans: We make these using some maple syrup, cayenne powder, and black pepper.
- Salad dressing: This simple vinaigrette is made of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt.
The spicy candied pecans
- Pecans: This baby kale salad recipe uses pecans as the nut of choice. They add a nice crunch to the salad while providing a buttery flavor. They also have perfect little grooves for the sweet and spicy glaze to stick to. Candied pecans are such a treat!
- Maple syrup: This is where the candied part of these pecans comes from. The maple syrup adds a natural source of sweetness and just a hint of maple.
- Sea salt, pepper, and cayenne powder: You'll need just a pinch of all 3 of these seasonings.
- Butter: Using ½ teaspoon of butter is optional, however, adding a little butter to the pan will simultaneously help create the glaze-like coating, but also make sure you don't have too much stickiness from the maple syrup.
The salad dressing
- Olive oil: A base ingredient of any vinaigrette, olive oil gives a beautiful fat content to balance the acid of the vinegar.
- Apple cider vinegar: Here comes the zing for your vinaigrette. Add 2 tablespoons to accompany the olive oil.
- Maple syrup: Pour 1 tablespoon into the salad dressing for a bit of sweetness.
- Sea salt: Again, you'll need just a pinch to flavor.
Another option is to make our kale salad dressing!
The best way to remove pomegranate seeds
Removing the seeds from the pomegranate can be a bit of a task – but! – the best and easiest way to do this is to start by cutting the pomegranate in half. Hold it, seed side down, over a large bowl. Tap the outside with a wooden spoon hard enough until the seeds start falling out and into the bowl. Repeat using the second half of the pomegranate. Easy peasy and pretty much mess-free!
What to serve with baby kale salad
This baby kale salad makes the perfect side dish for your meal. Here's some inspiration for what to serve with it:
I don't have pecans, can I use another nut?
You can always candy walnuts instead. If you don't have pecans or walnuts on hand, you can toss in some raw or roasted almond slices or pine nuts to still add some crunch and nutty flavor.
I don't have baby kale, can I use another type of kale or lettuce?
You can use other types of kale, like curly kale or lacinato kale, however, you'll need to do a few extra steps. You will have to remove the stem and chop the leaves first. And don't skip massaging the kale! Alternatively, if you don't have any kale in your kitchen, you can use baby spinach instead.
Can I make this salad ahead of time?
Salads are always best if eaten soon after they're dressed. But kale salads are special in that they don't completely wilt. If you're serving this to guests, you can candy the pecans and make the dressing ahead of time, but wait until you're about to serve it to toss the kale in the dressing. But save any leftovers as they're still pretty tasty the next day!
Spicy Candied Pecans
- 1 cup pecans
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 pinch EACH: sea salt, pepper, and cayenne powder
- ½ teaspoon butter (optional)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 4 cups baby kale (packed)
- Seeds from 1 pomegranate
- ground pepper (to serve)
- Toast the pecans in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant and light brown, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Add the maple syrup, salt, pepper, and cayenne powder. Cook, stirring frequently until the pan is dry, about 2-3 minutes. Stir through the optional butter, if using. Place pecans on a piece of parchment paper in a single layer and set them aside to cool.1 cup pecans, 4 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 pinch EACH: sea salt, pepper, and cayenne powder, ½ teaspoon butter
- In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the kale and massage it gently.3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 pinch sea salt, 4 cups baby kale
- Plate the salad and top with the candied pecans, pomegranate seeds, and some fresh ground pepper.Seeds from 1 pomegranate
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.