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Even if you're not that into kale, you'll still love this crispy kale salad. It's both raw kale and crispy kale chips, sweet roasted beets, crunchy candied pecans, and cheese all tossed in an irresistible balsamic vinaigrette. It's a beautiful salad full of texture and flavor, and it's ready in just 45 minutes!
Just when you thought you'd tried kale in every possible way, enter the crispy kale salad. This recipe is always a huge hit because it's hearty, healthy, and perfectly fitting for the cooler months. Whether you're entertaining or just looking to mix up your weeknight veg intake, it's a dressed-up salad that pairs perfectly with a simple protein main like lemon butter roasted chicken.
There are a few delicious components to this recipe that contribute to its deliciousness!
- Beets: baby beets are what we use but you can also use regular red beets, golden beets, or candy cane beets. They bake up to be wonderfully tender and sweet!
- Kale: we use both raw kale and crispy kale chips in this salad. Curly kale is ideal for making the kale chips, but pre-washed baby kale is a convenient option that works well if you're short on time.
- Pecans: candied pecans are classic, but walnuts make a great substitute. You can pick up some store-bought candied nuts, if you'd like.
- Maple syrup: pure maple syrup gives the candied pecans a distinct caramel flavor, but you can also use runny honey.
Other ingredients you need are olive oil, sea salt, parmesan cheese, goat cheese, ground black pepper, and butter.
How to make crispy kale salad
This crispy kale salad requires a little more effort than tossing lettuce into a bowl, but it's well worth it. Here's how we make it in a couple of easy steps:
- Roast the beets in the oven until they're fork-tender.
- Turn half the kale leaves into kale chips by tossing them with oil and baking until crispy.
- Meanwhile, make the candied pecans on the stovetop. Place the pecans, maple syrup, and black pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. When the mixture is thick, add the butter.
- Whisk the apple cider vinegar, honey, balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt together, then slowly stream in the olive oil. Be sure to taste it and adjust as needed. You're looking for a creamy texture with a nice tangy taste.
- When the kale and beets are ready, toss everything together in a large bowl with half the dressing. Enjoy!
What goes into the dressing?
The balsamic dressing is quick and easy to make with ingredients you likely have in your pantry. It will yield more than you need for this salad. We drizzle on about half of it then save the rest for another salad later in the week.
All you need is apple cider vinegar, honey, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic, sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil.
What to serve with crispy kale salad
For a vegetarian meal, serve it alongside our chickpea pumpkin fritters, or toss in some cooked chickpeas or French lentils.
Can I make this salad ahead of time?
You can make many of the components of this salad in advance. Candy the pecans, make the dressing, roast the beets, and even wash the kale a day or two ahead of time. The crispy kale begins to lose its texture when tossed with the dressing so it's best enjoyed right away.
How long does the leftover dressing keep?
Store any leftover salad dressing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Can I make this salad vegan?
Yep! To make this salad vegan, swap the butter for a vegan butter alternative and omit the parmesan cheese and goat cheese. A diced avocado makes a wonderful, creamy alternative to the cheese!
Is this salad gluten-free?
Yes! It's completely gluten-free so it's suitable for anyone with a gluten intolerance.
- 1 lb beets (chopped)
- 8 cups kale leaves or baby kale (divided)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (divided)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt (divided)
- ¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese (use your vegetable peeler for nice big pieces)
- ¼ cup goat cheese
Black Pepper Candied Pecans
- ½ cup pecans (roughly chopped)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 tablespoons EACH: apple cider vinegar and honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 small garlic clove (very finely minced)
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Turn your oven on to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss the beets in half the oil and salt and place them on one of the baking sheets. Put them in the oven and let them roast for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.1 lb beets, 2 teaspoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Toss half the kale with the remaining oil and salt and spread them out on the remaining baking sheet. Put them in the oven with the beets and cook the kale chips for 15-20 minutes. Watch them closely after 15 minutes as they burn easily near the end.8 cups kale leaves or baby kale
- While the beets are in the oven, make the candied pecans and the dressing. Place the pecans, maple syrup, and black pepper in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and continue to boil, stirring often, until the pecans are coated in a thick syrup, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and stir to coat the pecans. Transfer the pecans to a piece of parchment paper and make sure they are not touching each other.½ cup pecans, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon butter
- To make the dressing, add the apple cider vinegar, honey, balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt to a bowl and whisk. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is nice and creamy.2 tablespoons EACH: apple cider vinegar and honey, 1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1 small garlic clove, 1 pinch sea salt, 4 tablespoons olive oil
- When the kale chips and roasted beets are ready, add both to a large salad bowl with the candied pecans, raw kale, parmesan cheese, and goat cheese. Pour the dressing over the top and toss.¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese, ¼ cup goat cheese
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.