Kale and Butternut Salad with Maple Spiced Pecans ~ a simple vegan salad full of superfood nutrients and fall flavors. This is the way you’re going to balance out all those heavy meals on your holiday menus…no Turkey Pants at your house this year 😉
I intentionally kept this kale salad on the spare side because I envisioned it as a side salad for the cooler months and the holidays. When you’re serving comfort food or a heavy holiday meal you don’t want a heavy salad to go with it, you want something light for balance.
The little touch of luxury in this otherwise superfood salad is the maple spiced pecans ~ yum! I have a method that I think is the best for making these little nuggets of joy. I don’t want them to be sweet like candy, nor do I want them to be overpoweringly spiced. My method is easier than most, with no messy egg white involved,
The pecans are just perfect, not too sweet or too spicy. They’re so good you’ll find yourself hunting and pecking for them through the kale, so better make plenty. You can snack on any extras, just pop them in a mason jar.
The dressing is half the show, so listen up! I put walnut oil (you can use olive) cider vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup in a mason jar and screw on the lid tight, then I shake shake shake until it emulsifies into a creamy dressing. Once emulsified the dressing won’t separate.
Butternut squash is delicious but it can be a pain to peel and slice. I do it the easy way, no peeler needed ~ I slice the neck into thin slices, then stack a couple of layers at a time and slice way the peel. Then I can easily dice the stack. Easy peasy.
The secret to doing kale salad right ~
Kale has a reputation for being tough when eaten raw, but it’s all in how you slice it. Make sure to remove the tough stems that run down the middle of each leaf, then stack all the bits and pieces up and slice them with a sharp knife into very thin (1/8 inch) shreds.
The thin slicing automatically tenderizes the kale while maintaining its fresh crunch. No massaging…please!
Note: for this recipe I prefer curly kale over the darker lacinto kale, which has a blue/green color and a nubbly leaf, but either will work.
Kale and Butternut Salad with Maple Spiced Pecans
- Preheat oven to 350F
- 1/2 small butternut squash peeled and cut in a very small dice (about 2 cups)
- I bunch curly kale
- 1/2 small onion finely minced
- 1/4 cup oil I used walnut, you can use olive or whatever you like
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tsp creamy dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- pinch salt
maple spiced pecans
- 1 cup pecans halves You will not need all of the pecans, use the rest for snacking
- 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp chili powder
- pinch salt
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- Put the squash cubes in a microwave safe bowl and add about 1/2 cup of water. Cover and microwave for about 3 1/2 minutes, or until the squash is just BARELY tender. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. If you fear you've taken it too far, immerse in ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, drain and dry on paper towels.
- Note: alternatively you can roast your squash, just toss the cubes in a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a preheated 350F oven for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Cool before using.
- Put the pecans, the spices, and the maple syrup in a bowl and toss well until all the nuts are lightly coated, I use my hands for this. Spread out the nuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, giving them a shake or a stir once during the cooking. Let them cool on the pan before using.
- Remove the stems from the kale leaves, and then slice them in very fine shreds. Put them in a salad bowl, along with the (cooled!) squash and minced onions.
- Toss the pecans with the spices, salt, and maple syrup until they are evenly coated. Spread them out on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Toss once during cooking. Let cool on pan.
- Put the dressing ingredients into a small Mason jar, screw on the lid tight, and shake for a minute or two until it's emulsified and creamy. Once emulsified (completely blended and creamy looking) it should not separate as it sits.
- Add the dressing to the kale, tossing well to distribute.
- Serve the salad with the spiced pecans scattered across the top.
notes and variations
Make this kale and butternut salad your own ~
Switch out the pecans for walnuts.
If you want to serve this more like a main course salad you can add any number of extras ~
chopped cheddar cheese or crumbled blue cheese
sunflower seed kernels
shredded rotisserie chicken