Kale and Butternut Salad with Maple Spiced Pecans

kale and butternut salad in a wooden bowl with wooden salad servers

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 😉

Kale and Butternut Salad in a salad bowl with wooden spoons

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.

Kale and butternut squash salad in a wooden bowl with wooden salad servers

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,

Making Maple spiced pecans in a glass bowl

Roasting Maple Spiced Pecans on a baking sheet

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.

Dressing a Kale and Butternut Squash Salad with a maple cider vinaigrette

The dressing~

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.

slicing butternut squash for kale and butternut salad

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.

kale and butternut squash salad with maple spiced pecans

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 in a wooden bowl with wooden salad servers
4.84 from 6 votes

Kale and Butternut Salad with Maple Spiced Pecans

Kale and Butternut Salad with Maple Spiced Pecans ~ this simple vegan salad is full of superfood nutrients and fall flavors.  Enjoy it all fall and then serve it with your holiday meals for a welcome bit of fresh greens.
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Total Time 30 minutes
Calories 141kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 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.

Cook's notes

* The nuts will lose their crunch if they sit in the salad, so scatter them on top just before serving.


Calories: 141kcal
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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

    • crumbled bacon

    • shredded rotisserie chicken


Kale and Butternut Salad with Maple Spiced Pecans ~ this simple vegan salad is full of superfood nutrients and fall flavors. #salad #superfood #kale #fall #sidedish #Thanksgivingside #healthy #recipe #easy #wintersquash #spicednuts #candiednuts #pecans

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    November 10, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Delicious. Another winner, Sue.

    • Reply
      November 11, 2018 at 10:23 am

      I’m loving roasted squash in salads this season, have you tried delicata?

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 11:36 am

    I think walnut oil elevates any salad. I love your flavor combinations in this salad.

    • Reply
      October 17, 2018 at 2:28 pm

      I totally agree, I’m weaning myself off olive oil these days so I can experience other flavors and wow, there are so many choices!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Definitely going to try this. I’d like to add either cranberries or pomegranate arils, preferably the arils.

    • Reply
      October 17, 2018 at 9:53 am

      Both great ideas, then you’d really have a showstopper!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    October 17, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Loving this simple Fall salad! Maple pecans are the best and perfect with the squash 🙂

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 5:58 am

    This will definitely be on my Thanksgiving table!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 5:39 am

    I snack on kale all the time…love this power greens. Your salad looks amazing, Sue.

    • Reply
      October 17, 2018 at 7:17 am

      Once I started shredding kale super finely I fell in love with it, I actually prefer it to regular lettuce in salads 🙂

  • Reply
    October 17, 2018 at 5:28 am

    Another gorgeous salad Sue! Butternut squash is a favorite of mine – and that dressing sounds perfect. Can’t wait to give it a try. It just screams healthy!

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    October 17, 2018 at 2:46 am

    I love everything about this salad! So “Fall” and such a healthy and super delicious combination. Not sure any of those pecans will get to the salad.

    • Reply
      October 17, 2018 at 7:18 am

      Thanks Chris ~ and yes, those nuts are definitely ‘at risk’ 😉

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