Kale and Fall Fruit Salad with Cider Poppy Seed Dressing ~ this is the queen of fall salads, with pear, cranberries, figs, pomegranate, and grapes, all tossed in a creamy cider vinaigrette. It’s healthy, hearty, and festive enough for the holidays.
This salad pays homage to all the beautiful fruits that come into peak season in fall ~ it’s an unabashedly sweet salad, from the natural sugars in the ripe fruit to the honey and cider dressing. Definitely sweeter than I usually go with salads, but nonetheless delicious. I tried to balance all that sweet with the baby kale, cheese, and roasted nuts, but I won’t lie, this is one honey-licious salad.
For this fall fruit salad I used:
- Black Mission figs
- Gum Drops® grapes (so sweet they actually taste like candy)
- Starkrimson pears
- dried cranberries
- pomegranate seeds
- red currants (past their summer season, but my supermarket had them and I couldn’t resist)
Not sure I love the Gum Drop grapes, they’re literally like eating gummi-bears. I might go with a standard grape next time, there’s a limit to how sweet I like my fruit! You might want to add plums or apples to this lineup as well.
I chose baby kale for the base of my salad because it’s tender but sturdy ~ you can use baby spinach as well, but avoid delicate lettuces like spring mixes that won’t stand up to the weight of the fruit.
TIP: If you buy triple washed greens in bags or tubs you’ll be ahead of the game, and this salad will come together quickly.
The secret to a creamy dressing like my cider poppy seed dressing is to emulsify the ingredients. Emulsifying is simply blending at a high speed, either by hand or with a blender, so the liquids, which are normally separate, come together into a creamy consistency that doesn’t separate. I use my immersion blender for this and it works great.
What’s the difference between cider and apple juice?
It’s a little fuzzy since there is no legal standard across the board, but generally, apple cider is fresh, raw, unprocessed, and unfiltered apple juice. Apple juice has been filtered and pasteurized for longer shelf life. So true apple cider is cloudy, and apple juice is clear.
TIP: A little bit of mustard helps the emulsion come together, so don’t leave it out.
The cheese and toasted hazelnuts are an important part of this equation, even though they didn’t make it into the title. The cheese adds a satisfying gravitas to the salad, and the toasted nuts provide the key flavor that lingers on the palate. I used a leftover soft blue and Camembert from my cheese drawer, but you can use pretty much what you like, I recommend something soft and creamy. A creamy goat cheese would also work.
To toast the nuts, put them on a dry baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes in a 350F oven, giving the pan a shake once or twice during cooking. let them cool on the pan, then give them a rough chop. You could substitute walnuts or pecans if you prefer, but I think hazelnuts are the most ‘fallish’ of all the nuts.
Every year I look forward to coming up with new fall salads. Some of my favorites have been this VEGAN ANCIENT GRAIN SALAD and my HARVEST SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE ALLSPICE DRESSING. Both would be great holiday sides. If you love fall figs, my FIG AND FRIED GOAT CHEESE SALAD is a winner.
- 4 handfuls of baby kale (about 4 cups)
- 4 figs, quartered
- 1 ripe pear, cored and cut in thin slices (squeeze the cut pear with lemon juice to prevent browning)
- 1 cup grapes, halved
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 cup red currants (optional)
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
- 1/4 cup Camembert or Brie, in small wedges or chunks
- 1/4 cup rough chopped toasted hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup cider
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
- pinch salt
- black pepper to taste
- Place the kale in a wide shallow salad bowl.
- Arrange the fruit, cheese, and nuts over the top.
- Put all the dressing ingredients in a mason jar or similar sized wide mouth jar and use an immersion blender to blend to a creamy consistency.
- Drizzle the dressing on the salad just before serving.
Make it your own ~
- Cut fat and calories by using shavings of Parmesan, crumbled feta, or fresh mozzarella in place of the fattier cheeses.
- Conversely, you could go all out and add some crumbled bacon.
- You can turn this into a Waldorf type fruit salad, just leave out the kale and cheese. Cut the fruit in bite sized chunks, add diced apples, some celery, and toss with a good amount of the dressing.
- This packs well for lunch, just bring the dressing in a separate container.
Don’t forget to pin this Kale and Fall Fruit Salad!