This easy, filling, hearty kale salad is made with fresh apple, crisp bacon, grated cheddar cheese, and roasted salted almonds for a satisfying crunch. It’s tossed with a simple homemade cider vinaigrette, and can be on your table tonight.Jump to Recipe Print Recipe
This easy fall salad is a fantastic way to get more kale in your diet, and to use up your fall apple picking bounty. I’ll walk you through how to select and prepare kale, what kind of cheddar is best, and how to make this super simple cider vinaigrette.
Ingredients for Apple Bacon Kale Salad
Everyone is eating kale these days, and with good reason! It’s incredibly good for you, versatile, and full of flavor. It tastes fantastic in both raw and cooked preparations. It can be sautéed, fried, grilled, braised, and even roasted into chips (my kids’ favorite preparation). Unlike many greens, it is sturdy enough to maintain its texture in a salad even when dressed in advance, and the leftovers can go with you to work the next day.
Nutritional Benefits of Kale
Kale is considered to be one of the most super of all the “superfoods.” Just one cup of raw kale has well over 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains sizable amounts of B6, calcium, copper, potassium, and manganese, and is rich in antioxidants. It lowers cholesterol, fights cancer and heart disease, and is low in both calories (only 33 per cup) and fat. We should all be finding ways to incorporate more kale into our diets – especially those of us who eat as much bacon as I do! This salad is a great way to get started.
Different Kinds of Kale
There are several different kinds of commercially available kale, and they can all be used in this salad. The most delicate kale is baby kale. You can usually find it in the salad section of the grocery store, and it can be used as-is after a quick wash. The stems are edible and it doesn’t need massaging. It isn’t suited for long cooking times. Red kale is also fairly tender and well-suited to salads. Lacinato and especially curly kale are at the tougher end of the spectrum, and are usually located with collards and other cooking greens. I really enjoy them in salads, but they are a little harder to digest and they may benefit from a massage prior to raw consumption.
How to Prepare Kale for a Salad
All kale except for baby kale should have the fibrous stem removed before using. Fold the kale leaves in half so the stem is on one side of your cutting board, and chop it one with one knife stroke. Cut the remaining leaf into bite size pieces, and wash. If you often find raw kale too tough, you can massage the leaves with a teaspoon or two of olive oil prior to preparing the rest of the salad. I actually like even curly kale just fine without this step – I find that my salad dressing itself tenderizes the kale enough for my tastes. It’s totally up to you though. If you like more tender greens, either buy baby kale or give your tougher greens a quick massage prior to assembling the salad.
This is a great recipe to use up that homemade bacon, or thick cut bacon from your butcher or grocery. Regular commercial bacon will work too, and will cook a bit faster. You want to cut it into lardons, whichever bacon you choose to use. Do that by stacking it on a cutting board, and slicing it the long way into strips not more than a half inch wide. Pop them into a frying pan and cook to your desired degree of doneness. This step can be done a day or two in advance if you’d like.
No need to peel your apple for this recipe. Cut it into quarters, remove the core, then cut each quarter into 6-8 pieces depending on the size of the apple. Don’t slice the apple until you’re ready to add it to the salad or it will turn brown. Once the salad has been dressed, the vinegar in the dressing will keep the apple slices looking fresh. According to Apple for That, the best salad apples are Honeycrisp, Fuji, Pink Lady, Piñata, Jazz, Envy, and Empire. Fuji apples are my personal favorite, and there what I used in this salad.
I live in Wisconsin, so cheddar cheese is a pretty broad category. Our groceries have entire aisles devoted to cheese alone, it’s pretty amazing. I like a nice sharp, aged cheddar. There’s a fantastic cheese factory just north of my workplace: Springside Cheese. If you’re interested, they ship (I don’t get a dime for recommending them either)!
I like to use roasted, salted nuts to add crunch and flavor to salads. I chose almonds for this recipe, but you could absolutely use pecans or walnuts if you prefer. Roasted salted almonds are pretty readily available, but you can also make your own if you’d like. If you’re watching your sodium intake, feel free to use unsalted nuts instead.
Dressing for Apple Bacon Kale Salad
This is a super simple salad dressing. All you need is apple cider vinegar (I like the unfiltered kind), extra virgin olive oil, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. If you don’t have brown sugar, try using a little maple syrup in its place. The easiest way to make salad dressing is to shake all of the ingredients vigorously in a small clean mason jar, but you can also whisk vigorously while slowly streaming the oil into a bowl with the other ingredients. Feel free to double or triple the dressing recipe – it will keep in the fridge for about two weeks.
Start by preparing the kale. Remove the stems, chop into bite size pieces, wash, dry, and massage with a little oil only if desired. Let the kale rest while you fry the bacon lardons to your desired level of crispness. While the bacon is frying, grate some sharp cheddar cheese and mix the salad dressing. Finally, chop the apple. Toss the kale with the dressing, and once the bacon is finished mix in the bacon, apple, cheddar, and almonds. Serve and enjoy!
What to Serve with Apple Bacon Kale Salad?
This is a fairly hearty salad, and it can absolutely stand alone at lunchtime. Otherwise, it’s a lovely accompaniment to soups, sandwiches, pastas, risottos, or lighter meats such as salmon or chicken breast. A few ideas are:
- Easy Clam Chowder with Bacon
- Bacon Grilled Cheese in a Cast Iron Skillet
- Asparagus Mushroom Risotto with Bacon
- Pancetta Risotto with Peas
- Authentic Italian Spaghetti Carbonara
- Baked Haddock with Panko Bacon Breadcrumbs and Aioli
- Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Corn Puree
If you like salads with bacon, you can also check out these recipes!
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Fall Kale Salad with Apple, Bacon, Cheddar, and Roasted Almonds
- Salad Bowl
- Cheese Grater
- Frying Pan (preferably cast iron)
- 8 oz kale washed, stems removed, chopped into bite size pieces
- 6 oz bacon preferably thick cut, sliced into lardons
- 1 apple
- 2 oz sharp cheddar
- 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds
- 1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil optional
- pinch salt optional
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp brown sugar or maple syrup
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: if you're using curly or Lacinato kale and would like it to be more tender, massage it with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Leave it to sit in the salad bowl while you assemble the rest of the salad.
- Place a preferably cast iron frying pan over medium heat and add bacon lardons to cold pan. Fry until bacon reaches desired level of doneness. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Mix the salad dressing. You may either add the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar to a mason jar and shake vigorously until emulsified, or you may combine the vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a bowl and slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Set aside. The dressing recipe may be doubled or tripled if desired, and will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.
- Grate the cheddar cheese and chop the apples – do not cut apples until you are almost ready to dress the salad, so that they do not brown.
- Assemble the salad: toss the kale leaves with the salad dressing, then add the bacon, cheddar, apples, and roasted pecans. Mix everything together and serve.