Tender kale greens with roasted butternut squash and crisp tart apples. Tossed with salty feta and roasted pecans in a 4-ingredient maple vinaigrette. Enjoy this fall kale salad all season long!

This salad was inspired by our Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad

Beautiful Fall Kale Salad that Has it All!

A rustic, cold-weather kale salad, with cubes of roasted butternut squash, tart apples, red onion, feta, and toasted pecans tossed in a maple vinaigrette. Just like our apple cranberry walnut salad — it’s loaded with so much texture, flavor, and gorgeous color!

It requires no special tools or techniques. All you do is roast some butternut squash and toss it with the rest of the ingredients.

You can prepare the squash a few days in advance and keep covered in the refrigerator. The maple vinaigrette is only four pantry staple ingredients that can be whisked together just before serving.

ingredients for kale salad

Secret to Delicious Kale Salad

The secret to any delicious kale salad is massaged kale leaves. Kale has a strong and earthy taste. The leaves are dry, tough, crunchy, and strong-tasting.

But when you massage the leaves in vinaigrette (or simply olive oil, lemon, or vinegar), it softens the leaves and reduces the bitterness of the kale. 

For the maple vinaigrette, you’ll need olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard. Whisk together and add to the salad.

maple vinaigrette

How to Massage Kale Leaves

  • Tear the kale off ribs: Tear the leafy part of the kale off the ribs. Discard the ribs and chop up the leaves into small, bite-size pieces. Place the leaves in a large bowl.

Tip: Save time and pick up a bag of chopped kale from the supermarket.

massaged kale in a bowl
  • Add the vinaigrette: Pour half of the maple vinaigrette over the kale leaves and start crunching them between your hands. The trick here is not to over-massage. Rub the kale leaves together between your fingers, until they just start to wilt.
  • Toss in everything else: Transfer the massaged kale leaves to a serving platter or bowl and layer on the butternut squash, apples, onion, pecans, and feta. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.

Topping Variations

Kale works with a variety of flavors so you can customize this salad to suit your taste. Here are more kale salad toppings to try:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sliced almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Goat cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Cranberries
  • Cooked bacon

Add grilled chicken tenders or grilled garlic shrimp for protein.

kale salad recipe with maple vinaigrette

How Long Does Kale Salad Last?

This salad is best enjoyed the same day. Even though the kale leaves hold up for up to 3 days the other toppings tend to get really soft when refrigerated.

More Kale Salad Recipes

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massaged kale salad recipe

Kale Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 5 reviews
  • Author: Katya
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Total Time: 15 min
  • Yield: 4-5 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Chopped
  • Cuisine: American


Tender healthy kale greens with roasted butternut squash and crisp tart apples. Tossed with salty feta and roasted pecans in a 4-ingredient maple vinaigrette. 


Units Scale
  • 5 oz. chopped kale leaves, de-stemmed (about 8 cups packed)
  • 1/2 large apple (such as Granny Smith or Pink Lady), cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup cubed + roasted butternut squash, cooled
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, roasted

Maple Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper


  1. In a large bowl, toss kale leaves with half of the Maple Vinaigrette and use your hands to massage the vinaigrette into the leaves. It helps break down some of the toughness and reduce bitterness. Massage until the leaves just begin to wilt.
  2. Arrange apples, butternut squash, red onions, feta, and pecans on top of the kale leaves. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and serve.

Maple Vinaigrette

  1. Whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


  • To Roast Butternut Squash: Preheat the oven to 425 F. Toss the butternut squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange coated squash on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 25 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.
  • Topping Variations: Kale salad works with a variety of flavors. See post for list of additional topping ideas.
  • Leftovers: This kale salad tastes the best the same day. Kale leaves usually hold up well in the fridge for a few days, however, the other toppings tend to get too soft.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 191
  • Sugar: 5.9 g
  • Sodium: 170.6 mg
  • Fat: 14.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 13.6 g
  • Protein: 4.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 11.1 mg