Festive Kale Salad with Apple & Pomegranate

A fresh red 'n' green salad for the holidays, a joyful exuberance of raw kale massaged until it's tamed and tender, tossed with crisp, sweet red apple and tart, juicy pomegranate seeds. No spartan salad, this: make it a nourishing meal, make it a special side salad, make it the star of your cookie swap, your Christmas lunch, your neighborhood potluck. A kale salad with fruit and nuts is a welcome healthy contrast to rich holiday foods. I do so hope you love it too!

Festive Kale Salad with Apple & Pomegranate, another seasonal salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, a burst of color, texture and flavor for winter holiday meals.

Raw Kale Salad, Fresh & Inventive. Beautiful Color. A Welcome Addition to Holiday Meals and Buffets. Budget Friendly. Great for Meal Prep. Potluck & Party Friendly. Scales from Small Plates to Large Platters. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free.

What Goes in the Toe of Christmas Stockings?

On My Mind ♥ KitchenParade.com. What goes into the toe of Christmas stockings, an orange, a pomegranate?

Does Santa still put special treats into the toes of Christmas stockings?

My husband remembers that he and his three older siblings shared an orange – just one! – on Christmas Eve. It was such a special treat! Now? We buy oranges by big bagsful, one for each of us every single day during the season.

When my sister and I were girls, mom asked the local grocer to special-order pomegranates for the toes of our stockings. Yes, it took a special order to get pomegranates. Now? Grocery stores stack pomegranates in big bins, buy one, buy a dozen, all for the taking.

So really, isn't it quite something to mentally click through all the foods that were rare (or unheard of) fifty years ago, now almost commonplace?

This thinking was dancing in my mind a couple of weeks back while standing in my sister's kitchen, meditatively massaging perfectly fresh, perfectly clean, almost-perfectly trimmed leaves of fresh kale straight from a bag.

An abundance of fresh oranges and hefty pomegranates plus cleaned kale? Now that's progress.

About This Recipe

  • This is a salad of great abundance, a joyful salad and a salad way more than the sum of its parts. It starts off with fresh raw kale massaged with a little oil and salt until the kale leaves turn moist and tender. Thin slices of fresh apple and tiny pomegranate seeds add color, crunch and tartness. The greens and fruit are finished with a simple lemon and honey vinaigrette and a few nutty toasted pecans.
  • Distinctive Ingredients = kale + apple + pomegranate + pecans
  • Ingredient List = kale + olive oil + salt & pepper + apple + pomegranate + pecans + apple cider vinegar + lemon juice + honey
  • It takes a good half hour to assemble the salad, start to finish. Several steps may be prepped ahead of time, if so, it takes only about five minutes to assemble the salad for serving.
  • This is one beautiful salad! The kale turns a bright glossy green, especially tucked against red-skinned apple and ruby-red pomegranate. The red and green colors are just ever-so festive.
  • This is a budget-friendly salad. The ingredients are easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
  • This recipe yields about 8 cups of salad. Experience says to allow for half-cup servings for a large meal or buffet with lots of choices but one-cup servings for weeknight meals. That said, two ravenous Salad Lovers have been known to happily devour the whole bowl in a sitting. What, us?!
Festive Kale Salad with Apple & Pomegranate, another seasonal salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, a burst of color, texture and flavor for winter holiday meals.

What's In a Festive Kale Salad? Pretty Much Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • A Simple Vinaigrette Just small splashes of apple cider vineger and lemon juice for acidity, honey (or agave for vegan) for sweetness, olive oil for richness, salt and pepper for savoriness.
  • Fresh Kale If you've yet to try a bag of raw kale that's already washed and trimmed, wow, do you have a pleasant surprise awaiting. Once you give the pre-washed greens a try, I predict many more leafy greens in your future. Seriously, bags of leafy greens like kale, collards, turnip greens and more are a home cook's best friend, "whole food" from the grocery store, just faster, just more convenient and importantly, without a premium price tag.
  • Crisp Apple Choose an apple you like to eat, preferably one that's wet and crisp with a cheery red skin. Here, I'm a big fan of Pink Lady apples, also gala apples. Do skip the temptation of dull, mealy Delicious apples despite their pretty color.
  • Pomegranate Seeds Yeah, I still call 'em "seeds" even though those bright little bites of juiciness hidden inside pomegranates are technically called arils. Or wait. Is it spelled arials? Or ariels in Little Mermaid tribute? I have to look it up, every single time. So now you know why I'm sticking with "seeds". It's always a good day when the year's first pomegranates appear in stores. If you've never wrangled one before, check out three easy ways, How to Remove Pomegranate Seeds.
  • Toasted Pecans In my holiday kitchen, toasted pecans are a staple, both pecan halves and pecan pieces plus Maple-Glazed Pecans. If you've never toasted nuts before, know that it's super-easy with a big pay-off. This is my favorite way to toast nuts, including pecans, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, etc. Arrange the nuts on a baking sheet, use a single layer with plenty of space between the nuts. Roast the nuts in the oven at 350F or 375F until the nuts begin to turn gold in color (or even darker, my favorite), stirring every 5 minutes or so, watching very carefully at the end. I often start toasting nuts while the oven is preheating, it works great. Just do set a timer, you definitely don't want to burn the nuts and it's easy to lose track.
Festive Kale Salad with Apple & Pomegranate, another seasonal salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, a burst of color, texture and flavor for winter holiday meals.

How to Make Festive Kale Salad with Apple & Pomegranate

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in three easy steps. You can definitely do this!

  • MIX THE VINAIGRETTE This is quick, just a few ingredients whisked together with a fork.
  • MASSAGE THE KALE Use your hands to rub the kale leaves with a little olive oil and salt, just until they turn moist, tender and bright green in color.
  • TOSS THE SALAD! Turn thin slices of apple, pomegranate seeds, toasted pecans and the vinaigrette into the kale. Then serve! That's it!

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • Why does the kale need "massaging"? Massaging kale between your fingers tames its natural bitterness and toughness. The leaves move from dusky and tough to moist and still chewy but almost-tender. Massaging also salts the kale deep into the leaf structure, a good thing.

  • Could you skip the massage step? Yes. But ... ... really, I don't recommend it.

  • How in heck do you get those seeds out of a pomegranate? That was always the question, straight from our Christmas stockings. Back then, we just cut a pomegranate in quarters and sat down with a bowl to turn the skins inside out, making it easy to pry out the seeds a few at a time. This works! But there's also the water method, that's what I've used for a long while. But my sister just introduced me to a new way that really works, the award-winning Pomegranate De-Seeder (affiliate link). Not only does it work well, a good whack just feels good if you're harboring any holiday angst. All three easy methods are now detailed here, see How to Remove Pomegranate Seeds.

  • What about using a store-bought container of pomegranate seeds? They're more expensive but the convenience might be worth it if the product were any good. I've looked at containers in several stores: they look mucky to me. Maybe your sources are better? If so, go for it.
Festive Kale Salad with Apple & Pomegranate, another seasonal salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, a burst of color, texture and flavor for winter holiday meals.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most iluminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

DO THE PREP WORK BEFOREHAND If possible, take care of the piddly steps ahead of time, that is, toasting the pecans, separating the pomegranate seeds (arils), mixing the vinaigrette, even massaging the kale.

THE KALE SHOULD BE COMPLETELY DRY The salad can turn watery if the kale has any excess moisture. Normally, I'd rinse a bag of pre-washed kale in running water but here, I just use the kale straight from the bag. If you must-must rinse the kale, use a salad spinner to remove much of the moisture, then pat really dry with paper towels.

What Makes This Recipe Special

  • Beautiful color!
  • It's a medley of contrasts, bitter greens and crunchy apple, toasty pecans and juicy pomegranate.
  • A fresh, colorful salad for special holiday meals or simple salad suppers.
  • A welcome healthy break from rich holiday foods.
  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this colorful, nutritious salad recipe hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Festive Kale Salad with Apple & Pomegranate, another seasonal salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, a burst of color, texture and flavor for winter holiday meals.


Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Time-to-table: 30 minutes
Makes about 8 cups salad, easy to scale up or down

It's quick-quick to assemble this salad just before serving if the Vinaigrette is already mixed, the kale massaged, the pomegranate arils separated and the pecans toasted. Leave the apple and dressing the salad until just before serving.
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • Good salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces fresh kale from a bag of already-washed, trimmed and torn kale
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon good coarse salt
  • Massaged Kale
  • 1 crisp, cold apple, preferably with a red skin, cut into thin lengths and then thirds
  • 1 medium pomegranate, the red seeds (aka "arils") separated

  • 1/2 cup toasted pecan halves
  • Vinaigrette
  • A few extra pomegranate seeds and pecan halves, for garnish, optional
  • Additional good fine salt, to taste, optional

MIX THE VINAIGRETTE With a fork, whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. The vinaigrette could be made a day or even two ahead.

MASSAGE THE KALE Up to three or four hours before serving, place about a third of the kale in a bowl big enough for maneuvering room for both your hands. Drizzle the olive oil and salt over the kale. With your hands, rub the oil and salt into the leaves, rubbing the leaves together to soften them; it takes maybe 30 seconds for the kale to noticeably begin to soften and brighten in color; tear off any remaining heavy stems as your hands find them. Add another third of the kale and repeat the process, then the last third. If the kale is massaged ahead of time, refrigerate until ready to serve.

JUST BEFORE SERVING In the same large bowl, stir the apple pieces and the pomegranate arils into the Massaged Kale. Gently toss in the 1/2 cup pecan halves and Vinaigrette. Give it a taste, adjust the seasoning for salt, especially.

TO SERVE If you like, transfer the salad to a pretty serving dish and sprinkle a few extra pomegranate seeds and pecan halves over the top.

LEFTOVERS last for a day or two but the salad is definitely best when it's first served.

ALANNA's TIPS Apple cider vinegar really works and is one that many home cooks keep on hand. But other good, mild vinegars work too, my personal favorite is sherry vinegar. Honey really works here but for a vegan salad, you might choose either agave or sorghum syrup. I'm especially fond of golden syrup's extra depth. If you're starting with a bundle of fresh kale, allow extra time to clean it really well. There are step-by-step instructions on how to do this at my food blog about vegetables, A Veggie Venture, please see Leafy Greens Recipes – Alphabet of Vegetables. After cleaning the kale, dry it really well in a salad spinner, then pat even dryer with paper towels. Then cut the stems out of the kale leaves (the stems are cookable but too tough for this salad) and roughly chop the leaves themselves. Whew. All that prep for kale! But good news, those bags of fresh, pre-washed and trimmed kale, such a magnificent time saver and the kale is super-fresh. Do take a taste though, some times even it can be a little gritty. If so, give it a bit of a soak, then a good rinse, then a good dry before starting the massage process.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2022/12/festive-kale-salad.html .
SHORTCUT SALAD So just last night I had a crowd coming for an impromptu dinner and instead of massaging fresh kale, saved a few minutes by using fresh arugula and fresh baby kale (both from Trader Joe's) with the same dressing, the same apple, the same pomegranate seeds, the same pecans. Wonderful!

ANOTHER VARIATION Out of pomegranates? Or did you open one up to find the seeds all pale and pallid? It does happen. So one night I skipped the honey in the dressing and added about a quarter cup of cranberry sauce, here that would be Homemade Whole Cranberry Sauce for the Slow Cooker but really your favorite cranberry sauce will likely do. This was a very good salad!

NUTRITION INFORMATION Sorry, due to technical issues during a messy laptop conversion, nutrition info and Weight Watchers points will be added later.
Adapted from a salad my sister served at Thanksgiving to great acclaim. I couldn't wait to make it again, once we got home!

This Year, Let's Give Salads with Abandon

~ salad recipes ~
Apple Yogurt Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, a winter fruit salad, just apples with Greek yogurt, tangerines, pomegranate, fresh mint and a touch of cardamon. Great for winter brunches, Christmas morning, light holiday desserts. Weight Watchers Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Gluten Free.
  • THE RECIPE Apple Yogurt Salad Perfect for holiday & winter brunches.
  • ANOTHER TAKE Healthy Waldorf Salad My makeover recipe for Waldorf Salad, reducing calories and Weight Watchers points by more than 80%.

Red & Green Warm Spinach Salad, another simple but special salad ♥ AVeggieVenture.com

Festive Holiday Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, my 'signature salad' for the holidays, ten minutes start to finish.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ kale recipes ~
~ apple recipes ~
~ pomegranate recipes ~
~ pecan recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.