This shredded Kale Bacon Salad with Maple Candied Walnuts has become one of our go-to holiday salads. It’s quick, festive, and so delicious. Shredded kale, arugula, nutty manchego cheese, and sweet dried cranberries, all tossed with a simple cider vinaigrette that’s sweet and tangy. The spicy candied walnuts and pepitas add a nice crunch making every bite of this salad delicious. It really does burst with flavor! Great served alongside your favorite dinner or at your next holiday gathering!
Every holiday season (how is it the holiday season? just how?!), I love to create a simple green salad that’s perfect for serving alongside our family dinners. Whether it’s a normal night at home, Thanksgiving, or a fun Christmas dinner. I think they all need a really great green salad.
With so many rich and decadent dishes being served, it’s nice to have something light on the plate as well.
Most of the time my salads include pomegranates or apples, but I thought I’d switch things up slightly this year. I wanted to highlight one of November’s most popular foods, cranberries.
Turns out, I love this salad. And just how simple it is to put together! No popping out pomegranate arils! Plus, you can even make it hours in advance, so you’ve gotta love that.
Here are the details
In my mind, the candied walnuts are the key ingredient of this salad. I love them. They really add a nice crunch along with a sweet and spicy flavor.
I like to make my candied nuts in the oven to keep the process easy. You’ll want to toss the walnuts together with raw pepitas, maple syrup, and cayenne. These are my healthier take on candied walnuts. They’re every bit as addicting as they sound. Perfectly sweet and just a touch spicy too. Finish these off with flaky sea salt to seal the deal.
I also like to crisp up my bacon while the nuts toast. This way you’ll save some time, plus use just one pan!
While the walnuts are baking in the oven, toss together the salad base. I like to use a blend of finely shredded kale and baby arugula. I find this to be the perfect mix. You could also use spinach in place of the arugula. Next, add in nutty manchego cheese. Parmesan or feta works too, but we love manchego.
Next, toss in the dried cranberries.
The last step is the vinaigrette.
This is just another variation of my go-to dressing, but I sure do love it. Olive oil mixed with apple cider vinegar, fig preserves, fresh thyme, orange zest (the secret), salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
Don’t skip the orange zest, it certainly adds something special to the entire salad that makes everyone think “oh yummm”.
It’s really such a wonderfully simple side salad that’s perfect for all of your holiday entertaining. Whether it’s Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, or Christmas!
Hoping you all give this delicious wintery salad a try!
Looking for other winter salad recipes? Here are a few ideas:
Autumn Harvest Honeycrisp Apple and Feta Salad
Shredded Brussels Sprout Bacon Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
Super Green Sun-Dried Tomato Herb Salad
Kale Caesar Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Chickpeas
Lastly, if you make this Kale Bacon Salad with Maple Candied Walnuts, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Kale Bacon Salad with Maple Candied Walnuts
Calories Per Serving: 432 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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- 6 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
- 3/4 cup raw walnuts
- 1/3 cup raw pepitas
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 cups shredded kale
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 1 1/2 cups grated manchego or parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fig preserves or apple butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
- kosher salt and black pepper
- chili flakes
- 1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the walnuts and pepitas with maple syrup, and a pinch of cayenne. To the other side of the baking sheet, add the bacon in an even layer. Bake 8-10 minutes, until the bacon is crisping, watch close. Sprinkle with salt. 2. Meanwhile, toss the salad. In a large salad bowl, combine the kale, arugula, cheese, and cranberries. 3. To make the vinaigrette. Combine all ingredients in a glass jar. Whisk to combine. 4. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, tossing to combine. Top the salad with walnuts and bacon. Serve or keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
View Recipe Comments
To Make Ahead: the salad can be made up to 6 hours ahead, just add the bacon before serving. Leftovers: leftovers will keep well for 2-3 days. This salad is delicious warmed or chilled.
I’m making this for thanksgiving but wanted to also make a vegan version for some of our guests. If I wanted to add more veggies, what would you recommend? Thanks!
Squash and cauliflower would be great to add here! I hope you love this salad, please let me know if you give it a try! xT
My boyfriend and I love this salad. We added sautéed shallots and I think next time we will also add pomegranate seeds, blue cheese and pear. Yum!
Wonderful!! I love to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks so much for making it and sharing your review:)
Looks yummy! How far in advance can you make the dressing? Can you freeze the dressing?
Thanks so much! You could make the dressing up to 1 week in advance, I probably wouldn’t freeze it. Please let me know if you have any other questions! xT
perfect ~ ty!!
Have you tried it without the bacon?
I’ve never made this without the bacon, but it should be just fine for you to skip it:) Please let me know if you have any other questions, I hope this comes out tasty for you! xx
Have you ever tried this recipe with only kale? Also, how many bunches of kale are required for 4 cups? Can’t wait to make this for Thanksgiving!
Sure, you could skip the arugula:) Sorry, I’m not sure exactly how many bunches of kale since I buy it pre-shredded, I would say about 2 though! I hope you love this recipe! xT
This salad was so delicious I made it twice in one week!! It hits all the notes of sweet, tangy and spicy! Thanks so much for sharing 😋
Awesome!! 🍂 I love to hear that this recipe turned out well for you, thanks a bunch for trying it out! xx
I am making this wonderful satisfying salad today for the… well I have no idea. I started last Christmas and made it may times. Not only do I love it, but my family and guests always ask for the dressing recipe.
Happy Friday!!🌻 I am so glad to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for trying it and sharing your review:) xT
Forgot to add my rating!!
Thanks again Kristen:)
I just made this and it is my favorite salad to date!! I used slivered almonds instead of the walnuts and the topping alone is amazing. Thanks for the great recipes!!
Fantastic!! I love that this recipe turned out tasty for you, thanks so much for giving it a try! xx
I am hosting a Book Club next week (i.e. girls “book club” party) and would love to make this. We live in the North East and I think it would be perfect for this time of year. Any suggestions as to what I could serve with it for dinner ?? 🙂 I already own Half Baked Harvest Super Simple.. A great addition to my collection…
How fun!! Here are some recipes you might enjoy:
Please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan
Would prosciutto work instead of bacon?
Totally prosciutto would be great for you to use! I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xx
Made this last night and it was AMAZING! Used pecans instead of walnuts and leftover bacon — but just watch your story and next time will definitely cook the bacon with the maple drizzled over it. Without a doubt my new favorite salad and it’s on the Thanksgiving menu for sure!
Happy Wednesday! I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for making it and sharing your feedback! xx
This salad sounds yummy. I will add roasted shrimp to boost the protein.
I hope you love the recipe Cara!!
I really want to make this salad!This sounds so good… question-I am allergic to figs, have always loved the sound of your dressing but never made because of fig jam-what would you suggest as a substitute? Thank you
I think you could use half of a date (it’s the closest flavor in my opinion), and blitz the dressing in a food processor to mix it up well. She also added the alternative of apple butter in the recipe.
Thanks, Nicole… missed the apple butter suggestion completely and dates are a good idea
You could honey in place of the fig preserves! I hope this recipe turns out delish, please let me know if you have any other questions! xx
What’s a substitute for fig preserves? I haven’t seen those in the grocery.
Honey will work well in place of the fig preserves. Please let me know if you have any other questions, I hope you love this recipe! xT