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.
- 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.
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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.
This salad is delicious. The standout is the walnut pepita brittle … make a double or triple batch as you can’t stop munching on it as you prep the salad!
Amazing!! So glad to hear that this recipe turned out well for you, thanks so much for making it! xT
Made this last week and couldn’t find any apple butter in the store, so I learned how to make that as well (and made this salad with your cinnamon cider donuts). Oh my gosh! The salad is delicious and this is my new favorite vinaigrette! I had to sub the fresh thyme for dried and lemon zest grated in for the orange (allergies), but it’s still super delicious! I’m new to your blog, but I’ve cooked about seven of your recipes in the past two weeks and am loving it—thank you!!!
Happy Wednesday!! Thanks so much for making this recipe and sharing your feedback, so glad to hear it was tasty! Thanks for trying so many recipes!! xx
Made this last night. It was a big hit! The candied walnuts and pepitas are out of control. We were all eating them by themselves.
Perfect!! I am delighted to hear that this recipe turned out well for you and thanks so much for trying it out! xx
This was absolutely delicious! Loved the use of maple syrup on the candied nuts instead of sugar. The dressing was wonderful. A really nice fall/winter salad that we will enjoy ALL YEAR!
Wonderful!! I love to hear that this recipe turned out well for you and thanks so much for trying it out! xx
Made this for Friendsgiving AND family Christmas…a huge hit! Opted out of bacon since we put bacon on virtually everything else haha and it was still perfect. Ideal recipe for kale skeptics!
I appreciate you giving this recipe a try and sharing your review, so glad to hear it was enjoyed! Happy New Year! 🎊🎈