This kale and butternut squash salad is a must-make recipe for your Thanksgiving menu, Christmas dinner, or fall and winter dinner parties. It’s full of texture and flavor with bacon, caramelized onions, toasted almonds, and dried cranberries.
Delicious Thanksgiving Salad
I got this recipe from ALDI when I visited their test kitchen. It was part of our holiday meal and it blew me away! This salad is full of amazing flavors and textures and it complements any meat or side dish.
When to Serve It
I love this for any get-together over the fall and winter months. That’s when butternut squash is in season so it’s easy to find.
- Your Thanksgiving dinner needs this festive appetizer salad. It compliments a roasted or slow cooker turkey breast and traditional sides.
- Put this on your Friendsgiving party menu to add freshness to the meal.
- Serve it with pumpkin curry soup for a fall themed soup and salad combo.
- Include this with a soup dinner party or a luncheon with a soup bar.
- Add this appetizer salad to a Christmas dinner party along with creamy macaroni and cheese and you’ll have an impressive meal for your guests.
This is one of the few salads that doesn’t have cheese, however if you added in some goat cheese, it would be excellent!
- Baby Kale is young and tender but you can also use green kale or Tuscan kale. I like to buy kale in bags that are already washed and cut. Whether you use bagged products or fresh leaves you’ll still need to make sure the tough stems are cut and disposed of.
- Butternut squash. Use one small squash, peeled and diced. You can also find this in bags, already peeled and cubed. In the grocery store it should be in the produce section with other bagged salads for cut vegetables.
- Bacon. You’ll cook the bacon to add to the salad, and you’ll also save the bacon fat for the dressing. Cook it ahead and save the bacon grease in a small microwave-safe bowl. When you’re ready to prepare the dressing, simple heat the fat in the microwave until it liquifies again, about 30 to 45 seconds.
- Yellow onion. This is used to make caramelized onions. They are delicious on almost anything! You can make them ahead and store in the fridge.
- Sliced Almonds. Lightly toast the nuts to bring out their full flavor. Do this up to 2 days ahead and store covered. Toast them in a 375 degree oven for about 5 to 7 minutes. Keep an eye on them as you don’t want them to burn.
- Dry Rosemary & Garlic Powder. Check your spice cabinet to make sure your dry herbs are up to date. Anything passed a year will start to lose flavor.
- Dried Cranberries. You could substitute dried cherries or pomegranate arils, too.
EXPERT TIP: To help “soften” the kale, first add it to a large bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil or lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Message it into the kale for 1 minute.
The dressing is so delicious. Using warm bacon fat will heat up the greens slightly and help soften them.
- White Vinegar
- Dijon Mustard
- Brown Sugar
- Reserved bacon fat
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Combine dressing ingredients together with a whisk OR in a jar with a secure lid and shake vigorously until smooth and emulsified.
Add salad ingredients to a large bowl and drizzle the dressing over top. Toss to combine and to cover the kale with the dressing.
How to Make Fall Kale Salad
There are three steps to making this salad.
- First, you’ll season and cook the butternut squash.
- Next you’ll cook bacon and caramelized onions.
- Finally you’ll make the dressing to pour over the prepared salad.
It may sound like a lot but trust me, it’s worth it! Plus, you can do some of the steps ahead, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
PARTY TIP: Make the onions, bacon, and roasted butternut squash up to 24 hours ahead so it’s quicker to put the salad together for dinner.
Add this kale and butternut squash fall salad to Thanksgiving dinner or your Christmas meal. It’s a superb salad for special occasions and dinner parties.
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled & diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons Olive Oil, divided
- 1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or two cloves, crushed)
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1/8 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 6 strips Center Cut Bacon (save bacon fat)
- 1/2 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup Dried Cranberries
- 1 cup Sliced Almonds, lightly toasted
- 3 cups packed Organic Baby Kale
- 2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
- 1/4 cup reserved bacon fat
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a small bowl combine squash, 1 Tablespoon oil, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper, and toss until well coated.
- Transfer squash to baking sheet and roast about 10 minutes or until tender but crisp.
- Cook bacon until crisp and reserve 1/4 cup bacon fat for dressing.
- In a small sauté pan, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook until caramelized. Reduce heat to low after 10 minutes and stir every 5 minutes or as needed. Reserve in a large bowl.
- In a large bowl, add kale, squash, bacon, onion, cranberries, almonds, and toss to combine.
- For dressing, combine vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar in a small bowl using a whisk. Slowly drizzle in bacon fat and olive oil while whisking, until emulsified, OR you can add the ingredients in a jar with a secure lid and shake vigorously until smooth.
- Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately.