Kale Salad with Apples and Manchego


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kale salad in a white bowl

Packed with texture and fresh flavor, a shredded Fall Kale Salad is the perfect healthier side dish to serve with your favorite main dishes. Apples, crunchy almonds, and tangy Manchego cheese balance the heartiness of the kale. 

In this week of fall sides, we needed a fresh salad, and nothing says cooler weather like kale! If you’re not a big fan of kale, it’s possible that you just haven’t found the right way to serve it. A salad that is packed with other textures and flavors – crunchy, savory, sweet – is one of the best ways to serve these hearty greens.

One of the best things about a kale salad is that it can be made ahead. Most salad greens will wilt if tossed with dressing and refrigerated for more than a short time, but kale will hold up well. Make this big salad ahead and pack it in lunches for fresh flavor all week long. 


There’s no way around it – kale leaves can be tough, but massaging the leaves will tenderize them and make their texture much closer to other salad greens. To massage kale leaves, chop or shred them and combine them with some oil and a pinch of salt or about a tablespoon of salad dressing. Using your hands, gently rub the leaves together, incorporating the oil / dressing evenly throughout the leaves. This should take about a minute. That’s it! The leaves are tender.

chopped kale in a salad spinner


Any type of kale will work well in salad, but if you want to make the salad ahead and are looking for maximum texture, go for a curly-leaf variety that will have lots of ridges to hold dressing. Lacinato Kale has smoother leaves that will also hold up well to dressing and won’t wilt, but doesn’t have the same ridges. While delicious in salads, Lacinato Kale also shines when cooked into soups and stews. 

Baby Kale is often sold in clamshells near the baby spinach and other pre-washed greens. These small leaves work well in salads but aren’t as sturdy as other varieties and will wilt if tossed with dressing and not served right away.  


  • Whole Almonds – Chop the almonds and then toast them in a skillet with some oil to add flavor and make them extra crisp. It takes a few extra minutes but it’s worth the effort.
  • Kale – See above for my favorite picks, but hearty kale holds up to the other sturdy ingredients in this salad. If you don’t want the full salad to be made of kale, try using half kale and half romaine.
  • Apple – Adds fresh, crisp, sweet flavor.
  • Manchego Cheese – This savory, nutty, Spanish cheese adds a rich dimension and creamy texture. Can’t find Manchego? There are lots of other options – see below for my favorites. 
  • Olive oil, Lemon juice, Shallot, Dijon mustard, Honey, Salt and Pepper – Make a simple, tangy vinaigrette to dress this salad. Don’t skimp on the lemon juice or shallot – it gives the dressing a tart, tangy flavor that goes great with kale!

adding dressing to kale in a clear bowl


  • Change the fruit – Try this salad with pear instead of apple or a dried fruit like dried cranberries or cherries.
  • Change the cheese –  Manchego can be difficult to find. Try another flavorful, firm cheese like gruyere, parmesan, or an extra sharp white cheddar.
  • Make it a meal – Add seared and seasoned chicken, steak, or tofu on top of the salad to make it a hearty meal. 



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Kale Salad with Apples and Manchego

Packed with texture and fresh flavor, a shredded kale salad is the perfect healthier side dish to serve with your favorite main dishes. Apples, crunchy almonds, and tangy Manchego cheese balance the heartiness of the kale.
To adjust the servings in this recipe, click on the number next to servings.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 6


  • Skillet
  • Mixing Bowl



  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon minced Shallot
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper


  • 1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
  • 1/2 cup Whole Almonds, chopped
  • 1 large bunch Kale, stem removed and leaves very thinly sliced (any type of large-leaf kale will work - I like curly-leaf or Tuscan)
  • 1 Green Apple, julienned
  • 2/3 cup grated Manchego Cheese (sub parmesan or gruyere)


  • Heat cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped almonds and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well until combined (or whisk together in a bowl).
  • Place kale in a large mixing bowl and add about 1/4 of the dressing. Use your hands to gently massage the dressing into the kale leaves. (This helps to season and tenderize the kale.)
  • Add all remaining salad ingredients to the kale. Add dressing slowly, while tossing, until salad is dressed to your liking.
  • Serve immediately.


Make Ahead - You can assemble and dress the kale leaves up to 2 hours ahead. Wait to add the almonds, apple, and cheese until right before serving. 
Olive Oil and Cooking Oil - I differentiate these just because that’s how I prefer to cook. I use an all-purpose high-heat cooking oil like grapeseed, vegetable, or avocado oil to sear and saute most things and olive oil to add flavor to vinaigrettes. Feel free to use them interchangeably in this recipe.


Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 288mg | Potassium: 237mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2251IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 202mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $8.00
Calories: 176
Keyword: easy salad recipe, easy side dish, fall, gluten free, side dish, simple side
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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