Chick-fil-A inspired apple kale crunch salad is mixed with red cabbage,
dried fruit, and roasted almonds tossed in a delicious lemon dijon dressing.
Dare I say better than the Chick-fil-A version?
Yes, I dare say, this kale crunch salad is better than the Chick-fil-A salad!
My kale salads are the number one request from my family -- they are that good. The trick is to mix in sweet flavors to offset any bitterness from the kale. You can use fresh or dried fruit. I tend to like to use both, I always recommend using what you currently have in your pantry (my apple and pomegranate salad is a great example of this).
In making this salad I chose to use the same ingredients Chick-fil-A Kale Crunch salad. I just used a lot of them and added a few more. The main ingredient I used was red kale. I chopped it into small pieces before massaging it.
Are you reading this and thinking, did she write massage kale?
Yes, I did! I know it massaging kale sounds weird. However, it is a simple step that takes your salad from good to great! If you have not tried this before, you are going to have to trust me on this one.
I added lots of dried pineapple, roasted almonds, and apples. On a couple of my test salads, I added pretzel sticks.
Pretzel sticks sound crazy, right?
The pretzel sticks add a great salty crunch. I did make this salad with and without the pretzel, and it tastes fantastic both ways. The pretzel sticks are perfect for salt fiends like me!
When making the dressing, combine all the ingredients. It really is that easy. (Psst - I like to make it in a mason jar. It is easy to store any leftover dressing for later.)
Kale - This is the base of this salad and you can use any variety.
Red Cabbage - I love shredded cabbage in a salad. It adds a texture and crunch while adding to the overall flavor profile.
Apples - Use crisp apples for a sweet flavor and a nice crunch.
Dried Sweet Fruit - I always recommend using dried and sweetened fruit when making a kale salad. The sweetness helps balance the bitterness of kale to create a well-rounded salad. For this salad, I used pineapple, but just about any dried sweet fruit will work.
Roasted Almonds - Add protein to and additional crunch to this salad.
Pretzel Sticks (optional) - While developing this recipe, I wanted to make it fun and super crunchy. I thought broken, or crushed-up pretzel sticks would be perfect! They add a solid crunch to this salad, along with a pop of salt. I recognize this might not be everyone's cup of tea. However, I have to say this was a big hit in my family. The uniqueness, along with the flavor paring, made it a surprising hit!
Preparing The Salad
Preparing the Kale
Start by de-ribbing the kale. You can de-rib kale with a knife or tear it off with your hands. Next, cut the kale into small pieces. I find that I like to chop the kale over and over again to achieve small pieces.
Then take the kale and place it in a bowl. Toss with the salad dressing, and using your hands, massage the kale. I know it sounds strange, but I promise it this simple step makes all the difference!
Allow the massaged kale to sit for a couple of minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preparing the other ingredients
Cabbage - While the kale is softening, slice the cabbage and cut the slices. Then cut the slices into bite-sized pieces.
Apples - Cut the apples into the desired shape. I prefer thin slices for a dramatic look on top. Another option is to cut the apple into bite-sized pieces. Toss the pieces into the salad. It is up to personal preference.
Roasted Almonds - The Chick-fil-A kale crunch salad has chopped almond slices sprinkled on top. However, I like big and small almond pieces. Take about half of the almonds and chop them into small pieces. Then toss the small pieces into the salad, evenly dispersing them. Finally, sprinkle the other half of the almonds on top of the salad.
Putting the salad together
Toss the kale, cabbage, ½ the sweet dried fruit, and the cut-up almonds
- If using bite-sized apples, toss half of them in the salad and save the other half for the top.
- If using sliced apples, set them aside for the top of the salad.
Once the ingredients have been tossed together, it is time to top the salad. If using sliced apples, fan them out on the top of the salad. I like to do this in sections, which makes it easier to serve. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients around the top of the salad. If using pretzels, break them into small pieces and scatter them across the top.
Additions and Substitutions
- Parmesan Cheese - The Chick-fil-A kale crunch salad has parmesan on top. I recommend a simple sprinkle of shaved parmesan on top.
- Feta, Goat or Blue Cheese - Feta, goat or blue cheese would also taste great in this salad. I recommend limiting the amount to a ¼ cup or less. Any of the cheeses can be tossed in the salad or sprinkled on top.
- Blue Agave vs. Honey - I developed this recipe using blue agave. The great thing about blue agave is that it is vegan and has a sweet syrup like honey. If you are not vegan, feel free to substitute blue agave for honey.
- Dried Fruit - Just about any dried and sweetened fruit would taste great in this salad. I was feeling funky so I went with dried pineapple. Other substitutions include golden raisins, dried cranberries or even crystallized ginger.
Frequently Asked Questions
That depends on the mustard used in the dressing. I use Grey Poupon, which is vegan. However, some mustard is made with honey and is not vegan. If in doubt, always google to verify.
This salad can easily be gluten-free if you use specific gluten-free pretzels. Another option is to omit the pretzels altogether.
Yes and no. This salad can be very healthy. For the healthiest version of this salad, I recommend omitting the pretzel sticks and limiting the dried sweetened fruit.
Yes! You can make this salad up to a day in advance. However, wait to put up the apple until right before you serve it. This will avoid the apple browning.
More Salad Recipes
Apple Kale Crunch Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing
Lemon Dijon Dressing
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (54g)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon (10g)
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard (15)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (30)
- 2 tablespoons blue agave syrup (42g)
- salt and pepper to taste
Apple Kale Salad
- 2 bunches kale, any variety
- 1 cup red cabbage (89g)
- ¼ cup almonds (36g)
- ¼ cup dried fruit (10g)
- 1 crisp apple
Lemon Dijon Dressing
- In a small bowl or a shaker, mix all the ingredients together until fully combined¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (54g), 2 teaspoons fresh lemon (10g), 1 tablespoon dijon mustard (15), 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (30), 2 tablespoons blue agave syrup (42g), salt and pepper to taste
Apple Kale Crunch Salad
- Kale Prep: De-rib the kale. Cut the kale into small pieces. Toss the desired amount of dressing on the kale and toss with your hands. Work the dressing in the kale by gently rubbing it for 3 minutes. This is known as massaging kale.2 bunches kale, any variety
- Ingredient Prep: Slice the red cabbage into into thin strips. Then cut the the strips into bite-sized pieces. Take half the almonds and dried fruit and rough cut them into small pieces. Core and slice the apple into thin slices.1 cup red cabbage (89g), 1 crisp apple, ¼ cup almonds (36g), ¼ cup dried fruit (10g)
- Combine Ingredients: Toss the massaged kale, red cabbage, the roughly chopped almonds and dried fruit together. Move tossed ingredients to serving dish/bowl, arrange on top sliced apples. Sprinkle with the other half of almonds and dried fruit.