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Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad

Nutrient-rich and bursting with flavor, this Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad features quinoa and raw kale, tossed in a homemade vinaigrette along with apples, grapes, bell pepper, and sunflower seeds. 

A Hearty Superfood Salad You’ll Love!

These days, everyone’s talking about soup weather, and I definitely get it! It’s Fall, y’all! But let’s not forget that Fall is also a beautiful time of year to use the best seasonal produce and make gorgeous, delicious, and filling salads. This one is my personal spin on the Cheesecake Factory’s kale quinoa salad.

Super easy to make and really good for you, this seasonal salad is made with kale, apples, seedless grapes, red bell pepper, sunflower seeds and (of course) quinoa! This collection of ingredients is not only colorful and flavorful, it’s packed with nutrition! Kale and quinoa are both especially nutrient-dense, while apples and grapes add healthy fiber and vitamins.

With an easy homemade vinaigrette, this salad comes together in very little time and makes a great vegan side, or even a light lunch.

kale green salad studded with sliced red apples.

Is Quinoa a Carb?

Yes, technically quinoa does contain carbs, so if you’re low- or no- carb, you’ll want to watch how much you eat. That said, a half cup of cooked quinoa contains only about 17 grams of net carbs! And it’s high in protein and gluten-free. That makes it a good fit for many diet plans and lifestyles, and this easy kale quinoa salad is the perfect way to serve it!

What You’ll Need

Kale quinoa salad only contains a few hearty ingredients, but together, they truly make a magical dish! You’re going to love the seasonal flavors and colors here! (Note: For the full recipe with amounts and nutrition info, scroll to the bottom of this post!)

For the Salad:

  • Quinoa: I cook my own quinoa from raw in this recipe—it’s easy and only takes about 15 minutes. But you could also use leftover or pre-cooked quinoa if you prefer!
  • Kale: Raw chopped kale is colorful, flavorful, and full of nutrients. Make sure it’s washed well to remove any sand or grit.
  • Apples: I use Honeycrisp apples, but any crisp and full-flavored apple is fine. Other favorites include Gala, Fuji, Lady Alice, and even Golden Delicious.
  • Grapes: Firm, sweet grapes are best here; wash them and cut in half. They should be seedless.
  • Bell Pepper: The crisp crunch and sweet-savory bite of red bell pepper go perfectly with kale.
  • Sunflower Seeds: For texture and flavor, I add roasted unsalted sunflower seeds to my salad. Pine nuts, pepitas, and chopped pecans are other great options.

For the Dressing:

  • Olive Oil: Extra virgin will add the best flavor, but medium olive oil is also fine. 
  • Lemon Juice: Freshly-squeezed lemon juice adds brightness to kale quinoa salad. Feel free to substitute bottled juice though, if you prefer. 
  • Garlic: Press a clove of garlic (or more, to taste) using a garlic press.
  • Honey: Honey adds a touch of sweetness and balances the tartness of the dressing.
  • Dijon Mustard: Adding dijon to the dressing helps it emulsify and taste creamy, and adds a ton of flavor!
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Parmigiano Reggiano: Grated Parmigiano Reggiano brings a deep umami note that finishes the dressing flavor profile perfectly. 
white bowl filled with kale leaves, apple slices, sunflower seeds, halved grapes, and diced red bell pepper.

How to Make Kale Quinoa Salad with Apples and Grapes

You’ll love how easy it is to make this dish! The kale doesn’t even have to be sauteed; dressing it and allowing it to sit at room temperature softens the kale without cooking.

  1. Make the Quinoa. Cook quinoa according to the directions on the package. Once it’s done, let it sit at room temperature to completely cool.
  2. Dress the Kale. While the quinoa is cooking and cooling, make the dressing by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl and stirring until thoroughly incorporated. (You can also place the ingredients in a jar, and give them a good shake!) Place the chopped kale in a large salad bowl, and pour half the dressing over it. Toss to combine, cover the kale with plastic wrap, and let sit for 15 minutes or so.
  3. Assemble the Salad. Once the quinoa is cool and the kale leaves have softened, add the prepared quinoa, apples, grapes, diced pepper, and sunflower seeds to the kale. Add the rest of the salad dressing, and toss gently to combine. Top the salad with grated cheese, and serve.
Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad in a white bowl with a wooden spoon inside the bowl.

Tips for Success

Kale Quinoa Salad is not only beautiful and healthy, it’s super flexible! Tailor it to your tastes and dietary restrictions however you want!

  • Make It Warm: This lovely salad is also good served warm; just saute the kale and add the quinoa before it cools. I recommend swapping the grapes for raisins if you serve it warm.
  • Flavor the Quinoa: For extra oomph, try cooking the quinoa in broth, with a splash of tomato sauce or wine, instead of water.
  • Customize the Add-Ins: You can substitute just about anything for the fruit, bell pepper, and sunflower seeds. Cucumber, blanched cauliflower or carrots, dried cranberries, red onion, the possibilities are endless! 

What to Serve with Kale Quinoa Salad

So what should you serve with this amazing salad? Healthy fall and winter classics, like these, are the perfect pairing!

close up overhead shot of Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad studded with apple slices, halved grapes, sunflower seeds, and bell peppers.

How to Store Leftovers

ENJOY!

Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad in a white bowl with a wooden spoon inside the bowl.

Kale Quinoa Salad with Apples and Grapes

Katerina | Diethood
Nutrient-rich and bursting with flavor, this easy Autumn Kale Quinoa Salad features quinoa and raw kale, tossed in a homemade vinaigrette along with apples, grapes, bell pepper, and sunflower seeds.
5 from 9 votes
Servings : 6
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients
  

For the Salad:
For the Dressing:
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano

Instructions
 

  • Cook quinoa according to the directions on the package; let it completely cool.
  • In the meantime, make the dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl or a jar; mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  • Place the chopped kale in a large salad bowl.
  • Pour HALF of the dressing over the kale; cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes. NOTE that this will help to soften the kale.
  • Remove the plastic wrap; to the kale add the prepared quinoa, apples, grapes, diced pepper, and sunflower seeds.
  • Pour remaining dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.
  • Top with grated cheese.
  • Serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 298 kcal | Carbohydrates: 34 g | Protein: 10 g | Fat: 16 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8 g | Trans Fat: 1 g | Cholesterol: 6 mg | Sodium: 231 mg | Potassium: 598 mg | Fiber: 4 g | Sugar: 14 g | Vitamin A: 7201 IU | Vitamin C: 103 mg | Calcium: 221 mg | Iron: 2 mg | Net Carbs: 30 g

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: kale quinoa salad, salad with kale, salad with quinoa
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18 comments on “Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad”

  1. Hi, Katerina! Your article reads, “With an easy homemade vinaigrette, this salad comes together in very little time and makes a great vegan side, or even a light lunch.” Your recipe includes honey and grated parmigiano reggiano, neither of which are vegan. I know further down you wrote that the recipe could be tailored to specific diets, but it’s misleading to label this salad as vegan (which is what brought me to this page) at the start of the post, when it isn’t. Perhaps you could instead state in the quoted sentence that this salad can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese and substituting honey with maple syrup? Otherwise, thanks for a beautiful recipe; it looks delicious, and I will try it with substitutions. 🙂

  2. Avatar photo
    Andrea Thueson

    I love a good hearty salad in the fall! And this recipe was full of my favorites. I will definitely be making this one all fall long!

  3. This is absolute proof that healthy doesn’t have to be bland and boring. This is one of the prettiest salads I’ve ever seen.

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