Kale Salad with apples, roasted sweet potatoes and figs plus a delicious fall salad dressing makes this harvest salad recipe tasty, cozy, and super satisfying. It’s easy to make and impressive to serve…mouthwateringly good too….perfectly at home on your holiday buffet or your weeknight kitchen table.
This post was updated from the original published October 29, 2017.
The stuff of autumn salad dreams…..a little bit of raw, sturdy veggies along with some roasted sweet potatoes and figs with all the cozy spices. Throw on some wild rice for good measure and drizzle with creamy apple vinaigrette….now you’ve got my attention!
The best part? That dressing. O.M.G….creamy apple dijon dressing. I could just sit and dip everything in it…or maybe just eat with a spoon? Naturally sweetened with dates and apple cider….you’re going to just love this homemade salad dressing.
Too many of us pass on the salads when the weather starts to cool….but it’s a great vehicle to get in some nutrients and is the best possible way to keep your system regular and your gut happy. This fall salad is the perfect mix of light and hearty…similar to the way I feel about my lentil salad with roasted veggies.
The benefits of Leafy Greens
Leafy greens offer an abundance of nutrition, and using them in salad is an easy way to incorporate them into your diet. There is no shortage of greens to choose from—–collards, chard, kale, dandelion greens, parsley, romaine, chicory, spinach, arugula, the list is endless—–but it is important to change things up. I opted for curly kale because it holds up well, but I encourage you to choose a green for this salad that you don’t often use. They all have a slightly different nutritional profile, switch it up when you can!
- They’re nutrient dense, antioxidant rich, and highly anti-inflammatory
- Provide UV protection
- Have an abundance of chlorophyll that protects against toxins
- Are high in fiber, which helps with digestion and gut health
- Help fight diabetes
- Slow down the aging process
- Help burn fat
- Improve cardiovascular health
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Fresh fig: Figs add texture and sweetness. They’re good for digestion, rich in antioxidants and fiber. If fresh figs aren’t in season, substitute red grapes.
- Leafy greens: I used curly kale. It holds up well in this salad. You could also use lacinato kale, red curly kale, collard greens, spinach, arugula, julienned beet greens, watercress, chard…or a combination of lettuces and greens.
- Radicchio: A sturdy, bitter part of the chicory family. For a similar bitterness, substitute endive. Bitter greens are very high in antioxidants and also help to balance out the sweetness of the other ingredients. If you don’t like bitter, red cabbage would look similar, and add some crunch.
- Sweet potatoes: Roasted with cinnamon and cumin, the sweet potatoes add great texture, taste and make this salad particularly satisfying. Any winter squash would also be lovely in this salad. Acorn or delicata squash would have a similar roasting time and also don’t need to be peeled.
- Wild rice: A rich source of dietary fiber and loaded powerful antioxidant and lipid lowering properties. Substitute with whole grains like faro, quinoa or barley. Uncooked cauliflower rice could be used for some grain-free texture.
- Apple: Snacking apple varieties are best. Baking apples will be too mushy for this salad. I used a honey crisp. Pink lady, gala or golden delicious would also work well.
- Olive oil: Just 2 Tablespoons to help the spices stick to and caramelize the sweet potatoes and figs. Spray with water if you’re not using oil.
- Spices: A combination of cumin, cinnamon and sea salt is the perfect mixture for a completely cozy fall vibe. You could also use pumpkin pie spices like allspice, clove, nutmeg.
Ingredients for Apple Vinaigrette
- Olive oil: Helps bind all ingredients together while offering a creaminess to this dairy-free dressing.
- Apple cider vinegar: Pulls this dressing together in the taste department while adding antioxidants, blood sugar regulation and antimicrobial properties.
- Walnuts: Hello omega 3s, healthy fats and protein. A nutrient rich way to thicken the dressing.
- Apple cider: Look for an organic cider that has just one ingredient: apples. Fresh cider has more of the healthful apple polyphenol compounds than clear apple juice.
- Dijon mustard: A great compliment to the walnuts and apple cider….just the tang that’s needed. You could substitute a teaspoon of mustard powder.
- Medjool dates: A natural sweetener that’s tempered by the fiber.
Why you will love this recipe
- A satisfying way to get your daily greens in.
- That dressing….creamy, dreamy, dairy-free and delicious.
- Make ahead and assemble when desired.
- The perfect Thanksgiving Salad…everyone will make room on their plate for THIS.
- Easy to make…yet elegant and impressive to serve.
- Those roasted veggies…watch out for snackers walking by!
How to make this Harvest Salad:
Make the rice: I used my Instant Pot to make the wild rice. It doesn’t necessarily save time over the stove top method, BUT….it comes out PERFECT. Every. Single Time. And, I never burn the bottom of my saucepan. I highly recommend using an instant pot for cooking grains and legumes.
Roast the veggies: Cut sweet potato into wedges. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin, cinnamon and sea salt. Roast for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Mix in halved fresh figs and roast for another 10 minutes.
How to make the dressing
Remove the pits and chop the dates. Add them along with olive oil, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, walnuts, mustard, garlic and spices to blender or food processor and blend until emulsified.
How to chop radicchio for salad
- Halve the head of radicchio.
- Cut out the woody core.
- Repeat with other half.
- Turn cored radicchio half cut side down and thinly slice.
Prep the kale: Gently massage the kale with your hands to soften. You’ll notice the color alter from a dark green to a more vibrant lighter green.
Thinly slice or cube the apples.
Assemble the salad
Start with a base of massaged kale. Then add in radicchio, wild rice, roasted sweet potatoes and figs and chopped apples. Either use a large platter and arrange artfully, then drizzle on some dressing….OR toss everything in a large bowl. Either way, go easy on the dressing to start with and see if it needs more. You can always pass around some extra dressing.
Debra’s Pro Tips
- Make a double batch of dressing: you’re going to want to use this on all the things: as a dip for veggies, for grain bowls, on top of leftovers and to elevate a simple salad.
- Instead of a platter, use a large bowl so you can mix everything well and ensure a bit of everything in every bite.
- Use grapes if fresh figs aren’t available, they’re incredible roasted and added to a salad. Trust me on this one.
- Meal prep: make all components in advance. You can then slice the apple and pull this together in under 5 minutes…at the last minute.
- Change up the greens: Diversity in fiber= diversity in gut health. If you bought kale last week, use spinach, collards or chard this time.
- Make sure to rinse the rice well before cooking.
- Use a darker (older) baking sheet for crispier, more caramelized veggies or use unbleached parchment for a quick and easy clean up.
More Hearty Salad Recipes for Fall and Winter
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Harvest Salad + Apple Vinaigrette
- ¾ cup wild rice*
- 2 medium sweet potatoes cut into wedges
- ½ lb. fresh figs* about 10
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 4 cups kale* washed and torn into small pieces
- 1 small head radicchio thinly sliced
- 1 large or two small apples*
Apple Cider Dressing
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup apple cider
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 3 dates pits removed and roughly chopped
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic pressed
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch red pepper flakes
- MAKE RICE: Rinse rice well under cool running water. I used my instant pot with ¾ cup rice and 1 cup water. 30 minutes on high, natural release. It won't really save you much time, but the rice will come out PERFECT every time .If you're going to make the rice on the stovetop, add 1 ½ cups water, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover. Cook for 35 minutes, until all water has been absorbed. Uncover, fluff with a fork.
- ROAST SWEET POTATOES AND FIGS: Preheat oven to 400. Scrub sweet potatoes (no need to peel, just wash and pat dry) and cut into small wedges. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle on olive oil, cinnamon, cumin and sea salt. Toss well. Roast for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut figs in half and if they're large, ½ again. After 10 minutes, add figs to roasting pan and toss to coat with the oil/spices. Place everything back in oven and roast for another 8-10 minutes, until everything is tender.
- MAKE DRESSING: Place all ingredients into blender or food processor and blend until creamy and walnuts have been well incorporated.
- PREP REMAINING PRODUCE: Tear or cut kale into bite sized pieces. Halve radicchio, cut out core, and thinly slice. Cut apple in half, scoop out core/seeds and then thinly slice or cube.
- ASSEMBLE SALAD: Begin with the kale and massage it with your hands to soften. Then add the radicchio, wild rice, roasted veggies and apples.Use a platter and artfully arrange ingredients then drizzle on dressing or toss everything together in a large bowl, using about ½ of dressing to begin with, adding more as needed.
- Dressing will stay good in the fridge, in an airtight container for 2 weeks.
- MEAL PREP: Rice, roasted veggies and dressing can be made and stored separately up to 3 days in advance. Greens and radicchio can be washed and cut, stored in an airtight container with a paper towel up to 3 days ahead. Apple needs to be cut at the last minute, and also the salad can be assembled just before serving.