by Olena

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apples and Cinnamon Dressing

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Olena Osipov
5 from 5 votes

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Kale and Quinoa Salad with apples, walnuts, blue cheese and cinnamon dressing is the perfect way to celebrate the transition from summer to fall. With great taste and good for you superfoods, it’s great for meal prep, easy enough for weeknight dinners and elegant enough for a holiday table.

Along with this kale quinoa salad, Mexican kale salad, lemon kale salad and sweet kale salad, will convince even your grandma that kale is yummy.

Kale and Quinoa Salad on a plate with fork

Feel-Good Fall Kale and Quinoa Salad

This kale and quinoa salad is such a mouth, throat (literally, you just wait until it goes down) and heartwarming salad with a sweet and zesty cinnamon dressing. Toasted walnuts, sweet crispy apples, nutty quinoa and superfood kale really come together and shine in this healthy salad recipe.

Quinoa (pronounced “keenwah”) is one of few plant-based foods that is a source of complete protein that contains 9 essential amino acids and is high in fiber, manganese and has low glycemic index. I love how in quinoa recipes this whole grain (although technically it is a seed!) soaks up the flavors and truly shines. Southwest quinoa salad and quinoa tabbouleh salad are two favorites that are on our family menu consistently.

Considered a superfood leafy green, kale, is among the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! It is loaded with antioxidants and vitamins – vitamins C and K topping the chart. You should try tender baby kale salad, kale blueberry salad and this massaged kale salad with winter fruit.

Sweet crisp apples, at their peak season during fall, are another reason this salad makes a frequent appearance on our dinner table! Apples are high in vitamin C and are a natural antioxidant! Plus, there are so many varieties to choose from, you really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. I prefer a sweeter apple like fuji, gala or honeycrisp in this kale and apple salad and I save the tart ones for apple oatmeal bars or braised cabbage with apples.

Toasted walnuts and creamy blue cheese add a nice balance of crunchy and creamy, and with each bite this kale apple walnut salad begs your tastebuds for another bite. It’s a winner that your family will love!

Why This Kale Apple Salad Recipe Works?

  • Flavor filled with amazing texture from the crunchy apples to the toasty walnuts! Fluffy quinoa, creamy blue cheese and a warm cozy dressing will have your tastebuds dancing with delight.
  • This salad is simple to make and comes together in only 30 minutes, and even faster if you have meal prepped your quinoa.
  • Superfoods give your body a nutrient boost! Kale, quinoa, walnuts and apples are all high in antioxidants making this salad a great way to eat healthy during the fall and winter months.
  • A show stopper of a salad, this autumn kale salad is the perfect way to brighten up the holiday table!
  • A hearty green that doesn’t easily wilt makes kale the perfect salad green for meal prep!
Kale apple walnut salad with quinoa on white plate with black fork

Ingredients for Kale Quinoa Salad

  • Kale: I like to use curly green kale as it adds volume and texture. Lacinato kale would work as well, there will be just “less of salad and kale”. Also baby kale has nice soft texture and you can skip “massaging” step.
  • Quinoa: I recommend to use white or tri-colour quinoa for this autumn kale salad. Red quinoa would be overpowering in taste and texture. It goes well in black bean quinoa salad though.
  • Blue cheese: If you don’t love it, feel free to use feta or goat cheese.
  • Vinegar: If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, white or red wine vinegar is great. Not balsamic or white though.
  • Apples: Sweet apples like gala, red delicious, honey crisp etc. are the best.

Keep the skins on your apple! There are so many vitamins and minerals in an apple peel. I have even been known to eat the apple core (if it’s an organic apple) – trust me or google it.

  • Celery: A bit of celery goes so well with apples.
  • Walnuts: In my opinion, all nuts taste better toasted. I have heard they lose a bit of their nutritional value but I am OK with that.
  • “Warm” Cinnamon Dressing: Apple cider vinegar shines when mixed with good quality extra virgin olive oil, cinnamon, maple syrup, lemon juice and garlic. And don’t worry, dressing doesn’t have to be warm-warm. It is “warm” with spices and makes this autumn kale salad over the top good.
kale and quinoa salad ingredients

How to Make Autumn Kale Salad Recipe

  • Cook quinoa: I personally like to cook quinoa with a ratio of 1 cup dry quinoa to 1.5 cups water for less mushy quinoa, see tutorial here, or you can follow package directions. I’m also obsessed with Instant Pot quinoa because no babysitting. Also this salad is great for quinoa leftovers.
  • Whisk dressing: Combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, cinnamon, salt and pepper; whisk and set aside. Now is good time to chop fruit and veggies and allow dressing flavours to marinate for 10 minutes.
  • Massage kale: Pour 1/3 of dressing over kale and massage with your hands until it shrinks in half. This step makes kale less tough and chewy.
  • Toast nuts and combine: In a small skillet toast, walnuts on low-medium heat until lightly brown, about 3-4 minutes. Stir frequently and watch closely not to burn. Then add to a bowl with kale along with apples, celery, blue cheese and pour remaining dressing on top. Stir with 2 salad spoons.

Optional Add-In’s and Variations

  • Use pecans or almond vs. walnuts. Pine nuts would also be great! Have a nut allergy, try sunflower or pumpkin seeds!
  • Swap nutmeg for cinnamon using about 1/4 t. less.
  • Use another soft cheese instead of blue cheese. Feta cheese, goat cheese would be great substitutions.
  • A harder cheese like parmesan or smoked gouda may also work, freshly grated is best.
  • All out of apples? Blood oranges or mandarin segments would be second best in place of apples.
  • Vinegar choices – apple cider vinegar is best, white or red vinegar would be 2nd best.
  • No quinoa? Use brown rice instead.
  • Lemon dressing or balsamic olive oil would be two other dressing options that could be subbed.

Tips for Best Results

  • Massage your kale leaves with some of the dressing to break down the more robust cellulose structure that kale has – trust me, giving the kale a little love will help you love it more!
  • If you do not plan on eating this salad immediately, wait to toss the apple and walnuts in at the last minute.
  • Chop your kale leaves small so that you can get several pieces of both the kale and all the other goodies in one bite.

When preparing your kale, remove both the inner stem and the tougher ribs that the leaves grow around. (Save those for green smoothies!)

FAQs

How do you make kale salad not bitter?

Be sure to remove the stems and massage your kale leaves with the dressing. If you still find it bitter, sprinkle a pinch of salt first on the leaves, massage that in then proceed with the dressing next.

How far in advance should I massage kale?

That is really up to you! You can massage it, then eat it right away for a more ‘crisp’ kale. If you like the dressing to soften the leaves, you can massage it up to 3 days in advance.

How long does kale salad last in the fridge?

This salad can last up to 3 days in the fridge – although, if meal prepping I like to leave the apples/walnuts out of the salad until I plan to eat it.

Is kale salad with quinoa gluten free?

Yes! If you have followed this recipe as is written, it is completely gluten free.

Can I make this kale apple walnut salad vegan?

Sure! Sub out the cheese for a good quality non dairy cheese (like feta or parm) or leave cheese out entirely and add diced or sliced avocado.

pouring warm cinnamon dressing over a bowl with autumn kale salad ingredients

Kale Apple Walnut Salad Serving Recommendations

Serving: This kale quinoa salad is quite filling on its own. If you are on “eat less meat” bandwagon, this autumn salad is a quick way of doing so and is perfect when served with a slice of apple bread or apple muffin. And please don’t think that it isn’t kid friendly – my kids were all over it.

Here are a few options though to make it part of a meal:

Alternately, browse my collection of healthy dinners to find the perfect accompaniment for this kale salad.

Making Quinoa Apple Salad with Kale in Advance

Storing: What’s nice about this salad is that kale doesn’t wilt and quinoa becomes only more flavourful with time. So, while this salad recipe makes a lot, it can last in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Make ahead: Refrigerate kale quinoa salad without the dressing for up to 2 days. Dressing keeps well refrigerated for a few weeks. Then combine when ready.

More Favorite Quinoa Recipes

Browse 45 best salad recipes.

Kale and Quinoa Salad in glass bowl with metal spoon and apples nearby
Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apples and Cinnamon Dressing

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apples and Cinnamon Dressing {The BEST!}

Kale and Quinoa Salad with apples, walnuts, blue cheese and cinnamon dressing is the perfect way to celebrate the transition from summer to fall. With great taste and good for you superfoods, it's great for meal prep, easy enough for weeknight dinners and elegant enough for a holiday table.
5 from 5 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: North American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 407kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup dry or 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 6 cups (1 bunch) kale stalks removed and finely chopped
  • 2 medium apples cored and diced (use sweet variety)
  • 3 small celery stalks diced
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbled
  • 1 cup walnut halves or pecans, or sliced/slivered almonds

Cinnamon Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1/2 lemon juice of
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Cook quinoa as per package instructions or On Stovetop: Personally, I like to cook quinoa with a ratio of 1 cup dry quinoa to 1.5 cups water. Unlike most packages that state 1:2 ratio. Bring to a boil, cook on low for 12 minutes, let stand for 5 minutes and fluff, see tutorial here. This way quinoa comes out less mushy or make Instant Pot Quinoa.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Set aside.
    Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apples and Cinnamon Dressing
  • In a small skillet toast walnuts on low-medium heat until lightly brown, about 3-4 minutes. Stir frequently and watch closely not to burn. Set aside.
  • To a large salad bowl, add kale and 1/3 of dressing. Massage with your hands until kale has shrunk half in size.
    Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apples and Cinnamon Dressing
  • Then add cooked and fluffed with a fork quinoa, apples, celery, blue cheese and toasted nuts. Pour remaining salad dressing on top and stir gently.
    Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apples and Cinnamon Dressing
  • Serve cold or warm. Add shredded chicken or serve as a side dish for turkey roast.
    Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apples and Cinnamon Dressing

Store: All dressed salad stays fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days. It's great for meal prep.

    Make Ahead: Refrigerate salad without the dressing for up to 2 days. Dressing keeps well refrigerated for a few weeks.

      Notes

      • Sturdy salad: This salad makes a lot, great as a side dish for dinner or lunches.  Kale doesn’t wilt and quinoa absorbs delicious dressing, so salad tastes good even days later.
      • Kale: I like to use curly green kale as it adds volume and texture. Lacinato kale would work as well, there will be just “less of salad and kale”.
      • Quinoa: I recommend to use white or tri-colour quinoa for this salad. Red quinoa would be overpowering in taste and texture.
      • Blue cheese: If you don’t love it, feel free to use feta or goat cheese.
      • Vinegar: If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, white or red wine vinegar is great. Not balsamic or white though.
      See recipe post for more notes and FAQs.

      Nutrition

      Serving: 1cup | Calories: 407kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 575mg | Potassium: 622mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 6821IU | Vitamin C: 85mg | Calcium: 196mg | Iron: 3mg
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      olena osipov in the studio

      Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

      My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

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