A easy make-ahead kale salad full of flavor and texture with crispy bacon, apple, toasted pumpkin seeds, cheese and a fresh lemon dressing.
Pick Your Kale
I will be the first to admit that I don’t like all varieties of kale. The traditional Curly Kale that is popular at most supermarkets doesn’t do it for me. Its rough curly edges can sometimes cut up the roof of your mouth, but not in the good Captain-Crunch kind of way. Curly Kale feels like a health food to me, so I say ‘pass’.
Instead, I prefer the Lacinato Kale. It’s softer, a deeper green, and is also referred to as Tuscan Kale. If I’m cooking with kale, good chance it’s Lacinato Kale.
Make It Ahead
The reason I love this recipe for family functions and potlucks is because it’s a salad that can be made ahead of time and can sit a while without getting wilty. And actually, the longer the kale marinates in the dressing, the better. It helps to further tenderize the kale and allows the flavors to mingle nicely.
This is my basic go-to dressing for a lot of salads because it’s so simple to make and the flavors complement almost everything. A little lemon, avocado oil, honey, garlic and salt and pepper come together for something that’s a little sweet and a little tangy.
You don’t have to use avocado oil. You can go with any mild-flavored oil. Grapeseed, extra virgin olive, vegetable, whatever is your go-to preference.
Want Cheese With That?
I list goat cheese as the cheese to use in this salad. However, I know there are a lot of folks out there (my family included) who don’t love goat cheese. I argue it’s because they’ve never had “good” goat cheese, but regardless, if goat’s not your thing, there are other options. You can substitute feta or a nice gorgonzola blue cheese in this recipe. The primary goal is to get a good crumbly soft cheese that will add a creamy effect to the final dish.
My favorite way to make bacon and bacon bits is in the oven. I heat the oven to 400F and line a baking tray with aluminum foil. I place the strips of bacon on the foil lined tray and then bake them for approximately 12 – 16 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bacon. Then, I flip the bacon over so it evenly cooks on both sides and pop it back into the hot oven for another 5 – 7 minutes until it’s perfectly cooked and crispy.
Everyone has their own opinions about what defines “perfect” bacon, but if you’re going for bacon bits, then tend toward the crispier side of the bacon spectrum.
Once you pull the bacon from the oven, place the strips on a paper towel on a plate to soak up the excess grease. Then, once they’re cool enough to handle, place the strips on a cutting board and rough chop the bacon. It should easily snap if it’s crispy enough.
Otherwise, that’s it! Enjoy!Print
Fresh kale salad with apple, pumpkin seeds, crispy bacon and a homemade lemon dressing.
- 6 cups lacinato (Tuscan) kale (1 large bunch) washed
- 4 strips bacon
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (also called Pepitas)
- 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup avocado oil (or other mild flavored oil)
- 1 Tbs honey
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 apple, fine diced
- 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Prepare the kale by removing the center spine, ripping the soft leaves off the spine. Once you have the leaves, slice them into ribbons with a sharp knife and then cut the ribbons in half. This will give you a nice texture for the kale and also make it easier to eat. Then set aside
- Place the bacon strips on a foil lined baking sheet and place in the 400F oven for 12 – 16 minutes until it starts to change color and crisps up on the edges. A thinner bacon will cook more quickly. Then flip the strips with tongs and place back into the oven and continue to bake for another 5 to 7 minutes until the bacon is nice and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and place onto a paper towel on a plate so as to soak up the excess grease.
- Heat a medium pan over medium high heat on the stove and then add the 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds and move them around occasionally so as to get a little bit of toastiness on them. Once they’re nicely toasted, remove them from the pan and set aside.
- Combine the 2 Tbs lemon juice, 1/4 cup oil, 1 Tbs honey and 1 clove of minced garlic in a glass jar or dressing container and shake / stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Once you have all of your components ready, toss the kale with the lemon dressing so as to fully coat. Then place the dressed kale in a serving bowl. Then add the bacon, pepitas, diced apple and crumbled cheese on top and you’re ready to serve. Toss everything together when ready to serve and enjoy!
- To make ahead, follow all the steps except the very final one of tossing everything together. You can dress the kale with the dressing ahead of time, though, and it will help additionally tenderize the kale.
Keywords: kale, pepitas, goat cheese, apple, fuji apple, lemon dressing