With Thanksgiving just two days away, chances are excellent that your menus are mostly set. You have already done the work of paring down a long list of possible recipes to the select handful that will grace your table. If you’re sure you’re done, great! Way to go! Come back to this post next month when you’re craving something refreshing and crunchy in the dead of winter. If there is one area where you think your holiday spread may have a void, I’d be willing to bet it is somewhere in the category of light and fresh vegetable-centric side dishes. In that case let me highly recommend this kale salad with cider vinaigrette and cornbread croutons.

This salad is very simple and incredibly refreshing. Simplicity is key right now and this delivers. With just a few mix-ins, it may not seem like much but I adore this winning combination. At least to me, this particular combination of flavors and textures is addictive. Even better, this will transport easily, making it a great option for contributing to someone else’s feast if you aren’t hosting the main event. Keep the croutons and dressing separate until just before serving for the best quality.

The cornbread croutons are easy as can be. Buy cornbread from the store if you must but I promise, you can whip up a batch at home in minutes. I used this recipe and after many past attempts at cornbread for croutons, I am finally satisfied with the result. I based this salad off of a dish I love at a local restaurant. The first time I attempted to recreate it was a definite fail. I’m so glad I tried again because this version turned out beautifully. I hope you love this dish as much as I do!

  • Prep about 20 minutes
  • Cook 40-50 minutes
  • Yield about 6-8 servings


For the croutons:

  • 3 cups cubed cornbread (approx. ½- to ¾-inch cubes)
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • Pinch of ground cayenne pepper

For the vinaigrette: 

  • 1 cup unfiltered apple cider
  • 2 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. minced shallot
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 5 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the salad: 

  • 2 bunches lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into ½-inch thick ribbons
  • 2-3 tart apples such as Granny Smith, cored and coarsely grated
  • 3-4 oz. mild white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated


  • 01

    To make the croutons, heat the oven to 300˚ F. In a medium bowl, combine the cubed cornbread with the melted butter, salt, and cayenne. Toss gently to combine. Spread into an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the croutons are golden brown and crispy, about 40-50 minutes total, stirring every 10 minutes throughout the baking time. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool.

  • 02

    To make the dressing, add the apple cider to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue to cook until the volume of apple cider has reduced to 1/3 cup. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup and let cool completely. (Speed this process by chilling in the refrigerator or depending on where you live, the great outdoors.)

  • 03

    Once the cider is cool, add in the remaining ingredients for the vinaigrette. Whisk vigorously until well combined.

  • 04

    Place the kale ribbons in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle lightly with a bit of olive oil, then massage briefly to tenderize the kale. Once it is slightly softened and a vibrant dark green, add in the shredded apple, a handful of the cheese, and a generous dose of the croutons. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to the bowl and toss well to combine. Taste and adjust accordingly until the proportion of dressing and mix-ins suits your preferences.