Here we are again with another of those impossible to name recipes. With so very many good things in the mix, what makes the cut into the title? Even with that mouthful, I didn’t mention the dried cranberries, the cider vinaigrette or the feta (not pictured, but added later). And though I didn’t include them this time around, I think some caramelized onions (or fried shallot, if you’re feeling the need to balance out all that kale) would be an excellent addition. This works beautifully as a side dish or serve with some grilled chicken to make it a main dish salad. That is exactly what we did and it was a huge hit. In fact, I cannot recall a time when a kale salad was met with such real enthusiasm at our dinner table. I think the roasted apples in particular take this dish over the top.

There are many reasons that I consider this salad an ideal Thanksgiving side. The first and most obvious is that it is a legit healthy side option featuring plenty of veggies in their prime without being smothered in heavy sauces or decadent toppings. That is a rarity on Thanksgiving but something I would love to see more of! As is true of many fresh veggie dishes, this one is visually appealing with many vibrant colors so it looks lovely once assembled. Best of all perhaps is that all of the components can be prepped in advanced – yes, all of them! And last but certainly not least, that advance prep means that no oven or stovetop space will be required of this dish on a day when such real estate is severely limited. In addition to the many desserts I’ll be contributing to our gatherings, I think this will have to make an appearance as well.

  • Yield about 6-8 servings


For the salad: 

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
  • 1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, divided
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 3 firm sweet-tart apples such as pink lady, peeled, cored and cut into ¾-inch chunks
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • Dash of cayenne (optional)
  • 1 large bunch kale, stemmed and torn or coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • Crumbled feta or honeyed goat cheese, for serving (optional)

For the dressing: 

  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1½ tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • 01

    Heat the oven to 350˚ F. Add the sweet potato cubes to a baking dish and drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Add 1½ teaspoons of the brown sugar, season lightly with salt, and toss to combine. Roast in the oven until just fork tender, approximately 20-25 minutes. Add the apples to the baking dish along with another 1½ teaspoons of the brown sugar. Toss well. Return the dish to the oven and roast just until the apples are fork tender but not mushy, about 5 more minutes. (Keep a close watch on the texture. Tender but not mushy potatoes and apples are key here!) Remove from the oven and let cool.

  • 02

    Meanwhile, combine the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and the sugar begins to melt into the butter, add the pecans to the pan. Toss to coat and cook just a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the nuts are coated in the sugar mixture and lightly toasted. Remove to a plate and set aside to cool.

  • 03

    Add the kale to a large salad bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss briefly.  Massage the kale leaves for a few minutes until the leaves have become shiny and a deeper green color, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cooled apple and potato mixture, pecans, and dried cranberries to the bowl. Toss to mix well.*

  • 04

    To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a liquid measuring cup. Whisk well until well blended and emulsified.

  • 05

    When ready to serve, add a few tablespoons of the dressing to the bowl with the kale mixture and toss to coat. Taste and add more dressing as needed. Serve with crumbled feta or honeyed goat cheese, if desired.

  • 06


    • To make this in advance, the entire salad can be prepped and mixed up to the * above. The dressing can be made and stored separately. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, then proceed as directed. 
    • To make this vegan, simply chop the nuts and toast them (skip the candying process.) Refined coconut oil might also work for a vegan version of the candied pecans, though I haven’t tried this myself.