This Kale and Sweet Potato Salad is a perfect combination of warm and cozy fall flavors with a natural touch of sweetness. Made with dried cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and a delicious homemade dressing. Great for meal prep.
Why you'll love sweet potato and kale salad:
- Nutritious – This salad not only is satisfying, but it's healthy and delicious! Packed with protein from pumpkin seeds and pecans.
- Meets different dietary needs: Gluten free, grain free, dairy free, sugar free and vegan. This delicious salad is Whole30 compliant and paleo.
- Make-Ahead – This salad is great for meal prepping and can be served warm or at room temperature. Perfectly roasted sweet potatoes and kale with a hint of cozy fall spices.
- Tasty dressing – A delicious homemade dressing made with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and maple syrup.
- Great leftovers – Keep any of the leftovers of this salad. Unlike other leafy salads (spinach or any mix of greens), this kale salad won't get soggy, even if it's been tossed with some of the dressing.
- Why you'll love sweet potato and kale salad:
- What is needed to make a Roasted Sweet Potato Salad and Kale Salad
- How to cut kale for salads
- What about salad dressing options for this sweet potato salad?
- How to make Autumn kale and sweet potato salad?
- Expert Tips for Kale and Sweet Potato Salads
- Variations for Sweet Potato Kale Salad
- What to serve with kale salad:
- Storing and freezing:
- Some other delicious salad ideas to try:
- Kale and Sweet Potato Salad
When the temperatures drop and the holidays are here, we could tend to eat a bit heavier (too many Christmas cookies and holiday pies?:). When that moment arrives and you’re needing a little detox, make this hearty and comforting salad.
Originally published November 2020 and republished November 2021. I just LOVE this salad so much and wanted to share this here today!
Topped with an easy tahini-lemon dressing, this roasted sweet potato and kale salad with pecans and cranberries is so lovely for the holidays. The salad is served warm or room temperature, this easy to make salad is bursting with fall flavors and colors and makes a perfect side dish (or a main…just add your favorite protein).
Sometimes a recipe comes together with just one item. I had found this gorgeous bag of rainbow kale at Walmart the other day. Organic Rainbow Kale is a combination of green, red and lacinato kale. I had some ideas on what I wanted to make with it.
My plan was to use some of the kale for a soup and some would be roasted with sweet potatoes. The original idea was to eat it as a veggie side. I have one child that isn’t into kale and doesn’t like sweet potatoes. So the roasted side became a roasted salad. A gorgeous Kale and Sweet Potato Salad.
To keep with my trying to detox as much as I can after the spring time’s staying at home (think: CARBS overload with so many Italians working at home). My body was not feeling the best after all those weeks of eating more pasta (and carbs!) than I ever ate in my life.
So if you’re feeling ready for something cozy for fall, that is also healthy and detoxing, make this comforting salad. Perfectly roasted sweet potatoes and kale, warm spices and a nice crunch from the pecans (and pumpkin seeds) and a sweet bite from the apples, make this fall salad satisfying.
The sweet and savory fall flavors are just a magical combination. I’m thinking this could be the ultimate side dish for Thanksgiving. This salad is a really great side dish, but it is also lovely as a light lunch and perfect for meal prep!
What is needed to make a Roasted Sweet Potato Salad and Kale Salad
Here is what you need to make this warm and delicious salad (full printable recipe card below):
For the salad:
- Kale: adds a nutritious green element to the salad and is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants (I used rainbow kale)
- Sweet potatoes: adds sweetness, texture, and plenty of health benefits including vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron , and fiber
- Olive oil: helps to roast the sweet potatoes and kale, adds richness to the salad(I used extra-virgin Sicilian olive oil)
- Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper: enhances the flavor of the salad. Season to your liking.
- Apple: enhances sweetness with added crunch (I used a Pink Pearl, but any apple you have on hand could work).
- Dried cranberries: adds sweetness and a chewy texture. Can be subbed with raisins or another dried fruit of choice, like dried cherries.
- Pecans & pumpkin seeds: adds crunchy texture along with a boost of healthy fats, protein, and vitamins (could sub in walnuts or even sliced almonds). I used unsalted pumpkin seeds, but use whatever you have on hand.
- Ground cinnamon, cumin and paprika: adds warm flavor and aroma.
For the dressing:
- Tahini: creates a creamy base for the dressing and adds an extra boost of healthy fats, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and fiber (you could use sesame butter if you can't find tahini)
- Extra-virgin olive oil: Adds richness to the salad.
- Lemon juice & maple syrup: adds a tart flavor with just enough sweetness to balance out the flavors. Omit maple syrup for Whole30.
- Sea salt (adjust to your taste): Enhances the flavor of the dressing.
How to cut kale for salads
I bought pre-cut rainbow kale, but here is what to do if you don't buy pre-cut kale.
- Strip the leaves from the stem – take a hold of the bottom of the stem and pull the leaves right off.
- Rinse and dry - if you have a salad spinner, spin dry the leaves in batches. If you don't have a spinner, drain in a colander, and use a clean tea towel to pat dry the leaves.
- Cut – with a sharp knife, cut the leaves by stacking them together, and slicing into strips.
What about salad dressing options for this sweet potato salad?
There are plenty of dressing options to explore! Honestly, it’s whatever you enjoy and are feeling. I went with tahini-lemon dressing (I have two containers of tahini to use up!! ). Other ideas are a nice and fresh lemon-herb dressing, cashew dressing, sesame ginger, a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Really, whatever you enjoy will be wonderful.
I forgot to take a photo of my little dish with the maple syrup. But there is maple syrup in the dressing. You could also use honey (any sweetener would not be part of a Whole30). It all gets added to your blender or food processor (I LOVE my mini one).
How to make Autumn kale and sweet potato salad?
- Blanch the kale: Blanch the kale in boiling water.
- Roast your sweet potatoes + kale: Drizzle the cubed sweet potato with a little olive oil and roast it up. On a separate tray, place the kale and roast it up.
- Make the dressing. While the sweet potato + kale is roasting you can whisk together all of the ingredients for the tahini dressing.
- Add your toppings. Gently toss in the rest of the ingredients.
Once you have your delicious homemade dressing ready, drizzle it on this fabulous salad. Did I mention that this makes the most amazing side dish for Thanksgiving? I couldn't wait to get it ready to share it here with all of you!
Expert Tips for Kale and Sweet Potato Salads
- Make sure to blanch the kale before roasting for a crispier texture.
- If you don't like tahini, you can substitute with unsweetened Greek yogurt (use dairy-free, if you like).
- Add 1 teaspoon of ground coriander to give this dish a nice Middle Eastern twist!
- If you want this salad to be more savory, add some crumbled feta cheese.
- To make this salad vegan, substitute the honey for maple syrup or agave nectar.
- If you like your salads a bit spicier, add a pinch of cayenne to the dressing!
- Add 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard to the dressing for extra flavor.
- To make this salad a meal, add some cooked quinoa or lentils for protein.
- Use a variety of different types of kale such as lacinato (dinosaur) or baby kale to give this dish more texture and flavor.
Variations for Sweet Potato Kale Salad
- Instead of kale, try using spinach or arugula. If you use spinach or arugula, you will not be blanching or roasting.
- Try adding in cooked quinoa for more protein.
- For a nut-free version, try adding roasted sunflower or sesame seeds instead of pecans.
- If you don't have maple syrup, you can replace it with honey.
- Switch out the sweet potato for carrots, acorn squash, pumpkin, or butternut squash.
- For a nut-free version, try adding roasted sunflower or sesame seeds instead of pecans.
- Try using different types of dried fruit such as apples, figs or apricots in place of cranberries.
- To make this salad more filling, add in your favorite protein like rotisserie chicken, salmon, shrimp or steak.
- For extra flavor, sprinkle of feta cheese to the top.
What to serve with kale salad:
- Grilled chicken, steak, pork, or fish
- Spinach Chicken Burgers
- Slow-Cooker Chicken Soup
- No-Knead Dinner rolls
Storing and freezing:
This salad can be stored in an airtight container, or a glass container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To freeze, place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and enjoy!
This salad is also great as a meal prep option – make it on Sunday and have enough lunch/dinner ready for the week ahead! It also stores well in lunch boxes, making it a perfect work or school lunch.
Typically, I buy organic kale. Look for bright green leaves which are firm and strong. Avoid any that are wilting or showing signs of yellowing
I used rainbow kale and you could use also curly kale, any type of kale is fine.
To remove the fibrous central stem from the leaf, there are a couple of methods you can try. One way is to hold the stem with one hand and strip the leaves away from you using your other hand. If you prefer, you can also use a sharp knife. Simply fold the leaf in half, hold it with your non-dominant hand, and carefully cut along the length of the leaf, separating it from the stem.
Any roasted winter squash of any kind (acorn, butternut, delicata, kabocha, pumpkin), could be used in place of the sweet potatoes. If you have have any of those winter squash roasted up, they would work great in this salad.
It is completely up to your preference to leave the skin on or to peel it with a potato peeler.
Sweet potatoes have a vibrant orange or reddish peel that encases a luscious orange center. Authentic yams, on the other hand, resemble the white center of a russet potato and are not commonly found in US grocery stores. Despite the common misconception of calling sweet potatoes yams, they aren't the same thing.
Some other delicious salad ideas to try:
This is my favorite fall salad! If you're looking for a side dish for your Whole30, Paleo and vegan family for the holidays, this is what you need to make!
Originally published November 2021 and updated for content October 2023.
Did you make this? Please RATE THE RECIPE below:)
Kale and Sweet Potato Salad
- 1 Food processor with the s-blade attachment, or mini-prep food processor
- FOR THE SALAD
- 4 cups chopped kale leaves I used a rainbow kale mix already cut
- 2-3 sweet potatoes about 2 lbs, peeled and diced into small chunks
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground sweet paprika
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds I used unsalted
- FOR THE DRESSING
- ¼ cup tahini
- ¼ cup water
- 2 Tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup omit for Whole30
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 large apple peeled and cored, cut into small chunks
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice to prevent apple browning
- ½ cup dried cranberries or raisins
- ROAST THE VEGGIES:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with foil paper.
- In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the kale. Drain and dry (you could spin dry them if you have a salad spinner) as much water of as you can with a towel, and line the kale on a foil lined baking sheet (total bake time for the kale is about 15 minutes).
- Spread the sweet potato chunks on the second baking sheet. Drizzle on some olive oil (I used my Sicilian extra-virgin)and sprinkle with cinnamon, cumin, sweet paprika, salt and pepper. Using clean hands (or a spoon), toss it all together to coat.
- Bake for 10 minutes, take both trays out and give the veggies a stir, and then bake the kale for about 5 more minutes. The sweet potatoes should take about another 15 minutes at this point (depending on how small you cut the chunks).
- After 15 minutes total, the kale should be a little dried out (not brown and crisp). They should be tender and light brown around edges (you don’t want them dark brown and crispy). remove tray with the roasted kale; set aside (check the kale at 10 minutes...it could be dried and ready...every oven is different).
- During last few minutes of roasting potatoes, spread the pecans and pumpkin seeds on the baking sheet and roast 3 to 4 minutes, until golden-brown.
- The sweet potatoes should take 20-25 minutes total to be ready (depends on your oven and how big you cut the pieces, I cut mine into small chunks).
- Remove tray with roasted sweet potato, pecans, and pumpkin seeds from the oven.
- While the veggies are roasting, prep the apple and the dressing.
- Start with the apple. Peel and core the apple. Cut into small chunks and put in a small bowl. Squeeze some lemon juice (about juice of 1/2 lemon) on the apples (prevents browning); set aside. Go on to prep the dressing.
- PREP THE DRESSING:
- Add all the dressing ingredients into a high-speed blender or food processor (or mini-prep food processor) and blend for 20-30 seconds, or until smooth. If dressing is too thick, you can thin it out with a little more lemon juice or a few drops of olive oil. Check the flavor and adjust with more lemon juice or another drop of olive oil, salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.
- Alternatively, you can whisk ingredients together in a bowl or shake until incorporated in a mason jar.
- SERVE THE SALAD:
- In a large bowl, add the roasted kale and sweet potatoes with the pecans and pumpkin seeds. Add in the apples (lemon juice drained).
- Add in the dried cranberries (or raisins).
- Drizzle on the tahini dressing. You could toss it together with the dressing or leave it as a drizzle. Check the salt and pepper, and add more, to taste, if needed.
- Serve warm (or room temperature). If not eating right away, refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.
- The kale : will roast up faster than the sweet potatoes, so set your timer for both trays. I blanch them first. You could skip this step and massage the leaves with olive oil.
- The sweet potatoes: I cut mine into smaller chunks, so they were ready in about 22 minutes. Every oven is different. You want them to be tender and still whole, not mushed because they baked too long.
- Another option for the kale is to prep them (remove tough inside stems if it has any). Chop kale into small pieces. Wash, spin dry.
- If you’re using curly kale, you could massage the leaves with olive oil (it does make them more tender).