Honeycrisp Kale Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette
Honeycrisp kale salad is the fall harvest salad you didn’t know you needed! Loaded with crispy and juicy Honeycrisp apples, hearty kale, charred grapes, crunchy pistachios, and garlic breadcrumbs. What ties this salad together is the homemade parmesan vinaigrette! The natural umami of parmesan works beautifully with red wine vinegar and honey to create the most irresistible salad dressing!
This is the harvest salad of my dreams.
I’m not kidding – it’s so good I actually dream about it sometimes! About 8 months ago, hubby and I met some friends for dinner on a chilly Saturday night. I don’t know why I desperately needed a salad. Probably because I was still in the thick of my I’m-going-to-eat-a-salad-each-day resolution. But I ordered this delicious Tuscan kale salad. I was a little unsure about it; I won’t lie. It talked about charred grapes and texturally that sounded a little unappealing to me.
But what came to the table was this leafy kale salad loaded with an umami-laden parmesan vinaigrette with crunchy roasted pistachios, hints of honey, grated garlic, crisp apples, and crunchy breadcrumbs. I devoured the entire bowl.
And then I sat on this salad for approximately 243 days, making it over and over again until I could make it just like the restaurant’s version. But also until it was acceptable to use all of fall’s produce to make this fall-inspired crisp apple kale salad.
Ingredients for Honeycrisp Kale Salad:
- Tuscan Kale: Make sure to give the kale leaves a good wash before using them. If you aren’t a fan of Tuscan kale, you can use curly kale as well. I usually remove the stems and then chop the kale for the salad. Massage the kale with a couple of tablespoons of the prepared dressing to help break it down and make it more tender before serving it.
- Panko breadcrumbs: I love making my own garlic breadcrumbs for the salad! I use panko and a hint of garlic salt. that way, the garlic flavor isn’t overpowering but still adds something to the overall salad.
- Grapes: Toss the grapes with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Then we’ll char them on a grill pan or in a skillet for 2-3 minutes until they’re slightly blistered and bursting.
- Honeycrisp Apples: Thinly slice the apples on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. You can also cut them into matchsticks if you like. If you aren’t a fan of the Honeycrisp variety, feel free to swap it for Pink Lady apples or any other variety that you like to eat.
- Parmesan Cheese: The parmesan cheese plays a double role here. We’ll grate and add it to the parmesan vinaigrette, but we’ll also dice it into fine cubes and add it to the salad. You won’t believe the spectacular combo that is parm and apples!
- Pistachios: I love how pistachios totally elevate this salad. If you aren’t a fan or are looking for a more economical option, you can swap them for sunflower, almonds, or pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds.) For an even more delicious fall flavor, use pecans!
- Red Wine Vinegar: Red wine vinegar gives the dressing a delicious, deep flavor. You can swap it for apple cider vinegar if that’s what you have on hand. White wine vinegar will also work however it does make the dressing a bit lighter in flavor.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Since we aren’t cooking the vinaigrette, I suggest using good quality olive oil for the dressing. This will be the main ‘fat’ for the salad dressing. A vinaigrette is an emulsification of oil and vinegar by a third ingredient.
- Dijon Mustard: adds flavor and is an emulsifier that encourages both the oil and vinegar to stay homogenous. You’ll need a couple of teaspoons for this recipe.
- Garlic: Grated garlic adds just a hint of garlic flavor to the parmesan vinaigrette
- Honey: A drizzle of honey sweetens the vinaigrette. Feel free to swap it with real maple syrup if you’d like.
How to make a killer honeycrisp kale salad:
- Char those grapes. Add the grapes to a small bowl. Spray them with a high-heat cooking spray or drizzle with a little oil. Season them with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Toss the grapes onto a hot grill pan in a single layer and char them lightly for a couple of minutes. Swirl the pan gently to char evenly, then remove them to a bowl.
- Make the vinaigrette. Combine all the ingredients for the parmesan vinaigrette in a bowl other than the olive oil. Slowly whisk the dressing with one hand as you pour in the olive oil from the measuring cup. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust the dressing with more seasonings as desired.
- Massage the kale. Now that you’re dressing is ready, you’ll want to add the kale to a salad bowl and drizzle some of the dressing over the kale. Massage the kale using your hands to break it down a bit. Let it hang out while you prepare the breadcrumbs.
- Make panko crispies. In a small skillet, add a drizzle of oil and let it heat through. Then add the panko and stir to coat evenly in the oil. Stir frequently so that all the panko browns evenly. Season the panko with garlic salt and set aside in a bowl.
- Make the salad and serve. Season the kale with a pinch of salt and pepper. Top with the sliced apples, parmesan cheese, grapes, and pistachios. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss the salad. Top with the breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
FAQs about this apple kale salad:
You can! I make my own parmesan toasted croutons for my kale caesar, which would work great here too.
You can make the breadrcrumbs and store them in an airtight container at room temperature a few days ahead of time. The same goes for the dressing and the charred grapes – only those will have to be refrigerated until you’re ready to use them.
You can do the same thing in a hot skillet or give them a minute under the broiler in the oven! Keep a close eye on them in the oven though!
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Autumn Crisp Apple Sweet Potato Salad
- Pearl Couscous Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
- Autumn Harvest Salad with Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette
- Stuffed Butternut Squash with Curried Couscous Salad
- Crunchy Parmesan Toasted Bread Kale Caesar Salad
Other ways to use fresh apples in the fall:
- Fresh Apple Cider
- Maple Honeycrisp Apple Fritters
- Quick Warm Cinnamon Apples
- Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Apple Kale Salad:
- Avocado oil (or other high heat oil)
- 1 cup red grapes
- ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
- A pinch of garlic salt
- 5-6 cups chopped tuscan kale
- 1 large honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced (use a mandoline)
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese, cut into small cubes
- ½ cup pistachios, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- GRAPES: Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Toss the grapes in a bowl, spray with cooking oil, a pinch of kosher salt, and black pepper. Toss the grapes on the grill pan and char them for 2 minutes swirling the pan so that all sides char evenly. Remove grapes to a bowl.
- PARMESAN VINAIGRETTE: Combine red wine vinegar, honey, garlic, Dijon, and parmesan in a bowl. Whisk the dressing as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Add a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust with more seasonings as desired.
- KALE: Add the kale to a large bowl and massage the kale with 2 tablespoons of the prepared dressing; set aside.
- PANKO CRISPIES: In a small nonstick skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. When warm, add the panko and stir. Cook the panko until golden and toasted, about 2 minutes. Season with garlic salt and set aside for now.
- SALAD: Season the kale with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Top with the sliced apples, grapes, parmesan, and pistachios. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve topped with breadcrumbs.
make ahead: What I love about this recipe is that you can prepare almost all of the steps (except marinating the kale w/ dressing and tossing the salad) ahead of time. That way, you can serve this for a quick desk lunch in minutes.