This Brussels Sprout, Kale + Apple Salad with Sharp Cheddar + Bacon is an easy, flavorful and healthy fall salad that's perfect for Thanksgiving. It has just the right balance of healthy and indulgent because it's packed with nutrient dense vegetables and just enough bacon and cheese to make it taste incredible.
This Brussels sprout, Kale and Apple salad has become a staple at our Thanksgiving dinner because it's such a welcome break from all of the heavy foods, but still has plenty of less-than-healthy ingredients to make it a major crowd pleaser. I have another recipe for a shaved Brussels sprout salad with pomegranate, roasted butternut squash and oven fried goat cheese that's equally as good.
Why this recipe works
- A perfectly balanced blend of raw veggies and fruit, bacon and cheese.
- Easy to prep in advance and assemble right before serving.
- Massaging the kale and Brussels sprouts makes them softer and more satisfying to eat.
- Can get even the biggest veggie haters to enjoy a kale salad!
- Brussels Sprouts - The bigger the better for this recipe. Having a bigger Brussels sprout makes it easier to shred. Save the small ones for roasting.
- Kale - Any type of kale can be used for this salad but I especially like it with Tuscan kale (also called lacinato kale or black kale).
- Apples - Use whichever variety of apple you love the most. I mostly use Granny Smith apples for their tartness, but I also love this salad with Honey Crisp apples.
- Cheddar - Extra sharp aged cheddar is what works best in this kale apple salad, the sharper the better. I love Trader Joe's Unexpected Cheddar and anything from Cabot.
- Bacon - Use regular sliced bacon rather than thick sliced bacon unless you want your kale apple salad to be extra bacony.
- Pecans - They need to be toasted. Place whole pecans on a small pan and roast at 350 F for about 10 minutes or until they start to smell nutty.
- Dried Cranberries - It's important to make sure your dried cranberries are fresh and haven't been sitting in your pantry for months. Dried cherries make a nice substitute.
- Mandoline - A mandoline slicer makes it faster and easier to shave the Brussels sprouts into ultra thin, even slices. I like to use a cut-proof glove instead of the guard that comes with the slicer because it's safer and more effective.
Step by step instructions
- Clean and remove any brown or yellow leaves from the Brussels sprouts, then slice or shave them as thin as possible. You can do this with a knife but a mandoline slicer will make it MUCH easier. Add them to a bowl.
- Remove the tough stems from the kale, then stack the leaves and roll them up like a cigar. Run your knife through them to make nice, thin ribbons, then add them to the bowl with the Brussels sprouts.
- Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, then use clean hands to squeeze and massage the greens until they're fully coated with oil and have reduced a bit in volume.
- Add the apples, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, cheddar cheese, and bacon.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Slowly stream in the olive oil and bacon fat while whisking until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss until everything is thoroughly combined. Serve immediately.
Prep the salad ahead:
- Mix the dressing in a jar and refrigerate until needed. Dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance. Let it come to room temperature for at least 1 hour prior to serving so the fat isn't hardened.
- Cook the bacon, crumble it and refrigerate in a container. Reserve the fat in a jar and reheat to liquify before serving.
- Shave the Brussels sprouts and thinly slice the kale. Add it to a zip-top bag with a damp paper towel and refrigerate for up to 3 days in advance.
- Toast and chop the pecans, add to a container along with the dried cranberries and store at room temperature.
- Dice the cheddar, place it in a container and refrigerate.
- When ready to make the salad, all you have to do is dice the apples, massage the kale and toss everything together with the dressing.
Tips for success
- Use a mandoline slicer to shave the Brussels sprouts for best results.
- Don't cut the apple until right before serving to make sure it stays bright and crisp.
- If there is a mix of vegetarians and meat eaters at your table, replace the bacon fat in the dressing with a neutral oil (such as vegetable oil) and serve the bacon on the side so everyone can enjoy the salad.
Yes! It won't have quite the same pizzaz that it did the first time, but it holds up far better than salads made with more delicate greens.
Did you make this recipe and LOVE it? Please leave a star ⭐️ rating and/or comment to help other readers. I absolutely love hearing from you and do my best to answer all questions and comments. I love seeing when you make my recipes, so please tag me @ColeyCooks on Instagram and I will repost!Print