Autumn Kale Salad with Honeycrisp Apple, Fennel, Cranberries, and Blue Cheese

Alternate title: the salad your Thanksgiving table absolutely needs.

autumn kale, apple, cranberry salad

Growing up, our Thanksgiving table didn’t have a green salad.  Though my mom loves vegetables, she’s not big on salad.  Plus–and this is the real reason–my family leans really hard into our Oklahoma roots when the holidays roll around.  Jello and marshmallows as a salad?  Absolutely yes.  Kale, fennel, and lemon-maple-dijon vinaigrette?  Not so much.

But as the years rolled on, a few things changed.  My family moved all over the country and experienced new food.  The food market expanded and once unheard of ingredients became commonplace.  American tastes changed.  My family’s Thanksgiving menu adapted, too.  My mom still might not get excited about a big ol’ salad as a meal, but she’s more than happy to have one–especially one as stellar as this one–on the table.

Don’t limit this one to the holiday table, though.  Honestly, it’s far too incredible for that.  Kale makes a fabulous salad base because it stands up to the dressing for a few days.  Fennel, too.  The vinaigrette helps keep the apples from oxidizing, so they really don’t brown much at all.  I love to make up a double recipe and have it for lunches throughout the week.  Make it as-is or go with any of the additions and adaptations below.  Truly, you can’t go wrong.

  • leftover shredded or chopped Thanksgiving turkey
  • shredded or chopped chicken
  • chickpeas
  • roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash
  • candied or spiced pecans

The past year-and-a-half has shown us just how fragile the most important things in life can be. Let’s make Thanksgiving what it should be–a time to be grateful for family, friends, health, a packed house, and a full table.  Let’s celebrate, friends.  Life is good.

autumn kale, apple, cranberry salad

Kale, fennel, honeycrisp apples, and dried cranberries stand up beautifully to a silky smooth lemon-maple-dijon vinaigrette in this autumn salad that hits all the right sweet, tart, healthy, vegetarian notes.


Autumn Kale Salad with Honeycrisp Apple, Fennel, Cranberries, and Blue Cheese

adapted from Cookie + Kate



For the dressing:

1/4 c. extra-virgin

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 TBSP lemon juice

1 TBSP maple syrup

⅛ teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For the salad:

1 very large bunch of kale

1 medium bulb of fennel

1 medium Honeycrisp apple

⅓ cup dried cranberries

2 TBSP diced red onion

1/3 c. chilled blue cheese, crumbled (sub goat cheese, if desired, or avocado or marinated tofu for a vegan salad)

¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or chopped pecans, toasted



  1. To make the dressing, put all ingredients in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Secure lid and shake to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.
  2. For the salad, wash and dry the kale, then remove leaves from the center rib and chop into bite-sized pieces.  Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt, and massage leaves until slightly softened and a bit darker in color.
  3. Using a mandoline (with guard!) or a very sharp knife, slice the fennel bulb as thinly as possible.  Add fennel to kale.
  4. Chop apple into bite-sized pieces.  Add to kale and fennel along with the cranberries, and red onion.  Drizzle with 3/4 of the dressing and toss to coat.  If making the salad ahead of time, you can stop here, then continue with steps below just before serving–highly recommended for holiday prep!
  5. About 15 minutes before serving, add in cheese crumbles and pepitas.  Add additional dressing, if desire, and toss once more to coat.

yield: 4-6 side salads



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment

  1. Lexie Jones
    November 20, 2021 / 7:40 am

    This looks delicious. Thank you for this wonderful recipe. Yes, I would have this on any Thanksgiving menu, and even a supper at home to celebrate all we are thankful for every day…like having a daughter who is a brilliant writer and a fabulous cook. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *