Kale Salad with Cranberries, Lentils, and Coconut Bacon
4.50 from 2 votes

This sweet and savory kale salad with cranberries, lentils and coconut bacon is festive and perfect for the holiday season. It’s also a hearty, uplifting salad for the cold winter months.

A white ceramic bowl has been filled with a kale salad. It rests on a marble surface.

During the holiday season, I tend to stretch myself thin with baking. It’s a festive time of year, and sweets are how I celebrate.

Still, it’s nice to get back to basics, even we make merry. This festive kale salad features sweet cranberries, salty coconut bacon, and grounding lentils.

The dish is the best of both worlds: something special for the season, but also a simple, nourishing dish that can support you through winter. You can bring it to a holiday potluck, or you can can curl up with a bowl of it for lunch. Either way, it’s all good.

Why I love kale salads

Long time readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of kale salad.

There are many reasons for this. They include the fact that this type of salad is substantive, often more craveable in the wintertime (to me, anyway) than salads made with traditional salad greens.

Kale salads keep really well. The leftovers usually last for 3-4 days, which isn’t true of a lot of fresh salads. Kale becomes softened when it’s massaged with a vinaigrette or another dressing, but it doesn’t wilt. This is a win win for storage.

And of course there’s the fact that eating kale salad allows you to obtain all of the goodness of one of nature’s most nutrient-dense greens. Kale is an excellent source of Vitamins A, K, and C. The minerals it offers includes calcium, potassium, and copper. It’s relatively high in protein, and it’s a great source of dietary fiber.

How to make kale salad

If you as me, there’s really only one magic trick when it comes to making kale salad: the massage.

Yes, in order to make this recipe—or a recipe that’s similar—you’ll be “massaging” the greens with your hands. It may sound strange, or mildly hilarious, but the idea is simple. You add your dressing to the kale and use your hands to “massage” the dressing into the greens.

I think that this works best with an oil-based dressing. Olive oil softens the greens really nicely. But it can also work with a nut-based dressing, such as one of my (many) tahini dressings or my cashew carrot dressing.

The massaging itself isn’t complicated. Just use your hands to coat all of the greens with dressing, squeezing them as you go. Don’t be afraid to give it your all! More massaging = softer kale.

I recommend massaging the greens before you add any salad mix-ins. In this case of this recipe, those mix-ins are dried cranberries, lentil, and a vegan coconut bacon. If you add the mix-ins first, it’ll be harder to work the dressing into the greens.

Once the kale has received its massage, it’ll be ready for any additions that make your salad shine.

A round, white and gray ceramic bowl holds a festive kale salad with cranberries and coconut bacon.

Salty & sweet

I love all of the texture here: chewy cranberries, soft lentils, crispy greens, crunchy coconut bacon.

What I love most about the recipe, though, is the fact that it combines salty and sweet flavors. This is a pairing that I can’t get enough of, and it’s on full display with the combination of dried fruit and salty vegan bacon.

There are plenty of ways to modify the sweet and salty components in the salad. In place of dried cranberries, you can use raisins, currants, or even diced apple.

In place of my coconut bacon, try smoky tempeh cubes, lemon pepper tempeh, baked balsamic tofu, eggplant bacon, or portobello mushroom jerky. A store-bought vegan jerky or bacon is great, too.

The vinaigrette for this salad is simple, but effective. It has salty and sweet notes, too, including tart apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and salt.

Serving suggestions

You can serve the salad with cranberries, lentils, and coconut bacon with any of your favorite salad accompaniments. To turn the dish into a complete meal, try pairing it with:

Meal prep & storage

Like most kale salads, this salad will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.

You can also speed your meal prep along by preparing the coconut bacon up to two weeks in advance or cooking the lentils 2-3 days ahead of time.

More kale salad recipes

Do you love kale salads as much as I do? If so, you’re in luck, because I’ve shared plenty of recipes over the years. Here are a few of my favorites:

An overhead image of a round salad bowl, which has been filled with greens, dried fruit, and lentils.

A white ceramic bowl has been filled with a kale salad. It rests on a marble surface.
4.50 from 2 votes

Kale Salad with Cranberries, Lentils, and Coconut Bacon

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup green, brown, black, or French lentils (substitute 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils, or 1 14.5-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup coconut bacon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots

Instructions

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils. Boil the lentils for 20-30 minutes, until they're cooked through but not mushy. Drain them (as you would pasta) and allow them to cool for 15 minutes, while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  • Remove the thick stems from your kale. Chop the kale into bite-sized pieces.
  • Whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and shallots. Set them aside.
  • Place the kale in a large mixing bowl. Toss the dressing over it and massage thoroughly with your hands, until all of the leaves are coated with the dressing.
  • Add the cranberries, lentils, and coconut bacon, and toss everything to combine. Pile the salad into serving bowls, and serve.

Notes

Leftover salad will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
A bowl filled with greens has been placed on a white marble surface. There are white tiles in the background.

No matter how chilly it gets, a great lunch salad is always in order. I hope that you’ll enjoy this one as much as I do!

xo

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Recipe Rating




    10 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    I made this for lunch today. It is SO GOOD. I just want to eat all of the coconut bacon haha. I cooked my lentils in veggie broth for a little more flava flave, but not sure it was necessary as the dressing and coconut bacon are so delicious!

  2. What an interesting combinations of flavors, textures and colors–it looks delicious–and filling. Thanks!! xo

  3. All the best flavors!! I haven’t tried my hand at making coconut bacon, but it’s definitely on my list! I think I might go with pomegranate seeds too because 1. they are delicious!!!!, and 2. it’s so hard to find unsweetened dried cranberries.