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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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!