Perfect Winter Chopped Salad

This is the perfect winter chopped salad! It’s full of color and texture, and it’s made with a 100% dairy-free pumpkin seed peppercorn dressing.

A serving bowl contains a colorful, plant-based kale salad.

We tend to think of wintertime food as being a little monotonous. And maybe it is less vibrant than summer’s peak bounty of fruits and vegetables. But today’s winter chopped salad proves that colorful abundance can exist even in February.

This salad, along with my roasted root panzanella, is my February go-to for a fresh dish that also feels substantial.

I love the contrasting textures in this winter chopped salad. It’s got crispy carrots and celery, tender roasted sweet potatoes, toothsome kale, and sweet currants. It’s a simple mix of ingredients, but the zesty peppercorn garlic dressing adds tons of flavor.

Building a colorful winter chopped salad

The secret to not-sad salad in wintertime? Think outside the lettuce box.

There are so many ways to make salad without a conventional leafy green base. One way, of course, is to use different types of greens. This salad employs kale, which has been one of my favorite salad bases for years now.

But there are so many fun leafy options that aren’t your standard romaine or mesclun. I love using thinly sliced collard greens, shredded Brussels sprouts, radicchio, endive, shredded cabbage, julienned carrots, chicories, and even broccoli or cauliflower as a salad base.

Additionally, winter is a great time of year to use any produce that you have in a salad. Got leftover roasted root veggies? Use them.

You can also try making a wintery salad with any type of whole grain. My favorites are bulgur, quinoa, and farro.

An overhead image of a bowl of vegan winter chopped salad, accompanied by a cloth napkin and serving fork.

A new type of dairy-free dressing

It’s no big secret that I use cashews as a creamy base for everything.

There’s my all-purpose cashew cream, which I use in lasagna, pasta, curries, baked goods, and more.

And then there’s cashew-based dressing. I’ve got plenty that I like, including my creamy cashew lemon dressing, cashew carrot dressing, and creamy curry dressing.

When I’m not using cashews, I’m usually blending up tahini into my dressings. Most often that’s my every day lemon tahini dressing, but my delightfully green tahini dressing and balsamic Dijon tahini dressing, too.

But what about other nuts and seeds in dressings? Cashews and tahini aren’t the only option. Sunflower seeds make a wonderful savory, herbed dressing. The distinctive taste of hemp seeds can be mellowed out in a lemony blend.

And pumpkin seeds work beautifully in this winter chopped salad, blending into a tart, ever-so-slightly peppery, creamy mixture.

In addition to replacing dairy, seeds add nutrient density to any salad when they show up in dressing form. Seeds are good sources of healthful fatty acids and fiber.

And pumpkin seeds in particular are rich in zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants that are associated with prevention of chronic disease. I’ve been adding pumpkin seeds to salad for years, but it’s nice to find a new way to incorporate them.

Storing and preparing winter chopped salad

As with most kale salads, you can store this one in the fridge for a few days. One of the advantages of using kale in salads is that it’s a sturdy green that keeps well, even after it has been dressed.

This means that you can prepare the winter chopped salad over the weekend and enjoy for the next couple days. Serve it with dinner one night, then add it to breakfast tostadas the following morning.

The salad would be great stuffed into a wrap. You could also combine it with whole grains and legumes in a lunchtime bowl.

There’s plenty of chopping involved here, as the salad’s name promises. But once you roast the sweet potatoes and give your chef’s knife a workout, the salad is easy to prepare. Just dress, toss, and enjoy.

A vibrant bowl of vegetables has been topped with a creamy dressing. A fork accompanies the colorful meal.
A serving bowl contains a colorful, plant-based kale salad.
5 from 4 votes

Perfect Winter Chopped Salad with Pumpkin Seed Peppercorn Dressing

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (substitute an extra tablespoon water)
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

  • 1 pound sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (1 extra large or 2 medium/small sweet potatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon refined avocado oil (or another neutral vegetable oil)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups shredded purple or green cabbage
  • 1 small bunch kale, stemmed, washed, dried, and chopped
  • 1/3 cup currants raisins, or goji berries

Instructions

  • To prepare the dressing, place all dressing ingredients in a food processor or a high speed blender and blend until smooth.
  • To prepare the salad, start by roasting the sweet potato. Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Toss the sweet potato cubes in the vegetable oil and transfer them to the baking sheet. sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, or until gently browning and fork-tender, stirring once halfway through.
  • Combine the roasted sweet potato and all other salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing and toss well to mix the salad. Taste the salad and adjust salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed. Serve.

Notes

Leftover salad will keep for two days in the refrigerator.
An angled photograph of a bowl of colorful winter greens and assorted vegetables.

Another nice feature of this salad is that it’s the perfect thing to serve with soups, stews, curries, and other warm winter fare. The crunch is a great counterpoint to all of those thick, soft textures, and the bright colors of the salad will add cheer to your table.

Hope you have a chance to enjoy this simple, fresh, and lively winter chopped salad soon. Feel free to modify and play around with the ingredients as you like! I’d like to try it with rutabaga or celery root in place of sweet potato soon.

There’s plenty of room to get creative here. No matter what, you’ll have a nutritious and satisfying cold weather vegetable dish on your hands.

xo

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    16 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    I made this last night along with your masala lentils for a dinner guest and it was delicious! I did substitute cashews for the pumpkin seeds and used my vitamix and it came out perfectly. Next time I might make a bit more dressing (or maybe I just mis-judged how much kale I was using 🙂 I served the lentils over brown rice, passed some mango chutney for topping the lentils and finished off the meal with home made mango sorbet. Wonderful recipes and easy to prepare! Thanks!

    • Oh my gosh, Leslie, your comment is making me hungry! What a delicious sounding meal — I have to try the lentils with a chutney.

  2. do you think this dressing would work in the vitamix? i’m always worried the yield would be too small, or too thick, and i’d barely get any out to use!

  3. I always leave here so inspired, Gena! I need to get on this kale salad trend, the fact it will last so long in the fridge has got my attention – and this dressing! So clever and tasty. I’m excited for spring produce, but love how you’ve celebrated the winter goods here <3 hope you are having a gorgeous week friend, stay cozy!

  4. Been looking for new dressing ideas, and I would have never imagined using soaked pumpkin seeds. So stoked to try this out! Thanks for the inspiring blog 🙂

  5. Gena, this looks great! All the kinds of things I like in a salad or a stir fry–and I love pumpkin seeds. Hadn’t thought of putting them together with black pepper in a dressing, but now I must try it! Thanks–xoxo

  6. That pumpkin seed peppercorn dressing sounds FANTASTIC. Parmesan Peppercorn dressing was my favorite in my pre-vegan days, so I’m stoked to try this raw vegan version!!

  7. So pretty!! And I bet that dressing is fantastic. I’m sooooo ready for spring, but I do love winter foods. Trying to cram in as many soups, stews, and other winter meals as I can in these last few weeks of winter.