Apple, Sweet Potato and Kale Quinoa Salad

This Kale Quinoa Salad is the ultimate Fall salad! Packed with massaged kale, cooked quinoa, diced apples, roasted sweet potatoes, pistachios, and the perfect maple balsamic dressing; it’s an Autumn salad everyone will love!

Ready to eat Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with hands holding plate.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

If you are looking for the perfect autumn harvest salad, look no further! Kind of like Sweet Greens Harvest Salad, this kale quinoa salad is honestly even better, because the dressing is truly incredible and it is so customizable! It’s perfect to make for lunches or dinners, or even for a Thanksgiving spread! I love using kale here because you can dress it a little earlier if needed, and it will hold up and still be delicious after a few hours.

While this salad may have a few steps, like cooking quinoa and roasting sweet potatoes, the cooking time is fairly hands off, and I promise, it’s worth the little effort!

Ingredients Needed

Kale: I like using dinosaur kale! I remove the ribs/stems and chop it up super fine. Don’t forget to massage your kale (more on that below)! Dinosaur kale, also known as lacinato kale or Tuscan kale is less tough, in my opinion! For kale, it’s always my first choice.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: For massaging your kale!

Lemon Juice: Just a squeeze if you have it. Also for massaging your kale. See more on this below!

Sea Salt: Want restaurant quality salads? Salt your greens, always!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes: My go-to recipe that I make weekly to have in the fridge are my Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Cinnamon and sweet potatoes are the ultimate combination, and they are certainly worthy of this salad!

Cooked Quinoa: A protein powerhouse, quinoa is really delicious in a salad! Did you know I have a whole guide with all the best ways to cook quinoa? I like to prep it ahead of time, so it’s cooled down for this salad! More on this below!

Apple: Any variety you like will work great here! Pears would be delicious, too.

Pistachios: You can buy them raw and de-shelled, and they are so yummy. They add a great crunch! They’re also fiber-packed, protein-packed, and are a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids! Win all around. Of course, you can sub out a different nut, like sliced or slivered almonds, toasted pecans, or walnuts!

The BEST Maple Balsamic Dressing: It’s truly the best, creamy, and easy dressing you’ll make this season! Made up quickly with avocado oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, maple syrup, and a pinch of sea salt.

Ingredients for Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Kale

How to Customize Your Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Customize it with other add-ins/toppings:

  • Avocado
  • Black Beans
  • Dried Cranberries or Dried Cherries
  • Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds
  • Other Nuts of Choice (toasted or not): Slivered Almonds, Sliced Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, you name it!

Add cheese: A cheese would work so well as a salty component to this kale quinoa salad. Leave cheese out to keep this kale quinoa salad vegan and dairy-free.

  • Feta Cheese
  • Goat Cheese
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Manchego Cheese

Add a protein:

Ingredients for Kale Quinoa Salad with sweet potatoes

The Best Kale To Use

I recommend using dinosaur kale in this recipe. Also known as lacinato kale or Tuscan kale, in my opinion, dinosaur kale is way less tough than others! For kale salads especially, it’s always my first choice.

What If I Hate Kale?

Don’t fret! Spinach or a blend of mixed greens would be great in this salad!

Why You Should Massage Kale:

Here’s the deal, massaging kale helps break down the tough, fibrous cell structure and gives raw kale a gentler flavor — and a way softer texture. Aside from making it more tender, it’s also easier to digest! Massaging kale is a must in my opinion! It just requires a little olive oil, salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice if you have it!

Dressing pouring onto kale quinoa salad

Quinoa in Your Kale Salad

Though it does pair well with grilled chicken, shrimp, or salmon, quinoa is a great source of a complete protein, so this salad is quite filling! Our in-house nutritionist Gabby says: Quinoa is tremendously healthy, especially for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet. Quinoa is one of the very few plant proteins that contains all nine essential amino acids that our body cannot make on its own, making it a complete protein. Not only is quinoa a rich source of protein, it is also naturally gluten-free and safe for those with celiac disease.

Our guide on how to cook quinoa is my go-to! I like to prep it ahead of time, so it’s cooled down for this salad! If you are making this all the day of, you can add it in a bit warm, or to speed up the cooling process, simply spread your cooked quinoa onto a baking sheet and let cool in the refrigerator.

How to Cook Quinoa on the Stove:

This is probably the most common way of cooking quinoa! You bring quinoa up to a boil and then simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed! Finally, let it sit for a few minutes, and fluff with a fork. It takes about 20-25 minutes.

The Dressing:

I make this dressing all the time in the Fall! It’s seriously the best dressing ever, trust me!

Mixing together a sweet potato quinoa salad

Prepping Salad Ahead For Meal Prep:

You can totally prep components of this quinoa salad hours in advance, or even the day before! Just make sure everything is prepped, and then dress just before serving.

Kale: Massaging kale gives it a way softer texture. Aside from making it more tender, it’s also easier to digest! It just requires a little olive oil, salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice if you have it! You can definitely do this step a few hours before and let it sit, but I try to do it as close to serving as possible!

Quinoa: Our guide on how to cook quinoa is my go-to! I like to prep it ahead of time, so it’s cooled down for this salad! If you are making this all the day of, you can add it in a bit warm, or to speed up the cooling process, simply spread your cooked quinoa onto a baking sheet and let cool in the refrigerator.

Sweet Potatoes: Our Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes last for multiple days in the fridge! So you can prep this ahead of time for sure.

Dressing: You can make this a day or two ahead and store in the refrigerator. Dress the salad just before serving.

This salad is great to make for meal prep, with a few modifications.  If you prefer to eat this salad with a protein like chicken, go ahead and meal prep this salad to have a separate container for the salad components and another for the chicken, that way the meat can be heated up on its own. And of course, with most salads, you’ll want to keep dressing separate and add right before serving.

Just be careful about what salad components you choose. Obviously, something like sliced avocado will not keep well, so don’t use something that won’t keep well if intending to make this for meal prep.

Keeping all of this in mind, this salad will keep well for 3-5 in the refrigerator.

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Apple, Sweet Potato and Kale Quinoa Salad

Ingredients for Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Kale

This Kale Quinoa Salad is the ultimate Fall salad! Packed with massaged kale, cooked quinoa, diced apples, roasted sweet potatoes, pistachios, and the perfect maple balsamic dressing; it’s an Autumn salad everyone will love!

  • Author: Lexi
  • Prep Time: 00:10
  • Cook Time: 00:30
  • Total Time: 00:40
  • Yield: 3 1x
  • Category: Salad

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 cup cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups shredded kale (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, raw and de-shelled
  • 1 apple, diced

Maple Balsamic Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. Make quinoa as directed on package, and set aside to cool.
  2. Make a batch of cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes and set aside:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and position oven rack to the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Place sweet potatoes on parchment paper and drizzle with oil, cinnamon, and sea salt. Toss to make sure all sweet potatoes are evenly coated. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, giving them a quick flip halfway through, until sweet potatoes are fully cooked, fork tender, and have a rich color!
  3. Massage kale for 1-2 minutes with olive oil,  lemon juice and salt.
  4. Add all your dressing ingredients into a blender, and blend until smooth and creamy. Don’t over blend! Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
  5. Assemble the salad: Add massaged kale, sweet potatoes, quinoa, apples, pistachios to your bowl. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of dressing over salad, adding more as desired. Serve immediately.

Notes

  •  
  • Customize it with other add-ins/toppings:
  • Avocado
  • Black Beans
  • Dried Cranberries or Dried Cherries
  • Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds
  • Other Nuts of Choice (toasted or not): Slivered Almonds, Sliced Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, you name it!

Add cheese: A cheese would work so well as a salty component to this kale quinoa salad. Leave cheese out to keep this kale quinoa salad vegan and dairy-free.

  • Feta Cheese
  • Goat Cheese
  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Shaved Parmesan
  • Manchego Cheese

Add a protein:

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/2 recipe3
  • Calories: 600
  • Sugar: 19g
  • Sodium: 700mg
  • Fat: 37g
  • Saturated Fat: 4g
  • Carbohydrates: 58g
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Protein: 9g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: Kale Quinoa Salad

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3 comments
September 15, 2021

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3 Responses

  1. Made this tonight and it is so good. I did add dried cranberries and used Cherry balsamic vinegar because that’s what I had in my pantry. I served it with grilled Coho salmon brushed with some of the maple balsamic dressing.

  2. Best fall salad! Dressing was delicious, very hearty and filling. Subbed farro for quinoa and added chicken sausage. Will definitely be making again and again!

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