Kale cherry salad with cherry dressing is the perfect summer or fall salad!
Packed with flavor, this marinated kale salad is even better the next day and can easily be modified based on what you have on hand!
The homemade cherry vinaigrette dressing is so easy to make and great on any salad! Naturally vegan, gluten free, dairy free, paleo and Whole30 friendly, this salad is great for lunch or dinner any time of year!
Why you will love this recipe
- Homemade balsamic cherry dressing is such a fun twist on dressing! The sweetness from the cherries pairs perfectly with the balsamic vinegar creating a really perfect salad dressing that can be made in just 1 minute!
- Kale salads are so hearty and filling and the best part is that they are almost always better the next day! Kale is a hearty green that starts to break down with exposure to acid (vinegar) making the salad even more tender and delicious the next day! Perfect for meal prep or to make ahead for parties or get-togethers.
- Top with your favorite protein to make it a full meal! Some great options are salmon, Italian chicken pieces, or even tofu! You won’t believe how filling this salad is!
How to prepare this kale salad
- Fresh cherries, pitted (or dried cherries in the fall/winter)
- Chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans all work here)
- Frozen dark sweet cherries
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
Step by step instructions
Make the balsamic cherry dressing first by combining the defrosted frozen dark sweet cherries, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt in a high speed blender for about 1 minute until fully combined.
Destem the kale and chop or tear into bite size pieces.
Add the dressing to the kale and mix well with tongs or your hands. You really want to take 2-3 minutes to continue to toss the kale in the dressing, which helps to start breaking down the kale and softening it.
Once the salad has been dressed, you can add the fresh cherries and chopped nuts.
Store in the fridge at least 4 hours, preferably overnight before serving.
Stir well before serving, redistributing the dressing as needed.
How to soften kale
Kale tends to be a tougher green, much different than traditional lettuces that you would find in most salads.
Unlike salad greens, kale salads actually hold up better and tastes better if you make them ahead of time (at least 4 hours) as the vinegar or acid in the dressing will help break down the kale and soften the tough leaves.
Kale can have a bitter, sometimes almost earthy flavor when fresh. Really taking the time to work the dressing into the greens helps to remove that bitter earthy flavor.
The best way to soften kale is to use your hands and massage the individual kale leaves with the dressing. If you prefer to not get your hands dirty, you can also use tongs for this.
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How to pit cherries
Cherries are not just delicious they are also a great source of fiber, antioxidants and Vitamin C. Dark sweet cherries, used in the dressing have an flavonoids called anthocyanins that helps protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
Cherries are a great salad topping but pitting them can be a bit time consuming and you will likely stain your hands in the process. I’m going to invest in a cherry pitter next year because I love eating cherries all season long.
To remove the pits without a cherry pitter:
- Start by cutting the cherry in half around the pit.
- Cut again so that the cherry is divided into 4 sections.
- You should be able to easily pull away 2 of the pieces of cherry immediately, however the other two will probably be stuck around the pit.
- Use your fingers to pull the pit from the other 2 pieces.
- White beans or chickpeas
- Shredded chicken or Italian chicken bites
- Air fryer salmon or simple salmon bites
- Balsamic tofu
- Shredded cabbage
- Shredded carrots
Store this salad (with dressing) in the fridge for up to 3 days after eating.
- Frozen Dark Sweet Cherries: Fresh pitted cherries are a great substitution for the dressing.
- Olive oil: You can also use almond butter in place of the olive oil to make a creamy dressing.
- Kale: You can also use spinach or arugula in place of kale, however the salad likely will not last as long in the fridge if you use anything other than kale.
- Walnuts: You can also use cashews, almonds, slivered almonds, pecans or pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
- Red bell peppers: You can also use chopped cherry tomatoes or roasted red pepper in place of the red bell peppers.
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Cherry Kale Salad
- 1 bag of organic kale - large stems removed
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1 red pepper - chopped
- 15-20 sweet cherries - cut into quarters
Cherry Balsamic Dressing
- Defrost the dark sweet cherries in the microwave or on the stove. Add the cherries, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, water and salt to blender.
Cherry Kale Salad
- In a large bowl, add the kale, removing any big stems as you go.
- Add dressing directly to the kale leaves and toss to coat leaves either with tongs or your hands. Really take time to massage the kale to help it break down.
- Chop the red bell peppers and chopped walnuts to the kale.
- Cut the cherries into quarters and remove the pits. Add to salad.
- Store in the fridge for at least 4 hours, best overnight. Serve as is or with your favorite protein.