This Fall Salad with Kale and Delicata Squash is loaded with all the classic autumn flavors and is the perfect easy side dish or healthy lunch. Made with massaged kale, roasted delicata squash, crispy apples, pears, cranberries and crunchy pecans. Gluten free, refined sugar free with paleo, low carb, keto & Whole30 options.
Updated October 2019
Fall is in the air and this Autumn Harvest Salad has been happening on repeat at our house. It’s packed with tons of healthy greens and hearty flavors of the season.
We are big salad fans all year long and one of the best things about having a salad for lunch or dinner is that you can pretty much customize it with whatever you have on hand. A few of our favorites include this Kale Salad with Avocado, Spinach Salad, Chicken Salad and some sort of variation of this delicious Fall Salad.
This Autumn Harvest Salad is packed with roasted delicata squash, crispy apples, pears, kale and crunchy pecans.
Not a fan of delicata squash? Swap it for butternut squash, acorn squash, roasted sweet potatoes or pumpkin instead.
Don’t like chicken? Leave it out or use turkey instead.
Watching your carbs or want a keto version? Leave out the apples, pears and use cherry tomatoes or a few slices of figs.
WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE IN A FALL HARVEST SALAD?
There are lots of variations of good fall salads with apples, our Whole30 fall salad recipe includes:
- curly endive
- crispy apples (you can use granny smith, honeycrisp, pink lady (cripps) or Fuji)
- sweet pears (Red Bartlett or Anjou)
- roasted delicata squash (you can swap for butternut, acorn, kabocha or sweet potato)
- pecans (or walnuts)
- sliced almonds
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- dried cranberries (or cherries) (leave out for Whole30)
- blueberries (or pomegranate seeds)
- grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken (optional)
Other ingredients you can add:
- roasted Brussels sprouts
- If you’re not dairy-free – crumbled feta, blue cheese or goat cheese
And for a low carb or keto fall harvest salad, you can leave out the:
For a paleo and Whole30 compliant fall salad, simply leave out the dried cranberries.
SO HOW DO YOU PREPARE KALE FOR A SALAD?
My kids are actually big kale fans and will eat raw kale straight from the garden. But what if you’re not a big kale lover? Is kale good in a salad? I happen to think kale is perfect and makes a delicious vessel for a salad since it keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days. That means you can wash and prep it ahead of time on your Sunday or Monday meal prep day.
- Kale has lots of fiber which is one of its great health benefits. But when preparing kale for salads, you should tear or cut into thin little pieces.
- Remove the kale’s stem and only use the leaves
HOW DO YOU SOFTEN KALE FOR A SALAD?
- Massage the kale leaves for about 2-3 minutes with a little bit of your salad dressing. This helps to break down the plants fibrous cells. Although it’s an extra step – massaging the kale makes a big difference and is key when making delicious kale salads!
HOW TO MAKE FALL SALAD:
- Roast the vegetables: Start off by cutting the delicata squash into rings and roasting in the oven (or air fryer if you have one for 15-25 minutes) at 400F for about 15-22 minutes, or until squash is tender. For the chicken, I used leftover rotisserie chicken to keep things simple. But you can also grill or roast your own chicken if you prefer.
- Make the dressing: While the pumpkin is roasting, make the vinaigrette. Combine avocado oil, apple cider vinegar, orange juice (or lemon juice), Dijon mustard, thyme, salt and black pepper. Feel free to add sweetener of choice depending on what diet you are following. For a paleo friendly sweetener – add maple syrup or raw honey. For low carb / keto – use about 2 drops of liquid monk fruit or stevia. Leave out for whole 30.
- Wash and prep the greens. For the kale, tear the leaves off of the ribs. Add the kale to a large bowl along with 1 tablespoon of dressing. Massage the leaves for 2-3 minutes until the leaves have softened. Add chopped endive and another tablespoon of dressing and toss to combine. Allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Assemble the salad: Slice or chop the apples and pears and layer on top of the kale.
- Once your roasted pumpkin is done, add to the salad. Place the sliced chicken on top (or leave out for a vegetarian / vegan version). Sprinkle with pecans, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and slivered almonds.
- Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salad. Toss before serving.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD FALL SALAD?
The great thing about this kale salad is how versatile it is.
- Not a fan of delicata squash? You can easily leave it out or make a harvest salad with butternut squash, sweet potatoes or even pumpkin instead.
- I don’t have pears – can I leave them out? Yes, of course! You don’t have to make a harvest fall salad with pears or even apples – leave them out for a low carb / keto options
- I’m allergic to nuts – can I leave out the pecans and almonds? Absolutely! Leave out both for a nut free autumn harvest salad.
- What is the best dressing for a kale salad? I happen to think kale goes best with a light and tangy apple cider or Dijon vinaigrette but a poppy-seed dressing would make a great choice
- Can I make this salad vegetarian if I leave out the chicken? Of course! We served this autumn chicken salad as an all-in-one complete meal since my husband is a big meat eater. But you are more than welcome to enjoy this without any extra protein and serve as a side instead.
WHY WE LIKE AUTUMN KALE SALAD:
Our apple harvest salad is fairly quick and easy to make. Best part of all, this delicious kale salad makes a healthy lunch or dinner on the table and can be ready on the dinner table in about 30 minutes.
Salads are perfect for using up any extra leftover roasted vegetables from the farmer’s market.
Pair your salad with any protein you have on hand.
Not a fan of chicken in your autumn harvest salad? Leave out the chicken for a meatless version or you can add some turkey or even salmon instead.
More creative fall salads:
Fall Salad is the perfect easy side dish or lunch for Fall. Made with roasted delicata squash, kale, crispy apples, pears, cranberries and crunchy pecans.
- 1 medium delicata squash cut into rings with pulp removed, (can also sub with kabocha or butternut squash)
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice for low carb use lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup for low carb use 1 drop liquid monk fruit & leave out for Whole 30
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt or to taste
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 bunch kale about 4 cups , stemmed & chopped
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 apple , Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or Pink Lady , washed & cut into slices (leave out for low carb / keto)
- 1 pear , red Bartlett , washed and cut into slices (leave out for low carb / keto)
- 1/2 cup sliced cooked chicken breast (rotisserie, baked or grilled)
- 2 tablespoons toasted pecans
- 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
- 1 tablespoon dried cranberries , optional (leave out for Whole 30 & paleo)
- 1 tablespoon blueberries , optional
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread squash on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Roast for 25-35 minutes until tender. (If you have an air fryer - you can also air fry for 15-20 minutest at 400F). Let cool.
- Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by adding avocado oil, apple cider vinegar, orange juice (or lemon juice), Dijon mustard, thyme, salt and black pepper in a mason jar or bowl and shake or whisk to combine.
- Add sweetener of choice depending on what diet you are following. For a paleo friendly sweetener, use maple syrup and for low carb / keto - you can use 1-2 drops of liquid monk fruit or stevia.
- Add kale and 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette to a large bowl. Massage leaves for 2-3 minutes, until leaves have softened. Add endive and another 1 tablespoon of dressing and toss to combine. Allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Slice or chop the apples and pears and layer on top of the kale.
- Once your roasted squash is done, add a few rings to your salad and top with chicken (or leave out for a vegetarian / vegan version), sprinkle some pecans, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and slivered almonds.
- Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salad. Toss before serving.