This filling kale salad with warm wild rice and roasted butternut squash, toasted pecans, goat cheese, and sweet-tart dried cranberries is dressed with an apple cider and maple dressing full of fall flavors.


Fall is the opportune time for transitioning from the lighter-flavored salads of summer to hearty salads with mega staying power that keeps you satiated all day. Like my spinach salad with hot bacon dressing and spicy roasted chickpeas, and my chopped Mexican kale salad, this kale salad with wild rice, roasted butternut squash, and goat cheese is a lofty salad with lots of textures and big flavors.

Lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale) is sliced into ribbons with shallots and then massaged with a sweet and tangy apple cider and maple dressing. It all gets tossed with nutty wild rice, sweet caramelized roasted butternut squash, tart-dried cranberries, earthy thyme, crunchy toasted pecans, and creamy goat cheese. It’s so satisfying and perfect as a stylish side dish or mouthful main meal, healthy and bursting with vibrant color and texture.


What’s In This Kale Salad

This warm kale salad is bursting with fall ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Butternut squash
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lacinato kale
  • Shallot
  • Wild rice
  • Toasted pecans
  • Dried cranberries
  • Goat cheese
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Maple syrup
  • Grainy mustard
  • Fresh thyme

Make the Apple Cider and Maple Dressing

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup in a small bowl (or just add to a jar). Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking (or shaking) to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper.


How to Make This Kale Salad

If you’ve prepped the hefty ingredients ahead of time, this salad comes together quickly. If making it on the fly, it still takes just under 30 minutes to toss together.

Cook the wild rice and toast the pecans. Cook the wild rice while toasting the pecans in a skillet, keeping an eye out so they don’t burn. You can add both ingredients warm to the salad, or set them aside to cool before tossing.

Meanwhile, roast the butternut squash. Follow the directions for roasted butternut squash here, or keep reading…Preheat the oven to 425°F. Add squash to a large sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to toss the squash so it is evenly coated, and arrange in an even layer. Place in the oven to roast for about 15-20 minutes, or until squash is golden brown and bottoms are caramelized. 

Massage the kale and assemble the salad. Soften the kale by massaging it with some cider dressing while adding the sliced shallots to mellow their heat. Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat with 2-3 tablespoons more dressing, adding more if needed.


Substitutions and Additions

  • Substitute roasted walnuts or pepitas for the pecans
  • Because it has a deeper flavor, I prefer lacinato kale, but curly kale works as well
  • Try cooked quinoa or orzo in place of the wild rice
  • You could use aged white cheddar, blue cheese, or creamy gorgonzola instead of goat cheese
  • Try dried cherries in lieu of cranberries
  • For added protein, baked chicken or roasted chicken would be a delicious addition

What to Serve with This Kale Salad

I love eating this salad as a main course because even though it’s vegetarian, it’s very hearty. However, if you wanted to enjoy it as a side, that’s a great option as well. Here’s what I would serve with it:

More Fall Salads to Try

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