Quinoa, Kale, Cranberry and Pecan Salad

This quinoa kale salad with cranberries and pecans is a light, healthy salad that comes together quickly and is easy to make.  A great choice for lunch or a healthy side with dinner. 

White bowl with salad and a fork.

I’ve been eating this quinoa and kale salad on repeat lately.   It’s a healthy lunch salad that’s filling and tasty.  You can make a big batch and store in the fridge to have a healthy side salad ready to add to whatever you are serving for dinner.

The secret ingredient in this recipe is baby kale.  I find regular kale to be tough and chewy.  Then I found baby kale at the supermarket and it completely changed my mind about kale.  It’s more tender than regular kale and easier to eat.  Baby kale is ready to eat with minimal prep – just add it to the salad bowl.

Key ingredients for making this salad

  • Baby Kale – Baby kale is the star here.  You can find it in the bagged salad area of the supermarket.
  • Quinoa – I used white quinoa because I like the taste better than red quinoa but any quinoa is fine.
  • Pecans – I used pecans but you can use any nut that you like – both walnuts or sliced almonds would be good substitutions.
  • Feta Cheese – salty feta is my favorite but blue cheese or goat cheese would be good substitutions.
  • Dried Cranberries – if you don’t have dried cranberries you can sub in diced apple as a good alternative.
  • A Simple Homemade Dressing – whisk together olive oil, white wine vinegar, a little Dijon mustard , finely minced garlic and some freshly ground black pepper to make a tasty simple dressing. 

Ingredients to make quinoa kale salad in a white bowl with a wooden spoon.

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse – it’s a cruciferous vegetable (member of the Brassica family) – and it’s packed with fiber and vitamins A, C and K.  I look forward to adding baby kale to different salads in the future.

Baby kale versus regular kale.  Baby kale is the winner in this salad.  It’s tender and ready to eat.  It doesn’t need to be finely chopped or massaged with dressing to soften.  If you’re using a bunch of regular kale – either curly kale, tuscan kale or dinosaur kale – you will need to thinly cut up the kale leaves and massage in part of dressing and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Large and small bowl of quinoa kale salad on a marble countertop.

How to make this recipe

  • Cook quinoa as per the package instructions.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, whisk together the salad dressing and toss half of it over the kale in a large bowl.  Stir to combine so all the kale is coated with the dressing.  No need to massage the kale if you are using baby kale.
  • Prep the rest of your ingredients – mince the red onion, dice the feta cheese and measure out the pecans and have them ready to go.
  • When the quinoa is ready, turn it out onto a baking sheet to let it cool slightly before adding to the kale.
  • When quinoa has cooled slightly, add the quinoa, onion, dried cranberries, feta and nuts to the kale in a large bowl.
  • Pour the remaining dressing over the salad ingredients and toss before serving.

I love how simple and fresh this quinoa and kale salad is. It’s perfect as a light main dish for lunch or dinner and it works really well as a side dish with some soup or a sandwich.

Recipe questions, notes and tips

Which type of kale is best for this salad?  This salad is all about baby kale. It’s tender and ready to eat without a lot of prep.  No need to soften the kale using the massage technique that regular kale needs.

What can I add to this salad?  If you want to make this salad a little more substantial then apples or pears would make a great addition.

What to add some protein – try adding in some chickpeas or firm diced tofu.

Don’t like feta – then blue cheese or goat cheese would be a good substitution.

If you don’t have pecans, then walnuts would be a good choice for this quinoa and kale salad.

How long will this salad last in the refrigerator?  This kale salad will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days – so it a great choice for a work lunch that you can make ahead.  

Make sure to rinse your quinoa before cooking – dry quinoa needs to be rinsed before adding it to the pot to cook.

What kind of nuts can I use?  I used plain pecans.  I didn’t toast them but you can if you want.  You could also use candied pecans if you have a sweet tooth.

Should I use warm or cold cooked quinoa?  Either works well.  I usually cook the quinoa and then spread the quinoa on to a baking sheet to cool slightly – this will keep it from being mushy.

Can I make the vegan?  Omit the feta if you want a vegan version of this salad.

Looking for more quinoa recipes then try one of these:

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Did you try this recipe?   I’d love to hear what you think.  Please come back and leave a comment and rating below in the comment section.

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Quinoa, Kale, Cranberry and Pecan Salad

This quinoa kale salad with cranberries and pecans is a light, healthy salad that comes together quickly and is easy to make.  A great choice for lunch or a healthy side for dinner. 

  • Author: Geraldine
  • Prep Time: 12 mins
  • Cook Time: 14 mins
  • Total Time: 26 minutes
  • Yield: 2 to 4 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 cups baby kale
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa – cook quinoa as per the package instructions
  • 1 veggie bouillon cube
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove minced or put through a press
  • 8 twists of black pepper from a pepper mill
  • 1 squeeze of honey – about 1 tsp
  • 2 tbs red onion – minced
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 ounces of feta – cubed

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop the baby kale and place in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, minced garlic, black pepper and honey. Pour half of the dressing over the chopped kale.
  3. Cook dry quinoa according to package instructions. Add 1 veggie bouillon cube to the water.
  4. Add minced red onion, cranberries, chopped pecans and feta to the kale and toss gently.
  5. When the quinoa is done and cooled slightly, add it to the bowl with the kale, red onion, cranberries, pecans and feta.
  6. Toss with remaining dressing and serve.

Notes

If you make and enjoy this recipe, please leave a message and rating letting me know what you think.

Nutritional information is generated from an online nutritional calculator. This information is provided as a courtesy only and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice. Ingredients can vary and Green Valley Kitchen makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 to 4 servings
  • Calories: 466
  • Sugar: 6.1 g
  • Sodium: 196mg
  • Fat: 26g
  • Carbohydrates: 38.2g
  • Fiber: 6.6g
  • Protein: 11.5g

Keywords: Quinoa Kale Salad, Healthy Salad

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23 comments on “Quinoa, Kale, Cranberry and Pecan Salad

  1. Dorothy Crabtree

    Loved this salad! Made it for dinner and enjoyed it so much. It was my first time eating quinoa but I will definitely be eating this again. I toasted my pecans and used fresh lemon juice for half of the vinegar. Cranberries and pecans add a great touch!

    Reply
    1. Geraldine Post author

      Hi Dorothy! Thanks so much for the nice review – so glad you enjoyed it and tried quinoa for the first time! Thanks for leaving a comment and rating – I appreciate hearing from you.

      Reply
  2. Mary Ann

    This recipe is AMAZING! It was the family favorite, huge hit at thanksgiving this year. I couldn’t get enough.

    Reply
    1. Geraldine Post author

      Thanks, Mary Ann – love that you shared this salad with your family at Thanksgiving – glad everyone enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and rating – I appreciate hearing from you!

      Reply
  3. Andrea

    This salad is fantastic! I made it for my sons birthday party expecting it to be more adult fare but the kids enjoyed it too! I’m making it again now without red onion as I don’t have any, but I’m sure it will still be delicious. This has definitely made it into our summer CSA rotation!

    Reply
    1. Geraldine Post author

      Hi Andrea – Thanks so much for letting me know! It’s funny what you think kids won’t like – and then they surprise you! Glad it helps use up your CSA rotation – those boxes can be overwhelming sometimes. And thanks for leaving a rating as well – I appreciate it!

      Reply
  4. Lois

    I made the salad this evening to eat for lunch tomorrow. Planned to give half of it to my son and his wife. I took a taste and decided the entire salad will remain with me. It is delicious! Glad I found this recipe online. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Geraldine Post author

      Thanks so much, Lois! So glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for taking time to leave me a message and a star rating – I really appreciate it when readers let me know that they liked a recipe.

      Reply
  5. Carrie Chappie

    I just made this for a brunch tomorrow (I added only 1/2 of the dressing for now and will add pecans tomorrow). This salad has ended my extreme dislike of kale! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Geraldine Post author

      Hi Carrie – glad you enjoyed it. Doesn’t baby kale make such a big difference! Thanks for leaving a comment and a rating – I appreciate hearing from you!

      Reply
  6. Jane

    Taking it to my Italian class potluck – like every good chef I tasted it first – delicious. I find myself hoping there are leftovers!

    Reply
  7. Terri

    Love!! Eating my second helping now. I used a kale mix and added avocado. DELISH!! dressing is perfect

    Reply
  8. bruce

    I have a family member on blood thinners that can not eat cranberries, so substituted currants. Very good. BTW, this is first time eating quinoa that I’ve actually enjoyed it. Thanks for the recipe.

    Reply
    1. Geraldine Post author

      Thanks so much for letting me know, Bruce! I appreciate that you took the time to comment. Glad this was a hit for you and your family. Quinoa is a great addition to salads – since it makes it more filling and give a boost of protein to the salad.

      Reply

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