Everyone needs a solid holiday salad recipe in their repertoire—one that your family and friends beg you to bring to Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve dinner. For me, this is it. A massaged kale salad with pears, gorgonzola, radicchio, pomegranates, candied walnuts, and red onion that also happens to be so brilliantly colored I’ve taken to calling it my “Holiday Jewels Chopped Kale Salad.” (Kale has never sounded so festive, amiright?)
Holiday feasting tends to rely on bigger, bolder flavors: braised short ribs, a rosemary-studded pork loin, a decadent pasta… so I like a salad that can hold its own against these other standout dishes. Sturdy, deeply flavored kale is the answer, and it gets bonus points for its ability to hold up, fully dressed, for hours without getting soggy. In fact, it actually gets better with time to sit and soak up all the flavors, which means you can prepare this salad completely in advance, pop it in the fridge, and forget about it. So, let’s talk about the building blocks of this salad and break down what makes it special—and how to ace it for your upcoming holiday gatherings.
What type of kale should I use?
When it comes to kale, you’ve got options. Classic curly kale, Lacinato (or Tuscan or dinosaur) kale, Red Russian, or other heirloom varieties are all delicious, but for this salad, I like a 50/50 mix of curly kale and Lacinato kale. I love the different shades of green and textural variety that this mix provides, plus when you throw in the radicchio ribbons, it’s a full-on bitter greens dance party.
How do I make kale taste good?
Okay people, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re not massaging your kale, it’s time. But before you do that, you’ll want to strip the leaves off the tough ribs, stack up those leaves and give them a chop into ribbons, then put them in a bowl and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil. Use both hands to vigorously massage the kale for about a minute until it shrinks in size and becomes silky sweet and bright green. Now you’re ready for all those brilliantly beautiful toppings.
The jewel-toned salad toppings
For this salad, presentation is key. Although I love using simple ingredients all year round, the holidays are the time to put a little extra care into how you layer and bring them together visually. This dish is a true delight for the senses, and it’s an understated way to bring in the traditional Christmas-y color palette (no red and green sprinkles required!) Here are the key add-ins that make this salad sing:
- Massaged kale. See above.
- Radicchio. Yes it’s bitter, but when paired with richness (like the oil in this dressing and the creamy gorgonzola) radicchio becomes the most pleasing complement.
- Pear. I love a massaged chopped kale and pear salad all year round, but this combo is especially comforting in the winter months. This is a great time to experiment with whatever beautiful pears are in season. Just make sure it’s ripe but still firm enough to hold up completely when you slice it.
- Gorgonzola. Any blue cheese will work well here, but for this recipe, I do like buying the crumbles that will somewhat hold together when you give this salad a toss. There’s nothing like the classic combo of blue cheese and pears at Christmas time.
- Pomegranates. Sure, I use them here mostly for their stunning red color, but they also give this salad a delicious tart-sweetness and a pleasant textural “bite.” You can buy a whole pomegranate and use this method for removing the seeds or feel free to take the lazy route (like me) and buy the pre-seeded pomegranates where the work’s been done for you.
- Red Onion. Packs a flavor punch and more gorgeous jewel-toned hues. I like to use my mandoline to get the slices superthin, and bonus points for soaking them in cold water for 30 minutes to tamp down the flavor.
- Candied walnut. Get excited, because I’m finally sharing the candied walnut recipe I’ve been obsessed with for years. It’s time! Just make a double batch, because you’ll want extras for snacking.
My favorite mustard-shallot vinaigrette
Just like you need a go-to chopped kale salad recipe in your repertoire, you also need a solid mustard vinaigrette recipe that you can keep in your fridge for all your salad needs. This is the one I always turn to. I’ve tweaked and adjusted it countless times throughout the years, but the building blocks are the same: dijon mustard, garlic, vinegar, onion or shallot, honey, and olive oil. It’s sweet, acidic, creamy, and when blended together, lightly coats each leaf of kale just like a great salad dressing should.
This holiday jewels chopped kale salad is gorgeous, nourishing, and so satisfying—and we haven’t even talked about all the health benefits that these vividly hued beauties bring to the table, but we’ll save that for another day. For now, scroll on for the recipe, and tag us on Instagram @camillestyles if you give this salad a try!
- 1 large head lacinato (tuscan) kale
- 1 head curly kale
- 1/2 head raddichio
- 1 pear (firm but ripe)
- 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola, or other blue cheese
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup candied walnuts (recipe below)
for the mustard-shallot vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Make the vinaigrette: Add everything to a blender, and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare the kale: remove the leaves from the tough stems (discard the stems), then stack the leaves and cut into ribbons. Add to a very large salad bowl, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt, and use your hands to massage for about a minute, until the kale has reduced a bit in size and is bright green and glossy.
- To the bowl, add all other ingredients, reserving a bit of each one to use as topping at the end.
- Pour over half the vinaigrette, and use your hands (or a big spoon) to mix everything together really well. Top with the reserved ingredients, drizzle a little extra dressing over the top and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or place in the fridge for up to 6 hours.
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Add walnuts, sugar, and water to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, give it a good stir, then turn down heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the walnuts to the baking sheet. You want a little bit of the syrupy water to come with the walnuts onto the sheet pan, as this will add to the caramelization. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until the nuts are fragrant and lightly caramelized. They’ll harden and get nice and crunchy as they cool.
- I like to store these in the freezer, or you can use immediately on the salad.
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I am absolutely going to try this! Looks perfect for those meals in between parties, or even to bring to a party and have something healthy to eat in between all the rich goodness!
May I please ask where your perfect sequin top is from? I am on the hunt for one myself and yours looks just like what I am looking for! Thank you!
I’ll be making this gorgeous salad for Christmas Eve dinner at my house this year! It looks amazing! Thank you.
To echo the other comment, where did you get that gorgeous sequins shirt? It would be perfect for my holiday party! Thank you!
Thanks Laura! I bought it from Estilo–a local shop here in Austin!