Crunchy Kale Quinoa Salad with Feta, Apples, & Pecans + Homemade Kale Salad Dressing Recipe!

Simple Fall Harvest Salad with Raspberry Poppyseed Dressing

Indulge in the seasonal delight of a fall harvest kale quinoa salad with feta cheese, fresh apples, and crunchy pecans! Made even more delicious with my raspberry poppyseed kale salad dressing drizzled on top.

With massaged kale leaves, chopped apples, celery, mandarin orange wedges, pecans, crumbled feta, and diced prunes, this fall harvest salad has SO much to love. Sweet, savory, crunchy, colorful, and oh-so-wholesome—it’s a true kale superfood salad made for fall time!

Of course, any kale salad recipe has plenty of crunch thanks to the hearty greens. But, for this kale AND quinoa salad recipe, I’ll also show you how to puff quinoa at home for even more crunchy satisfaction!

And, I’ve got a simple kale salad dressing to share that pairs perfectly with this kale quinoa feta salad recipe. Made with fresh raspberries and poppy seeds, it’s vibrant, tangy, and just sweet enough to balance out the kale!

Trust me, I’m not even a fan of kale, but this kale quinoa salad has now become a fall seasonal staple for me. A fresh, simple, beautiful vegetarian dinner option that brings some of my favorite ingredients of the season together in one nutritious dish!

Fall Harvest Salad

How to Prepare Kale for Salad with the Best Flavor

Kale has earned itself a tricky reputation—some people love it, some people absolutely hate it. Full disclosure: I’m generally a kale hater, but this is honestly the BEST kale salad I’ve ever eaten.

There’s no denying that kale salad recipes have become more and more popular because kale is genuinely a SUPERFOOD. It’s incredibly nutritious, with an impressive array of micronutrients, anti-inflammatory benefits, and some unique cancer-fighting compounds not found in many other foods. Fun fact: those superfood compounds are in part what gives kale its bitter taste!

The awesome crunchiness of kale has always appealed to me, but I couldn’t get past that sharp, bitter flavor… Until I learned that a massaged kale salad is the only way to go. That’s right, the first step for this fall harvest salad is to MASSAGE your kale leaves! Sounds weird, but it works wonders for the flavor.

After preparing and chopping your kale, simply add to a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Then, get in there with your hands and massage the oil and salt into the leaves. It might feel silly at first, but it’s a simple step that can help lessen the bitter taste and make the kale more palatable!

How to Make a Fall Harvest Salad

Once your kale quinoa salad greens are good and massaged, you’re ready to add the rest of your fall salad ingredients! Since I was going for a fall harvest salad kind of recipe, I used some of my favorite seasonal ingredients and comforting autumn flavors.

Fresh red and green apples for crisp sweetness, chopped celery, canned mandarins for a bright burst of citrus, diced prunes for a chewy element, pecans for a nutty crunch, and crumbled feta cheese (or goat cheese) for some savory creaminess!

Of course, feel free to get creative with your kale salad ingredients however you like! But, I highly recommend giving this last element a try for a healthy kale salad with the ultimate CRUNCH: puffed quinoa!

How to Prepare Kale for Salad
Fall Salad Recipe

For an Extra Crunchy Fall Salad…DIY Puffed Quinoa!

Clearly, I didn’t want this kale quinoa salad recipe to just be like any other kale salad (i.e. boring). Not only are we showing the greens some T.L.C. by massaging the kale leaves, but we’re also kicking the whole-grain goodness of quinoa up a notch by PUFFING it to a crisp!

Honestly, making a kale and quinoa salad with cooked quinoa would be more work and take longer than this… Because for puffed quinoa, you want to start with dry, uncooked quinoa!

If you’ve ever had puffed rice or ‘crispy rice,’ we’re pretty much just working that same magic on quinoa here. Although quinoa won’t puff up in size, it will become deliciously crunchy in texture.

And, if you don’t know how to puff quinoa or rice, you may be surprised how easy it is to do at home. All you need is a deep pot or saucepan, a drizzle of oil, and some quinoa!

How to Puff Quinoa at Home

Start by heating that pot or saucepan over medium-high heat. Then, test to see if the pan is hot enough by adding just a pinch of quinoa. If the quinoa pops after just a few seconds, you know it’s hot enough! Throw out the test quinoa, and test again as needed.

When the pan is hot enough, add a drizzle of oil and about ¼ cup of dry quinoa—or just enough to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer. If you want more puffed quinoa, I recommend puffing it in batches rather than all at once. Overcrowding the pan can prevent the quinoa from puffing!

Once the quinoa begins to pop and puff, shake the pan vigorously and continuously to prevent burning. You can lift the pan off the burner if needed, just continue shaking until the popping slows.

Finally, remove puffed quinoa from the pan and transfer to a baking sheet. Allow to cool before serving on your kale quinoa salad or storing for later! Check out the video below to see how to puff quinoa step-by-step.

How to Puff Quinoa
Puffed Quinoa Kale Salad Recipe

Sweet, Tangy & Simple Kale Salad Dressing

Last but not least, I’ve got an irresistibly sweet-and-tangy kale salad dressing that’s a perfect match for this fall harvest salad. Pretty much, it’s like a fresh, fruity, creamy upgrade of an oil-and-vinegar dressing.

Not only do you get to enjoy the bright, vibrant flavor of this raspberry poppy seed dressing, but it also adds a splash of vibrant color, too! And, it’s incredibly easy to make—just toss everything in the blender.

First, you’ll need about ½ cup of raspberries as your base ingredient. I like to use fresh berries, but you can also use frozen! Then, a generous pour of tasty olive oil, followed by some tangy apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar.  I recommend extra-virgin olive oil for the flavor, and because you won’t be heating this oil.

Next, add a dash of coconut sugar, Dijon mustard, onion powder, and salt. Blend it all up until your raspberry kale salad dressing is smooth, creamy, and bright pink!

Finally, stir those lovely, crunchy poppy seeds into your dressing after blending, and it’s ready to serve. Drizzle onto your kale quinoa salad and serve straightaway, or transfer to a bottle and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it!

Of course, you can serve this fall harvest salad recipe with any dressing you like. But, if you’ve got a few minutes and a blender, this one is worth giving a try!

Raspberry Poppyseed Kale Salad Dressing
Fall Kale Superfood Salad

Healthy FALL Recipes | Gluten Free Cornbread, Quinoa Kale Salad & Roasted Acorn Squash

Fall Harvest Kale Quinoa Salad

Fall Harvest Kale Quinoa Salad

Crunchy Puffed Quinoa & Kale Salad Recipe with Raspberry Poppyseed Kale Salad Dressing
5 stars (2 ratings)


Fall Harvest Kale Salad Ingredients

  • 4 cups kale, ribs removed and chopped small
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • sprinkle of salt
  • ¼ cup puffed quinoa, procedure below
  • 1 large granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1 red apple, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup canned mandarins
  • ½ cup Sunsweet® Amaz!n™ Diced Prunes
  • cup pecans, toasted & chopped
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

Raspberry Poppyseed Dressing

  • ½ cup fresh raspberries, or frozen and thawed
  • cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp coconut sugar
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds


How to make Kale Salad with puffed quinoa:

  • Prepare and chop kale as needed and add to a large bowl. Drizzle kale with olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt, and massage oil into kale leaves with hands. (This helps to make the kale less bitter and more palatable!)
  • Add remaining salad ingredients, tossing to coat. (See procedure below for how to puff quinoa.)
  • Add dressing at time of serving.

How to puff quinoa at home:

  • Heat a deep pot or saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • To test the pan, add a sprinkle of quinoa—if it’s hot enough, it should pop in a few seconds. (Popped quinoa will be different in texture but not in size.)
  • Once pan is hot enough, add a drizzle of oil and about ¼ cup quinoa, or enough to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer. (Don’t crowd the pan, it’s best to puff your quinoa in batches if needed.)
  • When quinoa begins popping, shake the pan continuously until the popping slows. Don’t let it burn!
  • Once quinoa has popped, transfer to a sheet pan to cool.

How to make Raspberry Poppyseed Dressing:

  • Blend all dressing ingredients together until smooth. Stir in poppy seeds.
  • Drizzle dressing on salad when ready to serve, or transfer to a bottle and store in the fridge.


Nutrition for Raspberry Poppyseed Kale Salad Dressing
Per 2 Tbsp dressing, yields 8 servings (~1 cup total)
93 calories | 10g fat | 2g carbs | 1g fiber | 1g sugars | 0g protein
Nutrition for Kale Quinoa Salad (without dressing) provided below:
Serving: 1serving (without dressing), Calories: 151kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 6g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 11g
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