Favorite Thanksgiving Salad

Looking for a last-minute Thanksgiving salad idea? Try our delicious massaged kale, apple, and walnut salad made with goat cheese, dried cherries, and our favorite vinaigrette!

salad in bowl

What is Thanksgiving without a green salad? NOTHING.

LOL, just kidding! However, our favorite Thanksgiving salad really will complement any Turkey day spread.

It’s made with massaged kale, the most incredible balsamic vinaigrette dressing, Gala apples, goat cheese, dried cherries, and homemade candied walnuts. Let’s dive right in.

Favorite Thanksgiving Salad – 3 Steps

Massaged Kale + Toppings

We absolutely adore kale salads. We eat them in the winter, in the summer, and over the holidays! One thing that we’ve learned is that raw kale is really hard to digest, which is why this kale salad is made with a massaged kale base.

What is massaged kale? The term “massaged” simply refers to the fact that the kale has been rubbed with oil to break it down, making it easier to chew and digest.

We like using olive oil to massage our kale. For every 8 cups of raw kale, you’ll need about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to massage into it. It will take around 3-5 minutes to massage your kale so make sure this is the first thing you do!

check it out!

Never massaged kale before? Good news! We have an entire post + VIDEO on how to massage kale. It’s super simple.


Once your kale is massaged and ready to go. It’s time for the toppings. The ones we chose are our absolute favorite, but we’ll also share more ideas in case you want to deviate.

  • sliced apple – there is nothing better than a crisp apple. We used Gala apples in this recipe, but you can also use Honeycrisp. Heck, you can have fun with it and use a fresh pear, instead!
  • goat cheese – soft cheese is so delish in this kale salad. Goat cheese is perfect in this recipe, but so is Boursin (we’ve used that too!).
  • dried cherries – dried tart cherries add a nice contrast to the sweetness from the apples. If you can’t find cherries, try dried cranberries instead.
  • fresh thyme – fresh herbs in salads are a must! We chose thyme because it goes so well with apple and goat cheese. Feel free to use rosemary instead.
  • candied walnuts – keep scrolling to learn how to make these in 10 minutes!

ingredients on cutting board

Candied Walnuts

The candied walnuts in this recipe are. a. must. make! We have a super simple 10-minute candied walnut recipe for you to make that you’re just going to love. They’re sweetened like maple syrup and can be eaten like candy 😛

What you need:

  • Walnuts
  • Butter
  • Maple syrup
  • Salt

To make these candied walnuts all you have to do is add all of the ingredients into a small pan. Turn the heat to medium/high and bring the butter and maple syrup to a bubble.

Then, turn to low and let the nuts simmer for 2 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat and transfer everything to a parchment-lined plate or baking sheet. Then, sprinkle on salt.

Refrigerate for at least 5 minutes or longer to harden.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

This balsamic vinaigrette is one of our most famous salad dressings on Fit Foodie Finds. It takes a little bit more elbow grease to make it, but it’s so worth it!

Instead of just mixing everything together, we added the step of infusing the olive oil with garlic and onion so that the flavors are intense and delicious.

Here’s what you need:

  • olive oil
  • cup red onion
  • garlic cloves
  • dijon mustard
  • maple syrup
  • balsamic vinegar
  • lemon juice
  • salt

candied walnuts on sheet pan

Ingredient swaps

Greens: want to try something other than massaged kale? Try one of these greens as your base:

  • baby spinach
  • baby kale
  • arugula
  • shaved brussels sprouts

Toppings: You don’t have to stop just at goat cheese, candied walnuts, apples, and dried cherries. Here are more ideas to make the most of your Thanksgiving salad.

  • roasted butternut squash
  • roasted sweet potato
  • pomegranate seeds
  • quinoa
  • pepitas
  • fresh pear slices

Dressing: Don’t love balsamic dressing? Try one of our other simple homemade dressing recipes instead!

Thanksgiving salad in bowl with apples

Can you make this salad ahead of time?

To make this salad ahead a time, prep the dressing and candied walnuts and massage the kale up to 3 days ahead of time. Then, on the day of, toss everything together.

What is a good salad to go with Thanksgiving dinner?

This Kale Apple Walnut Salad is an excellent Thanksgiving salad because it’s made with Fall-focused ingredients and so easy to make.

Favorite Thanksgiving Salad: Kale Apple Walnut Salad

Our favorite Thanksgiving Salad recipe made with a massage kale salad base, apple slices, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and dried cherries! 

Prep: 30 minutesCook: 10 minutesTotal: 40 minutes

Fat 21 Carbs 34 Protein 9

Yield 46 1x



  • 8 cups raw kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 medium Gala apple, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup candied walnuts
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (or dried cranberries)


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. First, begin by preparing our famous balsamic vinaigrette. Read the directions on how to do so in this post. Then, set aside.
  2. Then, prepare candied walnuts by following the directions on how to do so in this post.
  3. Next, place raw kale into a large bowl and drizzle on olive oil. Season with salt. Use your hands to massage the kale for 2-3 minutes or until it turns bright green and begins to wilt. 
  4. Add in sliced apple, fresh thyme, candied walnuts, goat cheese crumbles, and dried cherries. Toss to combine.
  5. Drizzle on dressing and then toss one more time to combine.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1/6 Calories: 278 Sugar: 19 Fat: 21 Carbohydrates: 34 Fiber: 7 Protein: 9

Author: Lee FunkeCategory: SaladMethod: StovetopCuisine: AmericanDiet: Gluten Free

Keywords: Thanksgiving salad

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