This Thanksgiving Salad is a delicious addition to your holiday dinner table! It features bright fall flavors like pears, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries and savory ingredients like nuts, parmesan cheese, bacon, and red onions. Dress it all with a bright mustard vinaigrette.
Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad
Do you serve a salad with your Thanksgiving dinner? If not, you really should try it! It adds a nice fresh touch to all of the rich and hearty side dishes. The salad also features a perfect balance of sweet, juicy, and salty ingredients which is ideal for a fall holiday dinner.
This Thanksgiving Salad has quickly become one of my family’s favorite side dishes. Yes, really! I know it may be hard to believe that a salad can be even more sought after than the stuffing and gravy, but it’s just that good.
The secret to this fall salad is the combination of salty, savory, and sweet flavors. Since there are so many heavier side dishes on your table, it’s refreshing to break up the the rich and hearty sides with a bright flavor pop! Those sweet and fruity flavors are also contrasted by salty bacon, bold red onions, parmesan cheese, and crunchy almond slices.
The base of the salad is the nutritious kale and brussels sprouts. On a holiday like Thanksgiving, when I plan on eating my weight in pumpkin pie, I love knowing that I’m also getting my veggie fix for the day!
What really brings this salad together so incredibly is the homemade mustard vinaigrette. It’s mostly tangy from the Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar, but it’s also got the most a touch of sweetness from the maple syrup.
- Kale – I like to use curly kale, but any kale you prefer also works well.
- Brussels Sprouts – You can shave them with a sharp knife, a mandolin, or even your food processor.
- Olive Oil – it’s best to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil but one that is light tasting.
- Pomegranate Seeds – You can either scoop them from the fruit yourself or buy a container of just the seeds.
- Almonds – use sliced or chopped toasted almonds.
- Parmesan Cheese – Try to use freshly shaved parmesan cheese or get a block and shave it yourself. The natural flavor of freshly shaved parmesan far surpasses anything you can buy in a bag. To save time, check your local grocery store deli to see if they sell freshly shaved parmesan.
- Bacon – While you can opt for store-bought bacon bits instead, I highly recommend cooking and chopping the bacon yourself for the best flavor.
- Pear – use Bosc or another sweet and juicy pear and make sure they are ripe.
- Dried Cranberries
- Red Onion
Dressing Ingredient Notes:
- Dijon Mustard – Don’t swap this with plain yellow mustard!
- Red Wine Vinegar – if you need to, substitute white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar.
- Lemon Juice – Be sure to squeeze fresh lemon juice instead of using one of the store-bought bottles, the flavor is quite different.
- Olive Oil – use light tasting olive oil for a dressing.
- Garlic – for best results, always use fresh garlic cloves.
- Maple Syrup – for best results, use 100% pure maple syrup, not pancake syrup.
- Coarse Salt
- Black Pepper
Step by Step Instructions
Shake up the mustard vinaigrette.
Measure all of the ingredients with care for the mustard vinaigrette and pour them all into a dressing shaker. If you don’t have a shaker, a small mason jar with a lid will work.
Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds.
Note that if you plan on making the mustard vinaigrette ahead of time, you’ll need to keep it stored in that same airtight container in the refrigerator. Also, I recommend letting it sit on the kitchen counter for about 30 minutes prior to using to let it gradually adjust to room temperature.
Prepare the kale and brussels sprouts.
Cut the kale by first folding it in half length-wise. Use a sharp knife to slice off the stem and discard it. Then, slice the dark green kale leaves into thin pieces.
When preparing the brussels sprouts, start off by peeling and discarding the dark outer leaves. Cut off the stem as well. You can either slice the brussels sprouts into thin slices with your knife, or shave them with a mandolin. For an even quicker approach, toss them into your food processor and let it do the work for you.
Assemble the salad.
Combine the kale and brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine.
Gently massage the kale leaves for just a few seconds. Don’t skip this step! It makes the kale softer and easier to chew.
Add the toppings to the salad. You can do so by neatly arranging them on top or tossing it all together.
Feel free to serve your Thanksgiving Salad with the mustard vinaigrette tossed with it or on the side.
Make Ahead Suggestions:
You can make the mustard vinaigrette ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. As far as the salad goes, you can dice the brussels sprouts and kale the day before, mix it, and store it in an airtight container separately from the vinaigrette. Make sure to refrigerate it. All of the other ingredients don’t require much work and it’s best to cut the pears and onions fresh.
- 1 bunch of curly kale (about 1 lb.) or other kale you love
- 1/2 lb brussels sprouts
- 1/2-1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese
- 1/2 lb bacon cooked
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 red onion sliced thin
- 1 large pear cored and sliced thin
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove pressed
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt to taste
- 1/8 tsp black pepper to taste
- Combine all of the ingredients into the dressing shaker (or a small mason jar with an lid) and shake vigorously for a 15-20 seconds.
- If you plan to make the dressing ahead, make sure to store it in the refrigerator. Pull the dressing about 30 minutes before you need to use it so it warms up and give it another shake.
- To cut the kale: fold the kale leaf in half, lengthwise, that way the leaves are on one side and thick stem that runs along the middle is on the other side. Use a sharp knife to slice off the stem and discard.
- To cut brussels sprouts: peel away the few outer dark leaves and cut the stem off. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise. Slice each sprout half across into thin slices. (Note: you can also shave brussels sprouts using a mandolin slicer or a food processor. Just be careful using the mandolin slicer and make sure to use cutting gloves or the safety attachment.)
- In a large bowl, combine sliced kale and shaved brussels sprouts. Drizzle a little bit of of olive oil over kale and brussels and toss them to coat with oil evenly. Gently message kale leaves with clean hands for a few seconds. (This will soften then kale and make it easier to chew.)
- Add your toppings by either arranging them nicely on the top of toss everything together.
- Serve the salad either tossed with the dressing or serve the dressing separately, on the side.