Sweet apples and tangy pomegranates balance out the earthy and slightly bitter kale in this salad, topped with feta cheese, pepitas, and a cheerful pomegranate-citrus vinaigrette. This kale pomegranate salad will be a winter favorite!
What You’ll Need
This salad is so simple and easy to make. With only a few ingredients and basic kitchen tools required, it will come together in minutes.
- Cutting board
- Paring knife
- Citrus juicer
- Blender or small food processor
Ingredients and Health Benefits
Look for tender varieties of kale such as baby kale or dinosaur kale (also known as Lacinato kale). If the leaves are tough, try massaging the kale which will make the leaves more tender.
Alternatively, a mix of baby spinach and arugula would work well for this salad if you’re not a fan of kale. I made the spinach/arugula version of this recipe as well and found that I preferred this over the kale, but both are wonderful!
Kale, like other dark leafy greens, is loaded with health benefits. Per cup, kale has only 33 calories while providing 3 grams of protein and 2.6 grams of fiber.
It’s also rich in vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, folate, and iron, and provides over 30 polyphenols that have protective properties on our health (1).
Some of the polyphenols found in kale include beta-carotene, Kaempferol, and Quercetin (2).
Kale also contains lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, belonging to the carotenoid family of phytochemicals, that protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration, slow cognitive decline, and reduce the risk of cancer (3).
Since heat lowers the antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content of leafy greens, it’s best to eat kale raw.
Choose a sweet apple to balance out the kale. I used Honeycrisp in this salad for its sweet, juicy, and crisp characteristics. Other sweet varieties include Fuji, Pink Lady, Gala, and Jazz apples.
Apples are great for digestive health due to their fiber content, providing 4 grams per serving. The pectin in apples is a type of prebiotic soluble fiber that swells as it moves through the gut, trapping and helping to lower cholesterol and blood glucose level (4).
The pectin in apples also helps to rid the body of toxins and heavy metals such as lead as it moves through the GI tract. Studies show that pectin lowers toxic heavy metals by 74% on average, which is significant since heavy metals contribute to disease and inhibit the body’s ability to recover from illness (5).
Apples are full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants and phytochemicals that help to reduce the risk of disease and cancer. Some of the most notable phytochemicals in apples include quercetin, catechin, phloridzin, and chlorogenic acid (6).
In general, the darker color the apple, the more antioxidants and phytochemicals it contains. One study compared the polyphenol content among 10 varieties of apples, finding that Fuji apples had the highest amount of polyphenols, followed by Red Delicious, and Gala (7).
Also referred to as “arils,” pomegranate seeds can be purchased in the produce section at many grocery stores, or you can buy a whole pomegranate and remove the seeds yourself. I bought a 4-oz. container of pomegranate seeds from Aldi for this salad to save time.
Pomegranates have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, offering more antioxidants than red wine and green tea (8).
In particular, pomegranates are rich in flavonoids, anthocyanins, and tannins which contribute to the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of several types of cancer, improve blood glucose levels, decrease body fat and weight, lower triglyceride levels and decrease inflammatory markers (9).
Pomegranates also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by improving memory and decreasing the accumulation of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain, which are a marker of the neurodegenerative disease (10).
We will be using the zest and juice of one orange to make the salad dressing. Any medium-size orange will work for this recipe – I used the common navel orange.
Oranges are well known for their immune-boosting vitamin C content. They’re also a good source of fiber, calcium, folate, and B-vitamins (11).
Oranges provide a type of phytochemical called limonoids, which have been shown to protect against several types of cancers including breast, colon, lung, skin, and stomach cancer (12).
In addition to liminoids, other types of phytochemicals found in oranges include flavonoids, alkaloids, carotenoids, and phenolic acids (13). Together, these phytochemicals offer powerful anti-inflammatory properties that fight off disease.
Choose extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) for the salad dressing, which is the highest quality.
The term extra-virgin indicates that the oil has been extracted by pressing the olives, without use of heat of chemicals. This ensures the highest antioxidant and nutritional content.
Olive oil is known for its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, but it also provides polyphenols. The polyphenols in EVOO reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (14).
EVOO also acts as a prebiotic, supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the gut. In one study, participants who consumed 40 grams of EVOO daily for 3 months had “significantly increased levels of lactic acid bacteria compared to baseline” (15).
Champagne vinegar pairs well with the citrus used to make the vinaigrette.
Champagne vinegar is a mild tasting, slightly sweet white vinegar made from champagne. White wine vinegar can also be used since it’s a mild vinegar, though it’s not as sweet.
Alternatively, you can omit the vinegar altogether and replace it with additional orange juice, since it serves as an acid.
Feta cheese adds a slight saltiness that compliments the sweet fruit and vinaigrette in this salad. I also tested the recipe with sharp white cheddar, which I actually preferred over the feta.
Pepitas are the small seed found inside of pumpkin seeds once the tough outer hull has been removed.
When purchasing from the store, choose raw, unroasted pepitas, since most varieties are roasted with canola or vegetables oils that are inflammatory due to the way the oils are processed.
In their raw form, pepitas are packed with nutrition. Like other nuts and seeds, pepitas provide heart-healthy unsaturated fats that improve lipid panel levels by lowering total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol, while improving levels of HDL-cholesterol (16).
Pepitas are a good source of fiber and plant-based protein, providing 5 grams of each per 1-oz. serving, and a variety of important minerals including phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc (17).
They also offer inflammation-fighting antioxidants including vitamin E, carotenoids, flavonoids, and squalene that protect cells from damaging free radicals (18).
How to Make
There are only 3 simple steps to making this kale pomegranate salad:
- Step 1: Add chopped kale to a large salad bowl
- Step 2: Top with pomegranate seeds, apple slices, pepitas, and feta cheese
- Step 3: Make the dressing and pour over salad
How to Store
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
This salad makes a great accompaniment to any meal. Serve it as a side dish with turkey, chicken, or pork to spruce up a weeknight meal, or serve it at your next holiday party. It makes for a stunning Christmas salad with pops of red, white, and green!
Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Apple
- 10 oz. package kale chopped
- 1 apple cored and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
- 4 oz. container feta cheese (or sharp white cheddar)
- ¼ cup pepitas raw, unroasted
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
- 2 Tbsp. champagne vinegar or pomegranate vinegar
- Juice of 1 orange (about 3 Tbsp.)
- Zest of 1/2 orange
Make the Vinaigrette
- Add the vinaigrette ingredients to a blender or small food processor, and blend until smooth. Set aside.
For the Salad
- Add chopped kale to a large salad bowl.
- Top with pomegranate seeds, apple slices, pepitas, and feta cheese.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, and enjoy!