This warm kale salad is packed with healthy ingredients like roasted butternut squash and crispy chickpeas! Sautéing kale makes it easier to chew and allows it to soak up more flavor from the creamy tahini dressing.
Whether you love kale or are unsure about it, you are sure to love this warm kale salad! It's tossed in a homemade tahini dressing and served with roasted butternut squash and crispy chickpeas for the ultimate fall salad.
Sautéing kale greens on the stove breaks down their naturally tough and chewy texture, so this is a great option for anyone who doesn't love raw kale. Some say that cooked kale is also easier to digest, so it's a win-win!
Why this recipe works
- Flavors: The sautéed kale is tossed with a zesty and nutty tahini dressing. The salad has a touch of sweetness from roasted squash and Honeycrisp apple that ties all of the flavors together.
- Texture: Lightly sautéing kale breaks it down and makes it easier to chew and just enjoy in general!
- Versatile: This is a great salad to serve at fall dinner parties, but it's also balanced enough for meal prep or weeknight dinners.
- Healthy and balanced: Filled with healthy fats from tahini, plant-based protein from chickpeas, and a lot of fiber from squash and kale.
- Kale: Curly kale is my go-to variety of kale and it is the most common type in the grocery store, but lacinato or dinosaur kale also work here. The kale shrinks a lot when lightly sautéed, so you'll need two bunches or one medium bag.
- Honeycrisp apple adds a perfectly sweet fall crunch to this veggie-heavy salad, but any kind of sweet red apple works here.
- Butternut squash: One large butternut squash usually yields about 4-5 cups of 1-inch cubes. This recipe also works with frozen butternut squash.
- Chickpeas: You will need one can, or about 1.5 cups, of chickpeas.
- Pumpkin seeds: Choose roasted pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch.
- Tahini dressing is made with tahini (ground sesame seeds) and a handful of pantry staples for a bright, tangy dressing. This recipe is the same as my popular Goddess tahini dressing recipe.
How to make warm kale salad
Pro tip: You can cut down on prep time by buying pre-cut butternut squash from the store. Or cut your butternut squash 1-3 days in advance of roasting it. Keep refrigerated in a closed container until ready to use.
- Roast butternut squash: Toss butternut squash cubes in olive oil, sal, and pepper. Lay out on a parchment paper or foil-lined large sheet pan (optional, makes cleanup easier). Roast for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F.
- Roast chickpeas: Meanwhile, toss a can of chickpeas in the same bowl with more oil, salt, and pepper. After the squash has roasted for 15 minutes, transfer the chickpeas to the same baking sheet. Bake another 25-30 minutes, until golden and crisp.
- Wilt the kale: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in about 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the kale and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. The goal is for the kale to reduce in size but not wilt entirely. It will be vivid green and still have a gently chewy texture.
- Make the salads: Toss the warm kale with the tahini dressing, then add the butternut squash, chickpeas, diced apple, and pumpkin seeds to make one large salad.
- Clean and dry the kale: Make sure to dry the kale leaves thoroughly after rinsing them. If the kale leaves are still wet with water when they are sauteed, the salad is more likely to turn out soggy.
- For extra crunch, roughly chop up the kale leaf stems and sauté alongside the kale leaves.
- What type of kale works best? This recipe uses curly kale, but it also works with dinosaur (lacinato) kale, red kale, and other less common varieties of kale.
- Why warm kale salad and not raw? Warming kale in a skillet until just wilted breaks down some of the tough cell walls. This makes it easier to chew and can make it easier to digest. It also decreases the volume of the kale.
- Leftover squash: One large squash yields a lot of roasted butternut squash. If you don't use all of it in the kale salad, leftovers can be used in butternut squash tacos, sweet potato quesadillas, on fajita veggie bowls or added to lentil pasta sauce.
Yes, frozen butternut squash works in place of fresh. Because frozen squash is par-cooked, it will cook more quickly. Thaw the squash completely before roasting it.
If using frozen butternut squash instead of fresh just add the chickpeas and squash to the oven at the same time instead of cooking squash an additional 15 minutes.
I think it's great either way. I usually eat it as a warm kale salad if I plan to have it immediately after cooking. If eating as leftovers or meal prep it's great enjoyed cold.
Yes! The only gluten-containing ingredient in this recipe is soy sauce in the tahini dressing. Just use an equal amount of tamari instead for a gluten-free salad dressing.
Leftovers: You can assemble salads in individual containers or store in one large container in the fridge for 3-4 days. I recommend storing the tahini dressing separately and dressing the salad just before serving.
Reheating: While leftover kale salad can be eaten chilled, it is easy to reheat on the stove. Heat a skillet over medium heat and saute the kale salad until warmed through, just 4 to 6 minutes.
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Warm Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
- 1 medium butternut squash peeled and sliced into 1" cubes, see note #1
- 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons olive oil divided
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt divided
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper more for serving
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 bunches curly kale sliced into bite size pieces, see note #2
- ¼ cup roasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 1 medium honeycrisp apple diced, see note #3
- ½ cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce sub tamari to make gluten-free
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- water as needed to thin
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil for easy cleanup (optional).
- In a large bowl, toss the diced butternut squash with 1 tablespoon oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Place on the sheet pan, careful not to overlap or overcrowd. Roast for 15 minutes on the middle oven rack at 425F.
- Meanwhile, pat chickpeas with a towel/paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Using the same bowl you did for the squash, toss chickpeas with 1 teaspoon olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Remove butternut squash from the oven after 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the pan, careful not to overlap. Return to the oven for another 25-30 minutes, until the squash is golden and the chickpeas are crisp.
- Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot drizzle in 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the kale and sauté until bright green and softened but not completely wilted, about 2-3 minutes. The goal is to make the kale more tender.
- Make the tahini dressing: In a pint sized ball jar or small bowl, whisk together all ingredients (except water) until smooth. Add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it is a drizzle-able consistency.
- To assemble one large salad: Toss together the kale, squash, chickpeas, pepitas, apple, and tahini goddess dressing. Serve topped with additional freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Butternut squash: You can use pre-sliced butternut squash to make prep quicker. If using frozen butternut squash, first thaw the squash. Reduce squash cook time to 25-30 minutes total.
- Kale: One bunch of kale is usually 5-8 ounces (with stems). Aim for 12-16 ounces of kale, which you can also buy pre-sliced in a bag. The kale will shrink when cooked. I usually remove stems before tearing or slicing kale into bite sized pieces.
- Apple: Any sweet red apple works.
- Tahini dressing is adapted from this Goddess dressing recipe.
- Leftovers: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days for best quality. I recommend storing the dressing separately if you are making these for meal prep.
Author's note: This recipe was originally shared September 2018. It was updated July 2021 with new photos, videos and tips. The recipe remains the same with small modifications made to the instructions for quality.