Autumn Kale Salad with Apples, Goat Cheese & Pancetta-Pretzel Croutons

An Autumn Kale Salad, perfect for fall! This kale salad recipe strikes the perfect balance of good-for-you yet hearty & satisfying: Shredded kale gets tossed with crisp apples, creamy & tangy goat cheese, salty & rich pancetta, & there may or may not be pancetta-pretzel croutons in the equation too. Made in 25 minutes or less with just 8 simple ingredients, Autumn Kale Salad is perfect for an easy weeknight dinner, meal prepped weekday lunches, or to bring as a dish to share for your next girls night or fall gathering.

Tossed Autumn Kale salad in a large wooden serving bowl sitting on a white marble surface. The salad is topped with clusters of sliced honeycrisp apples & croutons.

This post is sponsored by Roth Cheese. Expertly crafted in Southern Wisconsin, their high-quality cheeses are near & dear to this Cheesehead’s heart. All thoughts & opinions are my own. ?

Tossed Autumn Kale salad in a cream ceramic bowl on a white marble surface. The salad is topped with clusters of sliced honeycrisp apples & croutons, & an extra drizzle of maple balsamic vinaigrette. An 8 oz log of Roth Plain Chèvre is sitting next to the salad.

I have one question for you today, & that’s this: are you ready for a sucker punch of autumnal flavor?

Because it’s about to go down. ?

The autumn-est of autumn kale salads, complete with…

  • satisfying & good-for-you kale,
  • perfectly sweet & crisp apples,
  • bursts of creamy & tangy crumbled goat cheese gems,
  • perfectly balanced with salty & rich pancetta,
  • which also helps create addictively crispy pretzel(!) croutons,
  • all doused in cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette

?????? YES, YES, YES!! Friends, autumn is upon us & this Autumn Kale Salad is gonna rock your world all season long.

Close up shot of Autumn Kale Salad, tossed & topped with sliced honeycrisp apples, croutons, and crumbled goat cheese.

It’s a whole salty, slightly sweet, rich, savory, hearty, totally satisfying but also somehow still very light & fresh situation, & I cannot get over it. It is SO good.

(& according to Chris, who is reluctant about anything having to do with kale, autumn kale salad is the best recipe to hit pwwb in recent history – & like…we posted ribs last month!! Haha…it really says a lot coming from him!)

I’m sure the fact that this salad is studded with pancetta-pretzel croutons has something to do with Chris’ fondness for this recipe, because, like, how could it not.

& YES, you read that correctly: pancetta-pretzel croutons! You cube up some soft pretzel rolls & toss them into rendered pancetta (aka, Italian bacon) fat. The croutons toast up to golden & crunchy perfection in just 5-ish minutes (not to mention, your kitchen will smell like heaven). They add so much character to this salad: they’re rich, salty, pretzel-y perfection, which is basically everything I want out of any fall recipe from now on. RIGHT?

The other key component that makes this Autumn Kale Salad stand head & shoulders above the rest is the creamy & tangy crumbles of goat cheese that you get in every single bite. It’s the single element that ties all of the components of the salad together.

I am obsessed with anything having to do with goat cheese, so I am especially thrilled to be working with Roth Cheese this fall! Roth Cheese’s team of expert cheesemakers operates just outside of Madison, WI (makes my Wisconsinite heart pitter-patter!), so you know they know a thing or two when it comes to cheese.

& their brand new chèvre fresh goat cheese? It is so good. Like, honestly the best chèvre I’ve had! It tastes super fresh & has just the right amount of tanginess – not overpowering, but still there. Plus, aside from the plain goat cheese used here, they have a couple of really fun flavors perfect for fall & holiday entertaining, like honey & blueberry.

You can find Roth Chèvre in Walmart Supercenters nationwide – click here to find the nearest location to you!

Autumn Kale Salad ingredients

My favorite part of this autumn kale salad is that it’s relatively simple to make with just a handful of ingredients you’re bound to have on hand this time of year, each offering a key flavor or texture that the salad wouldn’t really be complete without. You know, the whole “greater than the sum of its parts” sorta deal.

Autumn Kale Salad, without dressing, arranged in a bowl. Shredded dinosaur kale is topped with clusters of pancetta, walnuts, sliced red onions, pretzel croutons, diced apples & crumbled goat cheese.

The cast of characters (note: full ingredients list & measurements are listed in the Recipe Card, below):

  • kale, of course. I like Lacinato kale best (it’s also called Dinosaur), though any variety will work.
  • apples (Honeycrisp, I ? you!)
  • walnuts
  • pancetta, which is uncured Italian bacon & can easily be swapped with regular ol’ bacon if that’s what you can find easily.
  • pretzel rolls
  • & goat cheese

Aside from some staple spices & a yummy salad dressing of choice (mine is cinnamon balsamic vinaigrette…it’s magical ✨), that’s seriously it. Big, big flavor, very minimal ingredients. ?? Heck yes.

How to make this Autumn Kale Salad:

Along the same lines as its simple ingredients list, this autumn kale salad is really simple to prepare. You can throw it together, from scratch, in about 25 minutes (or even less, if you can multitask a little bit in the kitchen!).

Here’s the rundown (note: full Recipe Directions are listed in the Recipe Card, below):

  • Cook some pancetta. Toss it on into a large skillet over medium heat & let it do its thing & render for about 5 minutes. Once cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer those crispy little gems to a plate & set aside. Keep the rendered fat in the skillet, it’s crucial for…
  • operation pancetta-pretzel croutons! Toss some cubed pretzel rolls into the skillet. Toss quickly to coat them in the pancetta renderings, then leave them to toast up to the perfect level of crispy golden brown goodness.
  • Meanwhile…whip up a quick vinaigrette. I give my maple balsamic vinaigrette recipe a cozy fall twist by adding a sprinkle of cinnamon & IT IS SO GOOD.
  • & massage the kale: Add a bunch of shredded kale to a large bowl & drizzle some of the vinaigrette over top. Use your hands to “massage” the dressing into the kale, until the kale wilts down & turns vibrantly green. It sounds ridiculously high-maintenance, & it sort of is – kale is a diva like that, but it makes a tremendous difference in the overall texture of the kale.
  • & lastly: pile it all on & toss, toss, toss: Add the apples, red onions, walnuts, goat cheese, pancetta & pretzel croutons. Drizzle with some extra vinaigrette, give it a quick toss, & you’re good to go.
Autumn Kale salad in a large wooden serving bowl. A woman's hands are reaching into the frame with wooden spoons, tossing the salad. The salad is topped with clusters of sliced honeycrisp apples & croutons. The serving bowl is atop a white marble surface, next to honeycrisp apples & whole walnuts.

A couple of moving parts, but a very simple recipe!

If you’re keen on meal prep, you can simplify things even further by shredding the kale & prepping your vinaigrette in advance. Both will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for about 1 week. At dinnertime, all you really have to do is cook up some pancetta & you’ll be good to go!

Serving Autumn kale salad

Because it’s so simple, & because it tastes so quintessentially fall, I envision you whipping up Autumn Kale Salads all season long. It’s perfect for…

  • Simple weeknight dinners – definitely hearty enough to stand alone as an entrée salad, or you could top it with your favorite protein (grilled chicken would be major yums).
  • As a side dish along with your favorite fall recipes.
  • Meal prepped weekday lunches – prep all the components at the beginning of the week, then toss together a salad before you head out the door in the morning.
  • Fall dinner parties – totally girl’s night worthy!
  • Fall potlucks – assemble the salad beforehand, then toss with some vinaigrette just before serving…it’ll be the talk of the town!
Tossed Autumn Kale salad in a large wooden serving bowl sitting. The salad is topped with clusters of sliced honeycrisp apples & croutons. The serving bowl is atop a white marble surface, next to honeycrisp apples & whole walnuts.

I hope you give this Autumn Kale Salad recipe a try very soon – I know it’ll rock your fall-lovin’ socks off! If you do make it, be sure to snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. One of my favorite things is seeing your pwwb creations!

Oh, & next time you’re at Walmart, be sure to grab yourself a log of Roth chèvre (or, ahem, like, an armful) – I know you’ll use it all autumn long!

Tossed Autumn Kale salad in a cream ceramic bowl on a white marble surface. The salad is topped with clusters of sliced honeycrisp apples & croutons, & an extra drizzle of maple balsamic vinaigrette.
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Tossed Autumn Kale salad in a cream ceramic bowl on a white marble surface. The salad is topped with clusters of sliced honeycrisp apples & croutons, & an extra drizzle of maple balsamic vinaigrette.

Autumn Kale Salad with Apples, Goat Cheese & Pancetta-Pretzel Croutons


Description

An Autumn Kale Salad, perfect for fall! This easy kale salad recipe strikes the perfect balance of healthy yet hearty & satisfying: massaged kale gets tossed with crisp apples, creamy & tangy goat cheese, salty & rich pancetta, & there may or may not be pancetta-pretzel croutons in the equation too! 


Scale

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces pancetta (or bacon), diced
  • 2 pretzel rolls (about 2 ounces each), diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 large bunch kale, destemmed & finely shredded
  • 2 medium apples (I like Honeycrisp), diced or sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 4 ounces Roth Plain Chèvre Goat Cheese, crumbled
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

for the cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette:

  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Cook the pancetta: Add the pancetta to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has rendered its fat & becomes crispy, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked pancetta to a plate or bowl & set aside.  
  2. Make the pancetta-pretzel croutons: Working quickly, add the pretzel cubes to the skillet with the rendered pancetta fat. Carefully toss to coat. Season with the garlic powder and a pinch of salt, then toss to coat again. Let the pretzel croutons brown & crisp on all sides, stirring occasionally to prevent them from browning too far. It’s important to kind of let the pretzel croutons do their thing, since direct contact with the skillet is what creates the beautiful browning you want on a crouton, but keep a watchful eye on them since you don’t want them to burn. 
  3. Make the cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette: Meanwhile, as the pancetta & croutons cook, prep the cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette. Add all listed ingredients to a jar. Seal & shake to combine. Alternatively, if you’d like a creamier vinaigrette, add all ingredients to a blender or food processor & pulse to combine. Set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 
  4. Massage the kale: Add the shredded kale to a large bowl. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette over top. Using your hands, work the vinaigrette into the kale, until the kale softens slightly & becomes vibrantly green. 
  5. Assemble the salad: To the large bowl with the shredded kale, add the apples, red onion, walnuts, goat cheese, pancetta & pretzel croutons. Drizzle more vinaigrette over top and toss to combine. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

  • Category: salad
  • Method: no-cook
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Autumn Kale Salad, kale salad recipe, massaged kale salad

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Autumn Kale Salad with text overlay for Pinterest.

About jess

i help modern gals turn everyday moments into celebrations with recipes that are just as easy as they are elegant.

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