Easy and delicious, this kale and brussels sprouts salad is a party of flavours and textures with tart green apples, sweet pomegranate, and spicy candied hazelnuts. It’s also a bright and healthy alternative (or accompaniment!) to more indulgent, cold-weather comfort foods.
You won’t find a sad salad with wimpy lettuce here, my friends. This hearty bowl has satisfying textures in every forkful thanks to sturdy, cruciferous greens, the juicy pop of pomegranate seeds, and the candied crunch of toasted hazelnuts. You might also be interested to know this seasonally appropriate combination holds its own as an entree too (just in case you need a break between holiday meals this time of year!).
In addition to robust textures, the crisp Granny Smith’s and apple cider vinegar add a tart freshness, particularly when mixed with the slightly bitter greens, sweet ‘n’ spicy nuts, and well-balanced dressing.
Despite the long-ish title, there’s nothing at all complicated about this salad. I threw it together kind of spontaneously over on my Instagram stories initially and the response was swift and overwhelmingly in favour! I knew I had to make it again, and with a couple of tweaks and I’m happy to report it’s even better than the first time!
A few things about preparing this kale and brussels sprout salad …
I’ve found the best way to thinly slice brussels sprouts (and nearly every other vegetable) quickly and efficiently is with a mandoline. Wash the sprouts and remove any discoloured outer leaves, but keep the stem end intact. You’ll use this as a “handle” while slicing, then discard when you’ve sliced as far as you can. If using a knife, again leave the end intact, but cut each sprout in half lengthwise before slicing to make things more stable – much easier than trying to slice something small and round!
The dressing keeps well and can be made a day or two in advance, Simply shake everything in a jar until combined, then store in the fridge until ready. The amount of salt called for in the dressing is assertive, but once everything is tossed together, I found the finished salad to be the perfect balance of salty, sweet, tart, and bitter with just bit of spicy kick from the cayenne in the candied hazelnuts. If you’re limiting salt in your foods, cut it back to a ¼ teaspoon.
OK, so about those candied nuts. Take my advice now and double the amount right away (they are SO GOOD!). You’ll need a certain measure of restraint not to snack on them as soon as they’re cool enough to eat. On their own, the level of cayenne is feisty, but again, once the salad is assembled and you’ve taken your first bite, you’ll find all the flavours work beautifully together. If you don’t have hazelnuts, any other nut will work just as well. Pumpkin seeds are another excellent option, or even a combination of nuts and seeds would be amazing.
I didn’t grow up eating brussels sprouts at all, and I’ll admit it’s been a pretty hard sell on my own little family in the past. Serving them raw and shredded has been the most successful by far, and this salad is further proof.
Now that we’ve had isolated success with brussels sprouts, I still have some creative marketing to do with squash – which I did not serve to my family, but added on a whim the day I was photographing the salad. Again, at the mention of it, I either hear vehement reactions or complete radio silence depending on my audience. It’s such a shame, because a tray-full of roasted acorn squash makes a perfect companion here, turning this from a side salad to an immensely gratifying and beautiful meal.
If squash isn’t your thing either – it’s fiiiiiiiiiine, and completely optional. Skipping it will in no way detract from your enjoyment of the salad. The recipe for the salad alone makes plenty for four sides or two very generous meal-salads. Any other roasted veg would work well here too. Cauliflower comes to mind immediately, as would pan-fried cubes of tofu, crispy chickpeas, leftover quinoa, or even grilled chicken.
Hopefully, your family is already onboard with brussels sprouts, squash, and everything in between, but if you’re relating to any of this, I’m wishing you much success with this one and want you to know that you would be entitled to a certain amount of smug satisfaction when everyone eats their vegetables without complaining. And they will.
Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples and Spicy Candied Hazelnuts
Easy and delicious, this kale and brussels sprouts salad is a party of flavours and textures with tart green apples, sweet pomegranate, and spicy candied hazelnuts. It's also a bright and healthy alternative (or accompaniment!) to more indulgent, cold-weather comfort foods.
For the Spicy Candied Haznuts
- ½ cup raw hazelnuts
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper ((or less, to taste))
- flaky sea salt ((see note))
For the Dressing
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- ¼-½ tsp kosher salt ((see note))
- freshly ground black pepper ((to taste))
For the Salad Assembly
- 1 large granny smith apples ((or two smaller ones))
- 20 brussels sprouts ((about 3 cups shredded or thinly sliced))
- 1 large bunch Tuscan and/or purple kale, stems removed ((about 3 cups thinly sliced))
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- <strong>Spicy Candied Hazelnuts</strong>
Optional Roasted Acorn Squash (requires about 40 minutes total)
- 1 medium acorn squash
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- fresh parsley ((optional))
Set a small skillet over medium-low heat and coarsely chop the nuts. Add them to the skillet and toss occasionally until fragrant and toasted. Add the maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and a generous pinch of sea salt. Toss with a spatula until the hazelnuts are thoroughly coated and sticky – about 1 minute. Spread the nuts out on a piece of parchment paper to cool. Once the syrup hardens, break apart and set aside.
While the nuts are toasting, add the ingredients for the dressing to a small jar with a lid and shake until blended. TIP: Dressing can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge.
Using a mandolin or knife, thinly slice the brussels sprouts and cut the kale across the width into ribbons. Core and thinly slice the apples and add them to a large serving bowl with the brussels sprouts and kale.
When ready to serve, drizzle most of the dressing over the greens and toss well before topping with the pomegranates and candied nuts. Check the seasoning and adjust with a little sea salt or more of the dressing.
To make the Roasted Acorn Squash
Preheat oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment for easy cleanup. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice across the width into ½” thick pieces and arrange in a single layer on the tray.
Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with the spice mix.
Season well with salt & pepper and roast for 30 mins. Flip the pieces then broil for 5 minutes to caramelize a little more if needed.
Scatter chopped fresh parsley over the squash and serve.
I don’t recommend making the spicy candied hazlenuts more than a few hours in advance, especially if you’re in a humid climate. The sugars will start to soften and the nuts will lose their crispyness. They will still be delicious, just with less impressive texture.
For the flaky sea salt, I always use and reccomend Maldon salt. It has large, unique pyramid-shaped crystals and when used as a finishing salt, gives a delicate crunch to each bite. It’s not a salty as you might think, and I love adding it foods just before serving. You wouldn’t use this to season cooked foods though, so keep that in mind. A box will last you quite a while and I’m sure once you are used to having it in your kitchen, you won’t be without it again.
The ½ teaspoon of kosher salt in the dressing is maybe a bit more than I normally use, but I found this salad needed a bit of extra oomph to balance the bitterness of the raw greens. If you’re not sure, start with half the amount of salt. You can always add more if desired.
Thanks for reading, and if you make this beauty let me know! Drop a comment below and share your creation on Instagram. Don’t forget to tag #myfamilyfoodlife!