There is nothing better than warm, sweet, cinnamon sugar scent wafting from the oven on a cozy fall day. This killer seasonal salad features spiced, nutty pecans, producing autumnal smells that will fill your kitchen.
Now let’s talk about the salad: the warm spices baked into the pecans pair incredibly well with hearty massaged kale, chewy grains of farro, peppery arugula, and a creamy, zesty dressing. The combination of flavors and textures is so tantalizing that it will have everyone, even self-proclaimed kale haters, coming back for more.
This vegan salad needs little accompaniment, so pair it with your favorite plant-based protein for a nourishing weeknight meal. It also makes an impressive Thanksgiving side or shareable dish at a seasonal potluck.
What Kind of Kale Is Best for Salad?
We love using curly kale (either green or red) for this recipe. A combination of both is colorful and festive. After a quick massage, the leaves become tender, chewy, and hold the tahini dressing nicely.
You can substitute lacinato kale (aka Tuscan or dino kale) if you want to skip the massaging—it’s a bit more tender to begin with and will break down once you add the dressing. It takes up less volume than curly kale, so you might want to add an additional bunch.
How to Massage Kale
Massaging kale helps to tenderize the tough leaves, making them pleasant to eat raw. It also takes a bit of the edge off, giving it a milder flavor.
After washing and chopping your kale, place it in a large bowl. We add lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt to help break down the kale and infuse it with flavor. With clean hands, massage the kale for a couple of minutes. Squeeze it in your hands, like you would a stress ball, until it reduces in volume, becoming glossy and deeper in color.
What Kind of Farro Should I Buy?
Farro is typically sold in 3 different varieties: pearled, semi-pearled, and whole. Whole farro is the most nutrient-dense because it has the entire grain still intact. This also means it has the longest cook time.
For this recipe, look for pearled or semi-pearled varieties because they are quick-cooking and won’t require any soaking. We like using a semi-pearled, pre-cooked variety that only takes 10 minutes to prepare.
Make It Ahead
The components of this salad are easy to prepare in advance and can be thrown together when it’s time to eat.
Bake a batch of the spiced candied pecans ahead of time and store them in an airtight container on the counter for up to 2 weeks. You can make the tahini dressing in advance and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. It will thicken over time, so add a splash or two of water to thin it before serving.
You can also cook the farro and wash and chop the kale a day or two in advance, storing them separately in the refrigerator. Massage the kale the day of to maximize freshness.
Other Ways to Use Spiced Candied Pecans
In addition to adding the spiced candied pecans to the salad, you can also enjoy them:
- On a charcuterie board with cheese, crackers, and fruit
- In oatmeal or on top of overnight oats
- With your favorite granola or cereal
- On top of pancakes, ice cream, or brownies
The pecans are so easy to make and even easier to snack on. Consider doubling the recipe so you have extra!
More Fun With Your Favorite Leafy Green, Kale
Kale and Farro Salad with Spiced Candied Pecans
Use a baking sheet with sides so that the pecan coating doesn’t leak in the oven. A quarter sheet pan or larger will work.
Instead of arugula, you can use any bitter green like watercress, radicchio, or escarole.
For the spiced candied pecans
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raw pecan halves
For the farro and dressing
1 1/2 cups semi-pearled or pearled farro
3/4 cup tahini
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
For the salad
2 heads curly kale, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups arugula
1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups spiced candied pecans (full yield from the recipe)
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegan blue cheese, optional
1 1/2 to 2 cups dressing, to taste (full yield from the recipe)
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Prepare the pecans:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, dark brown sugar, melted coconut oil, cinnamon, thyme, nutmeg, cayenne, and salt. Fold in the pecans and mix until they are fully coated.
Bake the pecans:
Pour the pecans and all of the liquid onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread them out into a single layer.
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to mix, spread the pecans back out, and then bake for another 5 minutes.
Immediately lift the parchment paper onto a wire cooling rack, and let them cool for 10 minutes.
Cook the farro:
Meanwhile, cook the farro. In a medium pot, cook the farro according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse the farro under cold water and set aside.
Make the dressing:
While the pecans and farro cook, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk the tahini, lemon juice, orange juice, orange zest, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together. Whisk in the water to thin out the dressing and set aside.
Prepare the kale:
Pull the kale leaves from the stems using your hands and discard the stems or save them for another use.
Chop the leaves into small pieces and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and salt and massage the kale with your hands until slightly wilted and deep in color.
Assemble the salad:
Add the cooked, drained farro, arugula, red onion, candied pecans, and optional vegan blue cheese to the kale.
Right before serving, add the dressing (to taste) and mix until everything is fully combined.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. The dressing will keep for up to 5 days.
Love the recipe? Leave us stars below!
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 24g||31%|
|Saturated Fat 4g||20%|
|Total Carbohydrate 36g||13%|
|Dietary Fiber 7g||24%|
|Total Sugars 12g|
|Vitamin C 36mg||182%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|