Salad doesn’t always get the glory it’s due, but that’s not the case here. With toasted nuts, dried fruit, crispy bacon, and a sweet and tangy vinaigrette, this salad can stand proudly on its own—or right alongside your holiday show-stoppers.
The kale and Brussels sprouts provide the perfect base for these sweet and savory accompaniments, and the recipe itself is quite flexible. Want more cranberries? Go for it! No bacon? That’s fine, too. See below for ideas on swaps and substitutions.
Whether you follow this recipe exactly or put your own spin on it, you’ll end up with a hearty salad with great texture and an exciting combination of flavors.
How to Prepare Your Vegetables
While you could use a food processor to shred your Brussels sprouts and kale, a sharp knife works just as well and leaves fewer dishes to wash!
- For the Brussels sprouts, peel off any dry or wilted outer leaves and trim off the stem end. Cut them in half lengthwise and, with the flat side down, thinly slice the sprouts into shreds.
- For the kale, remove the leaves from their stems, and then slice the leaves into thin strips.
Perfect Salad Swaps and Substitutions
When it comes to this salad you can swap almost every ingredient for something else to keep the flavors fresh and new every time you make it.
As far as types of kale, both curly and lacinato can be used. The bacon adds a nice salty and savory bite so, if you omit it, use salted nuts to maintain the balance.
- Nuts: If you don’t have pecans, other nuts like walnuts, almonds, or pistachios would be delicious. Need it to be nut-free? Pumpkin seeds would also be great.
- Dried fruit: You could replace the dried cranberries with dried cherries or golden raisins or even fresh fruit like pomegranate arils.
- Cheese: If you'd like to add cheese to this salad, you could go just about any direction. A soft goat cheese, funky blue cheese, hard pecorino—whatever you like! Use between 1/2 to 3/4 cup (based on your preference) and add to the salad right before serving.
How to Make Brussels Sprouts Salad Ahead of Time
This is a great make-ahead dish because several of the components can be prepared at least one day in advance.
- Shred the kale and Brussels sprouts and store them in an airtight container in the fridge the day before you want to serve the salad.
- Toast and chop the nuts a week in advance. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Make the dressing three days in advance. Just keep it in the fridge.
Once all of the ingredients are combined, you still have time on your side. It actually needs 10 to 30 minutes for the kale to soften and the flavors to combine but, after that, it’s best eaten that same day. It will still be delicious a couple of days later, though the dressing will continue to soften the kale especially, making the salad wilt.
More Festive Salads to Love
Kale and Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon
This salad is best enjoyed the day it is prepared. After a couple of days, the dressed salad, though wilted, will still be delicious. I use two kinds of mustard, but if you only have one or the other that’s okay too.
- For the salad:
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, wilted outer leaves peeled off and discarded
- 1 pound fresh kale, about 1 large bunch, rinsed and patted dry
- 6 strips of bacon
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Cook the bacon:
In a large skillet lay bacon in individual slices, cook until desired level of doneness. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Cool and chop.
Toast the pecans:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread pecans out over a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring once, until toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board to cool then roughly chop.
Prepare the Brussels sprouts and kale:
Trim off the bottom of the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half, lengthwise. Then, with the flat side down, thinly slice the sprouts into shreds.
Remove the kale leaves from their stems and, using a knife, thinly slice the leaves into strips. Discard the stems or save for another use. Into a large bowl, add the Brussels sprouts and kale. Mix to combine.
Make the dressing and dress salad:
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup, mustards, salt, and pepper.
Whisk in the oil until thoroughly combined and then pour the dressing onto the combined Brussels sprouts and kale. Mix until well coated and let sit at room temperature 10 to 30 minutes (refrigerate if longer).
Assemble and serve:
When ready to serve, add most of the pecans, bacon, and cranberries and stir to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the remaining pecans, bacon, and cranberries.