Winter got you down? This Winter Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Pears, and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette will cheer you right up! Not only does it tie together some of winter’s most delicious flavors, but it’s also packed with lots of vitamins and antioxidants.
We are in what I like to refer to as “the deep dark depths of winter.” If that sounds depressing, that’s because it is. It’s bitter cold and still getting dark early and there’s no end in sight.
Oh, you came here today for a bit of positivity? Sorry! I promise that’s why I’m here, too. I’m bringing you a little bit of positivity in the form of a salad. A kale salad. Made with butternut squash, gorgonzola cheese, pecans, and a yummy lemon vinaigrette.
Because if we have to live through a long dark winter, we may as well enjoy the fruits of it. The literal fruits, like pears. And meyer lemons. But also the kale and butternut squash. Gorgonzola and pecans know no season, but they also always bring the cheer.
Winter Kale Salad Ingredients
The beauty of salads is that you can make them however you want. This combination is my dream winter salad. But if there are any ingredients you don’t like, swap them out with something you do! Here’s what I used:
- Kale (I massage it with the dressing so it’s nice and tender)
- Roasted Butternut Squash (I share my roasting method!)
- Gorgonzola Cheese
- Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (I share my recipe)
How to Roast Butternut Squash
When you prepare butternut squash correctly, it literally tastes like candy and adds so much delight to any salad. The good news is, it’s really easy to prepare!
I toss my butternut squash cubes in olive oil and sprinkle on a simple mixture of chili powder, salt, and pepper and then roast it at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until it’s nice and tender.
Roasted butternut squash makes a perfect anytime snack, but it’s especially delicious on a kale salad.
How to Make Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
You’ll also want to whip up a quick meyer lemon vinaigrette for the salad. And when I say quick, I mean quick!
I like to make my vinaigrettes in jars since it’s easy to just add the ingredients, put the lid on the jar, and shake it all up!
Into the jar goes extra-virgin olive oil, meyer lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
If you can’t find meyer lemons, you can substitute with conventional lemons.
How are Meyer Lemons Different From Regular Lemons?
Great question! I love buying meyer lemons when I can (usually during the winter months) because they are sweeter than the typical conventional lemon.
Using regular lemons for this salad’s vinaigrette will still be totally delicious. It will just lack a little sweetness… But don’t worry; the butternut squash and pears help make up for it!
How to Massage Kale
People often look at my funny when I say I’m massaging kale. But hey, kale needs love, too! OK maybe not, but there’s a big chance you’ll love kale more if you massage it.
Many people’s biggest complaint about kale in salads is that it’s tough and chewy. That’s because it’s packed with fiber! Massaging it with dressing helps get rid of some of the toughness.
All you have to do is add some of the meyer lemon vinaigrette to the kale and use your hands to gently massage the kale and rub the dressing into it for a few minutes.
Not only will the kale be much more tender in this winter kale salad, but it will have a bit of the dressing’s flavor basically infused into it. Win win!
If you’re not about that kale massaging life, I recommend tossing the kale with the vinaigrette a couple hours before you’re going to eat and popping the bowl in the fridge. The kale will tenderize a bit as the dressing seeps in.
Now all you have to do is add on all your other winter kale salad ingredients.
Use as much of each ingredient as you want (or follow my recipe below exactly), drizzle on some more of the meyer lemon vinaigrette, and toss to combine.
And suddenly I’m feeling a whole lot more positive about winter. Food has the power to do that, doesn’t it?
Not only do the colors and flavors of this salad make me love winter a little bit more… But the vitamins and antioxidants in the salad make me actually feel better.
I know if I incorporated a salad like this into my life every day, I’d feel A LOT better about the deep dark depths of winter.
Adding Protein to Winter Kale Salad
I’m all about a meatless meal on occasion. But I totally get if you want to increase the amount of protein in this winter kale salad to make it a more complete meal. Here’s what I recommend:
- Grilled chicken
- Flank steak
- Grilled shrimp
- Hardboiled eggs
More Winter Salad Recipes
Think salads are best in the summer? Think again! Winter produce is some of my very favorite and there are so many tasty salads that can help you power through the cold winter months. Here are a few of my favorite salad recipes:
- Chopped Kale Salad with Pistachio Dressing
- Sunshine Winter Citrus Salad
- Bacon Cheeseburger Kale Salad
- Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Lemon, Pomegranate, and Feta
- Apple, Fennel, and Bacon Chicken Salad
- Brussels Sprouts Bacon Caesar Salad
- Magical Kale Salad
- Winter Fruit Salad (from A Gouda Life)
- Roasted Vegetable and Farro Salad with Goat Cheese (from Inspiralized)
What’s your favorite winter produce?
Winter Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Pears, and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
- 3 cups cubed butternut squash
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 10 cups kale (ribs removed and roughly chopped)
- Meyer lemon vinaigrette dressing (recipe below)
- 2 pears, sliced
- 1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
- 1/4 cup pecans
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice (from 3-4 meyer lemons)
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
- In a medium bowl, toss butternut squash cubes with olive oil, chili powder, salt, and pepper.
- Pour into a single layer on prepared baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until squash is tender and starting to get crispy.
- Put kale in a large bowl and add 3 Tbsp lemon vinaigrette. Using your hands, gently massage dressing into the kale for a couple minutes to tenderize kale.
- Add pears, gorgonzola cheese, and pecans onto salad and toss to combine. Add more dressing to your taste.
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
- Add all ingredients to a jar, cover jar, and shake to combine. Alternatively, you can put all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Store dressing in fridge until ready to use.