Crunchy Kale Chicken Salad Recipe with Cranberries

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My husband loves rotisserie chicken, but I don’t, so I always look for ways to turn his leftovers into healthy chicken recipes. Recently, I adapted an easy kale salad recipe into one that uses up leftovers, saves money, and serves as a delicious spring or summer main dish salad. 

Chicken kale salad with cranberries and walnuts.
Photo credit: Recipes From Leftovers.

Get the full recipe details below. You’ll also find ideas for substitutions and variations.

Make this a full meal by adding a slice of Dutch oven sourdough bread. Or serve it year-round with a bowl of Carrot and Red Lentil soup. Follow it up with a couple of Lemon Meltaway Cookies for a colorful and inexpensive family meal.

Ingredients for Chicken Kale Salad

Here’s what I used to make this easy salad with juicy chicken pieces. However, it’s easy to use leftovers to make this recipe suitable for a special diet or picky eaters.

The ingredients for a salad with chicken, kale and cranberries.
Photo credit: Recipes From Leftovers.
  • 1 bag of chopped sweet kale OR (½ cup each chopped broccoli, green cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, and radicchio torn into bite-sized pieces)
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries or craisins
  • ¼ cup slightly chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
  • 2 tablespoons poppyseed dressing or to taste

Directions

  1. Begin by cutting the chicken breast into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the diced chicken pieces to the skillet and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the chicken until it’s cooked through and beginning to turn golden brown, then set it aside in a small bowl.
  5. Dice the apple into 1-inch cubes and cut the avocado into bite-sized chunks.

To Assemble Salad

  1. Layer the leafy greens, cooked chicken, diced apples, avocado chunks, walnuts, and dried cranberries or craisins in a large salad bowl or even a pretty mixing bowl.
  2. Drizzle your favorite poppyseed dressing over the salad to taste.
  3. Toss everything together until well combined, and enjoy the delicious combination of flavors and textures!

Substitutions and Variations

Chicken salad with apples and walnuts on a white plate.
Photo credit: Recipes From Leftovers.

If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, don’t worry. This Crunchy Kale Chicken Salad recipe is versatile and can be customized to suit your preferences and what you have available in your pantry. Here are some substitutions and variations you can try:

  • Greens: Swap out the kale for other varieties, such as curly kale, Tuscan kale, lacinato kale, or baby kale.
  • Protein: Instead of grilled chicken, you can use leftover roasted chicken, shredded rotisserie chicken, or even canned tuna or chickpeas for a vegetarian option.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Feel free to use any nuts and seeds you have on hand, such as almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, or sesame seeds.
  • Dressing: If you don’t have poppyseed dressing, you can use a homemade vinaigrette made with dressing ingredients like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, mustard, and honey. 
  • Additional Toppings: Get creative with additional toppings like sliced red onion, a pinch of salt, crumbled feta or goat cheese, a sprinkling of garlic powder, shaved parmesan cheese, diced bell peppers, or sliced strawberries.

Experiment with different combinations to create your own unique twist on this recipe.

FAQs

1. Can I make this salad ahead of time for meal prep?

Absolutely. This Crunchy Kale Chicken Salad is perfect for meal prep as long as you don’t combine the ingredients ahead of time

Instead, prepare all the ingredients and store them separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to enjoy your salad, assemble everything in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing, and toss to combine.

2. How long will this salad last in the refrigerator?

When stored properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this salad will typically last for a day or two. Just be sure to wait to add the dressing until you’re ready to eat to prevent the greens from wilting. But honestly, this chicken kale salad doesn’t taste as good the next day. Eat it the day you make it!

3. Can I use leftover dressing for other salads?

Yes. Any leftover dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for future use. Just give it a good shake before using it again, and feel free to use it on any other salads you make throughout the week.

Chicken Kale Salad Recipe with Cranberries, Walnuts and Avocado

Here's my delicious and budget-friendly Crunchy Kale Chicken Salad recipe with cranberries, walnuts and avocodo in a creamy poppy seed dressing. Perfect for using up leftovers and eating healthy!
Print Recipe
Chicken kale salad with cranberries and walnuts on a white plate.
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time:0 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of chopped sweet kale OR ½ cup each chopped broccoli, green cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, and radicchio
  • 2 chicken breasts diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teasoon pepper
  • 1 apple diced
  • 1 avocado diced
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries or craisins
  • ¼ cup slightly chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
  • 2 tablespoons poppyseed dressing or to taste

Instructions

  • Cut chicken breast into 1 inch pieces
  • To a medium size skillet add 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Add uncooked chicken pieces and season with salt and pepper
  • Cook over medium-high heat until cooked through and beginning to turn golden brown.
  • Set chicken aside.
  • Dice apple into 1-inch cubes.
  • Cut and dice avocado into bite size chunks.
  • To Assemble Salad:
  • Add greens, chicken, apple pieces, diced avocado, walnuts and cranberries or craisins. Toss, then top it off with your favorite dressing.

Notes

Servings: 4 people
Cost: $8.00

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A colorful chicken kale salad recipe presentation.
Colorful chicken and kale salad recipe featuring cranberries, walnuts, apples, and avocados.
A bowl of chicken kale salad with cranberries, apples, avocado, and walnuts.

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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is one of my favorites! I’ve made it three or four times now. With this recipe, I’m actually *excited* to eat a big bowl of kale. Perfect mix of tangy and sweet flavors, with some satisfying crunch.

  2. 5 stars
    The dressing is officially my new favorite! I used it with this salad, and then on a sandwich the following day. So good!

  3. 5 stars
    Loved that this salad is so versatile! I used some leftover shrimp and it was so good! I always like using vinaigrette and also added some cheese on top! Yum!

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