Kale, Apple & Goat Cheese Salad with Granola “Croutons”

It’s apple season now! Normally, I’m so sad to see the summer (and all of its wonderful produce) end, but this fall, I’m actually looking forward to slowing down. I’m going to take Cookie outside to see the changing leaves after removing my warm jackets and boots from their hiding spots.

I made a sizable kale salad with chopped apple and a lemony maple and mustard dressing to mark the arrival of fall. This salad completes itself and serves as a complete meal thanks to the addition of goat cheese, cranberries, and savory granola.

Given that I never have a loaf of crusty bread on hand when I need it, I’m completely enamored with the idea of using granola as croutons. It takes little time at all to put together, and you’ll have enough for two salads. These croutons are more redeeming than most because, as you’ve undoubtedly previously heard, old-fashioned oats provide a number of health benefits. They’re a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

I’m also thrilled to share that, in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation, I’ll be working with Quaker to promote their More Taste, Less Waste initiative. The idea is to blend oats, which you probably have in your pantry, with food that frequently sits around unused.

Consider spinach, kale, apples, butternut squash, potatoes, pumpkins, and other vegetables. I cringe because I know I allowed it to happen. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, an astounding 130 billion pounds of food are wasted annually.

Let’s discuss how to modify this salad to make the most of the extra produce you could have this season. The apples, kale, and goat cheese may all be swapped out for roasted veggies (sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are excellent choices), chopped spinach, and roasted vegetables. You can’t go wrong with those granola croutons, I promise!

Also read: Orange Orzo Salad with Almonds, Feta and Olives


Granola “croutons”

  • 1 cup Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats
  • ½ cup roughly chopped pecans
  • ½ cup raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

Lemony maple mustard dressing

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • Hefty pinch of fine sea salt 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Kale salad

  • 1 large bunch or 2 small bunches (12 ounces) curly green kale 
  • 1 medium Honeycrisp, Granny Smith or Fuji apple
  • 2 ounces chilled goat cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries


  1. To make the granola: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, pecans, pepitas, sunflower seeds, salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Stir in the beaten egg white, oil, and maple syrup until well blended. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, gently stirring the granola halfway, about 15 to 17 minutes. Let the granola cool on the baking sheet.
  2. To make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, maple syrup and salt. Season with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and whisk until blended. The dressing should be zippy, but if it’s overwhelmingly tart, stir in another teaspoon of sweetener. Or, if it needs some extra oomph, stir in another pinch of salt.
  3. To prepare the kale, use a chef’s knife to remove the tough ribs from the kale, then discard the ribs (or feed them to your dog!). Chop the kale leaves into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the chopped kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  4. To assemble the salad, drizzle all of the dressing over the kale and toss well. Add the chopped apple, crumbled goat cheese, cranberries, and about half of the granola. Gently toss to combine, and serve. This salad will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
  5. Save the leftover granola for a snack or another salad. Store it in an air-tight bag with the air squeezed out for up to 2 weeks at room temperature, or several months in the freezer.