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Cranberry Quinoa Kale Salad

Need an alternative to traditional cranberry salad? Try this cranberry quinoa kale salad. A delicious combination of flavors and textures creates a fabulous side dish for the holiday table!

Cranberry Quinoa Kale Salad in a small wooden bowl.

I’m not a huge fan of fruit. My preferences run deeply towards salty, savory and vegetal, and fruit is a … conundrum. Their sweet flavor bases make me think “dessert,” but, upon tasting, they’re not sweet enough (and definitely not chocolatey enough) to satisfy any dessert craving I might have.

Oh, I like fruit, to be sure — almost all fruits, in fact, — but when faced with a clump of broccoli or an apple, I’ll reach for the broccoli (yes, I’m *that* weirdo). (Actually, I’ll reach behind the broccoli for the bag of kale chips, but I’m just splitting cruciferous hairs here.)

I’ve found a more kindred spirit in tart fruit. Citrus, pomegranates, strawberries, red grapes — these are fruits I can really get behind, especially when they’re part of a larger dish, like a heaping fresh green salad.

This past Thanksgiving, when my lighter-healthier food cravings were already kicking in, I eyed a leftover bag of fresh cranberries with curiosity: aside from the goopy sauce side dish, just what can you do with super-tart cranberries?

The research was enlightening, and led to one of my favorite salads this season.

Cranberry Quinoa Kale Salad from SoupAddict.com

Buzzing fresh, raw cranberries in a food processor with honey and orange zest creates an entirely lovely little product — a sort of relish. Mixed with saffron-kissed quinoa, pomegranate seeds, massaged kale, mint, green onions, and pistachios, it’s a full-flavored side dish fit to complement everything from roasted chicken to veggie burgers.

Cranberry Quinoa Kale Salad from SoupAddict.com

Bonus: I love the texture and crunch from the various ingredients (remember, the “chew” is every bit a part of the eating experience as flavor and aroma).

And this thing is healthy as all get out. As it turns out, cranberries don’t really need all that much sweetening to be palatable (ever make fresh cranberry sauce? It’s leaps and bounds better than canned, but, as the cook, it’s also a bit depressing to pour a cup of sugar over fruit with the knowledge that it still isn’t a dessert).

Frankly, I can eat the raw cranberry relish by the spoonful, but if you’re concerned about tartness, I assure you, once it’s mixed with the other ingredients, the tart-grain-nut-green balance is spot on.

Karen xo


Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Cranberry Quinoa Kale Salad

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: Karen Gibson


for the quinoa

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pinch saffron crushed with a little salt (optional, but lovely)

for the salad

  • 4 large lacinato kale leaves stems removed, sliced thinly
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup, to make it vegan
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh mint leaves about 8 leaves
  • 1/4 cup pistachios chopped
  • Kosher salt


  • Rinse the quinoa under fresh water in a fine-mesh sieve and drain. Bring the water to boil and add the crushed saffron and rinsed quinoa. Stir to mix, then reduce heat to maintain an active simmer and cover. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until most of the quinoa seeds have released their little curlicue tails. Fluff with a fork, and transfer to a bowl or plate to cool.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the kale, a big pinch of salt, and a light drizzle of olive oil. Use your fingers to massage the oil into the sliced kale. The kale will become silky and very dark green. Set aside.
  • Add the fresh cranberries, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and chop until roughly the texture of the quinoa. Set aside.
  • In a large serving bowl, add the cooled quinoa, massaged kale, cranberry relish, plus pomegranate, green onion, mint, and pistachios. Toss well to mix. Taste, and add another pinch of salt, if desired.
  • Can be served immediately at room temperature, or chilled for later. Makes a fabulous lunch the next day.
Nutritional information, if shown, is provided as a courtesy only, and is not to be taken as medical information or advice. The nutritional values of your preparation of this recipe are impacted by several factors, including, but not limited to, the ingredient brands you use, any substitutions or measurement changes you make, and measuring accuracy.

(inspired by this recipe)

Recipe Rating


Tuesday 31st of March 2020

Fresh cranberries, you mean like the things we eat at Thanksgiving? Do you cook them first? I have never made them but bought them for a neighbor when I bought her groceries and they felt hard. Not sure if you buy them cooked or cook them first in this recipe? I'm learning new things on your site!


Monday 8th of September 2014

Loved this recipe! I used chopped kale so it did have the midrib which is bitter, but the cranberries and orange zest offset the flavor. Adding this to my repertoire too!

Fructe uscate

Tuesday 18th of February 2014

Healthy and delicious!

Rocky Mountain Woman

Tuesday 14th of January 2014

I always get a little panicky when it appears as though fresh cranberries might go away in the market and buy about 8 times more than I can use. I did it again this year, but this year, I can make this salad!

Sarah [My Full Home]

Monday 13th of January 2014

Oh my goodness. This looks sooooo good!