Looking for a decadently healthy salad for the cooler months? Look no further! This vegan winter pear and kale salad is filled with nourishing whole plant foods and lavished with a delicious and creamy tahini dressing that is packed with umami thanks to the addition of a little miso.

pear and kale salad with creamy tahini dressing on plates with a fork

I know that winter doesn’t really seem like salad weather. And I am the first to admit that I eat way more soups and stews than salads when the weather in Vancouver shifts to four months of solid rain.

But this dietitian still likes something fresh on my plate, at least a few times a week. And that calls for a special salad: one that is hearty, rich and flavourful. No wimpy lettuce leaves need apply.

So, I created this vegan winter pear and kale salad that is sure to satisfy. Kale holds up well to creamy dressings, and won’t fade like a shrinking violet alongside whatever main dish you’re serving, making this a great option for plant-based holiday meals and Sunday dinners alike.

Because dressed kale keeps well in the fridge, this salad would also work as a meal prep salad, with the addition of some crispy tofu or chickpeas for extra protein.

Winter Kale Salad Ingredients

Making this salad and dressing combo takes just 20 minutes and it’s really easy! There isn’t even a lot of chopping. Each component has just 5 core ingredients that you probably have in your pantry already.

For the salad, you’ll need:

  • A large bunch of kale. Both curly and lacinato (black) kale will work here but the bunch should be hefty!
  • A ripe, firm, pear such as bartlett
  • Dried cranberries, fruit juice sweetened if you can find them
  • Raw sunflower seeds, although salted sunflower seeds would also be delicious
  • Shallot, for a little bit of bite
ingredients for winter kale salad

For the tahini dressing, round up:

  • Tahini, which is rich in calcium and other minerals
  • 3-4 lemons, which will brighten up the tahini
  • Shiro (or white) miso, which has a mild flavour
  • Maple syrup, for a bit of sweetness
  • Garlic…because it makes pretty much any salad dressing better

Health Benefits of Kale

Kale is pretty much synonymous with health food, to the point where it’s essentially a wellness meme. But there is good reason for that: kale is incredibly nutrient dense, grows year round in temperate climates like Vancouver and offers a ton of nutritional benefits.

A cup of raw kale contains:

  • About 100 mg of calcium and 30 mg of magnesium for strong bones and nervous system support and about 1mg of blood-building iron along with other trace minerals like copper and manganese.
  • Plenty of vitamin C and beta carotene (double your daily dose!) for healthy skin and immunity and a surprising amount of folate: 100 micrograms (¼ of your daily intake!).
  • A buffet of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals such as lutein and zeaxanthin (that support eye health) as well as quercetin and sulforaphane.
  • Plus almost 2 grams of fibre for a healthy gut, and 3 g of plant-based protein!

…And a cup of massaged kale will be even more concentrated in nutrients as it is wilted!

hands massaging kale in glass bowl

Kale and Pear Salad Tips + Substitutions

  • For the best texture and flavour, ALWAYS massage the kale. Add a drizzle of olive or avocado oil to the raw kale and massage it in with your hands until the kale looks glossy and has reduced in volume. This makes the leaves more tender and pleasant to chew. The dressing also coats the leaves better!
  • Don’t have pears on hand? This salad would be delicious with thinly sliced apples too.
  • You can also swap the dried cranberries for diced dates or dried figs, or substitute pumpkin seeds for the sunflower seeds if that’s what you’ve got.
  • This salad keeps well for up to three days, covered, in the fridge.

Looking for more hearty vegan salads?

pear and kale salad with creamy tahini dressing on plates with a fork

Winter Pear and Kale Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing

This decadent and satisfying vegan winter kale salad, filled with sweet cranberries and pear, has a creamy miso tahini dressing that will have you wanting more.
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Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 large bunch kale, washed, dried and torn into pieces
  • 1 medium ripe yet firm pear, like Bartlett
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries, I like the fruit-juice sweetened ones
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil , or avocado oil

Dressing

  • ½ cup tahini
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 3-4 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or micro grated
  • ½ cup water
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Equipment

  • Immersion blender or Bullet Blender

Instructions 

  • In a bullet, or large blending jar, add tahini, lemon juice, miso, maple syrup, garlic and water. Blitz with an immersion blender or in your bullet until dressing is smooth.
  • Place kale in a large salad bowl. Drizzle over oil and massage kale until leaves are glossy and the kale has decreased in volume by about half. Dress kale with half the dressing and toss.
  • Add pear, cranberries, sunflower seeds and shallot and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Serve.