Kale Apple Grain Salad with Smokey Pumpkin Seed Clusters

A kale apple grain salad that packs a punch with sweet and salty smoked paprika pumpkin seed clusters and bright, creamy mint dressing

No one here thought it was going to happen. Between scorching temperatures and torrential downpours throughout much of September, it seemed our classic autumn weather would be skipped altogether. But on the first day of fall this past Saturday we were blessed with a crisp morning followed by bright sunshine that permitted the temps to only climb into the 60s. Autumn has arrived right on schedule.

It was a good summer. Hot temps, long days, and plenty of sunshine have my heart full and ready for this next season. Yes, I’ll miss hanging out at the marina and dangling bare feet over the edge of a dock, but I’m happy to trade all that for apple orchards and cider donuts.

I had the fortune to go apple picking this last weekend. Our beloved Honey Crisps are in season and I’m well stocked for baking these next few weeks. In addition to pies, crisps, and bars, Honey Crisp apples are also delightful sliced and topped on a salad.

Let’s talk about this salad. There are a few components that sound like they belong on their own but somehow manage to work together to make a unique compilation of flavor.

The star of this salad are the pumpkin seed clusters made by combining coconut oil, maple syrup, sliced almonds, and smokey paprika. Crunchy, sweet, salty, and smokey, these clusters are great on their own but act as an unexpected flavor bomb in the salad.

Next is the dressing. To contrast the rich, smokey clusters I have a bright, minty, creamy tahini dressing.

Kale, shredded carrots, chickpeas, and grain (in this case, barley) act as the base. This gets tossed with a little dressing then topped with the clusters, sliced apples, and avocado then drizzled with more dressing. I’m also using serrano peppers for a little heat and sprouts for a little crunch, but these are both optional.

The combination of smokey, sweet clusters, herby, nutty dressing, crunchy apples, creamy avocado, and spicy peppers is addicting. This has probably been my favorite salad I’ve made all year. To know me is to know I typically eat a big salad once a day, so this one is truly something special.

This is a great transition salad to enjoy as the temperatures start to slide down the scale, but I’d also love to know what meals you’re enjoying this beautiful season. Tell me about them in the comments below!

Print Recipe
Kale Apple Grain Salad with Smokey Pumpkin Seed Clusters
Servings
4
Ingredients
Creamy Mint Dressing
  • 1 Handful Mint Leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Cashews
  • 2 Tbsp Tahini
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • Juice from 1 Lemon
  • 1 Pinch Salt
Smokey Pumpkin Seed Clusters
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds
  • 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprike
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
Salad
  • 3 1/2 Cups Cook Barley or Other Grain
  • 2 Cups Shredded Carrots
  • 3 Cups Shredded Kale
  • 1 Can Drained Chickpeas
  • 2 Medium Sliced Apples
  • 1 Medium Sliced Avocado
  • 1 Medium Serrano Pepper Optional
  • 1 Cup Sprouts Optional
Servings
4
Ingredients
Creamy Mint Dressing
  • 1 Handful Mint Leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Cashews
  • 2 Tbsp Tahini
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • Juice from 1 Lemon
  • 1 Pinch Salt
Smokey Pumpkin Seed Clusters
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds
  • 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprike
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
Salad
  • 3 1/2 Cups Cook Barley or Other Grain
  • 2 Cups Shredded Carrots
  • 3 Cups Shredded Kale
  • 1 Can Drained Chickpeas
  • 2 Medium Sliced Apples
  • 1 Medium Sliced Avocado
  • 1 Medium Serrano Pepper Optional
  • 1 Cup Sprouts Optional
Instructions
For the Dressing
  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, adding more water if necessary.
For the Clusters
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the coconut oil in a large, microwave safe bowl. Stir in the maple syrup then add the pumpkin seeds, almonds, paprika, and salt. Stir everything together and pour the mixture onto the prepared baking (be sure not to spread the mixture out too far, this how the clumps are formed) and bake for about 10-12 minutes, making sure the almonds and pumpkin seeds don't start to burn. Remove from the oven an allow to cool.
For the Salad
  1. Toss the barley (or grain of choice) with the carrots kale, and chickpeas in a large bowl. Pour 1/4 of the dressing over the mixture and toss to combine. Separate the mixture into 4 separate bowls and top with apples slices, avocado, serrano pepper, if using, sprouts, and pumpkin seeds clusters. Add desired amount of dressing and enjoy!
  2. You can store the grain, carrot, kale, chickpea mixture in the fridge then take out a serving and add toppings when desired. The mixture will last about 5 days in the fridge and makes a perfect lunch for the office.