apple and cheddar crisp salad

This is an apple and cheddar salad and I would humbly argue an excellent one, the best I’ve ever made, but this recipe is also an excuse for me to share a few of the best tricks I keep up my sleeve (I always wanted to be a cook who said things like that, when what you might actually find is a lost piece of popcorn) to make the kinds of complex salads I can never resist on a cafe menu at home as simply as possible. Because we deserve to have fancy, cool, crunchy, dynamic, and gorgeous salads at home, even if we do not live a life that allows us to afford fancy salads made by others on a regular basis.

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The first element follows a basic salad math equation of crispy cheese > fresh cheese. Grated cheese melts in the oven into flakes of golden, lacy cheese crisps that are easier to make and better than most croutons by a mile. I said what I said.

The second element stems from my belief that a salad without a pickled element is a sad one. Soaking minced shallot (or onion) in the vinegar portion of your dressing until it lightly pickles while you make the rest of the salad is a most low-effort way to make this happen.

The final thing I absolutely love on a busy salad is some kind of candied, spicy, salty nut but I find almost every recipe for them to be too much work, or just too sticky. What I want is one that I could make a whole pan of (double the below for a whole pan) and store extras at room temperature, where they will stay crisp and not merge into one mega-cluster, to use as needed — on tomorrow’s salad, too, or a morning bowl of yogurt, or just snacks, so many snacks. I found the coolest trick buried in a restaurant recipe for their famous kale salad: rinsing (yes, rinsing) nuts and then tossing them with a little bit of powdered sugar, salt, and any spice you’d like (I’m using cayenne) bakes into crisp clusters. In the last year, I’ve used this innumerable times on almost every kind of nut and seed. Now, it’s your turn.

apple and cheddar crisp salad-12


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6 months ago: Chicken Live Pate
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4 years ago: Even More Perfect Apple Pie
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16 years ago: Lemon Cake


apple and cheddar crisp salad-09

Apple and Cheddar Crisp Salad

  • Servings: 2 giant servings or 4 with a meal
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

This will make almost double the crispy stuff you need for this salad, but I think you’ll be glad for leftovers. An an 8-10 ounce bundle of curly or lacinato/Tuscan/dinosaur kale with the woody stems and rib removed will yield the 5 ounces of leaves used here. I usually cut the apple right before serving, just in case it’s prone to browning (but not all are). The crispy nuts are adapted from the ones on the kale salad at Beauty & Essex in the Lower East Side.

  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) mayonnaise or Greek-style plain yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons (80 grams) olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Crispy stuff
  • 1 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 1 cup (85 grams) sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • Assembly
  • 5 ounces (140 grams) kale leaves, any variety, cut into thin ribbons [see Note]
  • 1 large crisp apple, halved, cored, and cut thin

Heat oven to 400°F.

Start the dressing: In a medium bowl, combine shallot and apple cider vinegar and set aside while you make the crispy stuff.

Make cheddar crisps and sugared almonds: Line a large (half-sheet size) rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter cheddar evenly over half the parchment, in about a 8×12-inch, 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Sprinkle with a little cayenne or black pepper, if you wish.

In a colander, rinse almonds under cold water (yes, really!) and shake off excess liquid. In a bowl, toss wet almonds with powdered sugar, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne until evenly coated. Spread on second half of parchment-covered baking sheet in a thin, even layer, leaving an inch around it bare so it can spread.

Bake almonds and cheddar together for 4 to 9 minutes, until the cheese is melted into a lacy, evenly deep golden brown crisp and the almonds are dark at the edges and lightly golden throughout. Please hear me on this: Watch it closely. Both the cheddar and the almonds will go from not-yet-golden to perfectly bronzed to burnt in what feels like a one-minute period. Check it at 4 minutes, then every minute or two thereafter until the pan is just right. Remove and let cool while you finish the salad.

Finish the dressing: To the shallots and vinegar in the bowl, whisk in dijon, mayo or yogurt, then drizzle in olive oil, whisking the whole time. Season dressing with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Assemble: In a large wide bowl or salad plate, toss greens with 2/3 the dressing to start, then tasting and adding the rest if you wish. Arrange the apple over the greens, fanning out slices. Break off clustered of almonds from the baking sheet and scatter them over the salad. If the cheddar crisp seems very oily, you can blot it with a paper towel, before tearing or cutting it into large bite-size pieces and scattering them over the salad. Season the salad with additional salt and pepper and serve right away.

Do ahead: The nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a week. The cheese crisps are best kept the fridge, lightly covered. The dressing will keep for several days in the fridge. Washed and blotted dry kale keeps in a large zipped bag in the fridge for several days, provided you keep it out of the spots that are prone to freezing produce (or maybe this is just my terrible fridge).

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168 comments on apple and cheddar crisp salad

  1. SallyT

    This looks AMAZING! My kale bounty in my garden is over the top, so if anyone reading this wants some kale, hit me up. Can’t wait to see you in Boston!

    1. Sarah

      I was just lamenting that we didn’t get kale this week in our farm share, so…are you really so rich with kale you’d be up for a swap of something? I’m in Somerville and have very very good freshly frozen chocolate chip cookie dough balls…

      1. sallyt

        Sarah, I’m about 40 minutes from you in the suburbs! It’s probably not worth your while to drive out here for some kale…!

  2. Bentley

    Cannot wait to try the nuts tonight!! I agree candied nuts are dangerously delicious but usually the work involved means my consumption is safely limited. I have been meaning to try the crispy French almonds from The Perfect Scoop, this sounds kind of similar.

    Also, an Envy apple naturally won’t brown!

      1. Hannah

        9 months pregnant waiting for my first kid to grace us with her presence and just devoured the entire bowl of this salad.
        Thank you for making such delicious recipes to fuel the waiting game!

  3. Shelli Goldzband

    Any advice on replacing the almonds with something else? I’m allergic to all tree nuts. Would pepitas be a good substitute?

    1. Deanna W

      Pepitas would be so good in this salad! I love their delicate crispy crunch. Also, I’ll definitely be using pepitas since I’m out of almonds and need to eat all of the food already in my house before a move.

  4. flitcraft

    I am so over kale salad, and, had Vegas permitted this, would have placed a large bet that I had eaten my last. Good thing I didn’t, though, because this one looks fantastic.

  5. Trish Hooper

    Regarding fridge freezer spots, I have an older fridge that will freeze anything in certain spots. It’s like the Twilight Zone. I know know and nothing affected by freezing goes in those spots.

    1. Bev

      My old fridge does the exact same thing.
      I like this with a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette. Just not much for creamy dressing.
      Love this salad!

      1. flitcraft

        You might try blitzing date sugar to a superfine consistency in a food processor and then adding a pinch of cornstarch to mimic the sticking quality of powdered sugar. During the height of the pandemic, when going to the grocery store seemed as dangerous as bungee-jumping, we ran out of sugar and I ended up food-processing some old and kind of dried up dates. Also, we tried same treatment with some maple sugar candy that someone had gifted us a couple of years back and got forgotten.

  6. Maria

    Can I replace the sugar with Stevia or another plant based sweetener? Please let me know. I would love to make this salad 🥗🥗. Regards, Maria Borkowski.

    1. Yvonne Howard

      This was delicious! I didn’t have any powdered sugar (Icing sugar here in Canada) so just blitzed a little granulated into powder. The almonds are so moreish! I found the cheese took longer to crisp than the almonds so would use two pieces of paper next time to remove the almonds.
      Will make this one again and again!

  7. Noreen

    Hi Deb…my mouth is watering!! Restaurant quality salad at home. Question, I like kale but some family members don’t. Could you suggest a sub? These ingredients sound perfect with kale but hoping maybe when I make it for them I could use something else. Thank you!

  8. Carol

    Hi Deb!!
    I saw your post for this last night and I’m making it now for tonight! I have sims gruyere already grated (leftover from thanksgiving). Do you think I could mix with the cheddar? Or is it too oily?

  9. Hilary

    Tried this last night, had to dust a bit of snow off the kale in my garden. I’ll save this dressing to use in the future. One note if you measure with your heart versus with teaspoons, be gentle with the cayenne. This salad is a touch spicier than I intended!

  10. Marlene

    Making cheddars crisps instead of croutons is inspired, Deb! And love the quick method for the nuts. Both are must-do ideas! And the rest of the salad looks just as good. Can’t wait to make it.

  11. Den M.

    Thank you for the quick perfect nuts and big pan frico ideas. They will be endlessly useful. I can add a tip re apples from serious eats. Soak sliced apples in salted water 10 min. drain and dry, you can rinse too if you prefer I like the hint of salt. (1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt to one cup water) They don’t turn brown, I even held overnight to barely any browning. Pears too.

  12. Wendy

    Oh my gosh, I keep raising the temperature in my fridge in the hope that it will stop freezing anything that gets pushed too far to the back.

    1. Michelle

      You’re killing me, Deb. Those candied nuts are way.too.easy. I have a bit of an addiction to Trader Joe’s sweet and spicy pecans. Or should I say, I HAD am addiction to them, because now I will just make my own! So much cheaper and even tastier (especially since I can adjust the spice level to give it a bit more kick) and with the most wonderful, crispy texture.

      This knowledge is daaaaaangerous.

    2. Kara

      Man, this was good. I was thinking we’d have leftovers, but my husband and I finished it off in one sitting. I love the subtle heat of the toppings.

  13. Now, this is a salad!
    Salads are such an underrated dish: we tend to forget a salad can be anything, from a side dish, to a complete meal!
    You’re right, we tend to stay away from complex salads — because we want them to be quick and easy. :-)
    I’m also a big fan of nuts in salads, as they add flavor and crunchiness!

    Thank you for this recipe!

  14. LD

    It is so nice to know I’m not the only one who’s on Team Anti-Crouton in my salads. (Most of the time they are totally awful, unless I can make em myself!)
    I can’t wait to make this!

    1. Rachel

      Me too! I had crunchy chickpeas on a salad a couple of years ago and now i love them on each and every salad i make. Soo much better than croutons.

  15. Debbie

    Made this last night and took to dinner at a friend’s home. It was very successful and a delicious Fall salad. My cheese bits were not very crisp so I think I maybe got nervous and didn’t cook them enough? I also used Aleppo pepper instead of cayenne, I just like it better. Delicious recipe, thank you!

  16. Betsy

    My new favorite recipe for fall! The other adult eater at my house doesn’t eat fruit in savory dishes. I added some of your pickled celery to give his portion some crunch. Wonderful!

  17. Andrea S.

    I made this for a dinner with friends and it was a hit! Very easy to put together and we enjoyed the flavors and textures. There were a couple of true kale lovers and I received rave reviews from them. I’ll definitely make it again and would consider increasing the dressing and adding a protein (tofu/roasted chickpeas/farro/shredded chicken) for a weeknight meal on it’s own.

  18. Katie

    Made this for a dinner party and it was a hit. Every bit of salad was gone and everyone happily snacked in the extra crunchy bits I had on the side (including kids who loved the cheese). I love that this salad looks so different and interesting-makes it really appealing for a party.

  19. Amanda

    This was delicious! I made it as written but used sharp white cheddar I had on hand. Made my husband’s with a sliced pork chop and mine with no protein. Will definitely be doing it again this fall!

    1. Katy

      We do ground black pepper, cumin, or sometimes garam masala on sweet nuts. You could also do paprika for a similar flavor without the heat.

  20. Julie

    I love the overall idea of the crispy stuff for this salad! Unfortunately, my cheese and almond rectangles ended up verging on burnt at the edges before the centers were done, so there were only some bits that ended up the correct amount of crispy. Two ideas for how to improve that are: 1) make little piles of each instead of one big rectangle… (not as easy, and I’d want to half the recipe for that stuff so make sure to have room on the pan… or maybe I could do one at a time instead of cheese and almonds together… could even do the almonds in a pan…), or 2) lower temperature for longer? I’ll try a different method next time I do this. Either way, I’m having lots of kale salads this fall! The wet almonds and powdered sugar was weird but totally worked.

  21. Kay

    I just harvested the last bunches of kale from our garden and made this! It was easy and perfect and delicious. My husband and I ate the whole batch for lunch between the two of us. I didn’t have sliced almonds so I just chopped up some whole almonds and it was fine (although probably even better with sliced). I just want to say I absolutely love your recipes and writing style. The recipes are very realistic and always work! and your writing is so funny and friendly that I even read the headers for the meat recipes, even though I’ve been vegetarian for over 10 years!

  22. Winter

    I made this. It was excellent. I took inspiration from another recipe my daughter shared with me and “massaged” the torn kale with a small amount of the dressing before the final plating. It softens the kale, and even my raw-kale-skeptical husband enjoyed it. Didn’t have almonds so I subbed walnuts. I really liked how the recipe was written. The prep and pacing was soooo helpful. Thanks, SK!

    1. Angie A.

      These are my recommendations, too! I didn’t massage the kale, but wish I had, and made with walnuts because they were on hand. I also added a little maple syrup to the dressing because it was a tad sharp for me.

    2. Dee

      Thank goodness your 3rd cookbook arrived and I am actively pinning recipes. Congrats!! I’ve made this salad 2x per week and the beau is beginning to think I don’t know how to make any others. Made as written: amazing. Used Gruyère another time for the cheese crisps and it was fantastic and quite easy to switch between whatever greens aren’t costing an arm and a leg at the grocery store ($7.99 for romaine in YVR). Thanks!!

  23. Claire

    I made this, with the onion focaccia and the pesto meatballs because I just can’t pass up anything you post. My kids are the salad gleefully! I used pecans instead of almonds. It was delightful.

    1. Kristin

      Wow. Just wow. My small person loves “crispy cheese” so I’m glad the recipe made “extra” so the grownups could have some. Next time, I’m making the nuts extra spicy!

  24. flitcraft

    This recipe is definitely a keeper. I will be making the lacy cheese chips for cheese boards, salads, and snacking forever. I did find that the almonds were ready before the cheese was, so I ended up taking the pan out and removing the almonds several minutes before the cheese was ready. Also, I used white English cheddar for the lacy cheese croutons and removed it as soon as the edges were getting pronouncedly yellow, which was exactly the right time to take it out, as it turned out. For the dressing I used some strawberry infused rice wine vinegar as the base, and a bit more Dijon than called for. The entire recipe is a choose-your-own-adventure dish, and one that I would never have concocted on my own. But not only was it delicious, but it also is beautiful. Do not miss this one–it more than the sum of its parts.

  25. Megan

    We made this tonight and it was amazing! I was a little bit too chicken to let the cheese crisp up completely, but even with that issue, it was so good. Next time I will be braver!

  26. Lois

    I had planned to make a spinach salad last night and immediately pivoted when I saw this recipe. It was good with spinach, but I think it would be better with kale (assuming you like kale, which we do). I added some pomegranate seeds because they were destined for my spinach salad and they make everything better. I will do two things differently next time (in addition to using kale):
    –Put the nuts and the cheese on separate pieces of parchment. Mine did not brown at the same rate, but I had to pull the whole sheet pan out anyway.
    –Slightly increase the mustard and reduce the mayonnaise in the dressing. Personal preference.

  27. Amy

    Made this to eat for my lunches this week, it’s delicious tho like a few others have mentioned, my cheese never browned. I pulled the almonds but kept the cheese in for 16 minutes, even tried turning on the convection feature for the last 4. Eventually figured that if it was going to brown it would have by then. It still crisped up but didn’t get those fabulous-looking browned edges.

  28. Lynda

    I made the crispy cheese to add to my everyday salad. It was wonderful, even using generic “mexican mix” from the local market. I will use this regularly.

  29. Made this for the 2nd time in three days, using arugula instead of kale, for the kale-averse. CRAZY good, it comes together so fast and easily that there’s no excuse for not eating healthy food that tastes THIS EFFING FANTASTIC!

  30. Barbara E Qualls

    This was FABULOUS plus the dressing is my new quick go-to dressing! Not only is this delish and surprisingly fast, I made a quick-hack discovery: grated cheese not always a requirement for the crisps. I just used 50 cent sized pieces of good quality sliced cheddar! Also added flax and chia seeds to them for some drama and it worked perfectly. Thanks Deb!

  31. Diana

    Made this for dinner tonight using arugula and red leaf lettuce because the kale turned out to have been eaten. The salad was beautiful and delicious. Will definitely make this again!

    1. Jenn

      I was out of parchment and I had some sort of lapse of judgement and tried using foil on the pan to melt the cheese-don’t be like me! It melted and bonded right with the foil. Like I haven’t scraped enough pizza cheese off foil before, what an idiot I am.

      My baking pan is from great jones and coated so I scraped off what I could and nothing stuck to the pan and it all got crispy, so it was saved, and delicious, but in case anyone else wants to use foil: just don’t.

  32. Veronica

    How essential is the mayonnaise/yogurt to the dressing? I have honestly never bought a jar of mayonnaise in my life and tend to only eat yogurt in the summers.

      1. Veronica

        I tried this as a vinaigrette. I used just half the olive oil, and ended up doubling the mustard for more flavour.

        The nut recipe is fantastic.

  33. Mika

    Made this alongside the butternut squash galette tonight. Subbed red onion for shallot and violife fake cheddar for real thing. Came out great. Really tasty. I did massage kale (kept stems) for texture.

  34. Samantha

    Perfect exactly as written! I added some rotisserie chicken to make it a complete meal and my husband took one bite and said, “I love this dinner”. I am planning to get another package of kale tomorrow so we can enjoy the rest of the cheese and almonds for lunch.

  35. Jessica P

    Thank you for this recipe – eating for lunch now and it’s so good!

    I am making a larger batch for school conference dinners and am wondering if it’s okay to dress ahead of time (will it get gross?), or if I should send the dressing on the side?

    1. Sally

      Made it last night and the kale is sturdy enough that leftovers held up well for lunch today! Would recommend dressing the kale and apple but leaving the cheese and almonds off until it’s time to serve.

  36. Melinda Chen

    For those like me, for whom the thought of grating cheese is irrationally and disproportionately tedious-I just used Whisps cheese crackers and they fit the bill fine for my needs. I used Parmesan bc that’s what I had, but I know they have a cheddar one too.

  37. Janet C

    Made this tonight and even my kale averse husband liked it. We had it with a couple of slices of sourdough, was plenty filling for two hearty eaters. I used less kale,too. My sharp cheddar didn’t get crispy either, and I had to do a lot of blotting. Will make again!

  38. Leslee

    Made this yesterday and it is delicious. Fiancé started with “are you going to make me eat kale?” then ended with “this is seriously good”.

    Huge thanks for a brilliant delicious salad that will be on repeat.

    PS we ate all the almonds and cheese crisps.

  39. Gayle Clow

    Next time I’ll bake the cheese and nuts separately. The cheese spread and leaked endangering the almonds.
    Almonds – delicious!

  40. Kae

    I’m pretty meh about all fruit, so I was going to skip this except my neighbor gave me free apples from their garden, so I went for it.
    Honestly, if I could only ever eat one salad again, this would be it. I could request this as my last meal. It’s exquisite. It’s outrageously good. I had it for four meals in a row and might just toast up more cheese and give it another go. Eating this makes me feel like I’m sitting in a children’s picture book about autumn and changing leaves and chilly breezes.
    Thank you so much, this brought me so much joy this week.

  41. Ana

    Best salad I have ever made. I did add 1 Tbsp of apple cider syrup to the vinaigrette for my sweet tooth. Also looks absolutely stunning.


    As always love your recipes… You’re a “mock version” of Ina. Gorgeous salad – used honey crisp apples and even got two 11 year old boys to eat it. My only suggestion as every oven and type of cheese are different would be to separate the almonds from cheese as mine took much longer to reach the desired end state. Mine took over 10 minutes…

  43. Summerlin

    This was stellar. I reduced the oil in the dressing and added a little maple syrup to hedge my bet on my kid eating it enthusiastically. I replaced the almonds with pecans because I have tons of them in the freezer, and I added some pie spice to the dusting mixture. The nuts toasted faster than the cheese, so I will do them on separate sheets next time. I was out of shallots, so I used a little onion and added some dried shallot to the mix (probably why I felt the dressing needed more sweetness!). I want to try this salad with pears and white cheddar too… what a stellar method!

  44. Laura Murray

    I made this 4 times this week! I used the bagged kale salad mix from Costco and pumpkin seeds instead of almonds. I also added prosciutto to the sheet pan with the seeds and cheddar. Such a good addition! Yummy!

  45. Alice

    “Because we deserve to have fancy, cool, crunchy, dynamic, and gorgeous salads at home, even if we do not live a life that allows us to afford fancy salads made by others on a regular basis.” Beautifully put and so true. Thank you for this affirmation, Deb.

  46. Carrie

    Always love SK recipes, but I had similar issues with cheese not crisping as others–used a sharp cheddar and never got there (my rectangle looked liked Deb’s pic) and the middle of my cheese square was a soggy mess.

    Suggest an overall thinner layer for lattice-like crisps.

    Also, as a fan of a “chopped salad” I’d recommend cutting apples into smaller matchstick size pieces and smaller cheese crisps.

  47. an admittedly depressing question: has anyone had any luck with dairy-free alternatives to the cheddar crisp? I’m wondering if a dairy-free grated cheese would actually work, or if there’s some other magical nutty cheesy crunchy thing that doesn’t have dairy. Asking for a friend… actually.

  48. Jenna

    This was amazingly delicious! The cheddar didn’t quite crisp up when it melted – lots of oil. But it still tasted good. I substituted Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice sunflower seeds for the almonds because I was short on time.

  49. Rachel

    Delicious! I’m on team 2 separate pans, and I used my silpat mats successfully. I should have cut my kale a bit thinner, and will next time. This is a worthy fall “company” salad, but fantastic just for us on a weekday too. Nothing will ever displace the kale, quinoa and sour cherry salad from this site from my best-lunch-ever salad, but I’m definitely taking the leftovers in tomorrow!

  50. Jane

    My new favorite salad! As with a couple others, my cheese was a little les crispy than desired both times I tried. I tried once with an orange cheddar and another with a white cheddar. Both were Whole Foods brand. I think I got a little overly cautious out of fear of burning the cheese. I also think I maybe had my cheese layer a bit too thick, so next time will try a thinner layer so as to get that lacier look and hopefully get a crispier result. (“Next time” will probably be in the next couple of days once I can get to the store for more kale because I am craving this again already!)

  51. I’m pretty good at math, but I was not familiar with the cheese equation. It does sound like your math is correct. I love the idea of crispy cheese and apples in a fall salad. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  52. Rita Gorra

    My husband dislikes kale so I mixed it with half baby romaine and crispy baby lettuce as a disguise. He loved it. Also after the first batch was devoured I added 2 teaspoons of maple syrup to the dressing. Another winner!

  53. CarolJ

    An all-around winner: can’t-wait-to-take-another-bite tasty, easy to put together, very pretty to serve. And, as so often with SK recipes, a combination of ingredients and flavors I would never have come up with on my own. Because of allergies, I used Gruyere, which worked well. Following suggestions in the comments, I dealt with the nuts and cheese separately, a good move in my case as the cheese took quite a bit longer to crisp. And add ours to the households where this salad won over a hardened kale doubter.

  54. Lisa

    I don’t want to be one of those people that comment on a recipe and then tell you all of the ways I changed it from your original recipe…I just want to comment on how good the nuts and cheese was on a salad I made influenced by your recipe. Made the salad I made great!

  55. Whitney

    This is a great fall salad. I made this last night for my book club and it was a big hit! As I think some others have commented, my almonds browned a lot faster than the cheese so in the future I would bake them separately.

  56. Kellie

    LOVED this salad! I made it last night for a family gathering. Followed the recipe exactly – used Laconda kale and sweet tango apples. Used mayo in the dressing. The almonds and cheese took longer to brown up than I had expected, but I just kept checking. The mix of crunchy, sweet, savory flavors, and the colors…it was fabulous and I ate the leftovers for lunch. I wouldn’t change anything. This is a perfect, delicious and healthy recipe. Bravo!

  57. Bridget

    This is an outstanding salad! Made it for a Halloween party and made 4x the volume and it disappeared in 15 minutes. It was the talk of the party. It takes a solid hour to make this, even with a cuisinart for the dressing. Well worth the effort.

  58. Lisa

    I made this salad over the weekend to accompany a spicy mussels dish, and the salad was an all-around hit. I was in a bit of a rush and used pre-packaged sharp cheddar which worked beautifully. The cracked black pepper on top of the cheese before baking is the way to go. Also I was short on sliced almonds, so I hand-chopped the difference in whole almonds. Again – no issues. I figured the leftover salad would be subpar but nope, it tasted wonderful the next day. Thank you for putting warnings in your recipes like “Please hear me on this: Watch it closely.” Sometimes I read portions of your recipes out loud to the family, just for the pure entertainment value.

  59. JP

    Last night we had a white bean and salmon salad and this salad. I did make a few small changes because I did not have enough almonds so added salted sunflower kernels to the mix which worked out well. My cheddar cheese took longer to brown and did not get lacy although it was crisp. It tasted great. I added about a tsp. of sugar to the salad dressing and used onion instead of shallot. Because it was just the two of us, I put half of the kale in a zip lock to store also half of the cheese crisps, apples, nuts and dressing so we can enjoy it fresh today. It was a very good salad. My salads can be pretty boring and lettuce at Berkeley Bowl was $4.85 a bunch/head this week (!!!) so kale was the perfect choice ($1.09 a bunch). Thank you for the great recipe.

  60. Susan

    This salad is amazing. It’s worth all the extra do-dads. I made it exactly as written and we all (five kids, husband, myself and two other guests) gobbled it down!!
    We ended up making an extra sheet pan of cheddar crisps for snacking!!!

    I’ve made it several times since it first debuted in our house and our house. Each time it has been perfection!! My new favorite salad.

  61. Kate Cell

    Thank you! I served this salad with your vegetable lasagna and oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert—a perfect fall lunch for our New England neighborhood.

  62. Aurora

    I’ve been looking at this salad for a week and finally made it out for groceries, where I ended up with a “power greens” mix of baby kale, spinach, and chard; whole almonds, which I chopped; and mini Fuji apples. I doubled the salad for a get-together, and it turned out well. Yummy and crunchy and a nice change of pace. I need to experiment with the cheddar crisps a bit more, because while the cheese laced and browned nicely, it did not want to come off the parchment when cool. I got cheddar crumbles, which worked. I suspect it’s an issue with the parchment paper, though I wonder if I could get the sheet of cheese off the paper more easily while still warm.
    Reading the comments, I did put the nuts and cheese on separate pieces of paper on the same sheet and did end up pulling the nuts out a minute or two before the cheese.

  63. Heather

    My new favorite salad. Loved the nuts so much, they make all the difference. The amount of cayenne was just right to give it a bit of a kick. The only thing I might do different is use a separate pan for the cheese and the nuts before popping them into the oven. My cheese was done several minutes before the nuts.

  64. Esther

    Deb, I have followed your blog for 10yrs+ and continue to be inspired and entertained by it – thank you!!!
    There is one thing that puzzles me every fall though: I‘ve never seen a single recipe with quince as an ingredient or star of the show. Why oh why? Are you a secret quince hater? Do you dread cutting them – as do I?
    Is it not a NYC thing – though I can’t imagine they‘re not available on your lovely much referred to farmers markets?

    As every year I am stuck with tons of quince from our own tree and end up with lots of juice and jelly. Gorgeous as this is, I need some inspiration! Please, please help me out!

    1. deb

      I absolutely adore quince and have not yet mastered quince cookery — I try recipes and mine fall to mush, never glazed and shiny like I see in others, even when I get them fresh. I need more practice!

  65. soshedances1126

    Love kale, love this salad. I used pecans and this is my new favorite crispy caramelized nuts trick – I may never do it another way again. This is probably going on my regular fall salad rotation and I think I may need to make more for lunch next week…

  66. Michele LaCagnina

    Made this tonight and it’s delicious! Love the crispy bits and sweet apple. I may try this with persimmon as well. I did think the dressing was a bit too tangy so I added a bit of maple syrup. Perfect.

  67. Robin Lewis

    Well, except for the cheese crisps, this salad was wonderful. Does it matter which cheddar you use? I used a block of Cabot extra sharp white cheddar (grated it myself), and baked it til it was a nice gold color, but it tasted smoky–actually, more bitter than smoky.

    1. Sallyt

      I had the same problem with my cheese tasting bitter/burnt and the Google tells me that this is a known issue with browning cheddar – you actually just want it to get lacy and cohesive and not take on color or it becomes bitter.

    2. Mari

      This happened to me as well. I used Tillamook sharp cheddar. Definitely didn’t overcook it and it still tastes bitter and burnt. Will try again though!

  68. Dee

    Kale on the stem from my farmer’s market will last 12 days in the fridge. I cut a half inch off the stems and put it in a “vase” (my 2 cup pyrex measuring cup) with plastic loosely over it. I change the water every 3-4 days.

  69. Lisa

    Hi Deb

    I signed up for your Zoom meeting on November 9,so looking forward to it, but,there was a medical emergency in the family and ,obviously, that took precedence. Is there any way I can watch it if i give you my Zoom link number, it would be a blessing to listen to you right now. Thanks for all you do for us! Lisa

    1. deb

      Hi Lisa — Send an email to the address on the signup form ( and let them know you could make it. They can take it from there.

  70. Sunny

    The cheese stuck to the parchment paper both times I tried to make this. It just tore when I tried to remove the cheese. Hot, fully cooled, didn’t make a difference.

    Would appreciate suggestions since otherwise the salad was delicious (and so pretty!) and would like to make it again without losing half my cheese to the parchment paper.

    I agree with the other commenters suggesting separate pans for the cheese and nuts: definitely cooked at different rates in my oven.

  71. Resa

    This was incredibly easy to create and so very satisfying. My sweet who is weary of a meal that is a salad was content. Looking forward to making this again. Followed the recipe and included soy marinated baked chicken breast.

  72. That’s a really interesting tip about rinsing the nuts! I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before, but it seems easy enough so I’ll have to try it. The salad looks super tasty – perfect for fall!

  73. Erin

    I was soooo into this idea but when I made it the cheddar somehow fused with the parchment paper into a parchment paper cracker and the almonds never caramelized. I really believe in this so I will try again without the parchment paper maybe??

  74. Megan

    Perfect addicting salad! I make a giant one and eat it as a meal, it’s so good I don’t want to stop eating it. I added crumbled honey goat cheese to this salad and it tasted amazing with the apple and other ingredients. I have used Trader Joe’s cruciferous crunch bag which is mostly kale plus some other crunchy stuff. The other good thing about this salad is even dressed it keeps for a couple days and doesn’t get soggy ( other than the cheese crisps those you might want to serve fresh.)

  75. Rose

    Making this now. Don’t bother trying to do both nuts and cheese on one tray. It seems harder to keep track of their different cooking times than cleaning an extra tray. Just make double of each, and do them separately. It’s only 10 minutes each, max. You will need to make the extra nuts and cheese to overcome the decimation of marauding spouses/children/teens/yourself. I’m sure the nuts keep a bit better than the cheese, but it’s not like it will hang about for long. My cheddar took ages to cook properly and brown prettily, a full 10 minutes. I imagine it really depends what the moisture content of the cheddar is! Also, my almonds were browned to the max at the tips but looked “raw” in the middle after a bare 4 minutes. I took them out and they seemed wet and unappealing. But wait! They dried out as they cooled and now they are perfect: crunchy, mildly spicy and sweet and I’m glad I made double. Which is actually quadruple, I guess!

  76. Caroline

    We are obsessed with this salad- we’ve made it nearly a dozen times since publication, and every time it is a slam dunk. My partner and I have whined at the other to “not take the last bit, leave some for me” more than once.

    That said, every time I make it the cheese crisp sticks to my parchment. So much good, crispy crackly cheese- all stuck to paper! Next time we’ve devoted to making it on a silpat in hopes that the paper is the problem. Any tips to avoid this snafu, Deb?
    Thank you for my new favorite salad :)

  77. maureen

    I made this cheese and set it out with apples, roasted cubed sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and greens and had everyone make their own dinner salad. The 3 and 5 year old loved CRISPY CHEESE so much that they ate everything.

  78. Susan J

    I made the cheddar crisps ahead of time. Can you be more specific on how to “lightly cover them” and with what, so they stay crispy and don’t get soggy in the fridge.

  79. Jen

    I’ve made this recipe twice, it is so delicious. It is now my favorite kale salad recipe. The second time I made it, I added dried cranberries. But it is perfect as is, and a little better even if you let the dressing mingle with the salad for a bit before serving, such as next day leftovers.

  80. JonD

    Great salad! Was a hit at the Thanksgiving table. One tip: do the almonds and cheddar in separate pans. You have more room to spread them out, and you can control them better if they cook at different rates, as they did for me

  81. Jill Sonderby

    Great Thanksgiving salad! I separated the cheese and almonds to their own pans to avoid burning one and undercooking the other. My cheddar was pretty greasy so I cooled then stored it in some paper towels in the fridge and did another round in the oven which made them crispy! Mixed dark leafy greens instead of kale and it was a huge success next to Deb’s dry brined turkey recipe w roasted onions.

  82. Sarah Rose Mauney

    Made this for a Thanksgiving Salad and it was a hit with all ages, 2-82.
    The small amount of leftovers held up well for the next day.

    You continue to keep our family well-fed and happy, Deb. Thank you!

  83. Ginny Sher

    I love this salad, but it should be stated in the instructions to use a silpat rather than parchment for the nuts and cheese. Both stuck so bad that I had to throw them out and start over. I hate wasting ingredients and it could have easily been avoided with the proper instructions.

    1. Mari

      I used parchment for both the cheese and the nuts and both were fine. Came right off. Must be some variations in people’s parchments!

    2. deb

      What brand of parchment paper do you use? I didn’t have trouble with sticking with either Reynolds or If You Care so I’m curious which ones are giving readers problems.

  84. Tamara de la Camp

    Oh my, this looks so beautiful. I’ve been sort of meh about salad making and eating lately and this might be the cure.

  85. Alison

    Once my cheddar cooled, it seemed more soggy than crispy. Can I put the already-torn pieces back in the oven to crisp them up? Or is this a bad idea?

  86. Gail

    I have made this at least 4 times since I found this recipe. IT IS SO GOOD! I am not a salad person. I will eat a fancy one made for me in a restaurant and enjoy it, but at home I don’t make them. I love how this gives me the fancy restaurant tastes I love but EASY and doable. That is why I love this site. (I’ve been on here since the early early days). I love fancy food and want those restauranty tastes at home. But easy. Thanks for this great salad, Deb, and have a wonderful holiday!

  87. Amy Spiegel

    Made this salad 3 nights in a row! So delicious! Used no kale first night with mixture of romaine, arugula, and spinach. Other nights had variations with some kale and parmesan crisps. Our favorite was no kale and the cheddar crisps. Everyone at our Hanukkah feast (with Deb’s latke recipe) loved the salad. It will be a regular even with the extra patchke (Yiddish word meaning “fuss” but connotative value of the extra work that goes into making something that take a longer time) — and even though it may be a bit of a pain, you really want to do it because it’s better that way); other examples of patchke in Jewish cooking–kreplach; gefilte fish; latkes.

  88. Kimberly

    I made this salad for Christmas dinner and it was excellent. I was too cautious with the cheese crisps – they could have used a little longer in the oven to fully brown. No issue with sticking using Reynold’s parchment paper.

  89. Yelena Amundsen

    Made this a few times over the past few days, and I’m obsessed. It’s so easy, but feels so fancy! I’m never going to make candied nuts any other way.

  90. Holly Pepper

    I prepped all the ingredients for this and we’re having it this evening- so excited! I had fun getting everything ready. Happy new year!

  91. Bella Cucina

    This apple cheddar salad is from GOD!!! I will make it for that special someone very very soon. Deb, you always surprise and micro explain your fantastic recipes. Love to you and your family and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous new year because that is the essence of happiness. Bravo!

  92. Anna W

    This salad is fantastic! For me, though, it worked better to toast the almonds first then do the cheese. The cheese crisps better when you have plenty of room to spread it out into a thin, even layer, plus the nuts and cheese may take different amounts of time. It takes a few minutes longer to do them separately, but well worth it. Also for me, massaging kale for a salad is essential.

  93. Gidget Moore-Hopper

    This salad recipe and your eagerness to share left me speechless……cant wait to try…Im lovn’ this salad idea…thank you so much.

  94. Thank you for these delicious mouth-watering recipes. I m following your blogs for 3 months. I liked your all recipe blogs. This recipe is just the easiest way to make a delicious healthy salad for everyone.

  95. Amanda

    This was spectacular. I can’t eat shallots and used a little drained red cabbage kraut here and tossed in golden raisins because they were handy. Everyone loved this. Thank you!

  96. I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it! It’s a great idea to blitz some granulated sugar to use as a substitute for powdered sugar, and those almonds are definitely addictive.
    I totally hear you on the cheese taking longer to crisp than the almonds – using two pieces of paper is a smart tip to speed up the process. I’m thrilled that you plan on making this recipe again and again – it’s always wonderful to have a go-to dish that you know will be a hit every time!

  97. Rachel

    Good salad! However for the cheese crisps, I used white cheddar cheese and anything that was darker than the palest yellow tasted horribly burnt. I ended up just shaving some cheese in. Not sure what went wrong there!

  98. k

    How to jazz up a fistful of greens in 10 minutes. So good. Already had mixed greens & leftover lemon poppyseed vinaigrette, which paired well.