Sweet Potato and Kale Panzanella Salad is a flavour-layered winter salad with the pop of pomegranate and interest of optional “keto croutons”. This makes a truly special festive side dish or light winter lunch.
As I type, not six feet away from me through glass, the back of my house is being demolished. There’s a bright orange digger rooting up the rain-sodden ground. Pick axe-wielding lads are splintering old concrete into shrouds of grey dust. And a radio is blaring out hits from the 90s. Suffice it to say, I am slowly losing my sanity. So, this might be shorter than usual. That is probably a good news for most of you.
How to winterise a panzanella
Today’s recipe is a cold weather, autumn colour-filled take on a useful Italian summer recipe. The key to a panzanella is of course the bread. Stale bread to be precise. Can’t have a panzanella without it. Me being me I have to subvert things a bit. I am replacing the typical day-old country bread with “keto croutons”. And I’m swapping the summery fresh tomatoes for sweet potatoes, and the juicy cucumbers for more wintry and sturdy kale. The pomegranate arils/seeds add even more colour and sweet taste, while the seeds add interesting crunch.
So, more panzanella-esque rather than panzanella. Not quite as SEO-friendly though. 😉
However, if you fancy this wintry take but want to keep it more Italian, by all means use a red wine vinegar, and add in some basil. I really like the sweet-sour punch of a good quality pomegranate molasses; an indispensable store cupboard ingredient for me. It lasts forever, too. As for the keto croutons, please use old bread if that’s what you have. The croutons are fun to include, but don’t create extra work for yourself – although the little crisp-soft bites are easy to make. The key to a proper panzanella is to soak the bread in the vinegar and juicy summer ingredients. But here we are topping the salad with homemade keto croutons; they really aren’t as nice once soaked. If you are using proper stale bread, do toss it all together and leave for 30 minutes, allowing those textures and flavours to mingle.
What you need for Sweet Potato and Kale Panzanella
Sweet potato – 1 medium one; organic if possible as I want you to keep on the nutrient-rich skin
Kale – any kind that you can get. I grow several different kinds of kale, but chose black and green curly kale as they needed dead-heading for winter. If you can get whole leaf, that’s best. Whole leaf kale will tend to have more nutrients still in tact. And you can more easily cut away the chewier central rib. But if all you can get is cut, that’s perfectly acceptable.
Pumpkin seeds or pecan nuts – or both!
Pomegranate arils/seeds – from the whole fruit, or from a pack at the supermarket
A couple of French shallots – the long ones tend to be milder. But use a small red onion if you wish.
Extra virgin olive oil
Apple cider vinegar or other good white or red vinegar that you have
Low-carb liquid sweetener, maple syrup or honey
And for the keto croutons you will need: ground almonds, xanthan gum, salt or nutritional yeast (this ingredient makes it taste a little bready), and just-boiled water
Stale bread, if not making the keto croutons
How to make the keto croutons
This is super easy. All you do is mix everything up in a small bowl. Knead it for a minute until it is soft and doughy, then tip it onto a piece of baking parchment. Use your hands to make a ball or rectangle, then flatten it. Cover the dough with another piece of baking parchment and roll out to a depth of about half a centimetre, or slightly thicker. Cut the dough into crouton shapes and bake for 20 minutes. Turn them once, and recut as needed because they will spread a bit and try and join back up. That’s it! These are best eaten fresh.
I know this is not a proper panzanella. And neither is my Greek-style one. But I hope I may be forgiven. And please forgive any glaring typos. A jack hammer has joined the chorus of pick axes. I wish I was kidding….
As ever, leave me a message in the comments if you have any questions, or fancy making this. And, if you make this recipe, please consider rating it. The “rating stars” are below the thumbnail, in the recipe card below. Thanks so much xx
Sweet Potato and Kale Panzanella
Flavour-layered winter salad with sweet potato, kale, pomegranate and optional low-carb croutons (or use "old" bread). A great festive side dish or lunch. For ease, bake the croutons and roast the sweet potato and seeds at the same time.
- 1 batch keto croutons optional; see below
- 1 medium sweet potato about 300 grams
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 150 g whole kale leaves or bag of chopped
- 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds or pecans; more if liked
- 4 tbsp pomegranate arils/seeds more if liked
- 2 French/long shallots or small red onion
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar/Champagne vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp low-carb liquid sweetener or maple syrup/honey
- salt and pepper to taste
- 50 g ground almonds or almond flour
- 1.5 tsp xanthan gum
- 3.5 tbsp just-boiled water
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast or ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
To make the optional Keto Croutons, preheat the oven to 190C fan/200C/400F. Mix the ingredients in a small bowl and knead in the bowl for one minute. Let it rest at room temperature, or in the refrigerator if a warm room, for 15 minutes. Then roll out between two sheets of parchment paper to ½ cm or slightly thicker. Brush with half of the olive oil and cut into crouton shapes. Place the parchment paper with the crouton on it onto a baking tray and bake at 190C fan/200C/400 for 20 minutes, turning once and brushing with remaining oil. You will probably have to recut them as they will puff up a bit and try and rejoin. Remove the croutons with a spatula and onto a baking rack or plate. Use within the day. If using old bread, tear or cube it to toss into the salad later on.
Wash and cube the sweet potato. Toss in 2 tsp of the olive oil and lay on a baking tray. Place in a 180C fan/200C/400F oven - with the keto croutons if making - and roast until soft, about 20 minutes. During the last 8 minutes, pop the pumpkin seeds or pecans onto a smaller tray and place in the oven to toast.
Meanwhile, de-stem the whole kale leaves by running a sharp heavy knife along the rib/centre stem on each side. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl (can use your serving bowl) and use your hands to lightly massage the remaining teaspoon of oil into the kale. This will soften it a little.
Whisk up the dressing ingredients in a jug until thick and smooth. Taste and adjust to your liking, bearing in mind that the kale has oil on it.
Peel, halve and thinly slice the shallot. If you are using a small onion, peel, quarter and thinly slice (you may not use all of it). Pop the slices in a small bowl and massage in the vinegar.
Toss the roasted sweet potato, pumpkin seeds or pecans, shallots, pomegranate arils, and dressing into the massaged kale pieces. If using old bread, toss this through and let sit until the bread softens - about half an hour. If opting for the keto croutons, just use them as a garnish. The keto croutons get a bit chewy if mixed into the salad. Eat immediately.