Easy Kale Salad
Published Oct 12, 2023, Updated Nov 10, 2023
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This easy kale salad comes together in less than 10 minutes with simple ingredients. It makes for a great side salad or can be topped with protein for full meal.
Introducing the best kale salad recipe!
I know that might not sound too exciting to you, but just hear me out. Raw kale is massaged with a flavorful lemon dressing, which helps to soften the leaves and results in kale that is less bitter, more palatable and easier to digest. Then the massaged kale is topped with crunchy roasted almonds and salty parmesan cheese. Is your mouth watering yet?! But seriously, the flavor and texture combo is absolutely delicious… I could legit eat this salad every day!
It also comes together in about 10 minutes in one bowl making it a quick and easy side salad to whip up for dinner or to make for a light lunch. If I’m eating this salad for lunch I love topping it with some protein like grilled chicken for a more filling meal.
Why You’ll Love This Salad
- Nutrient-Packed: Kale is a superfood that’s high in fiber and packed with tons of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A and calcium. You can see more of the impressive benefits of kale below!
- Versatile: This salad can be enjoyed as a simple side salad to just about any meal or add some protein and additional toppings to make it a meal-sized salad.
- Easy to Make: It’s so simple to make. Just whisk the dressing together, massage the kale and serve!
- Packed with Flavor: This recipe is super simple, but still packed with flavor thanks for the roasted and salted almonds, parmesan cheese and light lemon dressing.
Health Benefits of Kale
Leafy green veggies are the most nutrient-rich foods on Earth and kale is no exception. Here are some impressive health benefits of kale:
- Rich in Nutrients: Kale is really high in vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, C and K as well as calcium, potassium, and manganese. One cup of kale can provide more than your daily recommended intake of these vitamins and minerals.
- High in Fiber: Kale is a good source of dietary fiber, which is essential for digestive health. It can aid in digestion, help prevent constipation and contribute to a feeling of fullness, which can assist in weight management.
- Packed with Antioxidants: Kale contains various antioxidants, including quercetin and kaempferol. These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties and can help protect your body from oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Could Support Eye Health: The high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in kale are beneficial for eye health. They can help protect the eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Low in Calories: Kale is a low-calorie food, which makes it a great choice for those looking to maintain or lose weight while still enjoying nutrient-rich meals.
- kale – the star of the show! I used curly green kale but you can swap it for Lacinato kale (otherwise known as dinosaur kale) instead. I’ve made this recipe with both varieties and they were both delicious!
- almonds – adds a nice crunch and some healthy fats to this salad. I used roasted and salted almonds roughly chopped, but feel free to use raw almonds or swap them with another nut or seed of choice.
- parmesan cheese – adds a creamy, salty element that pairs beautifully with the kale. You could skip the cheese or use dairy-free cheese to make this salad vegan.
- lemon dressing – a simple dressing made by combining extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, fresh garlic, dijon mustard, honey (or maple syrup), salt and pepper.
How to Make
Prepare the kale: First, wash the kale leaves thoroughly under cold water and then pat dry. It’s crucial to get the kale as dry as possible after washing, so use a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towels or kitchen towels. Once washed and dried, remove the stems by folding the leaves in half, holding the stem, and ripping the leaves away from the stem. Once the stems are removed, simply chop your kale into bite-sized pieces. Now, your kale is ready to be massaged and used in your salad!
Make dressing: In a large bowl, combine your lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, dijon mustard, honey or maple syrup and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined.
Massage: This step is essential for tenderizing the kale. Add your chopped and dried kale to the bowl containing the dressing. Use your hands to massage the kale, ensuring each piece is well-coated with the salad dressing. This process breaks down the fibers in the kale, making it tender, less bitter and more palatable.
Add toppings and serve: Finish by topping the salad with freshly grated parmesan cheese and chopped roasted almonds. Toss to combine and serve!
Kale Salad Variations
I love the simplicity of this kale salad recipe, but if you want to play around with different mix-in’s and/or toppings here are some ideas:
- Add dried fruit: For a sweet bite mix in some raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries or dates.
- Add veggies: If you want to add more veggies to this salad go for it! Cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and carrots would all be great additions.
- Top with protein: To make this more of a meal-sized salad top this salad with shredded chicken, grilled chicken, air fryer salmon or grilled shrimp.
- Add chickpeas: Mix in a can of chickpeas or crispy air fryer chickpeas for a protein boost.
- Swap the nuts: Swap the almonds with another nut or seed of choice like pecans, walnuts, sunflower seed or pepitas (pumpkin seeds). For a more decadent topping add these candied pecans or candied walnuts.
- Change up the cheese: Swap the parmesan cheese with feta cheese, goat cheese, blue cheese or another cheese of choice. To make this recipe dairy-free use a vegan cheese or skip it all together.
- Add grains: To make this salad more filling add a scoop of cooked quinoa or farro.
- Add avocado: For some more healthy fats and creaminess serve this salad with chopped avocado.
- Top with croutons: Make these sourdough croutons or use store-bought.
- Switch up the dressing: I love the simple lemon dressing, but feel free to use your favorite dressing. Some other ideas are: balsamic vinaigrette, apple cider vinaigrette and red wine vinaigrette.
How to Serve
This salad is so great because of how versatile it is. You can either add more ingredients to it for a hearty salad, eat it as is for something light and refreshing or enjoy it as a side dish with your favorite meal. Here are some pairing suggestions:
- Add protein: maple turmeric chicken, grilled chicken, air fryer salmon, tempeh, air fryer chickpeas
- On the side: turkey burger, balsamic glazed salmon, cauliflower grits with blackened shrimp, lentil loaf, baked eggplant parmesan
- With a sandwich: autumn turkey sandwich, BBQ jackfruit sandwich, hearts of palm BBQ sandwich
- With soup: beef chili, brunswick stew, butternut squash soup, quinoa vegetable soup, vegetarian chili
How to Store Leftovers
Any leftover kale salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Just a note that the almonds will get softer as they sit with the dressing.
If you want to meal prep this salad I recommend storing the kale, toppings and dressing desperately in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the salad.
Kale Salad FAQ’s
The two most common types of kale that you’ll likely find at your local grocery store are curly kale and lacinto kale (also known as dinosaur kale or tuscan kale). I’ve made this salad with both curly kale and lacinto kale and both turned out great!
Curly kale is what I used in these photos. It’s hearty and rigid and looks curly! It comes in red and green versions, which are pretty much the same besides the color. The flavor is slightly peppery and bitter, but once massaged with oil or dressing the leaves becomes less bitter and soften. Dinosaur kale has dark green, flat leaves and the flavor is milder, sweeter and less bitter than curly kale.
Ultimately, the choice between using curly kale and lacinato kale depends on your personal taste preferences and what you have access to, but either options work great in this kale salad!
Absolutely! Raw kale is a superfood and packed with nutrients making it perfect for salads.
The first step when working with kale is to wash the leaves thoroughly under cold water and then pat dry. Once washed and dried, it’s time to remove the stems which are thick and tough. I like to fold the leaf in half, holding the stem, and rip the leaves away from the stem. Once the stems are removed, simply chop your kale into bite-sized pieces. Now, your kale is ready to be massaged and used in your salad!
Massaging the kale leaves with the dressing helps to break down the cell structure of the kale so it becomes less bitter, tender, more palatable and easier to digest. It also tastes better, IMO. Don’t skip this step!
Massaging the kale with dressing or oil, salt and an acidic ingredient like vinegar or lemon juice helps to break down the bitter compounds in kale making the leafy green more palatable.
More Kale Recipes to Try
- Garlicky Kale Salad
- Massaged Kale Salad
- Kale and Feta Crustless Quiche
- Kale Pomegranate Salad
- Easy Baked Kale Chips
- Sweet Kale Salad
- Sunflower Crunch Salad
- Kale Caesar Salad
Popular Salad Recipes to Try
- Mediterranean Salmon Salad
- Fall Quinoa Spinach Salad
- Easy Quinoa Salad
- Easy Spinach Salad
- Caesar Salad with Shrimp
- Blackened Chicken Cobb Salad
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Bella Hadid Salad
- Antipasto Salad
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
- 1 bunch raw curly green kale or lacinto kale, washed, de-stemmed and dried
- ½ cup roasted and salted almonds, roughly chopped
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey, or maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- De-stem, chop and wash your kale. Use a salad spinner to dry it or dry it with paper towels or kitchen towels.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, dijon, hone (or maple syrup), salt and pepper.
- Add your chopped and dry kale to the bowl with the dressing and using your hands massage the kale with the dressing.
- Top with parmesan cheese and chopped almonds and serve!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.