This easy massaged kale salad uses avocado, lemon juice and sea salt to soften the kale and make a simple and delicious salad. It’s the perfect base for your favorite salad toppings.
A few weeks ago in the Eating Bird Food Community Facebook group, I asked for people’s honest opinions on salads. One comment in particular made me laugh… “Kale is gross and massaging does nothing to make it less gross!” LOL! I’m here to prove that comment wrong!
Let’s start with the kale basics because there are several varieties of kale and in my opinion, they all have subtle taste differences! While some farmer’s markets might have a large selection of different kale varieties, I’m going to focus on the two most common types you’re likely to find at your local grocery store:
Curly kale – This type of kale is the traditional kale that you probably picture in your head. It’s hearty and rigid and looks curly! It comes in red and green versions, which are pretty much the same besides the color. Curly kale is versatile and works great for raw or lightly cooked dishes, but also holds up well in cooked dishes. I used curly kale for this massaged kale salad, but it’s in a variety of other EBF recipes including kale and cabbage salad, garlicky kale salad, sweet potato kale frittata, lentil stew with kale and this slow cooker sausage kale soup.
Lacinto kale – Also known as Dinosaur kale, Black kale or Tuscan Kale. This type of kale is a very dark green and more tender than curly kale. It’s great for uncooked or lightly cooked dishes. I use it in quite a few recipes you’ll find here on EBF including many of my salads: kale detox salad, shredded kale and brussels sprout salad and this kale salad with roasted butternut squash.
Leafy green veggies are the most nutrient-rich foods on Earth and kale is no exception. Kale is low in calories and packed with nutrients! It is really high in vitamin A, C and K as well as a good plant-based source of calcium. It’s a wonderful ingredient to add to you diet and there are so many ways to do so. Salads are great, but I’m also a big fan of adding it to things like frittatas, soups and casseroles.
Okay! So let’s talk about massaging kale! I know that massaging a vegetable sounds kind of nuts, but hear me out. Massaging kale with some sort of fat (oil or avocado) and salt helps to break down the cell structure of the kale so it becomes tender, more palatable and easier to digest. It also tastes better, IMO.
The first step when working with kale is to remove the stem which is 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. Then it’s massage time!
But don’t toss the kale stems! You can save them for another use — you can blanch them, blend them into a smoothie (try my green lemonade smoothie) or make pesto.
Most recipes call for some sort of oil for massaging, but avocado works just as well and I like that the fact that with the avocado we’re using a whole food rather than something more processed like oil.
The massaging process is super simple! For this recipe you simply add the kale leaves, lemon juice, avocado and sea salt into a large bowl. Make sure your hands are clean and then get in there! Massage the kale with mashed avocado so that all the kale pieces are covered in a thin layer of avocado. Think about coating and infusing each leaf with flavor.
Once your kale is massaged, let it sit for a few minutes, then top with your favorite salad toppings and serve. With this massaged kale salad recipe, the avocado, lemon juice and sea salt add a good amount of flavor and can act as a dressing, but if you want even more flavor you can serve with your favorite dressing and add additional toppings.
I love topping this salad with lots of veggies (think carrots, tomato, cucumbers), extra avocado and crispy chickpeas (homemade or store-bought) for a little crunch. To make this a full meal-sized salad I recommend topping it with some sort of protein like my lemon pepper shrimp or apple cider vinegar chicken.