Raw Kale Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing

massaged raw kale salad

Can I tell you what arrived from Amazon today? A box containing a tea pot, an electric toothbrush and not-so-cute sandals with arch support for walking the dog. Yes, I ordered all of these things for myself, and apparently, I am twenty-six going on seventy. If I continue at this rate, I’ll be plodding through the neighborhood in orthopedic shoes in no time. I can see myself getting dragged along by a gaggle of adopted black and white mutts. Cupcake, Crumpet, slow down! C’mon, Cookie!

carrots and tahini dressing

In my mind, if there’s one meal that can slow aging, it’s the kale salad. Poor Ponce de León traveled to the Americas in search of the fountain of youth and it was growing right under his feet in Europe all along. Kale is an exceptional source of vitamins A and C, chlorophyll and betacarotene (according to The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia), so it’s no surprise that kale salads make my belly happy and my skin glow.

Today’s salad is not the first kale salad I’ve posted on this little blog, and it definitely won’t be my last. I won’t stop until every visitor knows how to make a great kale salad!

shaved carrots

I’ve been devouring kale salads ever since I experienced my first kale salad last summer while I was waitressing at Matthew Kenney’s raw, vegan restaurant in Oklahoma City. Today’s recipe is my most recent favorite variation, but I want to point out that kale salads don’t have to look fancy. I love this basic balsamic raw kale salad with chopped apple in the fall, and pomegranate and toasted pistachios in the winter. Bold dressings and diced avocado go particularly well with kale salads, as seen in this raw kale salad with roasted red pepper dressing.

avocado and carrots

Tips for making great raw kale salads:

  • First, remove the tough kale stems from the leaves. The stems are the most bitter part of the leaves. I simply use my hands to rip the stems from the leaves, but you can cut them out with a chef’s knife if you prefer.
  • Working on a cutting board, tear or cut the leaves into very small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Use your hands to massage the kale. Sprinkle the bite-sized kale with a little pinch of ground sea salt, then scrunch handfuls of kale in your hands, release and repeat until the kale becomes darker in color and more fragrant (see the difference in the photos below). Don’t worry, kale isn’t fragile, so you’re not damaging it! This step helps break down the kale and improves the taste of raw kale.
  • Third, thoroughly toss the kale with the dressing. If possible, let the salad rest for 5 to 15 minutes so the dressing can further break down the kale. Eat up!

raw kale salad tips

Now then, before we get to the recipe, I want to talk a little bit about this creamy, vegan tahini dressing. Tahini dressing tastes almost as indulgent as ranch dressing, and it’s the kind of dressing/sauce/dip that everyone should know how to whip up. It’s great drizzled over roasted vegetables, brown rice and steamed vegetables, lentils or beans and obviously, salads.

Here are a few suggestions for potential variations. For a rich and creamy dressing, use less water, or for a thinner sauce, whisk in more. For a zesty, lemony variation on the recipe below, add some lemon zest and minced garlic, trade lemon juice for the rice vinegar and skip the sesame oil and soy sauce. For a dressing that makes a great ranch substitute for Southwestern-style salads, sub some lime juice and zest for the lemon in the preceding variation. Try trading parsley, basil or dill for the cilantro or combining a mix of herbs. Break out the food processor or blender to blend the chopped herbs into the dressing for a green goddess look.

Whatever you do, though, don’t skip the miso. Through trial and error, I’ve realized that miso is the magical ingredient here. Miso is an inexpensive ingredient with Asian origins, look for it in the refrigerated section in grocery stores. It lasts for months in the fridge, so it’s a fun ingredient to have around for experimentation.

raw kale salad with tahini dressing, carrots and avocado

Raw Kale Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing
4.3 from 8 reviews
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Raw kale salad
  • 1 bunch of curly kale (green or red)
  • Sea salt
  • 1 avocado
  • 4 to 6 carrots (rainbow carrots are pretty but standard orange carrots are great, too)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds (preferably black sesame seeds, regular white are fine)
Creamy tahini miso dressing
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • big pinch red pepper flakes
  • small handful chopped cilantro
  • ⅓ cup water
  • dash of tamari or soy sauce (optional)
  1. Pull the kale leaves off from the tough stem and discard the stems. Use a chef's knife or your hands to chop or tear the kale into small, bite sized pieces. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves for a couple of minutes (see notes above).
  2. In a small bowl or 8-ounce mason jar, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients. Divide the kale into two bowls, drizzle in the salad dressing (don’t skimp), and toss thoroughly. If possible, let the salads rest for ten minutes before eating.
  3. Peel and slice the carrots into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, score the flesh with a knife and scoop it out with a big spoon. Top the salad with carrot ribbons, diced avocado and some chopped carrot greens, if available/desired. Sprinkle the salad with sesame seeds and serve.
  • Tahini dressing recipe roughly adapted from Good Things Grow.
  • This amounts given above yield two salads, but are easily divided by two if you are eating alone. If you have leftover dressing, it should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
  • This salad should keep well in the fridge, covered, for a couple of days. Add avocado just before serving.

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  1. says

    You worked at Matthew Kenney’s restaurant?!?! Impressed, girl. Crazy impressed. I know I would eat this up because kale, tahini and avocado are the bestest friends in my kitchen. Love it, as usual :)

    • Jen says

      Love the recipe. I am a daily kale salad for lunch kind of girl. It seems the more kale and other raw foods I eat, the more I crave. I now need kale every day or it seems that I am just out of sorts somehow. HOWEVER, I cringe when I hear or read that people throw away the thick stems of kale or collards. I keep them in the freezer stored and use those in my juices. They blend right up and are a great addition!

  2. Matt says

    How much of this stuff came from my store?? Everything looks so familiar…. yet so new and exciting.

  3. says

    Thank you for the tip on how to get more flavor out of raw kale. Maybe this will finally convince me to start eating kale raw. I’ve never tried making anything out of miso before and never really knew what I could use it for except maybe in a miso soup. I need to grow… LOL! On a completely different note, I love the picture on your about page.

  4. says

    Your timing is perfect as I just came across a jar of tahini in my fridge that expires next month – now I know how to use it. The massaging kale with salt thing is new to me, but it sounds genius. And can I be honest, I love the kale stems – I leave them in and chop them small. Beautiful post! :)

    • says

      I was afraid I’d never be able to use up a whole jar of tahini, but now that I discovered this tahini dressing, I can’t get enough of the stuff! I’ll try chopping up the kale stems next time, I bet I will like them.

  5. says

    Ha, I so get the going-on-70 thing. I actually just Googled “old soul” the other night to see what articles I could find to relate to. : ) This kale salad looks great, though, anti-aging properties or not!

  6. says

    I took my a loooong time to get up the nerve to eat a raw kale salad, but once I did, I never looked back! I just recently had kale salad with avocado for the first time, and it was a revelation, so I was happy to find this recipe. Thank you!

  7. says

    I wholeheartedly believe that kale is the cure to all evils and ailments, so I shall be making this salad before the week is up. I can feel it.

    And why do our amazon.com shipments sound so strikingly similar? Oh, because I’m 25-going-on-72. Obviously. :P

  8. says

    I’ve been meaning to try the kale massage technique! I love how pretty this salad is and the dressing sounds wonderful! I’m pretty sure most of us aren’t proud of the strange combination of items in our Amazon boxes :)

  9. says

    I’m also obsessed with raw kale salads, and especially love them with avocado. I’m eating your version right now and the tahini miso dressing is amazing. Thanks for sharing :)

    • says

      I love that you’ve tried the tahini miso dressing already, Sofia! So glad you enjoyed it, thank you for taking the time to let me know!

  10. says

    Looks so delicious! I love eating raw kale or any kind of kale salad. I’ve massaged kale and not and both make for delicious salads. I’m going to try the miso trick!

  11. says

    Tahini dressing is so addicting, right?! And raw kale salads are my favorite! I’ve already managed to put that dressing all over a raw version too : )

    • says

      It is SO addictive! Thank you for sharing your recipe. I have at least three variations of it in my fridge and I love every one of them!

  12. says

    Yum yum! Ok, you’ve convinced me to try a kale salad! :)

    I definitely feel like I’m 20-something going on 60. I prefer to go for a walk or a hike instead of partying. I’m usually in bed by 9 pm, and it makes me feel so old!

    P.S. I’m learning to knit, which definitely doesn’t help my image either! :)

    • says

      Ha! I have been going out less myself, and enjoying quiet evenings with my dog instead. Knit away! I want to get good at knitting someday, I’ve always given up after knitting half of a lopsided washcloth. :)

  13. says

    So…much…dino kale in my fridge from the farmer’s market. I want to douse it in that dressing. I love kale, but only when I’m hungry. Kale is my “hunger test” food. When I’m like “Oh man, I could eat some kale right. now.” I know I’m hungry… I want to eat that salad so bad right now. I’m starving!

  14. Nicole says

    I just found your blog through pollynoble.com. I was really excited to get a recipe for raw kale. I’ve been meaning to try it for a LOOOOONG time, but I hadn’t worked up the nerve yet. Your recipe looks so good I’ll be trying it as soon as I can get to the store! I can’t wait to check out the rest of your recipes!

  15. says

    This looks and sounds SO good! I love tahini and miso anything. I want to cook everything on your blog! Love the photos and site design. Looking forward to reading more! : )

  16. Grace says

    It’s okay, I bought old lady sandals for my trip to Costa Rica. We’re just starting an arch support sandal trend.

  17. Helene says

    Hi Kate,
    Thank you so much for sharing your many talents with the rest of us! The photography is stunning and the recipes are truly inspiring. I am currently drastically reducing my oil consumption and was looking for a change from my standard balsamic, orange concentrate, dijon mustard, maple syrup dressing and I found it in your tahini dressing! I also so much appreciate the excellent suggestion of softening the kale – brilliant! – so thank you so much for sharing! This is my new fave salad dressing.
    Congratulations on a gorgeous website. Keep up the great work!

    • says

      Thank you for your sweet comment, Helene! I’m so glad to hear you enjoy the dressing and all my tips. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m just blabbering on or if they’re really helpful to others, so your comment is welcome confirmation that my time is well spent. Thanks again!

  18. Julia says

    Hi Kate – I was wondering what type of Tahini you used? The only Tahini I am familiar with seems more like an already prepared side (usually next to Hummus). Can you let me know what brand of Tahini you use? Thanks!

    • says

      Hey Julia, great question. I’m not sure what’s in the tahini you’ve seen next to hummus, but it might be what you need. I use Spectrum brand tahini, and its only ingredient is 100% organic raw sesame seeds. Hope that helps!

  19. Emily says

    Just made this salad. LOVED IT.
    Thanks so much. It was perfect. Favourite kale salad ever!
    I haven’t read your blog before, but now I will!

  20. Lisa says

    Ok, I just subscribed to your blog because I love the recipes, and I just made the kale salad with creamy tahini. Except, I forgot the avocado at the market, and I bought Miso soup powder instead of miso, and I put too much salt in the massaging step. So, no miso, put more kale in, grated the carrots, and added diced white radishes (HHHHot ones) instead of red pepper. SO GOOD! even without avocado and miso. But I have to log off now because I have a grocery list running here for all the dishes I want to make and it’s getting a little out of hand I have to say. I’ve recommended this site to my sister as well, who has a husband and teenage daughter who are vegetarian. Thanks, and YUM,

  21. Alli says

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, Kate, and this recipe provoked me to finally comment to let you know how much I enjoy it! Your awesome – healthy AND flavorful – recipes inspire me, and your positive attitude and fun personality just make the blog a treat to read. I love that you praise healthy cooking without judging those of us who are sometimes less-than-perfect in our healthy-eating choices :) Happy new year!

    • says

      I’m sorry I didn’t reply sooner, Alli. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words! Your comment makes my work worthwhile. Thanks again and happy 2013!

  22. Pearl Martin says

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe. I eat it at least once a week. Learning how to eat raw kale in salads has opened up my world as a vegan. Thank you for your awesome recipes and inspiration! This is by far my favorite food blog. Keep up the great work;)

  23. says

    Kate, I loved your Tahini Maple Dressing so much! Your tips for tahini dressings above inspired me to start making more of my own. Thank so much!

  24. Nina says

    Kate, thank you for this recipe – the tahini miso dressing was a revelation. It has a great flavor that is also quite unexpected. And sush surprises don’t happen often. We loved it (and so did the kale).

  25. kelsey says

    not only was this the first salad dressing i’ve EVER made at home that I liked. ever. it was the first time I liked kale as a salad. i’ve had kales ceasar and other variations and never could get down. but I LOVED this. I ate both portions and was so happy. THANK YOU and srsly good job.

  26. Andrea says

    I made this twice now and it’s soooo good! Probably the best kale salad I’ve eaten. I even bought a pack of rainbow carrots at trader joes and made them into pretty ribbons. :) your blog is one of my new favorites.

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