Have you ever ordered a kale salad on a first date and tried to gracefully consume a meal of giant, wayward kale leaves? Awkward. Regretful. Ugh. I’m on a mission to change that. I won’t quit creating new kale salad recipes until we can all walk into a restaurant and consistently receive a great kale salad. Based on some recent experiences, I declare that my work here is far from done.
Here’s how to make a kale salad that’s better than those sad restaurant salads. First, remove those tough ribs from the kale, chop it into bite-sized pieces, and massage it to minimize the poky factor and improve the flavor. (Yes, massage it. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s worth it! See instructions below.) Drizzle in a bold salad dressing and toss until it’s completely coated (I always use more dressing on kale salads than other green salads). Add some fun flavors and textures and you will have yourself a great kale salad.
I say all of this to defend kale salads against mentions that they’re “too trendy” or overdone. But kale salads, when made properly, can make truly delicious, crave-able meals. Those kinds of meals don’t go out of style. Right? Let’s make kale salad a classic like pizza and mac and cheese. We’ll all be better off for it.
This salad is the mac and cheese of kale salads, if you will. It’s creamy thanks to a bold tahini dressing, which makes this salad seem way more indulgent that it actually is. I packed in more flavor and texture with freshly toasted sunflower seeds and briny olives and pepper rings that I cannot resist. Chickpeas offer some protein and up the hearty factor. I’ve been craving heavy, cheesy comfort foods lately, but I legitimately can’t wait to get home and polish off this kale salad. I hope you feel the same!
- 1 medium bunch of curly green kale (about 8 ounces)
- Fine sea salt
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
- ½ cup thinly sliced Kalamata olives and/or roughly chopped pepper rings
- ⅓ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and drained
- ⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan (optional)
- ⅓ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 to 1½ lemons)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- To prepare the salad: Place the chopped kale in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle it lightly with salt and massage it with your hands by scrunching up large handfuls at a time until it's darker and more fragrant (this makes the kale more tasty and easier to eat). Add the chickpeas, olives and/or pepper rings, sun-dried tomatoes, and Parmesan (if using). Set aside.
- To toast the sunflower seeds, combine the seeds with the olive oil and a few dashes of salt in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the seeds are fragrant and turning lightly golden at the edges, about 5 minutes. Pour the toasted seeds into the salad bowl.
- To prepare the salad dressing: In a small liquid measuring cup or bowl, combine the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, and salt. Whisk until blended. Add the water and whisk until blended. Season generously with freshly black pepper, to taste.
- Pour the dressing into the salad (you might not need quite all of it, but I did). Toss until the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately. This salad keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.
If you love this recipe: Check out more kale salads here.