Why do I love kale salads? For starters, they’re a great pack-for-lunch option. Dressed kale salads keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of days, unlike most salads made with more delicate greens.
Secondly, kale salads are packed full of nutrients and fiber thanks to the kale and complementary produce. Did you know that just one cup of kale offers over two times the amount of Vitamin A you need in one day? It’s no wonder I feel like Wonder Woman after I eat a giant kale salad.
Last but not least, kale salads are perfect for when you’re in the mood for a big meal but don’t want to feel weighed down afterward. They’re especially great during and after the holidays—whether you’ve overindulged in cookies or need a hearty option to offer vegetarians.
There is a right and a wrong way to make kale salad. Kale salads should be dense and delicious, not bitter, poky or difficult to eat. I’m doing my part to spread the news by sharing my best kale salad tips below. You’ll also find twelve of my favorite kale salad recipes. Kale salads to the rescue!
How to Make the Best Kale Salad
1) Remove the ribs.
Regardless of which variety of kale you choose (they all make great salads), you’ll first want to remove the tough ribs from the leaves. Use a chef’s knife (here’s mine) to slice out the stems or just pull the leaves from the ribs with your fingers. The ribs are too chewy and distracting to include in the salad, but you can chop them and sauté them later. Or feed them to your dog, if your dog will eat anything like Cookie!
2) Chop the kale.
Then, you’ll want to chop the kale into pretty small, bite-sized pieces. Eating kale salads made with pieces of giant kale is mighty awkward.
3) Sprinkle with salt.
Next, transfer the kale to a serving bowl and sprinkle it lightly with sea salt (salt helps cut the bitter flavor of kale).
4) Massage the kale.
Yes, this step sounds ridiculous, but it makes all the difference. Reach into the bowl with (clean) hands and start grabbing handfuls of kale. Scrunch, release, scrunch, release. Repeat until the kale is fragrant and dark green. This makes the kale less poky and more palatable. Kale is tough, so don’t worry about damaging the leaves! This step should take 30 seconds or less.
5) Dress the kale.
Drizzle in a bold dressing and massage that into the leaves so the kale is lightly and evenly coated with dressing (this is important!). Kale does particularly well with zippy dressings. If you’ve always followed the standard vinaigrette formula (one part vinegar to three parts oil), you’ll probably want to up the ratio of vinegar for kale salads. I tend to add a little more dressing to kale salads than other green salads.
6) Toss well.
Now is the time to toss in additions like toasted nuts, grated/crumbled cheese and/or chopped raw fruits and veggies. If you have time, let the salad marinate for ten minutes before serving. Ta da! Best kale salad ever.
12 Favorite Kale Salads
Below, you’ll find my twelve favorite kale salads, plus special diet details and comments from readers who can vouch for these salads. I especially love to toss massaged kale with chewy cooked whole grains, like farro or wild rice, and add some creamy soft cheese, like feta or goat cheese. As you’ll see, kale works with a variety of flavors.
“Made this tonight….quick, easy and SOOO DELICIOUS. Added a couple extra teaspoons of red wine vinegar per your suggestion and that put it over the top. It will be easier to use more of that never ending kale from the garden this summer!! Thank you!” – Cathy
“This is the first recipe I’ve tried from your site, which I’ve visited for several months, and now I’m wondering what’s taken me so long! This salad is delicious, and the dressing combines ingredients I never would have thought to put together, lending a salty, sweet, umami punch (somehow all at once!) to the greens. I’m looking forward to my leftovers at lunch today!” – Lauren
“I made this for lunch meal prep, and I have to say that it is one of the best salads I’ve ever tasted! It is seriously packed with flavor. I’m already looking forward to eating it again tomorrow! Your recipes never disappoint. Thanks so much for what you do! :)” – Sara
“Made this last night and it was delicious! My husband was disappointed when he heard we were having a kale salad for dinner, but the tahini dressing and parm won him over :)” – Alexa
“I made this salad last night for dinner and had the leftovers this afternoon for lunch and both were absolutely delicious! Love this salad, plan to make it many more times and it’s a great salad to make over the holidays!” – Jena
“My husband and I ate this for dinner tonight, and I really enjoyed it! I eat cooked kale for lunch almost every day, but I don’t really care for raw kale. I’ve never “massaged” kale before, and I was really tempted to just cook it a little to wilt it down, but I decided to try this massage method. I cut the kale in smallish pieces, and it worked really well! I loved all the textures and flavors together, and it’s so healthy. Thanks for a great recipe!” – Kristen
“I just found this recipe yesterday and made it right away. This is hands down one of the best salads I have ever had! My husband agrees. This will be a regular at our house! The granola makes enough for many more salads and I assume I can just freeze it to have ready for next time. The fennel seeds really add alot. Thanks for the great recipe!” – Lisa
Gluten free and vegan
“Made this salad last night and it was delicious! The tahini dressing was very good. My son, who just returned from college, loved it. He wants me to make some for his lunch. I have enough dressing left to make another salad. Thanks! I’ve enjoyed eating several of your salads!” – Katherine
“Phenomenal salad. One I will make again and again, and will share with my friends and family. Thanks so much, Kate!” – Lisa
“OMG this is the second kale salad recipe I’ve tried from this blog and I think I had a new favourite vegetable! This is the perfect blend of crunchy, sweet, tart! Thanks for yet another awesome recipe (that my meat eating husband will even eat!) P.S. I did substitute celery for radishes (had to work with what was in the fridge) but I bet the radishes add a great peppery crunch!” – Natalie
Gluten free and vegan
“I’ve always been obsessed with making my own variation on a burrito bowl, but your recipe takes the cake! Soaking the kale in lime makes it so much easier to integrate into a dish where kale might seem a little out of place. I make this at least once a week, and my husband, a ravenous carnivore, loved it, too!” – Ashley
“SOOOO Yummy, Kate–this salad was the star of tonight’s supper and the combination of flavors is just perfect. Will definitely do this one again for guests–too delicious not to share. Thank you!” – Cindy
More resources you might appreciate: 23 healthy make-ahead breakfast recipes, 45 recipes that pack well for lunch and 20 simple weeknight dinners. You might also like my monthly seasonal produce guides and essential kitchen tools. View all roundups and resource posts here.