I counted up the number of beloved kale salad recipes on this blog the other day and came up with an even twelve. Kale salads are my favorite so I decided they deserve a dedicated post!
Why do I love kale salads? For starters, dressed kale salads keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of days, unlike most salads made with more delicate greens. Since they store well, they are a great pack-for-lunch option.
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 the holidays—whether you’ve overindulged in cookies or need a hearty option to offer vegetarians.
There is an art to making a great kale salad, and I learned a lot when I worked at a raw/vegan restaurant owned by chef Matthew Kenney. Read on for my best kale salad tips!
How to Make a Great 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.
Meet 12 Favorite Kale Salads
Below, you’ll find my twelve favorite kale salads (ten salads and two recipes with kale salad components), plus special diet details and comments from readers who can vouch for these salads. I don’t say it enough, but I love your feedback!
Gluten free, vegan
“I LOVE this salad, and virtually lived off of it for several months last summer when you first posted the recipe. I’ve re-found it again this summer and it’s just as good as the first time. I like to add chopped mango and cashews to the mix, and if I make it for dinner, I add prawns too. Fantastic every which way!” – Kate
“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
Gluten free, vegan
“I just made this dish for dinner and… I am just stunned. Just about every single ingredient is a superfood AND it was so delicious, I couldn’t help licking the spoon! Next time I’m going to make a double portion of the fantastic pesto and save some to spread on whole grain toast in the morning. This recipe is a winner!!! Thank you so much for posting it.” – Elyse
Gluten free, vegan
“Made this salad tonight to go with an Asian-y salmon dish. It was the perfect compliment. I use kale a lot this time of year, but have never tried it raw. Thanks for the scrunching tip!” – Liz
“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
“Made this tonight… was feeling apprehensive about all the kale, but the dressing was perfect, and the textures of the cheese, black beans and especially the tortilla strips were superb. A salad I can’t stop eating!!” – Elizabeth
“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, vegan
“Kate, thank you for this recipe – the tahini miso dressing was a revelation. It has a great flavor that is also quite unexpected. And such surprises don’t happen often. We loved it (and so did the kale).” – Nina
“Just made this last night for my book club and it was SOOOOOO tasty. Everyone was raving about it. Thank you so much for a new recipe I will be keeping in rotation!” – Kelly
“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, 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
Easily gluten free and/or vegan
“Just made for lunch today. Delicious!! The whole family, including two teenage boys, loved them!” – Lisa
Update: I’ve actually published a few more kale salads since this post, so click here to view the latest!
Tasty-looking kale salads elsewhere:
- Shredded Kale Salad with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta on Sprouted Kitchen
- Pomegranate, Kale and Wild Rice Salad With Walnuts and Feta on Pinch of Yum
- Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cranberries and Macadamia Nuts on Mountain Mama Cooks
- Winter Farro & Kale Salad by Love and Lemons
More resources you might appreciate: 13 healthy make-ahead breakfast recipes, 16 recipes that pack well for lunch and 20 simple weeknight dinners. You might also like my monthly seasonal produce guides and healthy kitchen essentials. View all roundups and resource posts here.