Kale salad is one of those things that looks like bunny food but tastes like a million bucks. And if you’ve lived in Southern California, then you might have seen it sold for a million bucks. But luckily, preparing it at home is a delicious way to get in your greens. By marinating this superfood in oil and salt, you can turn these bitter leaves into palatable bites. And, trust me, kale salad is NOT a food you eat because you hate yourself and want to look like a snappable twig. It’s tasty in its own right and super versatile. In this post, I’ll explain not only why I love this salad but also how you can make it your own with whatever you have on hand.
Why kale salad rocks
It keeps well.
Unlike a salad made with romaine or spinach, kale salad won’t wilt right away and will actually keep for several days in the refrigerator. This makes it a packable lunch food so your desk lunch doesn’t have to look sad and wilted.
It goes great with a no-sugar dressing.
Finally a green that actually tastes best dressed without sugar! While I love a sweet balsamic vinaigrette, I prefer these dark green leaves with olive oil and lemon juice. Another bonus: it’s easy to make a great kale salad dressing with heart-healthy olive oil instead of canola.
Kale salad is a relatively easy way to prepare greens.
Normally, I take my kale sautéed. Preparing kale as a salad nixes the cooking and saves some dirty dishes to boot.
How-to: the kale salad base
I’ve wholeheartedly adopted these basic steps from J. Kenji López-Alt’s revolutionary book, The Food Lab.
Step 1: Strip your greens. The fussiest part about some kale salad recipes is cutting out the stems. But, fortunately, there’s no need for knife-work. Just hold the stem in one hand and strip the leaves off with the other. If the stem breaks, it means it’s small enough to go into your salad.
Step 2: Cut your greens. Curly kale might need a little more chopping than Lacinato (or flat-leafed) kale, but I generally move the knife through once widthwise and once lengthwise.
Step 3: Massage your greens. Yep, a little TLC never hurt a green. Sprinkle your kale with salt and olive oil, and use your hands to spread both evenly across all surfaces of the leaves. This process will tenderize the greens and break down hard textures.
Step 4: Let it marinate. For me, it takes about 20-30 minutes to reach the desired tenderness.
Step 5: Dress and top your salad. Finish the dressing and add any toppings you desire. See below for some additions to dress it up.
There are thousands of possible variations on this theme. Here’s a list to get your creative juices going and your mouth watering!
- Beans: kidney beans, cannellini beans, black beans, chickpeas or even crispy chickpeas for date-night.
- Other veggies: halved cherry tomatoes, diced red pepper, sliced onion, shredded carrots, avocado chunks.
- Fruits: thinly sliced apples, roasted grapes, dried cranberries.
- Nuts: toasted almonds, pine nuts, or walnuts–or candied nuts.
- Cheese: dollops of ricotta, flaked parmesan cheese, chunks of mozzarella, feta, or blue cheese.
- Croutons: regular croutons, polenta croutons, or bread crumb croutons.
- Grains: quinoa, farro, maybe even barley.
- Other toppings: fried onions, shiitake crisps, or kale chips (just kidding…that last one’s a little meta, even for me).
If you’re not in a DIY kind of mood, here are a few up-dos on the kale salad that I am scrambling–on my hands and knees–to try.
- Vegan Kale Caesar – Includes a kick-butt vegan caesar dressing. *All together now* Let’s never put vegan mayo on a salad again!
- Deconstructed Falafel Salad – Hetty McKinnon at it again!
- Lemon-Garlic Kale Salad – An uber-simple version.
Here’s my take on the kale salad!Print
A kale salad base with basic dressing and all-star vegetable accompaniments.
- 2 bunches kale (curly or flat-leafed styles are ok)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 heaping cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup diced orange pepper
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a microplane grater
- Using your hands, strip the leaves from the kale stems. Roll up your leaves into a tight bundle and chop them widthwise then lengthwise (about 1/2 inch).
- Add the kale into a large bowl with the olive oil and salt. Massage the kale with your hands for about two minutes. Set aside to marinate for 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut your onion half down the middle then slice very thinly. Place the onion in a strainer and run under cold water for 30 seconds to 1 minute to reduce the bitterness.
- When the kale has finished marinating, add the onions, tomatoes, and diced pepper.
- In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and garlic. Add to the salad and mix very well until completely coated.
- Serve chilled.
Adapted from The Food Lab‘s Marinated Kale Salad with Chickpeas and Sumac Onions.
This salad is good eaten the same day or the following day.
Keywords: salad, kale salad, vegetarian, vegan, kale, simple, healthy, vegetables, greens