The Best Damn Kale Salad

by | Feb 29, 2020 | All, Basic, General, Gluten-free, Plant-based, Salad, Vegan | 0 comments

We’ve all had that one friend from high school or college who’s a bit of a pain the first time you meet them. Annoying, obnoxious, maybe even a bit of a bully. Yeah, you know that person.

But then something crazy happens. You have an unexpected bonding moment. You share a laugh or an inside joke. And this annoying obnoxious person suddenly becomes your closest friend, even decades later.

Well, kale is THAT friend. And this salad is THAT bonding moment.

It’s true! In fact, I will go as far as saying this salad will change the way you look at kale FOREVER.

This kale salad is like the little black dress of salads. Dress it up, dress it down. Treat it like the main event, or a sexy side. Make it for a cocktail party, or a school BBQ. This salad is a classic, and will surprise both the kale-lovers and cynics in your life.

Don’t believe me? 

Take it from my kale-hating friend who now texts me pics of her kale salad remains along with the caption “#winning.”

Or the longtime kale fan who found this recipe “life-changing!”

Or the kids who’d clamber to make this salad anytime it was on the menu at their school’s food lab program. BTW, kids LOVE making this salad – you’ll see why below.

Or, from the lady who approached me at a wedding in Ireland last summer – just to share how often she now makes this salad (…ever since I made it at a BBQ six years ago)!

And then there’s my mom who asks me for the recipe once every 6 months, even though, “Hi mom, it’s in your emails! Love you.”

This recipe is for you, if you’ve never had kale before and want to know what the big deal is. It’s for you, if you’ve had kale before and were traumatized by the experience. It’s for you, if you LOVE kale, and can’t get enough of it. And it’s especially for you, mom.

Why I’m hooked on this recipe

(and you will be, too!)

It is:

    • Basic: Only needs 4 ingredients (kale, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and lemon) and 10 minutes to throw together. The rest of the ingredients are extra.
    • Delicious: The secret to life-changing kale? Massage it with your hands! Yup – with olive oil and sea salt, you give your kale the spa treatment it deserves; taking it from tough guy to softie in a matter of minutes. Scientifically, massaging it breaks down the kale’s cell walls, making it tender, flavorful and a dream to eat (massaging is also incredibly therapeutic – which might explain why kids love making it too!).
    • Timeless: Make it all year long, and dress it up according to season and your preferred toppings. In the summer, I keep it light, with avocado, mango, berries or stone-fruit. In the winter or fall, I add roasted butternut squash, beets, walnuts, pomegranate or cooked quinoa. I’ve included some variations in the recipe notes, but the one in the picture has cooked quinoa, sliced mandarins, and pumpkin seeds.

Plus, it makes kale a rare treat!

Kale is a dark leafy green veggie from the Brassica or cabbage family (also called cruciferous). Like others from this family, kale is excellent for liver health. It not only has significant cholesterol-lowering abilities, but also contains anticancer “glucosinolates” that help break down and excrete toxic metabolites from the body. Kale is also rich in immune-boosting and antioxidant nutrients like vitamins A & C, as well as anti-inflammatory ones like vitamin K.

If you haven’t ventured into the kale camp yet, this recipe will ease you in. Go nuts with it, make it your own, and don’t forget to tag me if you try it! xo

The best damn kale salad

This is my basic recipe for raw kale salad involving 4 ingredients and less than 10 minutes. Check out the variations in the notes for optional toppings.
I first discovered the massaging technique in 2011 thanks to this recipe: I've made a few minor tweaks, but you can refer to this recipe for further inspiration.
Prep Time10 minutes
Course: Salad
Cuisine: all
Keyword: kale, main, raw, salad


  • Large salad bowl.


  • 1 bunch kale (any variety)
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin preferred)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (not table salt)
  • 1/2 lemon or lime (juiced)


Basic recipe

  • Thoroughly wash and dry the kale, then separate the tough stalks from the leaves. I do this by tearing the leaves off. Keep the stalks for another recipe or to use in homemade stock.
  • Chop the leaves into bite size pieces, then place in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt.
  • Get your hands in there and massage the leaves for about a minute. By the way, this is great to do with kids!
    The leaves with reduce (almost by half) when you massage them. You'll notice the kale starting to glisten and break down, and your fingers might even look a little green (due to the chlorophyll). This means it’s working!
  • Now, add the lemon or lime juice and continue to toss gently with your hands.
  • Taste it, and add a bit more salt or lemon/lime juice. It should taste pretty good.
  • Add optional toppings (listed below), or eat immediately (I dare you to stop)! This kale salad can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.


Start with 1/4 tsp sea salt and add more if needed (for flavor).
If you're adding a lot of toppings, you may need more lemon/lime/other citrus juice for acidity (otherwise the kale can taste a little flat). 

Optional topping ideas:

  • 1/2 cup blueberries + 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds + 1/2 cup walnuts (or other nuts)
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa + 1 cup cooked chickpeas + 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 chopped mango + 1 cup cooked beetroot + 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or other seeds)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes + 1/2 avocado (mash this in with your hands) + 1/4 cup chopped almonds.
  • 1/2 cup caramelized onions + 1 cup roasted butternut squash + 1/4 cup chopped dates