This Easy Kale Salad recipe is packed full of fresh, hearty kale, crunchy ,nuts and sweet, plump raisins. Topped with the BEST kale salad dressing. A quick and easy 10-minute salad you MUST TRY!
This kale salad has become such a staple in our family. I make it for almost every family gathering. Let’s be real though, most people do not get excited for salad. But for some reason, this lemon kale salad is a total crowd-pleaser and it is always the first thing to go at every party!
My family is also obsessed with this kale strawberry salad in the spring and summer. In the fall and winter, this elevated kale and quinoa salad is another favorite! For some reason, people get crazy about any salad with kale in it!
Even people that claim they do not like kale, absolutely LOVE this salad recipe! It is just so fresh, bright, and flavorful and has this amazing tangy, sweet combination that is hard to resist. I would say it is kind of the head honcho of all kale salads since it is just so quick and easy and packed with wonderful flavor and crunch!
How to prepare kale for salad
One of the most important things to mention when it comes to prepping raw kale is that you must wash it first and then massage it. Kale can be gritty and full of little bits of dirt, especially curly kale, so it is important to rinse it first. Check out this post on how to store kale so you can do this step in advance and have it ready to go!
- Tear the kale leaves off of the stems of the kale and add the leaves to a bowl of cold water. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Then strain and rinse it.
- Chop the kale into ribbons by rolling up bunches of the kale and running your knife through it.
- Add the chopped kale to a salad spinner and spin it to remove extra moisture.
- Then you are ready to massage it. See below for the best way to do this.
How to massage the kale
Taking the time to massage your kale will help soften those rough leaves and make them easier to eat and digest.
- After you wash and chop the kale place it into a salad bowl, add a drizzle of olive oil or lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.
- Use your fingers to massage it for a few minutes then let it rest for about 10 minutes. This will tenderize the kale and allow it to turn beautiful and dark green and delicious right before your eyes. It’s magic! This is a great step for the kids to help out with.
I promise this will get it sweet and tender, and make it easier to work with and digest. Massaging your kale helps to break down the fibers, and it gets so dark and merely gorgeous in my opinion.
Ingredients you will need
- Kale – I used curly kale but you can also use dinosaur kale (aka Lacinato or Tuscan kale) in this recipe.
- Pistachios – for that nice nutty salty, crunchiness. Pumpkin seeds, pecans, or almonds also work great!
- Golden raisins – these give this salad a nice hint of sweetness. Brown raisins or dried cranberries also work!
- Parmesan cheese – grated or shredded parmesan cheese works. You could also use crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese.
- Dressing ingredients – olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- Lemon zest – this gives this salad the best lemon flavor that really takes it to a whole new level of deliciousness.
How to make the best kale salad with lemon dressing
Get the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions in the recipe card below.
- Make the dressing. Add all dressing ingredients to a bowl or mason jar and mix or shake well to emulsify.
- Wash and massage the kale. See my comments above or in the recipe card on how to do this. It is very easy and so worth the effort.
- Chop the kale. Use a sharp kitchen or vegetable knife to chop the kale into thin strips. To do this just take a good bunch of the kale, roll it up like a cigar and run your knife through it. Then add it back to the salad bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients: Top the sliced kale with the rest of the salad ingredients: Golden raisins, pistachios or pumpkin seeds, parmesan, and lemon zest.
- Dress and toss the salad. Pour the tangy lemon dressing onto the salad and toss well to season all of the ingredients in the incredible lemon dressing and serve.
This is literally the perfect make-and-prep easy kale salad ever! I love that you can use this as a super quick meal prep recipe and eat it any day of the week.
Recipe Tips and Variations
- You want to make sure to wash the kale really well first since it can hold a lot of dirt and become gritty (nobody wants that). Then you want to either add the rinsed kale to a clean kitchen towel, close it up and shake it a little to remove excess moisture or use a salad spinner to do this. This will keep the greens nice and crisp
- Always massage the kale for salads. This will allow the kale to break down and become softer, which makes it easier to eat and digest. See the section above for tips on how to massage the kale.
- Not a fan of lemon? Swap the lemon zest and juice with the zest and juice of an orange or switch up the dressing altogether and try this Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette instead.
- Make this massaged kale salad dairy free and just leave out the parmesan cheese or use vegan parmesan cheese.
- Mix up the nuts and use pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds.
Here are some of my favorite ways to serve this healthy salad.
- Serve it with some protein such as Turkey Burgers, Healthy Turkey Meatloaf, Turkey Chili, or this Veggie Chicken Pizza Bake.
- Enjoy it alongside some Chicken Pad Thai, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, or Creamy Cauliflower Gnocchi.
- Pair it with a comforting soup such as Creamy Tomato Soup, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Lentil Soup, or Creamy Asparagus Soup.
- Top it with some crispy chickpeas or air fryer coconut shrimp! So good!
Make Ahead and Storing tips
To make this salad ahead of time: prepare the salad ingredients and the dressing. Store the salad ingredients in an airtight container, and the dressing in a mason jar fitted with a lid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When you are ready to serve it, just remove it from the refrigerator, dress it, toss it, and serve it!
To store this salad assembled and dressed: transfer it to an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When you are ready to eat it just mix it up and enjoy! I like to add a little squeeze of lemon to freshen it up a bit after it has been sitting in the refrigerator.
More Kale Recipes to try:
If you are looking for more quick and healthy kale recipes, here are some of my favorites.
- Kale Caesar Salad
- Kale Brussel Sprout Salad With Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette
- Autumn Chopped Kale Salad With Quinoa
- Simple Kale and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
- Sweet Potato Buddha Bowl with Black Beans
- Simple Sausage and Kale Soup
Did you make this easy kale salad recipe? If you did, then please leave a rating and comment below. You can also tag me on Instagram @pinchmegoodfood so I can see your creation.
Update: This recipe was updated with more recipe variations and photos, including an option for those that are too keen on the lemon flavor.