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This Easy Kale Salad will quickly become your new go-to salad. The intense combination of flavors will make you want to enjoy it over and over again. Made with tenderly massaged kale, crunchy pistachios, salty, creamy parmesan cheese, and sweet, plump golden raisins. Masterly finished with a freshly whisked, bold lemon dressing that ties it all together.
When people think of a kale salad they don’t necessarily get too excited about it, mostly because kale is not usually adventurous and exhilarating in the realm of food experiences. But I am here to tell you that once you try this easy kale salad it will change your mind about kale forever. As well as the minds of anyone you happen to share it with.
It is that GOOD! A close competition to this kale quinoa salad that you may also love.
It starts with the star of the dish which is a bed of crisp, sweet massaged kale kissed with a bit of olive oil and salt to help tenderize and soften it. Then we add a pop of crunchy, salty elements by piling on some pistachios and grated parmesan cheese. The addition of the plump, sweet golden raisins gives this kale salad bursts of sweet jewels tangled in the long ribbons of kale.
The final crowning moment is the bright, bold, fresh lemon kale salad dressing that makes this salad sing in your mouth from the first bite to the last.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Packed with flavor – It is just so fresh, bright, and flavorful and has this amazing tangy, sweet combination that is hard to resist.
- Quick and easy – 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 fantastic flavor and crunch.
- Healthy – loaded with healthy ingredients like kale, lemon, pistachios, and raisins.
- Great meal prep recipe – this salad can be made ahead and it is even better the next day, which makes it great for meal prep.
Plus, it goes with EVERYTHING.
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, dark green, and delicious.
I promise this will get it sweet and tender, and make it easier to work with and digest.
Kale Salad Ingredients
- Kale – fresh kale is the main character of this kale salad which is the most essential ingredient. You can find it at almost any grocery store and will likely come across two types of kale: curly kale or dark dinosaur kale. Either one will work fine in this recipe.
- Pistachios – salted, pistachios (the meat of the nut) add the perfect nutty, salty, crunch you will love in this kale salad recipe. I like to buy the shelled pistachios to save me the work of shelling them myself. You will pay a bit more but it is totally worth it.
- Grated parmesan cheese – The cheese adds an amazing balance of saltiness and a slight hint of creaminess to this salad. Leave it out if you need to keep this recipe dairy-free. Or you can use dairy-free parmesan cheese.
- Golden raisins – plump, sweet golden raisins round out the sweet notes and add a nice surprise to each bite. You can also use dried cranberries or brown raisins.
- Kale salad dressing – this dressing is the show-stopping element that is wonderfully bright, bold, fresh, and citrusy and adds the most incredible mind-blowing flavors to this recipe. Made with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.
- Lemon zest – the use of the zest is optional but really ties in that bold lemon flavor that makes this salad really stand out. Just make sure to zest the lemons before you squeeze out the fresh lemon juice.
The kale salad dressing
The lemon dressing is the final touch that takes this incredible salad from earthy and bitter, to bold and refreshing. Made with simple ingredients whisked together in nearly minutes to make it beautifully bright and enticing.
How to make the best kale salad with lemon dressing
This easy kale salad comes together in about 10 minutes or less with only a few simple ingredients. It is perfectly tangy, bright, satisfying, and filling and makes the best healthy side dish or main meal topped with chicken or salmon.
*Get the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Make the dressing. Add all dressing ingredients to a bowl or mason jar and mix or shake well to emulsify.
- Wash 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 and massage 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, drizzle it with olive oil or lemon juice and some salt and pepper, and use your hands to massage it for a few minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Top the sliced kale with the rest of the salad ingredients: Golden raisins, pistachios, parmesan, and lemon zest.
- Dress, toss, and serve the salad. Pour the tangy bold lemon dressing onto the salad and toss well to season all of the ingredients in the dressing and serve.
This is literally the perfect make-and-prep easy kale salad ever. You will love it!
Recipe Tips and Variations
- Wash and prep the kale. 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 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, crisp, and bright.
- 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 salad dairy free. You can make this massaged kale salad dairy free and just leave out the parmesan cheese or use vegan parmesan cheese.
- Use different nuts. Mix up the nuts and use pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds.
Here are some great ways to serve this healthy kale 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, hard boiled eggs, or air fryer coconut shrimp! So good!
Make Ahead and Storing tips
- Make it ahead: 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!
- Storing: 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
Other Healthy Salads
- Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad
- Easy Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
- Delicious Italian Chopped Salald
- Simple Strawberry Kale Salad
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.Print
Easy Kale Salad With Lemon Dressing
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 10 1x
- Diet: Low Calorie
This Easy Kale Salad will quickly become your new go-to salad. The intense combination of flavors will make you want to enjoy it over and over again. Made with tenderly massaged kale, crunchy pistachios, salt, creamy parmesan cheese, and sweet, plump golden raisins. Masterly finished with a freshly whisked bold lemon dressing that ties it all together.
For the Kale Salad
- 2 Bunches dark leafy kale or curly kale (thinly sliced) – about 5-6 cups
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1/2 cup pistachios or pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
For the Lemon Dressing
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about the juice of 2 lemons)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1–2 tablespoon maple syrup or honey – to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Add the sliced kale to a medium-sized mixing bowl or salad bowl, drizzle on a little olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper and lightly massage it for 1 minute to help break it down a little.
- Add the 1/2 cup chopped pistachios or pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, and the zest of 1 lemon to the kale and lightly toss everything together.
- Make the dressing: Add the juice from the 2 lemons, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper to a mason jar with a lid and shake it well. You can also add all dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until it emulsifies (get’s nice and creamy).
- Pour the dressing on the kale salad and toss well.
- Serve cold or at room temperature and ENJOY!
- If you are making this ahead, store the salad and the dressing separately in the fridge in airtight containers and when you are ready to eat it, add your dressing to the mixture and enjoy! It should last in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- You can use any kind of kale for this recipe – I like to use dark lacinato kale or curly kale. Bagged, store-bought kale also works as a shortcut but I still recommend massaging it first.
- You want to make sure to wash the kale really well first since it can hold a lot 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 green nice and crisp
- Always massage 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 on tips for how to massage kale.
- You can prep your kale ahead and have it ready to go for making salads all week long. Check out this post on how to store kale for more tips.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Healthy Salads
- Method: Assembly
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: kale salad, easy kale salad, salad, kale
Update: This recipe was updated with more recipe variations and photos, including an option for those that are too keen on the lemon flavor.
Great salad! I also made it this last time by adding 2 tablespoons of tahini to the dressing and a little red pepper flakes. So yummy!
Awesome! Glad you liked it. Great idea to add your own spin on it. I will definitely try your version. It sounds delicious!
I would never trust any kale recipe which doesn’t have a step to “knead” the kale. It’s the only way to make the kale soft and edible.
Hi Sheldon! I totally agree! I always massage my kale and I note that in all of my other salad recipes except with Lacinto kale I have found that if you thinly slice it there is no need to massage it since it is thinner than curly kale. I will add a note in the recipe. Thank you for your comment!!
Just made your kale salad for the fifth or sixth time and it’s still as good as the first time I made it almost two years ago. Tossed in a few pecans instead of the pistachios. Thanks for the recipe, it’s part of our salad routine for life.
Hi Sheldon! Thank you so much!
If I cant find Lacinto kale would it change things too much using the regular kale?
Hi Patti, yes you can use regular kale. You will just want to thinly slice it and massage it with your fingers for a few minutes to break it down before adding the rest of the ingredients. I have made it that way before and it was just as good.
Thanks for the recipe, we loved it!
Hi Daniella, that is so great! So glad you liked it!
If making it ahead for lunches, will it keep for a week as long as you dont combine the dressing with the kale?
Hi Misty! Yes, I as long as you keep the dressing separate from the salad it should last up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. I make it a lot and store it for the week and it works out great!
Amy’s father-in-law hates kale but he loves this salad. A win in this house!!
Really yummy salad. I too massaged it pretty well and it was tender. I also made it vegan with vegan parm. Thanks so much I will definitely make it again.
Hi Paulette! That sounds so good! Glad you liked it.
I made this tonight and it was so good! I used Craisins instead of the raisins because that’s what I had on hand. Will be making this again. Thanks!!
Awesome! So glad you like it!
Delicious! Made this yesterday and devoured an entire bowl. Offered it to my 7 year old son when he got home from school and he devoured his too! He literally yelled out, “this is the best salad everrrrr!” Lol! Thank you for an awesome recipe! I know all my vegan/veggie friends and family will love this too! Having another bowl with dinner tonight.
Yay! I am so glad you and your son liked it. My kids love it too!
Hi I was wondering how many weight watchers points this would be . Thanks
Hi Maxine, I am not an expert on weight watchers but my mom is. It looks like this would be around 6 to 7 ww points per serving. If you leave out the maple syrup it would be about 5 points per serving. This is based on the current calculator and not the older ww calculators. Hope that helps!!!!
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My Dr told me that eating more kale would be a good idea for me to do. This is the first recipe I tried and glad I did. The only change is that I substituted the raisins for pine nuts. What a great recipe, thank you for sharing.
This salad is amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing this!! It is so delicious and easy to make!! My husband loves it too!! Definitely it will be a added to our weekly menu! Can’t wait to try your other recipes!! Keep sharing please!! Thanks!!
Thank you so much! Glad you liked it!!!
We made this tonight and absolutely loved it! Next time I want to try it with powdered Parmesan in lieu of the shredded. Great staple recipe!
I don’t know how much two bunches of kale is.ounces or cups would have been helpful
Hi Connie, it’s about 6 cups of kale chopped.
I really enjoyed this salad! It’s rare that I have all the ingredients for a recipe so I figured it was meant for me to try it. I made it vegan by using a vegan shredded cheese. Also, the comment about kneading the kale first was actually really helpful for the type of kale I had. Thank you!
Hi Shelly, I am so glad you enjoyed it!
Delightful! Even my husband raised about it! I substituted walnuts. Any chance you can add the oz. and/or cups of kale? It is growing profusely in my yard…but I still think I didn’t use enough.
Hi Laura, so happy you and your husband liked it! It’s about 4-6 cups of chopped kale, about 1 bunch. So jealous you have it growing in your yard!
I can’t believe I saw no comments about using chopped kale that you can buy in bags at Trader Joes & Sprouts. Does bagged kale need to be massaged? Thanks. Can’t wait to try this after reading the great reviews!
Hi Karen, you can of course use bagged kale. I would chop it and massage it as suggested in the post since that will help break it down more which helps with digestion and improves the texture of this salad. I hope you liked it! By the way! I love Trader Joe’s and Sprouts!
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2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about the juice of 2 lemons)
I don’t understand how this is true unless your lemons are not ripe? The juice of two whole lemons? Maybe it’s two lemon wedges?
Hi Andrea, Thank you for your comment. It really depends on the size of the lemons, how ripe they are and if they are cold or at room temperature. All of these factors play into how much juice you can get out of one lemon. This is why I include the exact amount of lemon juice (2 tablespoons) and stated “about the juice of 2 lemons”.
I added shrimp and used cashews since thats what I had.instead of oil in the dressing I used a bit of tahini. Only made half the recipe since it’s just me and my husband but I wish I had made the full amount. I could have easily eaten the whole thing. It was THAT GOOD! Loved it and can’t wait to make it again.
Hi Laurel, I am so glad you liked it. It is literally my favorite salad.
This one is sooo good. I don’t come back often to rate recipes, but had to on this one. It’s going to stay in my rotation!
Thank you Natalie! I am happy you liked it and thank you so much for the review!
I need to eat more kale. This looks a salad I should had to my list of things to try.
Hi Ella, It is so good!
I used fresh kale from my garden. I put my kale through the food processor and it massaged it nicely. I used pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I also added an extra tablespoon of honey and crumbled feta. It was delicious
Hi Rhonda! I love that you grow your own kale and great idea to put it in the food processor. I am going to try that!
Delish! As good as a restaurant. I cut recipe in half. I added a cut up avocado, used craisins, chopped candies pecans.
I am so glad you liked it!
I have made this kale salad about 20 times since I discovered it a few months ago. It is a perfect green side dish to almost any roasted meat with and a starchy side dish like squash or sweet potato. It has a perfect tang with the lemon juice and lemon zest plus a little sweet (honey and raisins) and salty (Parmesan). I have swapped dried cranberries or dried apricots for the raisins and it works well.
Thank you, Mindy! I am so glad you liked it!
Fabulous! So tasty even a kale doubter will love it. Even if you are not looking for an excuse to eat something green and healthy that is just an added bonus!
Thank you, Steve! It is a family favorite in our house. I am so glad you liked it!
I have red stem kale in my garden. It’s the best kale salad recipe ever! TY for posting this exceptional recipe.
Thank you, Sheila! I am so glad you liked it!
So simple and delicious! I had a huge Costco bag of walnuts so I chopped them up and threw those in and it was still delicious. I’m def gonna make this salad again, it was so tasty!!
Hi Larissa, I am so glad you liked it!
I really loved the salad but there was too much vinegar for me. I will make it again w less vinegar.