This is a simple, Easy Kale Salad recipe that is packed full of fresh veggies, tangy, homemade lemon dressing, crunchy nuts and sweet, plump raisins. Easy to make-ahead and ready in less than 10 minutes! A quick and easy salad recipe you don’t want to miss!
This Easy Kale Salad recipe with lemon dressing has become such a staple in our family. I make it for almost every family gathering (at the request of my family) as well as those times when we are in a dinner salad rut.
This super simple make ahead kale salad recipe is something you can hand off to the kids to help make while you tend to the other meal preparations.
Even people that claim they do not like kale, absolutely LOVE this easy kale salad! It has that heartiness from the dark, leafy kale, crunchiness from the pistachios, sweetness from the raisins, and a beautiful pucker from the tangy, bold lemon dressing.
A salad dressing that is not really made for anyone that doesn’t like lemon. Check out my recipe variations below for my non-lemon lover option which I have tested on my beloved non-lemon lover husband. Haha!
What is kale?
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable similar to broccoli or Brussel sprouts. Mostly in season in the winter but luckily it’s available year-round.
There are two popular types of kale you will find at most grocery stores.
- Curly kale – A type of kale that is probably the most common that has a woody stem and large curly leaves.
- Tuscan kale-Is a less common but still popular type of kale that is darker green in color, shreds very well, and is the type of kale that I used in this recipe, although you could also use curly kale.
Why is kale good for you?
Kale is considered a superfood since it can boost a range of health problems due to the abundance of nutrients it contains like:
- Vitamins B6, K, and C
- Plant-based protein
All of which help lower blood pressure, fight heart disease and aid in digestion. The list goes on! Plus kale is insanely delicious and easy to add to any meal. Read more about the health benefits of kale here.
How to use kale
Kale is extremely versatile and can bring a fresh and healthy element to so many types of dishes.
You could use kale in big green salad recipes (probably the most obvious choice), in patties like these Kale and Squash Quinoa Patties, as a topping on pizza, in soups like this Sausage Kale Soup,mixed into a Baked Veggie Frittata in Sweet Potato Buddha Bowls, in sauces like Lemon Basil Pesto, or even to make crispy healthy kale chips, endless possibilities.
Check out this recipe for “How To Cook Kale” from Delish.com. It comes out perfect every time, and it’s super EASY! One of my faves!
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.
How To Wash the kale:
- The first step to washing kale is to remove the leaves from the stem first. To do this you can curve your hand like a cat paw and run it down each stem of the kale, easily peeling the leaves from the stem. Then discard the stems and place the kale leaves into a strainer or the bowl of a salad spinner.
- Then rinse it well in the strainer while running it under water, swishing it around a little to get all of it really super clean.
- Finally, if you have a salad spinner you can run it through the salad spinner to release any extra moisture, which allows the kale to remain firm and crisp. This also helps it stay fresher longer.
You can also prepare and store your kale in the refrigerator for up to 7 days before you use it!
How to massage kale
Taking the time to massage your kale will help soften those rough leaves and make them easier to eat and digest.
To massage the kale:
- After you wash 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. It will 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.
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 Needed To Make This easy kale Salad Recipe
You can make this recipe using only a few simple ingredients that you likely have right now. If not, then check out my recipe variation suggestions below. It is really fun to mix things up and use ingredients you have on hand.
How to make this kale salad
- Massage the kale. See my comments above 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. My family loves this, they always comment on how they like the way I sliced the kale.
- Add the remaining ingredients: Top the sliced kale with the rest of the salad ingredients: Golden raisins, pistachios, parmesan and lemon zest. It’s so good and this combo of flavors works so well together.
- Make the dressing. Add all dressing ingredients to a bowl or mason jar and mix or shake well to emulsify. The dressing will be very liquidy but the kale will absorb all of that incredibly lemony flavor.
- 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 dressing.
It is so unbelievably tasty. The tangy lemon dressing brings this salad to a whole new level.
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.
To Make this Salad Ahead of Time
You can easily make this salad ahead of time and enjoy it for quick and healthy lunches or as a healthy side dish for dinner all week long.
To prep this salad, make the salad but don’t add the dressing. Mix up the dressing and store it in a mason jar fitted with a lid or a salad dressing container, then transfer the salad to an airtight container. Store both separately in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
When ready to eat, portion out the salad, add some of the dressing and toss!
I always get so excited when I see this kale salad in the refrigerator and I forgot that I already prepped it. I know, maybe I am weird but I love salad, haha!
Possible Recipe Variations
- You can use any kind of kale for this recipe – I like to use dark lacinato kale or curly kale.
- Golden raisins or dried cranberries work perfectly in this salad.
- Dairy-free? Replace the parmesan cheese with vegan parmesan and you have a delicious vegan version of this Easy Kale Salad.
- Want to make this fully vegetarian? Swap the parmesan cheese with soft crumbled goat cheese.
- Add some protein. You can add Oven Roasted Chickpeas, Breaded Chicken Breast, or even shrimp to this salad and it would be delicious!
- Add in some quinoa, cooked rice or even roasted potatoes to bump up the volume and add in some good carbs.
- 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.
What to serve with kale Salad
Looking for some delicious and easy entrees to go with this amazing easy kale salad? Here are some of my faves that my family and I love!
- Hearty protein packed meals: Such a Turkey Burgers, Healthy Turkey Meatloaf, Turkey Chili, or this Veggie Chicken Pizza Bake.
- Pasta dishes: Like Chicken Pad Thai, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, or Creamy Cauliflower Gnocchi.
- Soups: Such as Creamy Tomato Soup, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Lentil Soup, or Creamy Asparagus Soup.
More Quick and Easy Salad Recipes
If you are looking for more quick and healthy salad recipes, here are some of my favorites that I Make all the time!
- 10 Minute Italian Chopped Salad
- Crispy Chickpea Kale Caesar Salad
- Kale Brussel Sprout Salad With Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette
- Autumn Chopped Kale Salad With Quinoa
- Roasted Beets and Butternut Squash Salad
- Simple Kale and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Did you make this recipe? If so, then please leave a rating and comment below.
Update: This recipe was updated with more recipe variations and photos, including an option for those that are too keen on the lemon flavor.