kale salad in a mixing bowl

A few friends and I were recently sharing our big garden plans for the summer…and quickly realized that none of us have any — ha! A big, flourishing garden is something my husband and I have big dreams of building but, at this stage of our lives, it just isn’t in the cards.

Gardening is a lot of work!

Luckily farmer’s market season is upon us, plus these days my grocery store carries a ton of local lettuces and vegetables, which means garden or not, there’s no excuse to miss out on this DELICIOUS and nutritious Everyday Kale Salad! 

easy kale salad in a bowl with a fork

Craveable Kale Salad Recipe

Let’s be real, we all know kale is one of the most nutritious foods we can eat, but most of us grew up seeing it lining the buffet at Pizza Hut. That said, it’s understandable that it’s not always the first green we reach for when building a salad. BUT, give fresh kale a little love and pair it with some fresh and tasty toppings, and you’ll not only start seeking it out at those aforementioned Farmer’s Markets, but truly crave the taste and health benefits it provides.

Now, I named this kale salad the “Everyday” Kale Salad because, aside from the kale, it’s made with everyday ingredients I almost always have on hand, plus it’s so tasty that you’ll literally want to eat it every single day of your life.

Serve this easy kale salad as a nutritious lunch, or pair it with the protein of your choice for dinner. Air Fryer salmon, roasted shrimp, grilled pork tenderloin, and grilled chicken immediately come to mind as being excellent pairings!

Best Type of Kale for Raw Kale Salads

Personally, for a raw kale salad I prefer using standard curly kale, which is easy to find at the grocery store all year round.

Lacinato kale, aka Tuscan or dinosaur kale, is another common type of kale that can be found at most grocery stores, but I prefer this type of kale cooked. It’s a little too grassy-tasting raw, in my opinion.

How Do You Make Raw Kale Tender?

Kale becomes tender and mild after removing the leaves from their thick stems, chopping them up, then massaging them with your fingertips in a large bowl with a pinch of salt.

The act of massaging kale breaks down the leaves down so their texture becomes tender and easy to chew.

ingredients for an easy kale salad

Ingredients Needed for Kale Salad

What else do you need for this nutritious, delicious salad? I’ll fill you in:

  • Kale: Like I said, I prefer curly kale for raw salads. My grocery store sells 4oz clamshells of pre-washed local kale which is really convenient, though you can use 1 standard bunch of curly kale.
  • Pancetta: Did you know kale needs to be paired with a fat for its nutrients to be best absorbed? Pancetta takes care of this in a seriously delicious way. I LOVE the salty, crispy bits in each bite of kale salad. Feel free to use bacon instead.
  • Almonds: sliced or slivered almonds provide satisfying crunch.
  • Dried cranberries: dried cranberries (or dried cherries, if you prefer) add a sweet-tart jammy chew to each forkful. So, so good.
  • Apples: I love adding a chopped apple to this salad for freshness and a burst of sweet.
  • Red onion: Minced red onion adds crunch and zingy flavor.
  • Lemon Dressing: the Everyday Kale Salad is simply dressed in a mixture of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Feel free to use any bottled dressing you love and have on hand.

Kale Salad Variations

The best part of this massaged kale salad is that is very versatile so use what you’ve got to get it on the table! Here are some ideas:

  • Nuts and seeds: Use sunflower seeds, or chopped pistachios, pecans, walnuts, or peanuts instead of almonds.
  • Bacon: Use bacon instead of pancetta.
  • Cheese: Swap the pancetta for crumbled feta cheese, shredded parmesan cheese, or dollops of creamy goat cheese to keep this salad meatless yet still very satisfying.
  • Vegetarian swaps: Add diced avocado instead of pancetta to make this salad vegetarian, and/or sub maple syrup for the honey in the dressing to make it vegan.
  • Fruit swaps: Dice up a pear instead of an apple or toss in pomegranate seeds instead of an apple.

How Long Will This Salad Last?

Although kale is a hearty green, kale salads are best eaten within 24 – 36 hours after making.

Ready to dive into this bowl of deliciousness?!

serving spoons serving an easy kale salad

Try this Fresh and Healthy Salad

How to Make a Simple Kale Salad

Step 1: Brown pancetta (or bacon).

Start by adding diced pancetta to a small skillet then turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the pancetta is browned and crispy, 8-10 minutes.

Look for pancetta by the prosciutto/specialty meats vs by the bacon, btw! That said, chopped bacon is a perfect swap if you can’t find pancetta.

pancetta crisping in a skillet

Scoop the browned pancetta onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool.

crisped pancetta draining on a paper towel

Step 2: Massage the kale.

Meanwhile, add curly kale that’s been torn from its thick, tough stems then chopped into bite sized pieces to a large mixing bowl.

Add a pinch of salt then use your fingertips to massage and crush the kale until it’s tender and reduced in volume by half — it just takes a minute.

fresh kale in a mixing bowl

Step 3: Add the toppings.

We’ve got: minced red onion, chopped red apple, sliced or slivered almonds, dried cranberries or cherries, and the crispy pancetta.

ingredients for simple kale salad in a mixing bowl

Step 4: Make the Lemon Dressing.

Last step is to whisk up an easy Lemon Dressing that’s a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

lemon dijon vinaigrette in a bowl

Step 5: Dress then serve.

Drizzle the dressing over the kale salad then toss to combine and serve. SO GOOD. I hope you love this simple and delicious way to enjoy kale salad every day! Enjoy!

bowl of easy kale salad with a fork

More Healthy Salad Recipes

Everyday Kale Salad

5/5 (3 REVIEWS)


Everyday Kale Salad is so simple and delicious, you'll want to eat it every day! Serve this nutritious and flavorful salad for lunch, or as a side with dinner.


serves 2-4

  • 4oz diced pancetta OR 4 slices chopped bacon
  • 4oz curly kale (~1 bunch)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
  • 1/4 red onion, minced
  • 1 red apple, chopped
  • For the Lemon Dressing:
    • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons honey
    • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
    • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Add pancetta (or bacon, if using) to a small skillet then turn the heat to medium-low. Cook until pancetta is browned and crispy, stirring often, 8-10 minutes. Scoop onto a paper towel lined plate to drain then set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, wash and dry kale then tear leaves away from the thick stems and chop into bite-sized pieces. Add to a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt then use your fingertips to massage and crush the kale until it’s tender and reduced by half in volume, 1 minute. Add almonds, dried cranberries, red onion, apple, and crisped pancetta.
  3. For the Lemon Dressing: Add extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to a jar with a tight fitting lid, or small bowl. Shake or whisk to combine then drizzle over the salad, toss, and serve. Dressing can be made up to 5 days ahead of time.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.

photo collage of everyday kale salad

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin