Some 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 Ben 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!
A Kale Salad You’ll WANT to Eat
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. #mmpizza 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, 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 leaves breaks them down so the texture is tender and easy enough to chew.
What else do you need for this nutritious, delicious salad? I’ll fill you in:
- Kale: Like I said, I prefer curly kale for this salad. My grocery store sells 4oz clamshells of pre-washed local kale which makes putting this salad together super convenient, though you can also 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.
- 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:
- Use sunflower seeds, or chopped pistachios, pecans, walnuts, or peanuts instead of almonds.
- Use bacon instead of pancetta.
- 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.
- Add diced avocado instead of pancetta to make this salad vegetarian (sub maple syrup for the honey in the dressing to make it vegan.)
- Dice up a pear instead of an apple.
- Toss in pomegranate seeds instead of an apple.
How Long Will This Salad Last?
Although kale is a hearty green, kale salad recipes are best eaten within 24 – 36 hours after making.
Ready to dive into this bowl of deliciousness?!
How to Make a Simple Kale Salad
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.
Scoop the browned pancetta onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool.
Meanwhile, add curly kale that’s been torn from its thick, tough stems then chopped with a knife 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.
Next add all the goodies. We’ve got: minced red onion, chopped red apple, sliced or slivered almonds, dried cranberries or cherries, and the crispy pancetta.
Last step is to whisk up an easy Lemon Dressing that’s simply a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.
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!
More Healthy Salad Recipes
- Berry Quinoa Chicken Salad
- Thai Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing
- Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad
- Grilled Chicken Salad
- Big Mac Salad
- Thai Crunch Salad
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Everyday Kale Salad
Everyday Kale Salad is so simple and delicious, you'll want to eat it every single day! Enjoy this nutritious and flavorful salad for lunch, or serve as a side with dinner.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- In a small bowl, mix together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, honey, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Drizzle over the salad then toss to combine and serve. Salad is best eaten within 24 - 36 hours.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
Photos by Ashley McLaughlin