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Everything You Need to Know About Making a Delicious Kale Salad

Photo: Brian Woodcock

Nevermind all the kale haters, because this leafy green makes for a hearty, wholesome base to any salad. Packed with fiber, vitamins, and nutrients, kale is a great superfood option that offers crunchy texture and delicious flavor. From toasted nuts and dried fruit to roasted veggies and soft cheeses, there is a wide variety of ingredients that mix beautifully in a kale salad. In order to get the best tasting salad from your head of kale, there are a couple tips to keep in mind when working with this vegetable, as it's vastly different from a head of romaine or iceberg.

When it comes to a hearty, nutritious salad, there’s one main green that we look to, and that’s kale. Crunchy and versatile, kale greens make for an excellent salad base that you can eat fresh, or let it sit for a couple days and enjoy it then. Before you get your kale and start chopping, there’s a couple tips you should know to make your salad that much tastier.

Photo: Iain Bagwell

There's More than One Kind

The variety of kale that you use in your salads comes down to a matter of preference. Common kale, often referred to as curly kale, has a tender, chewy texture and a slightly bitter, peppery flavor. The leaves are much bigger and they bunch more readily. The flatter, darker leaf kale, referred to as Tuscan, Lacinato, or Dinosaur kale has a milder flavor and a more crisp rather than chewy texture. Play around with the different varieties at your local grocery store or farmers' market and see which one suits your salad better.

Always De-Stem

We’re definitely looking for a little crunch in our kale salad, but the stems provide a crunch that you’re going to want to avoid. Strip the leaves from the hard stems until you’ve removed them completely.

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Chop it Thin

With spinach and other thinner greens, you can sometimes get away with tearing them up by hand, rather than chopping them aggressively. When it comes to kale, it’s best to chop it as thin as possible because a huge piece of kale is going to be tough to chew. When the kale is chopped finely, the components of your salad will disperse easier and your forkfuls of salad will not be an enormous mouthful.

Massaging is a Must

We know, it sounds kind of weird and excessively intimate to “massage” your greens, but applying this pressure with your hands will seriously make a world of difference. Tossing the leaves with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, then gently rubbing them with your hands will help break down some of the rough fibers, making your salad much easier to chew and digest. We’re all for a little roughage, but sometimes kale that isn’t massaged is too rough and simply unpleasant.

Add Acid to the Dressing

While a creamy Kale Caesar is a great option, it’s important for your dressing of choice to have some sort of acidic component in it, as this will greatly help the breaking down of the tough walls of the leaves. A thick, cream-based dressing will certainly coat the leaves, however it will leave them tough and chewy. Go for a light citrus vinaigrette or shallot dressing.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Patience is Key

It may be tempting to transfer your salad to a serving bowl and dig in, but we think you should give it a little time to rest. Letting it sit for anywhere from 10 minutes to a day will allow the flavors to blend, the dressing to break down the kale, and the salad to come together. All non-believer of salads becoming great leftovers will surely be hushed after they’ve tried a kale salad that has sat overnight. Never sad, never soggy.

Need some kale inspiration? Get our favorite kale salad recipes and start chopping!