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If you’re on the fence about kale, let me tell you, this easy kale salad recipe will turn it around for you. Even my picky 6-year-old, who refuses most green salads, lights up when I tell her we’re having this kale crunch salad with our dinner! A special technique to remove the bitterness, sweet dried cranberries, crunchy almonds, and the best maple kale salad dressing make all the difference.
Why You’ll Love This Kale Salad Recipe
- Special technique gets rid of any bitter kale taste
- Variety of textures
- Irresistible sweet maple dressing
- Simple ingredients
- Just 10 minutes from start to finish
- Healthy, packed with nutrients, and gluten-free, with a low carb option
- 7 flavorful variations
- Perfect as a side dish, but easy to turn into a meal
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the ingredients for the best kale salad recipe, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Kale – I used curly kale, but you could use dinosaur kale (lacinato kale) or Red Russian kale. Chop the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces, or buy it chopped in a bag. Make sure to discard any thick stems, as these are bitter and tough. If you have extra kale to use up, consider using the rest to make baked kale chips (or crispy air fryer kale chips if you have an air fryer).
- Dried Cranberries – I make my own sugar-free dried cranberries (it’s way easier than it sounds!) for kale salad, but the kind at the store will do. Just know they typically have a lot of sugar added. You could also swap these out with crispy apple chips instead.
- Nuts & Seeds – I used a combination of hemp hearts and sliced almonds for a major nutrition boost and crunch, but any nuts or seeds you have on hand work great. Try pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds. If you do buy hemp hearts for this kale crunch salad recipe, you can also use them to make hemp milk.
Kale Salad Dressing:
- Olive Oil – This makes up the base of the kale salad dressing. I used regular olive oil, but you could also use extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or any neutral oil you like.
- Maple Syrup – I like to use natural sugar-free maple syrup, but regular also works. You can also substitute honey (or sugar-free honey).
- Apple Cider Vinegar – This gives the dressing a tangy flavor, and also helps it emulsify to bring it together. You use another acidic ingredient here, such as red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or lemon juice.
- Dijon Mustard – This is mainly added for flavor, but helps emulsify the dressing as well. I used a tablespoon, but you can reduce it to a teaspoon for a more neutral taste. You can also omit it if you really want to, just be aware that the dressing is more prone to separating without it.
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper
How To Make Kale Salad
This section shows how to make this kale salad recipe, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour the olive oil into the bowl in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until emulsified.
- Massage the kale. Place the chopped kale into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over it and massage with your hands, until kale softens and is no longer rigid.
TIP: Massaging is the key to avoiding bitter kale!
Raw kale is tough and bitter, but massaging it makes the leaves more tender, easier to chew, and less bitter. The only kind of kale that doesn’t require this is baby kale.
- Toss the kale salad. Add the cranberries, hemp hearts, and almonds. Toss to coat.
More Kale Salad Recipes
There are so many ways to make kale salad recipes! While this version with cranberries and maple dressing is by far my fave, here are some quick and easy variations to try:
- Lemon Parmesan – This is what comes to mind when most people think of a recipe for kale salad. Use my lemon dressing (I recommend making it with fresh lemon juice) and massage the kale well, then toss with pine nuts and shaved Parmesan. This variation is similar to an arugula salad, except you massage the kale.
- Caesar – For a kale Caesar salad variation, toss the chopped kale leaves with an easy Caesar salad dressing, grated Parmesan cheese, and croutons if you like.
- Fruit – Chop an apple or pear into bite-sized pieces (approximately 1 cup). Toss them with the other ingredients to make a kale apple salad (or a pear one).
- Cheese – Toss in 1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese, feta cheese, or blue cheese.
- Brussels Sprouts – Use a food processor to shred 1-2 cups of brussels sprouts and add to the dish. Or simply make my kale brussels sprouts salad instead.
- Fall Inspired – Roasted butternut squash (similar to my butternut squash salad) or your favorite roasted root vegetables make perfect additions for a side dish that captures the essence of fall.
- Chicken – Simply add chicken to make this raw kale salad a complete meal. Try lemon garlic chicken or slices of juicy baked chicken breasts. You can add chicken to the original recipe or any of the variations above.
One of the best things about making kale salad is that, unlike other greens, you can make it ahead, even with the dressing! (This applies to the variations above, too.)
In fact, most kale salad recipes will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. However, if you’re making it more than a day in advance, you might want to add the nuts and seeds right before serving, so that they maintain their crunch.
What To Serve With Kale Salad
Need something to go with your salad? Here are some dishes that pair perfectly with kale salad recipes for a variety of flavors and textures:
- Chicken – Pair this salad with buttery pan seared chicken breast, or make honey garlic Crock Pot chicken thighs for a fall meal. For a refreshing lunch, slice some juicy grilled chicken breast over the kale salad.
- Steak – For a quick yet fancy dinner, indulge in a perfectly seared ribeye steak with garlic butter, or for an everyday option, enjoy a juicy sirloin steak. To make it even more special, add caramelized onions or sauteed mushrooms on top of your steak.
- Pork – Make sweet and savory grilled pork chops if it’s warm enough to grill, or try stuffed pork chops for a comforting dish anytime of year.
- Fish & Seafood – Pair this kale salad recipe with air fryer salmon (in a maple salmon marinade) or glazed keto salmon for similar sweet flavors. It also goes well with grilled shrimp, either on the side or tossed into the salad.
Kale Salad (With The Best Dressing!)
You'll love this kale salad recipe with curly kale, sweet and crunchy toppings, and the best maple dressing. Easy to make in just 10 minutes!
Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper.
Pour the olive oil into the bowl in a thin stream, whisking constantly, until emulsified.
Place the chopped kale into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over it and massage with your hands for 2-3 minutes, until kale is no longer rigid.
Add the cranberries, hemp hearts, and almonds. Toss to coat.
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Serving size: 1 cup
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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