A perfectly tender, flavorful, and seasonal salad that will convince you the words "kale" and "addictive" go together like Barack and Michelle. Originally published January 2018. Last updated November 2022.
My easy massaged kale salad is one of the most popular recipes here on the site and in real life. Friends and family request it at every fall and winter gathering and so many members of the Dash of Jazz community have made this recipe part of their routines, too. The five star reviews don’t lie. Want an easy yet unforgettable recipe that’s actually good for you? Let’s get into the details!
If you like easy side dish recipes, check these out, too!
Table of Contents
- Why Should I Massage Kale for Salad?
- Massaged Kale Salad Ingredients
- Salad Dressing
- Recipe Tips & Tools
- For People with PCOS
- How to Serve
- More Salads
- The Salad Recipe
What’s the Point of Massaging Kale?
Before ever trying this method, I wondered why do I need to massage kale salad? And the answer is twofold. Raw kale is very fibrous with a tough texture that can take a while to chew through, especially the stems. The benefits of massaging kale (and then marinating) are that it breaks down the cell walls, which softens it for easier chewing, digestion, and nutrient absorption. The texture and appearance of massaged kale will mimic steamed or blanched greens and people sometimes ask if the kale is cooked. That's how tender it becomes!
What kind of kale to use? Curly kale is the best kale for massaging as it’s sturdy and fibrous. Other varieties like Tuscan kale are too soft.
What You’ll Need for this Recipe
My favorite recipe for fall parties is inexpensive to make with very few ingredients. Here’s what to add to your grocery list.
What else can I add to this salad? My massaged kale salad with cranberries, pecans, pears, and blue cheese is just perfect as is but feel free to add one of my favorite kale salad toppings, pumpkin seeds. If you’re looking for a variation on this salad recipe for Thanksgiving, try my kale salad with orange maple vinaigrette.
Making the Dressing
Salad dressing for massaging just needs to be acidic and most recipes will call for citrus but this is a massaged kale salad with no lemon. My apple cider vinegar dressing consists of just a few ingredients that perfectly complement this salad. Just combine everything and pour it over the kale.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
Tips for Making an Addictive Kale Salad
Can I make kale salad in advance? Massaged kale gets better with time so this is definitely a salad you can make ahead of time. When prepping massaged kale salad for a party, I make it up to two days ahead of time but at least a few hours in advance while I get ready. You really only need about an hour but the longer you let the dressing work its magic, the softer and more palatable the kale will be.
How to massage kale? Grab a sharp knife and cutting board to chop the kale into bite-sized pieces. You’ll also need a large flat bowl big enough to hold all the raw kale, though it will shrink down after being massaged. Add kale to the bowl and cover in dressing. Use your hands to toss the kale pieces in dressing until evenly coated then squeeze and press the kale leaves. This helps with infusing flavor into kale. Then, just let the leaves marinate to tender perfection.
Can I leave the stems on? Yes! For the best results, I recommend cutting off the large ends of the stems when preparing greens for chopped kale salad. The rest of the stems and leaves will get tender enough during the process. You can also use pre-prepped kale from the grocery store.
How to store it? First of all, in the refrigerator. You can store this salad uncovered but I prefer to use an airtight container so that its flavors don’t leech onto other items in the fridge or vice versa. It will keep for about 10 days this way.
Is this PCOS friendly?
Absolutely. Between the salad and the dressing, this is a balanced salad recipe for women with PCOS. Add an ample serving to your plate at Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving dinner to ensure you get hormone healthy nutrients along with your holiday indulgence!
Apple Cider Vinegar has been shown to help improve insulin sensitivity and related ovulatory issues like irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, and infertility.
Cranberries are high in antioxidants/phytonutrients and fiber to support gut health, which is key to addressing a common PCOS root cause.
Kale is high in fiber and vitamin B, which many PCOS patients are deficient in. Vitamin B deficiency is tied to a number of our symptoms, including insulin resistance. It’s also rich in calcium, which supports follicle development, making this a great follicular phase recipe. Leafy greens are generally regarded as PCOS superfoods!
Olive Oil is a PCOS-friendly fat partially because it’s antioxidant rich, which helps fight inflammation.
Pecans and Blue Cheese provide protein, vitamin D, calcium, and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
What to Serve with Massaged Kale
This is not only a simple salad to serve at parties but also a great meal prep option. I like to serve it with soup or add protein and quinoa to make a meal salad. Here are a few ideas in regular rotation!
More Top Salad Recipes
I make damn good salads if I do say so myself and follow a few principles each time. Here are more you’ll love.
I hope you’ll join the wave and get hooked on my creation very soon. And sharing is caring so be sure to pin this tender kale salad recipe for later and follow me over on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
The Best Massaged Kale Salad Recipe
Massaged Kale Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
For the Apple Cider Dressing
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup raw honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper
- sea salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
For the Kale Salad
- 2 bunches kale about 12 ounces
- 2 pears
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups pecan halves
- 5 ounces crumbled blue cheese
- To prepare the apple cider vinaigrette, mince or grate garlic cloves. Add it along with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, crushed red pepper, sea salt, and black pepper to a sealable container. Seal and shake until dressing is uniform.
- Chop kale into bite-sized pieces and remove large ends of stems. Add to a large bowl and pour prepared dressing over top.
- Use hands to toss and squeeze kale to ensure it is well coated with dressing then cover and let sit for at least one hour. Meanwhile, chop pears into one-inch pieces.
- Mix in chopped pears, dried cranberries, pecans, and crumbled blue cheese before serving.
- Refrigerate any uneaten salad in an airtight container for up to 10 days.