On the Cheap

How to Make Kale Salad Without a Recipe

January 13, 2014

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Kale is in every kitchen and on every menu these days. But don't pass it off as just another trend -- there's a reason it won't go away. 

Kale Salad Not Recipes from Food52

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The other day, a friend of mine declared that she’s "over" kale salad. I get it. I really do. Kale salad is everywhere: online, in restaurants, in juice bars. I even spotted some at an airport recently. But please, don’t be put off by the trend. Kale salad has gotten popular because it is simply that good. Yeah, it’s healthy as heck, but it’s also versatile and delicious. It’s hearty, and it holds up to denser fillings than your average bowl of frisee or mesclun. And unlike most salad, the next day leftovers are even better than the original batch.

More: 8 Kale Salads

Like all salads, kale salad is easy to make without a recipe, using your favorite salad mix-ins as you go. My kale salads often serve as an entire meal, which means that I pile them high with robust fillings: beans, sweet potatoes, nuts, and seeds. I also love throwing in some torn herbs and/or lemon zest for extra flavor at the end. Recently, my friends at Food52 inspired me to try breadcrumbs on my salads: added crunch, but less commitment than croutons. 

What you should know before you start is that it’s going to wilt down significantly, right in front of your eyes as you "massage" the dressing into the kale. So if you’ve just washed, chopped, and dried your curly kale, and it seems as though you’ve got a mountain of green leafy vegetable on your hands, take heart. It’s going to be OK. As soon as you dress the kale, you’ll be dealing with reasonable portion sizes. I routinely polish off what looks like a giant bowl of kale in two servings. Or even one. 

How to Make Kale Salad Without a Recipe

1. Whisk together your vinaigrette. I like to use a simple 2:1 olive oil to lemon dressing, with some dijon mustard and maple syrup added for extra flavor. Apple cider vinegar and flax oil, whisked together with dijon mustard and nutritional yeast, is another favorite. Sometimes I add curry powder or turmeric to my vinaigrette for an added kick. If you like, you can use only a small amount of olive oil, and then use some acid (vinegar or lemon) and avocado as your dressing instead. 

How to Make Kale Salad Without a Recipe from Food52


2. Add your dressing to the salad. You may want to start with a small amount, incorporate it, and then add more as needed.

How to Make Kale Salad Without a Recipe from Food52


3. Massage your dressing into the salad. Get your hands dirty! The more you rub dressing into the greens, the softer and more palatable they’ll become. Some bunches of kale are more tender than others. If you have a very tender bunch, you won’t need to spend as much time on dressing. 

How to Make Kale Salad Without a Recipe from Food52


4. Go crazy with add ons. My favorites include legumes, sweet potato, new potato (any potato, honestly), nuts and seeds, herbs, leftover soba noodles, tempeh, tofu, leftover roasted vegetables from last night’s dinner, and whatever raw veggies sound good (carrots, beets, celery, peppers). This is a great chance to clean your fridge out and get creative. 

How to Make Kale Salad Without a Recipe from Food52


5. Serve, and be reminded that there’s no such thing as too many kale salads.  

Kale Salad Not Recipes from Food52

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Photos by James Ransom

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.

1 Comment

Miachel P. January 15, 2014
Love this! Massaging the kale sounds weird but is so much fun.