Northern Spy's Kale Salad

January 6, 2012

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

This salad is ideal for making ahead for company (or tomorrow's lunch) and has been a mainstay on the menu at Northern Spy Food Co. in Manhattan's East Village since they opened in 2009. The kabocha is traded out with the seasons for things like fresh apricots, kohlrabi, or patty pan squash -- slices of apple or persimmon are also good when you don't feel like waiting for the squash to roast. Unless you wind up with especially burly kale, there's no need to massage the dressing into this salad, unlike others with raw kale.

Genius Recipes

Food52 Review: Featured in: Our Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes.The Editors

Serves: 2
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 40 min


  • 1/2 cup cubed kabocha, butternut, or other winter squash
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch kale (preferably lacinato or dinosaur kale), ribs removed and finely sliced, about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1/4 cup almonds, cut roughly in half
  • 1/4 cup crumbled or finely chopped Cabot clothbound cheddar (or any good, aged cheddar -- if you can't find aged cheddar, use Parmesan)
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Pecorino or other hard cheese, for shaving (optional)
In This Recipe


  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Toss squash cubes in just enough olive oil to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet (lined with parchment for easier cleanup), leaving space between the cubes. Roast in the oven until tender and caramelized, about 40 minutes, tossing with a spatula every 10-15 minutes. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the same oven until they start to smell nutty, tossing once, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with the almonds, cheddar and squash. Season to taste with lemon juice and olive oil (approximately 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Divide salad between two plates or shallow bowls. Garnish with shaved pecorino cheese, if desired, and serve.

More Great Recipes:
Salad|American|Kale|Lemon Juice|Vegetable|Make Ahead|Sunday Dinner|Christmas|Fall|Hanukkah|Thanksgiving|Winter

Reviews (82) Questions (3)

82 Reviews

Carol B. January 14, 2019
I regularly make this on Sunday night for lunches during the week. I never eat it the day I make it; somehow it tastes better the next day. Great with acorn squash.
SmallLion December 26, 2018
This is one of those perfect dishes that becomes a go to. Don't have butternut? Try persimmon, pear, apple, kabocha, cubed watermelon! Don't have cheddar? try manchego, chunks of parm, piave vecchio, goat cheese, haloumi. Don't have almonds? Try pecan, walnut, pine nuts, heck even cornnuts.<br />Getting tired of lemon juice + 2 parts oil for dressing? add 1 tbs tahini and garlic; mayo and smashed anchovy; or miso and grated carrot... This recipes is amazingly forgiving and flexible. I love that it skips the whole "massage the kale" step.
Sharon H. December 17, 2017
Hello from Vancouver BC Canada. When you grow your own kale and it freezes as it does here and many other places on the planet, there is no need to massage the leaves.fBeing kissed by frost tenderizes the leaves and makes them sweeter - sugar is nature's antifreeze basically.
Debra November 21, 2017
How far in advance can I make this salad. Trying not to leave everything for the big day (Thanksgiving) when the house will be filled with overnight guests
Kristen M. November 23, 2017
Debra, I'm so sorry for the delay—I hope you were able to make this at least a day in advance to get it out of your way. Happy Thanksgiving!
Susan May 12, 2017
Massaging the kale? Can someone please teach me how exactly one should do this?
Gal August 2, 2017
Massaging is a process of physically breaking down the kale to make it easier to digest. Basically, because kale is such a tough green and its texture isn't great, it needs to be broken down a bit. <br />Massaging it raw for 2-3 minutes with your hands prior to eating is like pre-digesting the kale. After massaging, the kale will become more vibrant green and softer in texture. It will also decrease in volume.
judy March 15, 2017
I have been eating kale salads regularly, too. But rather than massaging deeply--I don;t want dressing all over my hands--wasteful. I just toss the kale in the dressing first and let it soak with seeds like pumpkin and sunflower. These get softened as well. My teeth are not as strong as in the past. Then the dressing is well-soaked, kale and seeds are softened and then I toss in whatever else I am going to put in. Works great. I was wondering when it says Northern Spy, I was looking for apples in the ingredient list. I add apples and other fruits in my salads often. Nice dressing.
Bluerroses December 29, 2016
I tried microwaving before peeling, a new technique for wrangling winter squash. It worked out fine, and I didn't feel I was taking my life in my hands as I do when I prep raw squash. My kale was a bit tough, so I microwave-steamed wet, cut-up leaves for 90 seconds. I used blue cheese and added golden raisins along with the almonds. The result was delicious, something I'll make again and again. Thanks everyone for your helpful comments!
Sue November 11, 2016
Sounds delicious. LOVE the salad bowl! Any idea where I can get one?
Kristen M. November 11, 2016
I sure do!
cookinalong November 9, 2016
Love this and have made it loads of times since it first appeared. It's wonderful as is, but just as good with bleu cheese or gorgonzola, and some chopped apples go down well, too.
Whats4Dinner November 5, 2016
I've been making kale salads more frequently lately as my son needs to keep light weight for rowing. I ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS vigorously "massage" the finely chopped, de-ribbed kale in the dressing before adding the other ingredients. This "deep massage" makes the kale much more delightful and accepting of the dressing flavoring. Tonight, those other ingredients happen to be cubed baked sweet potato, chopped green apple, dried cranberries, radishes, roasted pumpkin seeds, all topped with grilled salmon. Oh, in a dijon vinaigrette. We are dairy-free in this house
judy November 5, 2016
I make kale salads almost daily, as my husband is on Warfarin. By eating kale 4-6 days a week he keeps his pro-time down and can use about half the usual dosing of warfarin.. I have trouble with how coarse this vegetable is and difficulty chewing it. When I use it raw, I make it about 20 minutes before eating, and then let the ingredients marinate. No rubbing required. This version should be delicious. I have a squash waiting for a roasting and a special use. I thin it will go great with our grass fed steak and baked potato. The new idea here for me is that it would keep for a few days. I usually only make enough for that meal Sounds like a couple of good lunches for the office this upcoming week! Thank you.
Hana November 18, 2016
That's not quite how the interaction with kale (Vitamin K) and warfarin works. I urge your husband to talk to his physician or pharmacist about dietary interactions.
Andrea M. September 28, 2016
How is this so good? (It is).
Ttrockwood March 27, 2016
I was so sad to hear that Northern Spy closed a few months ago- i loved ordering this salad there. I made this recipe last week and doubled it to bring for lunches. I massaged the kale to help it soften and used cubed smoked tofu instead of the cheese- really delicious!! And what i love about kale salads like this is how they are just as tasty even two days later! <br />Next time i might add in some chickpeas or lentils to make it more of a meal salad
NotTooSweet October 25, 2015
I've had this on my list of recipes to try for SO long but it just never seemed like it could really be as delicious as the comments and the number of people who have it as a favorite would indicate. Happy to say I was totally wrong. I had made roasted butternut squash the night before and had some leftover so it was a good time to give this salad a try. I reheated the squash so we would have the contrast of warm with cold and the whole salad was just wonderful. If you are hesitating as I did, please don't! I do not plan to second guess the Food52 community again.
Petite F. May 13, 2015
My friend made this for me after much talk. IT WAS Fabulous!! great texture and flavor. I also added red cabbage and spinach with beans for protein. AWesome!<br /> Thx for sharing...
Andrea April 24, 2015
I made this a few nights ago and really enjoyed it. It was a hit with everyone at the dinner table. The kale I bought was a little on the tough side so I gave it a good massage. I nearly always cook kale or put it into juices so having it in a raw salad was a nice change of pace. I'll definitely put it into my more regular rotation.
Lilismom April 13, 2015
I do not like lemon in my salads. Will a good vinegar work at well?
NancyJ January 25, 2015
Hate to be so late to the party. I have never had kale before - always thought of it as the greenery between meats in the butcher case. I made this salad tonight, not lacinto or dinosaur kale available. It was unexpectedly delicious! And if it keeps 'til tomorrow - better yet.
Lo January 20, 2015
I don't get it. Maybe its because I'm a vegetarian and eat salads all the time but this seemed really plain to me. It was a big let down. I even went to a special cheese store and got really good cheese for this... and I massaged the kale... Did anybody else think this was incredibly plain tasting?? I'm confused how this is a genius recipe.
jcasare December 9, 2017
Viney February 16, 2018
Agree. Confusing. Maybe folks who don't eat a lot of massaged kale salads?
Adam G. January 13, 2015
I make a recipe very similar to this, I'll have to try this because it sounds absolutely fantastic!<br /><br />One note, some people are commenting about the toughness of the raw kale. One thing that may help is if you firmly 'massage' the kale with a sprinkle of sea salt to help draw out a bit of moisture and break down the large fibers in the kale. I find that it helps most if you do it once you've cut it down to size!