It doesn’t get any simpler than this Massaged Kale Salad with Sesame-Lime Dressing. You need just a handful of ingredients to get your hands full of this side dish. Ready in just 10 minutes!
Salads shouldn’t be dull or boring. And if you know me, you already know I’m all about #SaladsThatDontSuck. But when it comes to kale salads, unfortunately, I’ve had more sucky ones than not.
And it comes down to one thing: raw kale!
Kale wears such a health halo, believed to be the most nutritious dark leafy green of them all. But as a dietitian, I’m always reminding folks that it’s only good nutrition if the food is good enough to eat. Meaning, if you don’t enjoy the endless chewing to break down fibrous leaves of raw kale, you’ll probably reach to just about anything else.
This Massaged Kale Salad with Sesame Lime Dressing is the antidote to boring kale salads. Better yet, the massaging process breaks it down into something tender and flavorful and totally delicious. It takes just a handful of simple ingredients and a few minutes to make!
Why You’ll Love This Massaged Kale Salad
- It’s fresh, lightly-dressed, and packed with nutrients like plant-based protein, vitamin C, and fiber.
- The tangy sesame-lime dressing is super simple with no mixing required, so there’s fewer prep dishes to clean afterwards.
- Kale is a hearty option for meal prep, so grab an airtight container if you want to enjoy it all week long.
There are so many delicious ways to make kale taste amazing, but this is my favorite way to enjoy it during the summer. How good does this look?!
Ingredients You’ll Need
This simple kale salad recipe uses common ingredients in what I think is an interesting way. I want to have enough color, texture, and (most importantly) flavor to make it satisfying without complicating the process. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Kale. Grab the common curly kale from the produce section of your grocery store. While you might see different types of kale like lacinato kale (also called dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale), I think those varieties are better suited for soups, stews, or other cooked recipes instead of salad recipes.
- Red cabbage
- Green onions
- Slivered almonds
- Toasted sesame oil
- Limes or lime juice
- Honey or maple syrup. You just need a little hint of sweetness, so if you need a fully vegan kale salad, go with maple syrup or any other sweetener you prefer.
- Coarse sea salt
You’ll also need a large mixing bowl, clean hands, salad tongs, and maybe a salad spinner if that’s helpful for you. I think if you plan to make fresh salads on the regular, it’s worth investing in one. They’re bulky and kind of annoying to store, but so worth it because all great salads start with washed and dried leafy greens!
Why Massage the Kale?
It might seem weird to think about massaging a bunch of kale…but don’t make it weird. There’s a very good reason for showing your kale a little TLC!
Kale leaves are fibrous and dense, especially compared to other leafy greens. They can be tough with a bitter flavor, especially when served raw in salads. Massaging the kale helps break down the structure of the kale leaves so it’s easier to chew and digest. It’s sort of like mechanical digestion, or starting the breakdown process before you even take a bite.
The key components are a little oil, coarse sea salt for a gritty texture, and clean hands. You can also wear gloves if needed. The heat from your hands and a splash of citrus will help further tenderize the kale. The result is a much more pleasant texture and flavor. Just look at the difference that a little massage can make!
How to Make Massaged Kale Salad
This delicious kale salad goes from start to finish in just 10 minutes. Follow these three easy steps:
- After washing the kale and drying thoroughly, remove the stems and roughly tear or chop the leaves into small pieces. You can eyeball it, but the exact recipe estimates 6 firmly packed cups. Transfer it over to a large bowl.
- Add the sesame oil and salt. With clean hands, start to mix and squeeze the kale, gently massaging it and working it between your fingers. Continue for 2-3 minutes, or until your hands need a break! The kale will reduce in volume and turn a vibrant, dark green color.
- Add the lime juice and honey, and massage once again until well combined. Wash hands, then add the red cabbage, edamame, almonds, and green onions and toss to mix evenly. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
You can serve it right away or stash it back in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. I think a 30-60 minute chill time is just about right if you’re planning dinner for a crowd.
Swaps and Variations
Here at Street Smart Nutrition, I always try to leave plenty of options on the table so you can make these recipes your own. And this simple kale salad recipe is no different! Here are my favorite ways to make swaps or add to the basic recipe.
- Try baby kale or a mix of leafy greens with baby kale in it. Skip the massage (no need to since it’s already tender) and mix up the dressing before pouring it over the top and tossing it all together.
- Add some additional veggies to the mix, like red onion, green cabbage, matchstick carrots, avocado or sliced bell peppers.
- Instead of almonds (or if you have a nut allergy) try seeds instead. I’ve made this with sunflower seeds and it was a huge hit, but roasted and salted pumpkin seeds will also work.
- No toasted sesame oil? No problem, just swap for your favorite extra virgin olive oil. You’ll lose some of the unique flavor the sesame oil provides, but you can make up for it with a splash of soy sauce or another type of dressing.
- Other topping suggestions include parmesan cheese or feta cheese, crispy chickpeas, fresh herbs, dried fruit like sweet cranberries or cherries, or anything else from your pantry or fridge that sounds good to you!
And while I appreciate a barely-dressed salad, sometimes you just want a little more flavor coating each bite. Try this out with my Yuzu Vinaigrette, it pairs perfectly with the other ingredients!
The best way to make this recipe is to include things you like, so seriously, don’t be afraid to go “off recipe”. This salad is great for a crowd and is a perfect side dish that can balance out a heartier main dish. Or to bulk it up, split it into two servings and top with your preferred protein!
Serving and Storage
This Massaged Kale Salad with Sesame-Lime Dressing is one of those salads that actually tastes great the next day. Because the dressing is so light, and the kale is so sturdy, there’s not much to worry about to avoid a soggy salad. If anything, the kale will just be more tender and even easily to chew!
I recommend storing in an airtight container and refrigerating for up to four days. For best results, leave the slivered almonds out of the mixture until ready to serve. They’re the one ingredient that will lose some firmness over time. When you’re ready to eat, just pop the top open and dig in! It will be chilled and ready to enjoy whenever you are.
Save this post so you can find these tips easily, plus the full recipe for my Massaged Kale Salad with Sesame-Lime Dressing!
Massaged Kale Salad with Sesame-Lime Dressing
- 6 cups fresh kale, chopped and tightly packed
- 1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1 1/2 cup red cabbage, shredded
- 1 cup shelled edamame
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced, or about 1/3 cup
- 1/2 lime, juiced, or about 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp honey or agave nectar
- salt and pepper to taste
- After washing the kale and drying thoroughly, remove the stems and roughly chop or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Measure approximately 6 cups, tightly packed. Transfer the chopped kale to a large mixing bowl.
- Add the toasted sesame oil and salt. With clean hands, start to mix and squeeze the kale, gently massaging it and working it between your fingers. Continue for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the kale is reduced to about half its original volume and it becomes vibrant, dark green in color.
- Add the lime juice and honey, and massage once again until well combined. Wash hands, then add the cabbage, edamame, almonds, and green onions and toss to mix evenly. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes before serving.
If this easy massaged kale salad turned you into a fan of kale, leave a rating or comment and let me know what you think!
And as always, thanks for stopping by the Street Smart Nutrition blog! You can find more and follow along on Instagram and YouTube, and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter so you never miss a new post. Cheers to more fearlessly nourishing meals!
This post was originally published in January 2017. It has since been updated to improve the overall quality of the information and/or images.