If you’ve ever wondered why some people suggest massaging kale before eating it, you’ve come to the right place.
We’re here to share the how and why of massaging kale, plus our go-to kale salad for hosting. Let’s do this!
This 15-minute, 6-ingredient salad starts with the kale — our favorite variety being curly. Here’s why:
Best Kale for Massaged Kale Salad
Because some kale varieties are more delicate than others, we suggest using curly kale for massaging because it’s quite hearty, fibrous, and benefits from a good massage.
Lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur or Tuscan kale) can be a bit too tender and delicate in our experience, making it not as ideal for massaging.
That being said, lacinato can still be massaged, we just prefer curly!
We love using this quick and simple method for removing the greens from the stem: Simply grab the bottom, stalky end of the stem and run your other hand upward along the stem using a tight hold to remove the greens.
When you do this, the greens break off, usually taking the top 1/2 or 2/3 of the stem with it. That’s okay! We actually love the texture the stem provides, just not the bulkier, larger portion of the stem as it can be quite fibrous and difficult to chew. (The discarded stem can either be composted or used to make DIY vegetable broth.)
Next, give your kale a chop and add it to a mixing or serving bowl.
Why Massage Kale?
The reason it’s often recommended to massage kale is simple: Kale is quite tough and fibrous and can be difficult to chew compared to other greens like romaine lettuce or spinach.
By massaging it for as little as 2-3 minutes with a little oil and/or lemon juice, it becomes more tender, making it easier to chew and digest.
The other reason is to infuse the kale with more flavor before the dressing is added.
How to Massage Kale
Our go-to method: Add chopped kale to a large bowl and top with lemon juice and olive oil. Use clean hands to massage for about 3 minutes to soften the leaves and infuse the leaves with the oil and lemon. A pinch of salt added near the end of massaging adds even more flavor.
You’ll notice in the photo below that by the end of massaging the kale gets quite glossy and is slightly reduced in volume. That’s exactly what you’re going for.
Best Dressing for Kale Salad
In all of our testing, we haven’t found a better dressing for kale than tahini! It’s a match made in salad heaven. See our favorites here:
- How to Make Tahini Dressing (Our Go-To!)
- 3-Ingredient Tahini Sauce for Everything
- Ginger Garlic Miso Tahini Dressing
- Rosemary Tahini Dressing
- Green Curry Tahini Dressing
We hope you LOVE this salad! It’s:
- Quick & easy
- & Delicious
This would make the perfect side to just about any main, especially our Easy Grillable Veggie Burgers, Sweet Potato Lasagna, or My Favorite Vegan Pizza! BONUS: We also find that it sautés nicely (even with the dressing and chickpeas) if you’re looking for a cooked version!
More Salad Recipes
- Abundance Kale Salad with Savory Tahini Dressing
- Curried Cauliflower, Grape, and Lentil Salad
- Sweet Potato Avocado Green Salad
- 5-Minute Detox Salad (No-Mix Dressing!)
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!
Easy Massaged Kale Salad (15 Minutes!)
- 2 large bundles curly kale*, large stems removed and roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (if avoiding oil, omit)
- 1 healthy pinch sea salt
- 1/3 cup tahini (see our Tahini Review!)
- 3 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup (or sub agave, or honey if not vegan)
- 1 pinch sea salt (optional)
- Water to thin (~3-6 Tbsp or 45-90 ml as original recipe is written)
- Once you’ve rinsed and dried your kale, run your hand along the stem to remove the green leaves from the stalky stem. You don’t have to remove the stem completely (we actually enjoy the top 2/3 in the salad), but be sure to compost or reserve the larger bottom stalks for DIY vegetable broth.
- Stack your stalks of kale on top of each other and finely chop. No need to mince, just cut into manageable, bite-size pieces.
- Add kale to a large mixing / serving bowl and top with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Then massage with clean hands for about 3 minutes. The point of massaging is to infuse the kale with the lemon juice and oil, and also to break down some of the tough, fibrous characteristics of kale. This makes it easier to chew and digest, and makes for a more tender salad. Season with salt, massage/toss once more, then set aside.
- Next prepare the dressing by adding tahini, lemon juice, maple syrup, and salt (optional) to a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Then slowly add water until creamy and pourable. The mixture may seize up and thicken at first, but continue adding water a little at a time, whisking until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more lemon juice for acidity, maple syrup for sweetness, or salt to taste. Set aside. (Store leftover dressing in the refrigerator up to 5-7 days — sometimes longer.)
- To serve, top with desired amount of dressing and crispy chickpeas (optional), toss, and serve. Leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator up to 3-4 days (not freezer friendly). We enjoy leftovers chilled, but also find that they sauté nicely (even with the dressing and chickpeas) if you’re looking for a cooked version.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with the lesser amount of maple syrup and without optional ingredients.
*Prep time does not include baking optional crispy chickpeas.
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