This lemony kale salad with Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, and tangy capers shows the best kale salads are sometimes the most simple.
When compared to the bounty of loaded kale salads here on the site, some could classify this one as a simple side (which it is) but when tossed with more veggies or a little extra protein (think crispy chickpeas or grilled Greek chicken breast) it’s also the beginnings of a fully fulfilling and satisfying main-meal lunch or dinner.
Brightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lots of fresh, tangy lemon juice, this kale salad is massaged into tender tendrils of dark leafy greens. It’s punctuated with the salty notes of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and capers balanced with the earthy crunch of toasted pine nuts. Even in its simplicity, this is not your average kale salad.
The Best Kale for Salad
When eating raw in salads, I like lacinato kale, also known as Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale. Lacinato kale leaves are less bitter and more mild-tasting than other types like curly kale, making it an excellent candidate for enjoying raw.
Kale Salad Ingredients
- Lacinato kale (also known as Tuscan or dinosaur kale)
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Champagne or white wine vinegar
- Finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Toasted pine nuts (toast in a dry pan over medium-low heat)
- Capers for little salty tangy bites (if not a fan, you can leave them out)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
How to Make Kale Less Bitter for Eating Raw in Salads
First, trim out the rib and stem from the kale leaves. Kale stems are extra fibrous and tough and not so tasty when eaten raw. Slide a sharp knife down the spine of the leaves, cut out the stem, and discard.
Slice the kale into thin strips. Eating a forkful of raw, fibrous, leafy kale is a far different experience than eating tender spring lettuces. There’s a reason this stuff grows heartily in the cold. That’s why fresh kale tastes best sliced into thin strips when eaten raw.
Get in there and massage those kale leaves. Hearty to the core, raw kale tastes best when massaged into submission. Drizzle the leaves with half of the lemony dressing and work your fingers into the leaves until they become soft, tender, and glossy.
Add the Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, capers—and more dressing! This salad’s hearty leaves can handle plenty of dressing and even benefits from it, so don’t be fearful of using too much. Toss everything together and add more dressing to taste.
Let the salad rest before serving. Once the salad has been dressed, let it stand for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. It can be refrigerated and eaten as leftovers for 1-2 days and still taste pretty dang good.
Salad Substitutions and Variations
- Use balsamic vinegar in the dressing instead of the champagne or white wine vinegar, or use my Dijon vinaigrette dressing with 1-2 tablespoons additional lemon juice
- Add dried fruit like cranberries or currants, or toss in fresh blueberries
- Try other types of toasted nuts like almonds, pistachios, or candied pecans
- Substitute the Parmesan cheese with blue cheese crumbles, gorgonzola, or goat cheese
- Add baked chicken breast, grilled shrimp, cannellini beans or roasted chickpeas
What to Serve With Kale Salad
- Baked Chicken Parmesan
- How to Make the Best Grilled Salmon
- Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
- Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Crostini
- Baked Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Marinara
More Kale Salad Recipe Ideas
- Kale Salad with Quinoa and Shrimp
- Kale Caesar Pasta Salad
- Chopped Mexican Kale Salad
- Kale Salad with Cranberries, Apple and Cheddar Cheese
- Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing
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