This crunchy Kale Salad is loaded with flavor and nutrition!
Spring and summer are the perfect time of year for crunchy, colorful salads. This one is low on calories but loaded with nutrition! A quinoa-based salad provides a burst of protein. Add fiber-filled kale, and a touch of sweet cranberry and it’s a recipe for success. Toss it together in a bright lemon vinaigrette that energizes. Just like the iconic Caesar Salad, a kale salad is a hearty, healthy side that will be on menu rotation all year long.
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Crisp Kale Salad
- Kale’s superfood status makes it a healthy choice to add to a breakfast, lunch, or dinner recipe. And kale has antioxidants, vitamins C, K, and iron to make it a perfect addition to soups, stews, stir-fries, and casseroles.
- Kale salad can be made in advance and kept cold until ready to toss with the dressing. The dressing can also be used as a stir fry sauce or stirred into rice for a quick and easy side dish!
- Can be served as an entrée salad with shredded chicken, smoked salmon, or diced tofu!
- Scoop kale salad into a pita bread pocket or a low-carb wrap for a delicious grab-and-go lunch!
- Try adding chopped kale to a Creamy Coleslaw, or a hearty Hamburger Soup Recipe. Or serve this elegant salad with Smoked Baby Back Ribs or Air Fryer Buttermilk Fried Chicken.
Ingredients and Variations
THE BASE: Quinoa and kale make up the base of this amazing salad. But quinoa can be mixed with or substituted with long grain brown rice. For extra green leafy vegetables, kale can be mixed with arugula, spinach or romaine lettuce.
ADD INS: Cranberries, sunflower seeds, and Parmesan cheese round out the flavor profile. Other healthy add-ins can be whole cherry tomatoes, raw or roasted beets, diced sweet potatoes, or quartered brussels sprouts. Try adding in avocado slices, and chopped red or green apples. Feta or bleu cheese crumbles will give the salad a tangier flavor over the parmesan.
How to Cut Kale for Salad
Massaging kale makes it tender and flavorful—plus it becomes easier to chew and digest. To get the best results, cut off the stems and then chop it into desired sizes. Place it in a large bowl and cover hands with olive oil, then gently massage the leaves until they become a darker green color.
As mentioned in the Kale Quinoa Salad recipe, my preferred way is to simply chope the kale finely with a sharp knife. I find that finely chopped kale melds very nicely with the kale salad dressing and that massaging is not needed for this cold quinoa salad.
How to Make Kale Salad
In a pinch for time? Buy pre-packaged baby kale that doesn’t need trimming or massaging.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients (per recipe below) & chill in the refrigerator.
- Cook & cool the quinoa.
- Add all salad ingredients (and a preferred protein source) to a large bowl & toss with dressing.
PRO TIP: Sauté sunflower seeds in a small pan until they are barely fragrant. Let them cool before adding to the salad. Toasting nuts for any recipe intensifies their flavor and makes them extra crunchy.
Keep kale salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Refresh it by tossing with additional dressing or a squeeze of fresh lemon. Store extra dressing in a cruet or mason jar in the refrigerator and it will last about 10 days.
Other Easy Salad Recipes To Try!
- Thai Quinoa Salad – full of flavor!
- Black Bean Corn Salad – a favorite recipe.
- Greek Salad Recipe – classic salad.
- Chickpea Salad – hearty and delicious.
- 2 cups cooked quinoa cooled (cook according to package directions), approximately ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
- 3 cups kale
- ¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
To serve as a meal or lunch
- 2 cups chicken chopped, optional*
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or dried oregano
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
- In a large bowl (or a separate small bowl), whisk together dressing ingredients.
- Add quinoa, kale, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and parmesan cheese to large bowl. Toss with dressing to combine.
- Top with chicken if using, or add in and toss chicken with the kale and quinoa if preferred.
- Garnish and serve with additional cranberries, seeds, and/ or parmesan cheese as desired.
Nutrition information does not include optional ingredients or garnish and is an estimate. It may change based on actual ingredients and cooking methods used.
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Adapted from Kale Quinoa Salad, inspired by Jo Cooks