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The best kale salad for kale newbies (or for a crowd!)

If you’re looking for an easy kale salad recipe that is also a crowd pleaser, this one is for for you! It has just enough sweetness from the oranges and cherries and a soft crunch from the pistachios. Plus, it doubles well and makes amazing leftovers.

Kale is one of my go-to’s for salads because it’s hearty (i.e. filling), has great chew (i.e. no soggy lettuce!) and makes great leftovers (doesn’t get sad and gross in the fridge). I know lots of people are a little intimidated by kale or have a bad impression of it, and I’m here to change that!

Easy kale salad recipe

This is my go-to salad to take to dinner parties. The last dinner I took it to included two teenagers who both went back for seconds. That’s a winner in my book! Plus, it has just a few ingredients so it’s quick the pull together and can be made in advance.

kale salad recipe

How do you soften kale for a salad?

I love raw kale raw in salad but for kale newbies, it can be a bit intense, requiring more chewing than romaine or spinach. To improve that, you want to massage your kale. After you wash it and spin it dry, pat it to remove even more moisture. Then, drizzle olive oil on top – not a ton, start with a small amount – and use your hands to massage it into the kale. Just grab the leaves and mash them a bit! It will soften the leaves so you don’t feel like it’s difficult to chew and eat!

I much prefer the lacinato kale that is on the stalk rather than pre-washed/pre-chopped kale. Yes, you have to wash it and tear the leaves off the stalk. But all the pre-chopped kale I’ve seen has the stalks in it and that is serious chewing! No thanks. If you buy pre-washed baby kale (often at Trader Joes), you don’t need to massage it but it will have a different look and taste! And I don’t find it quite as filling as lacinato kale.  Curly kale is good too, but again lacinato (aka dinosaur kale) is my favorite!

How long will massaged kale salad keep

It will last 3-4 days! And he longer it sits, the softer the kale will get. I made a double batch of this recipe for a family dinner last Sunday and it was still tasty 3 days later. Great leftovers with chicken!

massaged kale salad

Massage Kale Salad with oranges, pistachios and cherries

serve 6-8 as a side dish


  • 2 bunches lacinato/dinosaur kale
  • 3-5 mandarin oranges, peeled and divided into segments – see note
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries (no sugar added) – see note
  • 1-3 teaspoons olive oil, for massaging
  • White Balsamic Dressing to taste – recipe below


  1. Pull the kale off the stems and tear into smaller pieces. Place in a salad spinner, wash well and then dry well. I dab it with a paper towel after spinning to get all the water off. Place kale in a large salad bowl.
  2. Drizzle olive oil over the kale and massage it into the leaves with your hands until coated and the leaves start to shrink in size a bit. You want just a enough to coat the leaves but not a heavy dressing.
  3. Add the mandarin oranges, pistachios and dried cherries.
  4. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons dressing over the top and toss to coat. Again, add just enough dressing  to lightly coat everything but not too much that it becomes heavy. Start with a smaller amount to toss, add more as necessary and serve extra dressing on the side.

The salad will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. I actually like this salad as leftovers even better since the kale softens as it sits with dressing on it!

Recipe notes:

  • You could sub dried cranberries but I prefer unsweetened cherries! Plus, cranberries have added refined sugar – no thanks!
  • I’ve also made this with blood oranges which was delicious and added gorgeous color! They have small ones at Trader Joes that were perfect. Add as many oranges as you like! 🙂

What is the best dressing for kale

Kale stands up really well to a variety of salad dressings – it makes an especially great stand-in for romaine in a caesar salad — so just pick your favorite that pairs well with whatever you’re throwing in the salad. For this combination, I really like a white balsamic dressing. You could use regular balsamic vinegar in this salad dressing too!

kale salad

White Balsamic Dressing

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • salt & pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender (I use my immersion blender) and mix until well combined and creamy. This will make enough to fill a small mason jar and will last in the fridge 7-10 days.

See more of my kale salad recipes here!

If you are interested in more salad recipes, check out my “how to build a better salad” e-book! 

My kitchen goods for this recipe!




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  • Cinnamon Vogue

    Wow perfect. I have never liked Kale and only bought Kale once. Tried to stir fry Kale and it became hard, so I use Swiss Chard and stir fry with grated coconut and shallots to make my salad. This gives me hope and the fact it can last 3-4 days is even better. The photo seems to show you put in a few Raisins too.

  • Kalynn C.

    I’ve wanted to make more homemade salad dressing, and this sounds delicious! Bonus: I already have all of the ingredients!