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This simple and vibrant kale salad will become your go-to! Juicy lemon, salty Parmesan, and a touch of garlic cover the tender leaves for a refreshing, flavor-packed bite.

Kale salad

Are you ready for the best way to eat kale? This simple kale salad recipe has the power to transform hearts and minds everywhere. After one bite, you’ll agree that those green leaves smothered in a lemony, garlicky Parmesan dressing can only be one thing: irresistibly delicious! Tender kale gets a vibrant boost from juicy lemon, salty Parmesan, fresh garlic and olive oil. We’ve served this easy salad to so many guests and it always gets rave reviews, like: This is the best kale salad ever! Who knew that eating raw kale could taste so good?

Best kale for this salad: Tuscan kale

There are a few types of kale you can find at the grocery store. Most mainstream groceries carry both Tuscan kale and curly kale, found in large bunches in the produce section. The best type for this kale salad recipe is Tuscan kale. It has a milder, sweeter flavor and is more suited for a salad where you’re eating the kale raw. If you can’t find it, curly kale works too! Here’s the difference between the varieties:

  • Tuscan kale has dark green, flat leaves. It’s also sometimes called Lacinato or dinosaur kale, because the pattern on the leaves looks scaly like a dinosaur skin. The flavor of Tuscan kale is milder and sweeter than curly kale.
  • Curly kale is brighter green and very curly! Its raw flavor is a little more bitter and spicy, but it can still work in this salad due to the strength of the flavors in the dressing.
Types of kale

How to make kale salad: basic steps

Raw kale can taste pretty bitter. But add a flavor popping Italian-style vinaigrette of lemon, Parmesan cheese, and garlic, and the kale mellows to meld beautifully with the other flavors. Even better: the sturdy texture of the kale holds up well in a salad, and provides an extra crunch when eating. When we make this salad, we can’t stop eating it! Here are the main steps to make this kale salad (or skip to the recipe):

  • Prep the kale: Destem and chop the kale.
  • Make the garlicky Parmesan dressing: start by using your knife blade to form the garlic into a paste. Mince the garlic, then add salt and scrape the blade back and forth over the garlic until it forms into a paste. Mix the garlic paste with lemon, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
  • Serve: Add the dressing and top with lemon zest. Add croutons or even a showering of panko or crunchy breadcrumbs if you like.
Kale salad recipe

Variation: kale Caesar salad

Love a good Caesar dressing instead? Kale Caesar Salad is another way to enjoy a good kale salad, and it’s similar to this one. Instead, whip up our favorite homemade Caesar dressing to coat the kale leaves. The creamy dressing is irresistibly tasty, and we like it showered with crunchy panko breadcrumbs.

Kale nutrition

Why eat this kale salad recipe? Leafy greens like kale are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Eating more kale is a great way to increase the total nutrient content of your diet! So making this salad makes sense all around. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Kale is full of nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s packed with beta carotene and Vitamin K, and contains 10% of your daily vitamin C.
  • 1 cup of raw kale has 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of protein. Because of its low calorie content, kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods on earth. It also has a relatively high protein content for a green vegetable.
Kale salad

How to chop kale for salad

What’s the best way to stem or chop kale for this kale salad? We’ve toyed with various methods over the years, but we’ve finally ended up with one that is slick and simple:

  • Fold the leaves of the kale together and hold them with your non-cutting hand.
  • Cut off the tough stem with a large chef’s knife.
  • Roll up the kale leaves and cut them into slices, using a circular motion with the knife.
  • Rotate the slices and chop them in the other direction to make small pieces. Repeat for all the kale leaves.

Ways to serve this kale salad

This kale salad is classic and the perfect green salad to pair with for all sorts of dinner recipes. It goes particularly well with Italian recipes, but it truly pairs well with anything! It works in fall, winter, spring or anytime. Here are a few dinner recipes we’d pair it with:

More kale recipes

There are so many ways to cook this wholesome leafy green! Here are a few more favorite kale recipes:

This kale salad recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, plant-based and dairy-free, omit the cheese.

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Kale salad

The Best Kale Salad

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 modest servings 1x


This simple and vibrant kale salad will become your go-to! Juicy lemon, salty Parmesan, and a touch of garlic cover the tender leaves for a refreshing, flavor-packed bite.


  • 1 large bunch Tuscan kale (about 8 ounces)*
  • 1 very small or 1/2 medium garlic clove
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon (3 to 4 tablespoons juice, plus zest)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Homemade croutons (optional)


  1. Wash and dry the kale. Then destem and roughly chop the kale leaves.
  2. Peel and mince the garlic clove. Sprinkle it with the kosher salt, then holding the blunt edge of the knife, scrape the sharp edge of the blade over the minced garlic, holding the knife at an angle and mashing the garlic into a paste.
  3. Place the paste in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and fresh ground black pepper, and whisk to combine. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
  4. Toss the dressing with the kale leaves. Serve topped with lemon zest (and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired).  If desired, serve with homemade croutons.


*1 bunch of kale makes a moderate serving size of 4: consider doubling the recipe if feeding hungry eaters.

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Kale Salad, kale Salad recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. You All Are A Blessing 🙌 I’m 62 Years of Age Now I’m Back on Treating My Temple Right… Thank you …

  2. Hi! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. It looks so YUMMY and simple! I am making it this week! I was curious… how long does the dressing stay good for? I’ll probably double the recipe, but wanted to know how long you’d advise it be kept in the fridge once everything is mixed together?

    1. Great question! I think it would last for 1 to 2 days. The olive oil will solidify in the fridge so just leave it at room temp for about 10 minutes before you go to dress the salad. Hope you enjoy!

  3. No way, I’m going to post a similar recipe soon, too! I can see some similar vibes here, eheh! :) I had a Tuscan kale day yesterday, cooking different recipes with cavolo nero, and loved it and its versatility in the kitchen!