Massaged Kale Salad with Pomegranate & Apple

This massaged kale salad is the perfect winter salad recipe; massaging the kale makes it taste tender and sweet! It’s paired with pomegranate seeds and an apple cider vinaigrette.

Massaged Kale Salad with Apple and Pomegranate | A Couple Cooks

Meet your new favorite salad: the massaged kale salad. Massaged what? We know, we know. Massaging kale might sound strange—and maybe a little odd (like something out of Portlandia). And yes, it’s a little of both. The massage tenderizes the kale and removes the bitter taste, leaving soft and lightly sweet leaves that are suitable as salad greens. We combined the kale with apple, pomegranate seeds, and an apple cider vinaigrette, and it was a delicious side salad for a cozy meal. Keep reading for the massaged kale salad recipe and more about massaging—yes massaging!—your favorite green vegetable.

Massaged Kale Salad with Apple and Pomegranate | A Couple Cooks

How to massage kale

OK really: how to massage kale? Well, it’s exactly as it sounds. You take the kale leaves and you, well, massage them! The cool thing about massaging the kale leaves is that it makes them tender and sweet tasting instead of crisp and bitter tasting. If you’ve ever tried raw kale, you know what I’m talking about! A raw kale leaf isn’t something to write home about. But after it’s been massaged….well, it’s a different story!

To massage kale, you first destem the kale and chop it into pieces. Then you sprinkle it with a pinch of kosher salt. Then, coat your hands with a few drops of olive oil and massage the kale leaves for 2 to 3 minutes until all pieces are tender. That’s it! It sounds mystifying but it’s actually very simple. And you can taste the difference right away.

How to plan a menu

This massaged kale salad is a fantastic component for a fall or winter menu. Are you planning a menu? Putting together dishes that complement each other is difficult. For me, this was the hardest part of cooking for me when I started. I would pour over books with menu plans trying to understand the art of putting together a cohesive menu. Here are a few menu planning tips we use

  • Create contrasts. Think about contrasting elements, both between recipes and within recipes. This bright and crisp kale pomegranate salad pairs well with mushy, savory comfort foods that are typical in fall or winter.
  • Think in colors. This salad adds a well needed burst of color to a fall or winter tablescape. When planning a menu, we always think of the colors that are represented in all of the dishes: since we eat with our eyes first!
  • Focus on nutrients. A crisp green massaged kale salad is a great way to bring in needed nutrients to a fall or winter meal, which can tend towards heavier comfort food.

A few timer saver tips for integrating this massaged kale salad into a meal: you can chop the kale in advance and massage before serving. In some grocery stores, you can also find seeded pomegranate, which can help with the prep time. And of course, you can whisk up the dressing in advance and refrigerate: just bring it to room temperature before serving.

Looking for Thanksgiving recipes?

This massaged kale salad is a lovely idea for Thanksgiving! Here are few more Thanksgiving recipes on A Couple Cooks:

Looking for more salad recipes?

Outside of this massaged kale salad recipe, here are a few more salad recipes on A Couple Cooks:

This recipe is…

This massaged kale pomegranate salad is vegetarian, vegan, plant based, dairy free, naturally sweet, and refined sugar free.


Massaged Kale Salad with Apple and Pomegranate

1 Star (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 1)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: American


This massaged kale salad is the perfect winter salad recipe; massaging the kale makes it taste tender and sweet! It’s paired with apple cider vinaigrette.


  • 2 bunches curly kale
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 apple
  • Kosher salt


  1. Clean the kale and tear the leaves from the stem. Cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the kale with 1 pinch kosher salt. Coat your hands with a few drops of olive oil and massage the kale leaves for 2 to 3 minutes until all pieces are tender.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, chili powder, and 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt. Gradually whisk in the olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time.
  4. Break the pecans into bite-sized pieces and place them in a dry skillet. Toast them over medium heat until fragrant, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat immediately.
  5. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate: cut the pomegranate in quarters and place them in a large bowl of water. Under the water, start to gently pull out the seeds with your fingers. Eventually you’ll be able to turn the peel inside out to extract the seeds closest to the outer skin. As you work, the pomegranate seeds will sink to the bottom, while the white pith from the fruit will float to the top. When all of the seeds are extracted, skim off the white pith and strain out the water.
  6. When ready to serve, julienne the apple by cutting it into matchsticks–or simply chop it into bite-sized pieces. Combine all ingredients and drizzle lightly with the dressing. (Parmesan shavings are also a nice garnish if desired.)

Keywords: Kale Salad, Massaged Kale Salad, How to Massage Kale, Pomegranate, Kale Pomegranate Salad, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free


About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    dixya@food, pleasure, and health
    November 16, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    this is so the color and flavors.

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    November 17, 2014 at 1:17 am

    This looks like the perfect addition to your menu. The matchstick apples really make this look pretty!

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Thanks for the tip about massaging kale before putting it into a salad! I’m going to try that out. Lovely recipe and beautiful photos. I love your alternative Thanksgiving recipes – so healthy and fresh.

  • Reply
    November 17, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I think your holiday menu tips are actually great tips for eating in general, focusing on the colours and textures within a meal can make all the difference and is such a simple way to improve your diet. Such great flavours in this salad!

  • Reply
    Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
    November 17, 2014 at 10:34 am

    I agree, sometimes it gets overwhelming to get everything figured out for a holiday meal, but this salad is too perfect!

  • Reply
    Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth
    November 17, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Wow – two of my favorite ingredients in one salad! You can an never go wrong with kale and pomegranates in my book. This beautiful salad looks scrumptious!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Show Me the Yummy
    November 17, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Love massaged kale! Your menu looks perfect and nothing that will leave you feeling tired and weighed down!

  • Reply
    Katie @ Whole Nourishment
    November 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    These are great tips Sonja, especially the one to focus on a few ingredients and stream them throughout the meal. This is a great idea for a dinner party or holiday meal alike. And this is a beautifully simple salad. Love the chili powder in the dressing.

  • Reply
    Liz @ Floating Kitchen
    November 17, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Your menu looks great! Can I come? This salad is perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas too. What wonderful colors!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Yum! This looks great! My husband is not a fan of mustard – do you have any suggestions for what I could use as a substitute in the dressing instead of mustard? OR could I just leave it out? Thanks!

    • Reply
      November 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      I would probably just leave it out — or make a small bowl separately for him :)

  • Reply
    November 24, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    This recipe looks spectacular! I live in Germany, so I was wondering what a “bunch” is in terms of grams. Kale tends to be sold by weight here in a bag or loose with the leaves already taken from the stems. Thanks in advance!

    • Reply
      November 24, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      Since it’s a salad, you don’t have to be too exact. I’d say a bunch is roughly 12 ounces or 350 grams.

  • Reply
    October 12, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I just made this for Canadian thanksgiving and it went down a storm! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe

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