This kale pomegranate salad is the perfect winter salad recipe, pairing the sweet seeds with an apple cider vinaigrette!

Massaged Kale Salad with Apple and Pomegranate | A Couple Cooks

Meet your new favorite salad: the massaged kale pomegranate salad. Massaged what? We know, we know. Massaging kale might sound strange (like something out of Portlandia). But the massage tenderizes the kale and removes the bitter taste, leaving soft and lightly sweet leaves that are delicious as salad greens! Pair the tender kale with apple, pomegranate seeds, and an apple cider vinaigrette, and it’s a tasty side salad for a cozy meal.

First step: massage the kale!

OK really: massage the kale? Yes, 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:

  • Destem the kale and chop it into pieces.
  • 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.
Massaged Kale Salad with Apple and Pomegranate | A Couple Cooks

How make this kale pomegranate salad

Once you’ve massaged the kale, this kale pomegranate salad is a breeze! Here’s what you’ll need to do to assemble the salad:

  • Massage the kale. See the notes above!
  • Cut and seed the pomegranate. We’ve got a genius no-mess method for how to cut a pomegranate.
  • Make the apple cider vinaigrette: Whisk together a dressing with apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, chili powder, and olive oil. The flavors together are fantastic! See the recipe below. Other homemade dressings that would work? Dijon Mustard Dressing or Citrus Salad Dressing.
How to cut a pomegranate

What to pair with kale pomegranate salad

This massaged kale pomegranate 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.

More pomegranate recipes

Love pomegranates? Here are a few more pomegranate recipes that use these vibrant seeds:

This kale pomegranate salad recipe is…

Begetarian, vegan, plant based, dairy free, naturally sweet, and refined sugar free.

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Kale Pomegranate Salad

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 1x


This kale pomegranate salad is the perfect winter salad recipe, pairing the sweet seeds with an apple cider vinaigrette!


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


  1. Chop the kale 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 ⅛ 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.)
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: American

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

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Last updated: December 2020

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. Thank you for this lovely Kale recipe. Does this salad store /keep nicely, as I am thinking of making it a few hours before the meal is ready? Appreciate your answer.

    1. Great question! Kale holds up well because its leaves are so hearty. But usually I’ll recommend prepping everything in advance and keeping the components separate, then tossing everything with the dressing. But you could also make up the entire salad and store for a few hours. If you keep the components separate, make sure to toss the apples with a little lemon juice or a tiny bit of white wine vinegar to prevent browning.

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