The BEST Kale Salad

This is the BEST way to eat kale! A dressing of lemon, garlic and Parmesan cheese transforms kale into tangy goodness in this Tuscan kale salad.

Kale salad

Are you ready for the BEST way to eat kale? Prepare to be amazed! This kale salad has the power to transform the minds of kale haters everywhere. Now, it’s true: taking a bite of raw kale is a little like eating a leaf right off a tree. But! After you taste this kale salad, you’ll agree that those green leaves smothered in a lemony, garlicky Parmesan dressing can only be one thing: delicious.

Types of kale

What is Tuscan kale?

There are a few main types of kale you can find at the grocery store. Most mainstream groceries now carry both Tuscan kale and curly kale, found in large bunches in the produce section. For this kale salad, we recommend using Tuscan kale because the mild flavor is more suited to a salad where you’re eating the kale raw.

  • Tuscan kale has darker green, flatter leaves; it’s also sometimes called Lacinato or dinosaur kale. The flavor of Tuscan kale is milder than curly kale.
  • Curly kale is brighter green and very curly! Its raw flavor is a little more bitter and spicy.
Tuscan kale salad

How to make kale salad

You might be wary of eating raw kale, which has a bitter flavor (fact). But add 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 Alex and I make this salad at home, we can’t stop eating it! Here are the main steps to make this kale salad (or skip to the recipe):

  • Destem and chop the kale.
  • Whip up the garlicky Parmesan dressing: start by using your knife blade to form the garlic into a paste. You’ll 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.
  • Top with lemon zest.

We’ve had this salad with several guests and it’s received rave reviews. As in: This is the best kale salad ever! Who knew that eating raw kale could taste so good?

Bowl of greens

Kale nutrition

Why eat this salad? 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 Tuscan kale 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.
  • One cup of raw kale has only 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.
Tuscan kale salad

Video: How to cut kale for this kale salad

Have you wondered the best way to stem or chop kale for this Tuscan kale salad? Alex and I have toyed with various methods over the years, but we’ve finally ended up with one that is slick and simple. Using this method changed the game for us, and we hope it will for you too! Here’s our step by step guide for how to cut kale, including a video of me cutting kale in our kitchen.

Related: 20 Knife Skills Videos: How to Cut Everything!

How to serve this kale salad

This kale salad is classic and the perfect green salad to pair with for all sorts of dinner recipes. Since it’s Italian in vibe, it goes particularly well with Italian recipes. But it also truly pairs well with anything! Here are a few dinner recipes we’d pair it with:

Greens in a bowl with fork

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


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (70 votes, average: 3.99 out of 5)

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

Description

This is the BEST way to eat kale! A dressing of lemon, garlic and Parmesan cheese transforms kale into tangy goodness in this Tuscan kale salad. 


Scale

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

*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, Tuscan kale salad, Tuscan kale, Raw Kale Salad, Kale Recipes, Easy Salad Recipes, Italian Salad Recipes

Looking for kale recipes?

Outside of this kale salad, here are a few more kale recipes we love:

Last updated: December 2019

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog 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 recipe 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.

4 Comments

  • Reply
    Annie
    November 28, 2011 at 11:03 am

    This is a recipe that even an unseasoned cook like me can make! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Valeria
    November 28, 2011 at 11:06 am

    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!

  • Reply
    Tiffany
    November 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Another fabulous kale recipe. You guys are on a roll, one that I LOVE!

  • Reply
    Nancy
    March 1, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    Loved this! So refreshing and clean. I added asiago cheese ribbons and pine nuts! So yummy!

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