It doesn't get much better than this Kale salad recipe dressed in a simple lemon, thyme, and olive oil vinaigrette, then tossed with parmesan and roasted pistachios. It's easy and lasts for days in the fridge.

Kale salad in a large bowl with serving utensils on a cutting board. Next to this is a lemon half, a jar of chopped pistachios and a cloth napkin.
Photo Credits: Kathrine Irwin

I love practical dishes that taste good with few frills and this kale salad recipe is chief among them. It pairs well with everything from Roasted Chicken to Italian Meatballs. It requires only a handful of ingredients and can be rearranged, added to, or taken from endlessly. Think of this as a use-up-what-you-have and toss-it-in easy salad recipe.

All I do is make a simple lemon thyme vinaigrette then toss the kale with the dressing and parmesan cheese. Sometimes I add ⅓ cup of golden raisins just to bring in something sweet. Finish it off with some roasted pistachios and this kale salad is ready to go.

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredients for Kale Salad 
  2. How to Make this Easy Salad Recipe 
  3. Three Reasons to Love Kale
  4. How to Massage Kale
  5. Ways to Make this Kale Salad Recipe Your Own
  6. What to Serve with Kale Salad 
  7. Kale Recipes You’ll Love 
  8. Greek Honey - Thyme, Forest & Wild Herbs
  9. Kale Salad with Roasted Pistachios and Parmesan Recipe
ingredients for kale salad including kale in a colander, lemon, olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt, aleppo pepper, pistachios, parmesan cheese and honey.

Ingredients for Kale Salad 

This easy kale salad recipe combines fresh, nutrient-packed ingredients for a delicious and healthy side you can easily adapt to your personal tastes. The star of the show is the kale, which provides a hearty base for the rest of the ingredients. 

  • Kale: This hearty and nutritious green leafy vegetable holds up well when dressed, making it the perfect base for this easy salad recipe.
  • Lemon, juiced and zested: The zesty and tangy flavor of lemon adds a refreshing citrusy note that balances kale’s bitter personality.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: The rich and fruity flavors of quality extra virgin olive oil act as a binding agent, bringing all the flavors together while adding a subtle peppery and herbal note.
  • Parmesan cheese + more to finish: The nutty and slightly salty Parmesan cheese adds a savory depth to the salad. It brings a lovely umami flavor and a hint of creaminess, and topping the salad with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan creates a beautiful finishing touch.
  • Garlic cloves, smashed: The spicy and aromatic garlic infuses the dressing with a bold flavor. 
  • Thyme: The earthy and piney flavor of thyme brings a delightful herbal note to this kale salad recipe. 
  • Honey: The natural sweetness of honey helps to balance out the acidity of the lemon and adds a touch of floral flavor to the dressing.
  • Kosher salt: The coarse and flaky texture of kosher salt enhances the other ingredients.
  • Aleppo pepper: This mild yet slightly spicy pepper adds a gentle heat and smoky flavor that complements the bitter greens. If you don't have it you can swap in a ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, or more if you like things spicy.
  • Roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped: The buttery and crunchy pistachios provide a delightful textural contrast to the salad. 
An overhead photo of kale salad in a large bowl with serving utensils on a cutting board.

How to Make this Easy Salad Recipe 

  • Strip the kale leaves from the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Place the chopped leaves in a colander while rinsing under cold water aggressively massage the leaves. Do this for about a minute, this tenderizes the kale and makes it more pleasurable to eat. Don’t be shy here. You can massage kale pretty aggressively. Shake the colander to release excess water.  Chopped kale on a cutting board next to the stems. Next to this is a colander with more chopped kale.
  • Into a large salad bowl, whisk together the juice and zest from 1 lemon and zest, ½ cup olive oil, ⅓ cup parmesan cheese, 2 smashed and minced cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon honey, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes. Add the kale and golden raisins (if using) and toss until well-coated. Top with pistachios and more cheese to finish.Kale salad in a large bowl with serving utensils on a cutting board. Next to this is a partial block of parmesan cheese, 2 lemon halves, a jar of chopped pistachios and a cloth napkin.

Three Reasons to Love Kale

Now, I know as far as leafy greens go, Kale is pretty divisive. A food critic friend of mine once described kale as, “the culinary equivalent of wool socks.” I, however, have been a long-time fan of this curly cruciferous vegetable, and for good reasons: 

  1. Kale outlasts any delicate leafy green. I can appreciate a sturdy vegetable that can go the distance especially once it's been tossed with dressing. Arugula, lovely though it is, can't do that. 
  2. Kale serves multiple purposes. I don’t like single-use kitchen utensils (avocado slicer I’m looking at you!), and I feel the same way about single-use ingredients. I might buy kale for an easy salad recipe, then later change my mood. When that happens, I can just as easily toss those leaves into a saute pan to make Green Shakshuka or drop them into a pot of Ribolita. Less food waste? Yes, please! 
  3. Dark leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse. Kale has fiber, Vitamins A, C, and K, and more. 

So maybe you aren’t best friends with kale yet, but try this kale salad recipe and you will be.

An overhead photo of a serving of kale salad on a plate with a fork on a cutting board. Next to this is a jar of chopped pistachios, a lemon half, a cloth napkin, and the rest of the salad in a large bowl.

How to Massage Kale

  • Choose fresh and crisp kale leaves: When selecting kale, look for dark green leaves that are firm to the touch. Avoid wilted or yellowing leaves as they may not have the best flavor.
  • Rinse and dry thoroughly: Before using kale, rinse it with cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Use a salad spinner or paper towels to dry the leaves. Water is easily trapped in the nooks and crannies; you don’t want it to water down your dressing.
  • Remove tough stems: Kale stems can be tough and fibrous, so it's best to remove them before cooking. Simply hold the stem at the base of the leaf and pull it away from the leaf in one swift motion. You can save the stems, finely chop them, and saute in olive oil with salt and pepper at a later time.
  • Massage for tenderness: Raw kale is tough. To soften its fibrous nature it needs a massage. To do this, roughly chop the clean and de-stemmed kale, place it into a bowl, and pick up fistfuls at a time. Aggressively squeeze it in your hands, or even rub it between your thumbs and fingers like you do when rubbing butter into flour for pie crust. This helps to break down some of the tough fibers and makes the kale more tender and easier to eat. The kale will soften, but shouldn’t look limp and it will darken in color. Do this just before making your salad. 
An overhead photo of kale salad in a large bowl with serving utensils on a cutting board. Next to this is a jar of chopped pistachios, 2 lemon halves, a cloth napkin, and a plate containing a serving of salad.


Ways to Make this Kale Salad Recipe Your Own

  • Experiment with different kale varieties: While curly kale is the most common variety, there are many other types of kale to try such as Lacinato (also known as dinosaur or Tuscan kale) and Red Russian. Each variety has a slightly different flavor, texture, and color. Don't be afraid to experiment and find your favorite.
  • Add apples or pears: Thinly sliced pears or apples — granny smith for something tart or another variety like honey crisp or pink lady if you want something sweeter.  
  • Dried fruit: Toss in ¼ cup of raisins, cherries, craisins, or diced dried apricots 
  • Fresh fruit: Fresh pitted cherries or grapes cut in half would be beautiful nestled into those dark green leaves.  
  • Carrots: For a pop of color and a boost of Vitamin A, add in ribbons of peeled carrots to your salad. 
  • Roasted Vegetables: I prefer leftovers when I can reinvent them into something new. I am also not a fan of food waste so I do a lot of reinventing! Add any leftover roasted vegetables you have to this salad—think roasted butternut squash, roasted acorn squash, roasted onions, tomatoes, and fennel. All great matches for kale. 
  • Swap the nuts: Walnuts, almonds, and pecans can all stand in place of the pistachios in this recipe.
  • Add some heft: Grilled chicken breasts in a lemony Greek marinade would be a lovely addition to this salad. A can of creamy cannellini beans or a cup of cooked lentils drizzled in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper or toss in a cup of cooked grains like farro, freekeh, or quinoa. 
An overhead photo of kale salad in a large bowl with serving utensils on a cutting board. Next to this is a jar of chopped pistachios, a lemon half, a partial block of parmesan cheese, a cloth napkin, and a plate containing a serving of salad.

What to Serve with Kale Salad 

Because kale is one of the few greens that will hold up for days after being coated in dressing it's great for a make-ahead option. Prepare it ahead of time for dinner, pack it for lunches all week or simply be one step ahead for weeknight dinner. 

Serve kale salad with Whole Roasted Chicken or if pan-seared pork chops suit your fancy than try this Italian Pork Recipe with Lemon and Bay Leaf.

You could also go the soup and salad route. Keep things easy and vegetarian with Tunisian Lablabi or Italian Minestrone.  

Or keep things simple. Eat the salad as it is, but toss in some extra bits lingering in your pantry or fridge.

Kale Recipes You’ll Love 

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5 from 9 votes

Kale Salad with Roasted Pistachios and Parmesan

Summer Miller
An overhead photo of kale salad in a large bowl with serving utensils on a cutting board.
Any kind or variety of kale will work in this recipe, just make sure to massage kale between your fingers and thumb for a few minutes before making your salad. I will soften the tough fibers of this nutrient-rich, leafy green and make it more enjoyable to eat!
Prep – 10 minutes
Total – 10 minutes
Cuisine:
American/Mediterranean
Serves – 6
Course:
Salad

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ bunches kale, any kind
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to finish
  • 2 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • cup golden raisins (optional)
  • ½ cup roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions
 

  • Strip the kale leaves from the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Place the chopped leaves in a colander. While rinsing under cold water, aggressively massage the leaves. Do this for about a minute, this tenderizes the kale. Shake the colander to release excess water.
  • Into a large salad bowl, whisk together lemon juice and zest, olive oil, parmesan, garlic, thyme, honey, salt, and Aleppo pepper. Add the kale and raisins (if using) toss until well coated. Top with pistachios and more cheese to finish if you wish.

Notes

Nutrition

Calories: 193.7kcalCarbohydrates: 3.8gProtein: 2gFat: 19.7gSaturated Fat: 3.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 13.5gCholesterol: 4.8mgSodium: 293.4mgPotassium: 49.5mgFiber: 0.6gSugar: 1.4gVitamin A: 326.8IUVitamin C: 12.4mgCalcium: 63mgIron: 0.3mg
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Summer Miller is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and an IACP finalist in essay writing and memoir. Her recipes, food writing, and editing chops span both print and digital media. You can find her work at Simply Recipes, Eating Well, Saveur, Bon Appétit, and the Kitchn among others. She is the Senior Executive Editor at The Mediterranean Dish.
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Comments

  1. Meg says:

    5 stars
    Loved it!

  2. The Bear says:

    5 stars
    I made this salad and my partner fell in love with me again. Okay, maybe not that, but it definitely restored some confidence.

    1. Summer Miller says:

      Hahahaha! I wrote this recipe, and in my 20 years of recipe development work this has to be a top 10 comment! So glad your partner loved the Kale salad! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. You're the bee's knees!

  3. Julie L. says:

    5 stars
    This is my new favorite salad. I’ve made it twice now for my lunch. Next week I’ll lunch prep it for the whole week. Thank you!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Julie!

  4. Carla says:

    5 stars
    This is perfect for meal prep! I made it "as is" and ate it with soup all week. It was so good, and it got even better as the week went on. It was the highlight of my day every day! I'll definitely be making this again.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thanks so much for sharing, Carla!

  5. Natalia says:

    I made it today. Love it 🥰!!! Delicious and easy.

  6. Heather says:

    5 stars
    Made this for dinner last night with grilled chicken on top and it was AMAZING. We eat salads often and this will be in the rotation for sure. Love using kale for its added nutrients in place of our typical romaine.

    1. Summer Miller says:

      Hi, Heather! I'm Summer and I work here at The Mediterranean Dish. Thanks so much for letting us know how much you enjoyed the salad. We really appreciate it. The grilled chicken is a great addition.

    2. TMD Team says:

      Thanks so much for the great review, Heather!