Massaged Kale and Craisin Salad with Feta Cheese

This is a first. Using the word “massage” in the title of a recipe. I’ll admit it’s weird. I’ll admit it’s a tad unorthodox. And yes, it might even make some of you slightly uncomfortable, but I implore you to get over it and try this salad.

It.Is.Amazing. I haven’t experimented much with kale, besides the ever-popular kale chips that have become quite the trend, but knowing that kale is rich in nutrients, fiber and antioxidants – well, I wanted another way to enjoy it.

Clarissa, a Mel’s Kitchen Cafe reader, sent me this recipe a few weeks back and I made it, much to the skepticism of my hot-dog-loving husband. He was downright jittery with nerves when he observed me massaging the salt into the kale leaves (a much-needed step to tenderize the kale). But imagine my delight when he took a bite of the salad and exclaimed (really, he exclaimed!): “This stuff is amazing, Mel!”

Yes. The stuff, kale tossed with plump dried cranberries, toasted sunflower seeds, sweet apple and tangy feta cheese, is amazing. Lightly dressed in a simple vinegar and oil mixture, this salad is a wonderful way to enjoy kale and pretend summer will last forever. It’s so good, in fact, you’ll forget you are even eating a super food.

Massaged Kale and Craisin Salad with Feta Cheese

Yield: Serves 6

Massaged Kale and Craisin Salad with Feta Cheese


  • 1 bunch kale
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries/craisins
  • 3/4 cup small-diced apple
  • 1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese


  1. Wash the kale and pat it dry. Slice off the stiff stems below the leaves and continue slicing the stem away from the leaf until you have cut a thin v-shape into the kale leaf and removed the tough stem all the way up. Stack the kale leaves two or three at a time, roll them up, and slice the leaves into thin ribbons.
  2. Place the kale ribbons in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and massage it into the kale with your hands for two minutes. You’ll notice the kale start to turn a darker green and the texture of the kale will begin to soften a bit.
  3. Toss in the red onions, craisins, apples, and sunflower seeds. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and sugar. Pour over the salad and toss. Sprinkle feta cheese over the top and serve. The salad can be refrigerated for up to a day before serving (if doing this, I would suggest refrigerating the salted kale separately from the other ingredients and tossing the salad together an hour or two before serving).

Recipe Source: adapted from a recipe sent to me by Clarissa M., a reader

55 Responses to Massaged Kale and Craisin Salad with Feta Cheese

  1. Lisa says:

    Love this recipe! I’ve made it 3 times over the last month. The second time I made it, I added blueberries. Next time I may try some mango. It may also be great with sliced almonds. This was the first time I’ve massaged anything with cooking:) Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Duncan says:

    I had a version that omits the apple and uses blue cheese instead of feta. It was incredible.

  3. Deanna says:

    Like Julia, I found it too salty as well, so the second time I made it I used sugar instead and I liked it much better. I think a salt/sugar combo could be another option too. I’ve also seen other massaged kale recipes where it calls for massaging the kale without any sugar, salt, etc and apparently get the same effect, with just massaging a minute or two longer. I also wonder how much a “bunch” of kale is. I bought two bunches at my grocery store. After trimming, one was 7 oz and the other was 4 oz. For my own future reference, I’m saying 7 oz is a bunch! 🙂

  4. mangomama says:

    Delicious– even substituting balsamic vinegar and omitting the feta!

  5. Alicia says:

    This was delish! I made a double batch and gave 1/4 of it to a friend. I had some appointments tonight (so I missed dinner), and came home to find there was very little left. The few bites I had were tasty, and based on the fact that the rest of my family couldn’t keep their hands off it, it’s a pretty good bet I’ll be making this on a very regular basis. Thanks, Mel!

  6. Erin says:

    I re-found this recipe while googling for something to do with kale and feta. We just had a delightful light lunch of it. Even my four-year-old liked it!

  7. Allyson says:

    Just wanted to say this is a favorite of ours (at least the grown-ups and teens in the house) and have made it 8-10 times. Delicious! I usually make it with pine nuts rather than sunflower seeds and often omit the red onion if I don’t have any. My husband and I fight over the leftovers the next day. It’s a little soggier, but somehow even tastier!
    Thanks for always sharing such yummy food!

  8. Julia says:

    Delicious! At first it was waaaaaay too salty for me, so the next time I massaged the kale with the coarse kosher salt and let it sit for a few minutes to fully tenderize. Then I rinsed it in a colander, let it drain for a minute, dumped it onto a towel, and patted it dry with another towel, laughing at myself the whole time. I was worried that rinsing it would make it soggy but it turned out great. I had never enjoyed raw kale before but you have made a believer and an addict out of me. I’m already thinking of new kale salad combinations! Thank you, thank you!

  9. Beth says:

    Hi other Beth! I hope the baby kale worked well for you. It’s hard to find in the store sometimes but I really like it! 🙂

  10. Beth says:

    So glad you posted how it worked with the baby kale, other Beth– as I was thinking the same question after buying a huge bag of baby kale at Costco yesterday. I’ve already tried and loved this salad with the more mature and wiser kale. I will make it tonight!

  11. Beth says:

    Hi Mel! Thanks for the response. I did make a slightly altered version of your salad with the baby kale. It was delicious! I did not “massage” the kale but did add the dress a little earlier than I normally would to allow the flavors to soak in. It was a hit! Even my husband – who does not like dark greens – loved it! If you can ever find it at the store, I highly recommend trying it. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Thank you for all of your delicious recipes! Our family just loves your site. 🙂

  12. Beth says:

    I was thinking of making this for Thanksgiving with baby kale that I just picked up at the store. Do you think it still needs to be “massaged” since I am using the baby kale? Funny to be typing massage and kale in the some context! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Hi Beth – sorry for the late response. I’ve never worked with baby kale before so I’m not sure what to tell you. Hope it worked out if you made it!

  13. Luda says:

    This was really good, although I think the salad would be even better the next day because maybe the kale wouldn’t be as bitter??? I don’t know, there aren’t any leftovers 🙂 I added pomegranate seeds to this as well and it added a nice tanginess to it and it was really pretty too. Oh, I just noticed I missed the sugar in the dressing, maybe that’s why it was a bit bitter. Oh well, it was still delicious! Thank you!!!

  14. Shelly says:

    Hate to admit this, but this was the 1st time I ever made anything with kale. And we loved this salad! My 3 year old even liked it! I’ll definetly be making this again and again!

  15. Amanda says:

    I have never eaten kale before, but got some in a produce co op and was forced to find something to do with it. You are my go-to when I need a good recipe! I tried this and LOVED it!
    Thank you! I can now enjoy this superfood 🙂

  16. Jnl2211 says:

    Holy flip!!! I LOVE THIS SALAD!!! I use kale a lot in my home but never tied it this way. I’m SO happy to have found this! My 2 year-old had a huge bowl of it and my hubby said it was amazing! Its such a wonderful salad for anytime of the year. The green, red, and contrasting white colors would be a beautiful addition to Christmas as well. Thank you for sharing this recipe!!

  17. We made this to go with a BBQ dinner last week, and it was really good! I couldn’t stop eating it the next day! I’m excited to try it with different variations. Kale…who would have thought? Thanks Mel!

  18. Brittany says:

    Kelley, I am pretty sure the “soft” cheese thing is only relevant if they are not pasteurized and in the U.S. it’s against FDA code to make unpasteurized cheeses (or something like that), so you can still eat feta if you’re pregnant and are eating it in the good old USA!

  19. Mel says:

    Kelley – what about queso fresco? I think it would make a great substitute even though the taste is quite a bit milder than the feta. It is a Mexican cheese widely available in most supermarkets.

  20. Kelley says:

    You know how you are supposed to stay away from soft cheeses like feta and blue cheese when pregnant…what other cheese would you recommend for this salad? I really want to try this!

  21. Jjennifer Springer says:

    LOVE , LOVE ,LOVE THIS!! Thanks!!

  22. Tami says:

    Wow Mel. This dish was the hit of the party I just went to. It’s just that good.

  23. Rachel B. says:

    I’m curious if anyone has tried this with chard, instead of kale. I have a bunch of red chard from Bountiful Baskets and I haven’t decided what to do with it.

  24. Internet Meals | Ocean Soul says:

    […] Starting from the top left corner and going clockwise:   Cheese and Vegetable Quinoa Bites (but I used potato starch instead of flour), Gluten Free Potato Leek Soup, Gluten Free Apricot Platz, Gluten Free Plum Platz, Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade, Massaged Kale & Craisin & Feta Salad. […]

  25. Carissa says:

    Bless your sweet heart for posting this recipe!! I’m trying to get in my 7 servings of veggies (& fruits, but they’re much easier) each day and am trying SO hard to stick to healthy greens but was getting awfully tired of braised kale & collards! Though there are an increasing number of raw kale salad recipes out there, many of them are loaded with fat which rather defeats the purpose. I googled Massaged Kale Salad (my sister saw something on Aarti’s Party), came across this little lovely and subsequently modified it a bit based on what I had on hand (dried cranberries, sliced almonds) and personal preference (I live at the beach in Southern California; we’d sooner cut off our right arm than willfully eat cheese. Don’t get me wrong, cheese is TOTALLY GLORIOUS stuff, but it’s fattening as all get out and so we avoid making eye contact with it. Or sniffing it. Or anything else that’d be remotely satisfying…like chewing it). Anyway, the feta isn’t missed in this salad. It’s fabulous as is, and that tiny bit of sugar takes away any lingering bitterness. Best of all, it’s even more addictive after it’s been sitting overnight — YAY for veggies that are at the ready when you are! Thanks so much for posting it! Love the website, too! Can’t wait to leisurely browse and try more!

  26. […] Massaged Kale Salad- adapted fromMel’s Kitchen Cafe […]

  27. Deb says:

    This recipe is the perfect example of why I almost never look at any other food blogs anymore. I’ve never had kale. I’ve always wanted to try it because they say it’s so good for you, but never really knew what to do with it to make it taste good. Well, problem solved. This was delicious. If all “superfoods” tasted like this, I’d be so healthy. I loved the mix of different textures and how you got a new burst of flavor in each bite – apple, feta, craisin, yum. Thank you for blazing the trail for us to try new things and making them absolutely delicious!

  28. Mel says:

    Maureen – from what Clarissa said (who gave me the recipe), this salad fairs beautifully made a day or so in advance. I had the leftovers the day afterward and they were delicious – beyond that, I’m not sure because they were gone, but yes, I think you could easily make it a day in advance and be fine (although I’d suggest tossing in the cheese at the last since I don’t like how feta gets a big soggy over time).

  29. Maureen says:

    I LOVE this salad! I have made it several times and I tell everyone about it. One question: can you make it in advance or does it have to be eaten immediately after
    preparing it? I suppose you could add the dressing right before serving but I just wonder
    if the kale continues to break down after the massage? Any thoughts
    or suggestions? Thanks for all the great recipes!!

  30. Erika says:

    YUM! This was delicious! I’ve made a kale salad before but the “massaging” really softened up the kale nicely & made it so much easier to eat. Super yummy & healthy & can I tell you my 9yr old son asked for more! And he is not normally a veggie lover!

  31. Nikki says:

    I made this for lunch today and really enjoyed it. My sister and husband really liked it too. Thanks for another good recipe.

  32. Susan says:

    I also love kale, and this was a new and yummy way to prepare it — thank you! (although when I came to post my feedback I realized I’d forgotten to add the feta. Waa!

  33. Nicole says:

    I fell in love with kale salad too this summer! My sister gave me the recipe and I posted it a few months back on my cooking blog. Yours has apples- that sounds really good! My sister uses avacado which was so yummy. My hubby was just as skeptical, but he liked it too 🙂

  34. Beth says:

    DELICIOUS! Made it minus apples (I am allergic) and it was divine…even my new-veggie-phobe- hubby devoured it! THANK YOU!

  35. Julie says:

    I made this on Sunday to go with dinner and it was absolutely fabulous! Anyone wondering if they should try kale – try this recipe first! It’s a great introduction to kale. Very very good.

  36. Liss says:

    So delicious! Thanks for a wonderful, easy, healthy dish to add to my kale recipes 🙂 The textures and flavors were yum.

  37. Kira says:

    This looks great. So healthy and simple, yet still sounds delicious.

  38. Have you ever had Portuguese soup? Kale is a huge component and it is so delicious.

  39. Camille says:

    Looks good!

  40. Monica says:

    I’m bookmarking this one and can’t wait to give it a try!

  41. ce says:

    the kale and sausage soup recipe is found on my food blog as well as other stuff I add on. blog link is

  42. ce says:

    I absolutely LOVE kale. So many wonderful things to do with it. I have a turkey sausage and kale soup recipe for crock-pot if you are interested. It’s fabulous.

  43. Britt-Marie says:

    I can’t wait to try this! I recently found out you can buy chopped kale at Trader Joes that would be perfect for this. Thanks so much.

  44. paula says:

    I’ll admit I’ve never heard of massaging kale (or any other veggie for that matter!) but I’m glad you have introduced it to me. Sounds delicious!

  45. I thought massaged kale sounded crazy until I actually tried it one day. It makes such a difference! It’s amazing!
    I massage my kale with avocado, salt, lemon juice and a big pinch of cayenne. Then, I can’t stop eating it. Massaging kale brings out it’s banana flavor or something. I dunno, but it’s so DELICIOUS! 🙂

  46. Lisa says:

    Thank you for a great new recipe. I grow kale every year in my garden specifically for Zuppa Tuscan soup, and a baked pasta, but I am so excited to try this new recipe. Keep up the good work. I will return and report how it turns out!!

  47. That’s so funny that you shared this recipe today. I recently had someone ask me how to cook kale and I had told them you could eat it raw if treated in the fashion you mention above. I have another recipe for a kale salad but I love all the flavor combinations in your version above (seriously anything with feta makes me happy)!

  48. Carol says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I grew kale in my garden this year -it looks wonderful, but I only have a limited number of ideas on how to use it. I’ll definitely be trying this.

  49. Wendy W. says:

    First thought: “No WAY am I massaging kale”

    Now that I’ve read the entire post …. well …. I’ll be stopping by the grocery store on the way home to see if I can find some kale 🙂

  50. Kim in MD says:

    I saw Aarti Sequeira (Food Network) make a massaged kale salad with mangoes some time ago and remember thinking “how interesting” and that I should try that recipe. I totally forgot about it until today! This kale salad recipe looks ten times better, though! I love kale, and never thought to make a salad with it. This salad looks absolutely delicious, and I am going to try it a.s.a.p!

  51. Erin says:

    Yum! I love kale, but have never eaten it raw or massaged. Can’t wait to try it!

  52. MAry says:

    This sounds wonderfuly healthy. This is my firstvisit to your blog, so I took some extra time to browse through your earlier entries. I’m so glad I did that. You’ve created a great place for your readers to visit and I really enjoyed the time I spent here. I’ll definitely be back. Ihope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  53. Clarissa Meegan says:

    I think it’s fitting that I’m the first to comment this morning 🙂 I am SO glad that you liked it. I had to laugh the first time I made it and my husband said “Where has kale been all of my life?” I’ve always been a little skeptical about using the word “massaged” in the recipe title as well…but once you get into it–you wonder what else you could call it!

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