My Favorite Kale Salad

I may be the only person that can’t stomach kale in smoothies (sorry, not sorry) but give it to me in a salad any day and I’m a happy girl. Sidenote: we don’t eat out very often but Panera is one of our quick stops when we do and I love, triple love, their kale caesar salad. Thanks for letting me throw that unsponsored love out there.

This make-at-home kale salad is my favorite. And even though I haven’t quite decided on the other food shenanigans that may or may not happen this Thanksgiving, I do know, with certainty, that this kale salad will happen.

My Favorite Kale Salad

Simple enough for every day/any day (serve it alone or with a no-brainer protein, like grilled chicken, for a delicious, healthy, easy meal) and elegant and yummy enough for the most special of occasions – that’s the true test of a winning recipe.

And speaking of winning. That pecan Parmesan topping? Winning. It is so delightfully crunchy and nutty and slightly salty-cheesy that I don’t ever want to eat anything else ever without pecan Parmesan topping. Really. It totally makes the salad.

My Favorite Kale Salad

If you are new to kale salads, don’t be alarmed by the whole massaging part. The rather tough kale leaves are helped along in texture and flavor by rubbing a tiny bit of salt into the chopped salad for a couple of minutes. And it’s actually quite therapeutic. My kids have started encouraging me to go make a kale salad when they know I’m about to lose it. “Mom. Mom! We’re really craving massaged kale salad. Like now!!”

It calms me.
I have issues.
I’m ok with that.

Feel free to go crazy with the elements in this salad. Chopped honey crisp apples would be a fabulous addition. As well as a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese. The dressing is lemony and delicious – you can add a bit more sweetness if that’s your thing. Make it your own. Go.

My Favorite Kale Salad

One Year Ago: Baked Ham and Swiss Malibu Chicken
Two Years Ago: Soft Pretzel Rolls
Three Years Ago: Glazed Chocolate Chip Scones

My Favorite Kale Salad {Lemon Vinaigrette + Pecan Parmesan}

Yield: Serves 4-6

My Favorite Kale Salad {Lemon Vinaigrette + Pecan Parmesan}

This salad is best served the day it's made (unless storing the pecan topping/bacon separately - then the kale and dressing can be combined up to a day in advance).


  • 12-14 ounces kale (about 2 bunches), stemmed and finely shredded or chopped
  • Pinch of sea salt or coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4-1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 3-4 slices cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)
  • Dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch coarse black pepper
  • Pinch of coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup or honey
  • Pecan Parmesan Topping:
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt


  1. For the salad, place the chopped kale in a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Rub the salt into the kale for 2-3 minutes. You'll notice the kale starting to soften and darken in color.
  2. For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients until well-combined. Pour over the salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour (you can serve it right away but I think it tastes best if the kale and dressing have time to sit for an hour).
  3. For the pecan parmesan topping, pulse the pecans in a blender or food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the Parmesan, olive oil and salt and continue to pulse until it resembles coarse crumbs. The size is up to you but I like the pieces fairly small (but not turning to mush, if that makes sense).
  4. Add the craisins and bacon to the salad and toss.
  5. Sprinkle the pecan topping over the salad. Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: adapted from this recipe at Oh She Glows

34 Responses to My Favorite Kale Salad {Lemon Vinaigrette + Pecan Parmesan}

  1. Ruth says:

    I made this last night, and it was delicious. My husband has never tried kale, and he was sure he would hate it, but he ate two servings! This is a miracle of some kind. I put the chopped pecans and parmesan into the salad.

  2. KImberly says:

    I have made this salad a few times and absolutely love it. My husband won’t eat kale so I fix him something else. I am making for myself tonight. Yummy, I cannot wait!!!!!! I love your recipes and my family does too. Thank you so much for sharing- you’re the best!

  3. Nancy says:

    Hi Mel – I have a question about the greens…
    Is the 12-14 oz. of kale stemmed or unstemmed? I have one bunch that weighs 12 oz. with stems. I was planning on a half-recipe, unless the weight in the recipe is pre-stemming.

  4. Nancy says:

    Made this kale salad tonight and it was delicious. Absolutely loved the dressing. I did leave off the bacon and parmesan though. I’ll be making this salad again soon and next time I will add them.

  5. Kara says:

    I never comment on your blog, although I frequent it almost daily. I had to comment on this salad though. It was seriously amazing, and far exceeded my expectations. I’ve never had kale that tasted so good. My husband (who is not even a big salad eater) and I inhaled the entire salad for dinner tonight. The only thing I did differently was to add a honeycrisp apple. I now know what I’ll be bringing to every holiday dinner this season. I usually impress people with your romaine salad with the poppy seed dressing, and I would say this salad is right up there with that one. I just want to say a huge thank you to you for your amazing recipes! My family thanks you too! 🙂

  6. Carol says:

    My husband actually made this salad for my birthday dinner tonight. I had wanted to try it, so I printed out the recipe and he made it with the salmon he grilled. It was fantastic. Didn’t change a thing!

  7. Haley says:

    Loved the pecan/parmesan topping!!

  8. Nicole H says:

    This was my first kale salad experience. I halved the kale and dressing part but followed your whole recipe for the pecans, and I’m so glad I did! Loved it, and before I knew it I had eaten the whole bowl by myself 🙂 Now I’ll see if I can get my husband on board with kale.

  9. Hi, Mel. We enjoyed this salad last night with shredded chicken and no bacon. We added red onions and vinegar, which we loved with it. Do you make yours with vinegar in the dressing?

    • Mel says:

      Andrea – that’s funny you asked; I was looking at this recipe the other day realizing I had put “vinaigrette” in the title but there’s not actually vinegar in the dressing. So the answer is no, I haven’t made the dressing with vinegar, but it’s such a classic, adaptable dressing recipe that I think you could.

  10. katie says:

    Looks awesome! I’m obsessed with Aldi’s “Kale Yeah” salad in a bag that comes with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds, but love the thought of making a version at home!

  11. Oh! This looks gorgeous. I just discovered amazing kale, too! Love it, Mel!

  12. Holly W says:

    I do like kale in smoothies – just had one this morning, but have never liked it in salads! However, I totally trust your judgement and my mom just brought over a huge bunch of kale, so this recipe is going on the menu! Thank you!

  13. Amanda says:

    Swap the dried fruit out for pomegranate seeds and your mind will be blown! I dress my kale and pomegranate seed salad with a simple balsamic vinegarette.

    And there is a fabulous way to get all those seeds out of a pomegranate in less than 3 minutes. Cut it open, place cut side down in your splayed fingers over a bowl and then whack the heck out of it with a wooden spoon. Don’t be shy with the whacking. I get SO excited about pomegranate season now!

  14. Sarah says:

    I would eat kale any which way but amazingly my husband will only eat it raw in a salad. My go to involves a mustardy dressing, parmesan, walnuts, and apples (a recipe that came with our CSA one time) and I can’t wait to try this one.

  15. Paige says:

    This kale salad looks delicious! I love the cranberries added to it! Their one of my favorite additions on salads!


  16. Hollie says:

    Yummy! I’m a kale salad lover too. Cheesecake Factory has the yummiest Kale and quinoa salad that I’ve almost been able to recreate to perfection…ill let you know when I have it.

  17. Beth B says:

    I’m putting the ingredients that I don’t have on my list right now. This sounds like a kale salad that I might actually like. I haven’t tried adding the sweet touch to the dressing of a kale salad and the Parmesan topping might become a staple for me. Thanks, Mel, for your wonderful recipes!

  18. Kim in MD says:

    I love kale, and I’m sad to say that I haven’t had Parena’s kale salad. I am going to try it and your kale salad a.s.a.p.!

  19. Stephanie C says:

    The local Costco has a kale salad kit that is a bit similar to this recipe. I had it for the first time last night, and it was delicious! Besides kale it has julienned carrots and broccoli and a little red cabbage for color. The dressing is also lemon-based (lemon poppyseed), which goes a long way in masking the bitterness of the veg for me. The toppings are dried cranberries, seasoned panko-like breadcrumbs, seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), and quinoa crispies. I’ve already looked up a recipe for making the quinoa crispies at home because they were an awesome salad addition, both for taste and nutrition!
    Now that I know I like kale salad (I NEVER thought I’d be typing those words!), I’m going to try your variation which also looks very tasty.

    • Liz says:

      I had to google quinoa crispies and then made them – toast cooked quinoa until crisp – wow! I used some in place of bread crumbs on top of mac n cheese. Thanks, Stephanie C!

  20. Jackie says:

    Thank you! Anyone that says you can’t taste kale in smoothies is lying!

    • Liz says:

      So funny, I was just thinking … “How can they taste the kale in a smoothie, because I can’t ??? ” … Anyway, I started with kale in smoothies, have progressed to salads and braising it. It and chard and now favorites and they will keep for a week.

      But to topic – what a great mix. I’m particularly anxious to try the pecan topping.

      • Liz says:

        Just had this for lunch with a minor addition from the “Portillo” salad … added some cooked elbow pasta (macaroni). I’ve been making the “Portillo” salad and finding the addition of a little pasta so good … worked with this salad also.

  21. mjfluke says:

    I am not a kale fan. Would romaine lettuce work about the same? It sounds too delicious to pass up that dressing and toppings.

  22. I totally agree with you about kale in smoothies – I’ve tried every smoothie recipe under the sun and still cannot stomach it! However, I still want to get kale in my diet, so salads are the way to go. I’ve been looking for a good recipe, and this sounds like it will be delicious! 🙂

    Dani |

  23. Deb says:

    Your massaged kale salad is my favorite recipe on your whole blog (I too have issues :)). Can’t wait to try this!

  24. Becki says:

    Panera does have great salads – and soups, too! I love Kale salads and I usually end up being the only one in my house that will eat them, but they also don’t wilt as quickly so another plus. I LOVE this salad (never had it at Panera) and the Parm topping sounds absolutely delicious. I also like sweetness for my kale salads to offset some of the bitterness of the greens. Will definitely try this!

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