Kale is tossed in a creamy lemon tahini dressing with a handful of healthy ingredients in this 15-minute salad! This salad is balanced enough to be the main course but also works well as a side salad.
Everybody needs a staple salad recipe, which is why I'm sharing my favorite "everyday" kale salad.
This salad is a great template for when you need to clean out the fridge/pantry or if you just need a little extra fiber in your day. I share a lot of ideas on how to make this salad your own below, but here's why I love this version:
- Dietary-features: vegetarian, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free (includes seeds), dairy-free optional
- Ready in just 15 minutes
- Made with a 4 ingredient creamy lemon tahini dressing
- Super easy to customize using your favorite veggies, dried fruit, etc.
What you'll need
- Kale: Curly or lacinato kale work. I use one bunch, which is equal to 5-8 ounces (with stems). You can save on prep time by using an equal amount of pre-cut kale instead.
- Lemon tahini dressing is made up of (you guessed it) lemon juice and tahini. Tahini is just ground sesame seeds. I usually choose unsalted tahini (you can check the ingredients to see if they contain salt). We also add coconut aminos for a hint of sweetness and umami flavor.
- Chickpeas are an easy source of plant-based protein.
- Pumpkin seeds: I prefer roasted salted pumpkin seeds but raw unsalted also work (that's the kind I actually used for the photos). You can also toast raw pumpkin seeds in a skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until they are golden.
- Sunflower seeds: Again, you can choose roasted for more flavor or raw sunflower seeds.
- Carrots: I grate my own carrots (usually 2 is enough) but using packaged matchstick carrots is a good way to save on tme.
- Raisins add a pop of sweetness that balances out the nutty tahini dressing.
- Goat cheese adds creaminesss and saltiness to the salad. Feel free to use feta or even vegan feta for a non-dairy option. I like the Follow Your Heart brand.
Step by step instructions
We'll start by making the tahini dressing. This dressing is super similar to my tahini goddess dressing, which also works really well on kale salads.
Simply mix together the tahini, lemon juice, coconut aminos, and a pinch of salt. Add water to thin to a pourable consistency, about 2 tablespoons.
Toss the kale with the tahini dressing. Lightly massage it with clean hands for about 30 seconds. This helps break down the tough kale texture, which makes it easier to chew and can even help with digestion.
Now just add in the rest of the ingredients and toss with salad tongs to combine. This recipe makes 4 main dish salads or 6 side salads.
There are so many ways to build a balanced kale salad. For the most satisfying and nutritious result, make sure your salad contains fruit or veggies, protein, healthy fats, and carbs.
If you're not a fan of tahini, check out my guide to homemade salad dressings for more dressing ideas.
- Instead of kale, try spinach, arugula, romaine and even raw collard greens.
- Instead of raisins, try cranberries, diced apricot, or dried cherries. You can also add fresh blueberries, diced strawberries, diced apple or raspberries.
- Instead of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, try adding 1 tablespoon hemp seeds. You can also add chopped walnuts, pecans or cashews for healthy fats and protein.
- Instead of goat's cheese, try feta, non-dairy feta, or mozzarella pearls (they are really good in this salad in jar!). Or add sliced avocado for healthy fats.
- Instead of chickpeas, add baked tofu or white beans.
- For more complex carbs, try adding cooked grains like quinoa, farro, or barley.
- Veggies: Diced bell pepper, diced red onion or chopped green onions, roasted sweet potato or butternut squash and cherry tomatoes are all great in kale salads.
Leftovers are best enjoyed within 3 days. After that, the kale texture starts to go downhill. You can also store the dressing and salad ingredients separately for up to a week.
You can definitely include the stems in the salad! Chop up the stems into tiny pieces for the best texture. I do this with collard green salads too.
You can prep the kale and tahini dressing a few days in advance and toss them together just before serving. Leftovers are technically good for a few days, but if serving to a crowd I recommend waiting to combine everything until just before eating to preserve the kale texture.
Yes, raw kale is a nutritious and versatile option for salads. But I'm not going to pretend that everyone loves kale, especially raw! Kale has a tough texture that makes it harder to chew and digest than greens like romaine or spinach. I find kale most enjoyable when it is massaged or lightly sautéed and served as a warm salad.
Tuscan kale, also known as lacinato kale, is commonly used in salads because it has a milder flavor and is usually more tender than curly kale. However, curly kale is my go-to because it's easiest to find at grocery stores and I enjoy the texture from the curly leaves. Basically, it's a matter of personal opinion!
Looking for more salads?
For another way to cook kale that isn't a salad, check out these kale chips with nutritional yeast.
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Everyday Kale Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
- 1 bunch curly kale see note #1
- 15 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- ½ cup shredded carrots from 2 whole carrots
- ⅓ cup crumbled goat cheese
- ¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup raisins
- kosher salt to taste; see note #2
Lemon Tahini Dressing
- ½ cup tahini
- ¼ cup lemon juice from 2-3 large lemons
- 2 teaspoons coconut aminos
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- pinch red pepper flakes optional
- 1-2 tablespoons water as needed
- Prep the kale: Rinse kale leaves under running water to remove any dirt. Pat dry with a dish towel/paper towel or use a salad spinner to remove excess water. Remove stems from the kale. Thinly slice kale leaves into bite sized strips, about 1 by 2 inches each. Roughly chop the stems if you wish to include them in the salad.
- Make the dressing by whisking together in the tahini, lemon juice, coconut aminos, salt, and optional red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin to a pourable consistency.
- Combine the kale and dressing. Use clean hands to lightly massage the kale for about 30 seconds.
- Add the remaining ingredients: chickpeas, shredded carrots, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and raisins. Serve as is or chill for an hour to meld the flavors before serving.
- Kale: One bunch of kale is usually 5-8 ounces. Lacinato/Tuscan kale also works. You can save prep time by using pre-sliced packaged kale.
- Salt: If using raw, unsalted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds I recommend adding a sprinkle of kosher salt to the salad.
- Making in advance: All ingredients can be prepped in advance. The kale and tahini dressing can be refrigerated separately for up to a week.
- Leftovers: Once dressed, the salad is best enjoyed within 3 days.
Author's note: This recipe was updated October 2021 with new photos, a video and a revised recipe.