7 Ways To Make A Better Kale Salad

We’ve all had that terrible kale salad experience where it feels like the inside of your mouth is being assaulted by a giant tree. Here’s how to avoid that.

2. There are two kinds of kale you’ll usually find at the supermarket.

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One is curly kale:

Photo by Evan-Amos /
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The other is lacinato kale, also called Tuscan kale, cavolo nero, or dinosaur kale (dino for short):

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Curly kale is fibrous and grassy tasting, so it’s not the *best* for salads, unless you really love chewing.

Recipe: Raw Kale Salad with Lentils and Sweet Apricot Vinaigrette

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In general, lacinato kale works better.

It’s a little bit sweeter and more delicate (less crunchy and easier to chew) than curly kale, and its ribs (that hard stalk that runs through the middle of each leaf) are edible, so you can use the whole leaf.

Recipe: Raw Kale Salad with Turnips

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First things first: Cut the ribs out of the leaves.

You do not want to eat them raw. They are hard and gross.

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Now, you can rough-chop the kale leaves…

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…or you can “chiffonade” them, which means slice them into thin ribbons.

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To slice them into ribbons, use this great trick: Stack and roll up a bunch of leaves:

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Then, slice through the roll:

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Chiffonade kale makes beautiful salads.

Recipe: Kale Salad with Pecorino and Walnuts

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Also, it’s best if you’re making a grain-based salad with kale.

How would you feel if you were a tiny little grain and a bunch of HUMUNGOUS pieces of kale came and crashed your party? Yeah, you wouldn’t like it.

Recipe: Vegetable-Barley Salad

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6. Once you’ve sliced the kale, let it sit with a little oil and salt for about half an hour before mixing with other ingredients and dressing.

Kale leaves have a natural waxy coating that is great for protecting them from rain. Unfortunately, it also protects them from salad dressing, which does not make for a delicious salad. Rubbing the leaves with oil before dressing them actually removes this waxy coating, so that the leaves better absorb the dressing.

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8. Choosing the right dressing makes a huge difference.

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Kale is a really sturdy green, so you can use a heavy sauce. Nut-based dressings work well.

Recipe: Raw Kale Salad with Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette

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Ditto ones made with avocado.

Light, dainty vinaigrettes are no match for kale. A thicker, creamier dressing will weigh the leaves down a little bit.

Recipe: Kale Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

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Or, a vinaigrette with a lot of acid will break down the fibers in the kale and make it easier to chew.

Go heavy on citrus juice or vinegar.

Recipe: Tuscan Kale Salad with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

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This is not a typical lettuce salad — the kale won’t wilt as easily — so you can use a little more dressing than usual.

Those kale leaves are strong.

Recipe: Kale Salad with Avocado Caesar Dressing

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Try “massaging” the dressing into the kale.

Seriously, this is a thing that people do. Instead of just tossing the kale leaves in dressing with salad tongs, use your hands to really mix everything together and make sure you’ve coated every leaf.

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You can even dress it a day in advance, then put it in the fridge and let all the flavors mingle.

The leaves will absorb some of the dressing and get a little bit softer.

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Or, use a warm vinaigrette, which will cook the leaves *just* enough to take a little bit of the harsh raw crunch out.

Warm (not hot).

Recipe: Kale Salad with Almonds and Warm Golden Raisin Vinaigrette

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12. If you hate raw kale, you can always make a cooked kale salad. Try roasting the leaves.

Roasting the kale will soften it and make it a little bit sweeter. Remember to remove the center stems before you roast the kale leaves.

Recipe: Roasted Kale and Fennel Salad with Avocado Caesar Dressing

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Or grilling it.

Soft, sweet kale with crispy, slightly bitter edges. Pairs well with fruit.

Recipe: Grilled Kale Salad with Ricotta and Plums

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14. And, remember that bacon has a way of making anything better.

Recipe: Raw Lacinato Kale Salad with Egg and Bacon

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