by Olena

Massaged Kale Salad

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Olena Osipov
5 from 3 votes

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The best winter Massaged Kale Salad recipe with pomegranate arils, sweet orange slices and toasted slivered almonds. Massaging kale softens the leaves, leaving them tender and ready to be coated in a scrumptious orange ginger dressing!

Sweet and savory kale salads are the perfect side dish year round! We love kale blueberry salad in the summer, sweet kale salad in the spring and cinnamon apple walnut kale salad in the fall.

easy massaged raw kale salad

Perfect Christmas Salad

If you have been looking for an easy and affordable winter salad, this massaged kale salad with winter fruit is a nutrition powerhouse loaded with cruciferous greens, pomegranate, citrus, and toasted almonds. It’s a perfect Christmas salad with an array of jeweled colors!

The kale salad dressing recipe is light and refreshing made with orange juice and slightly sweet but pungent fresh ginger root. For those who prefer something a little more savory, try this baby raw kale salad, lemon and parmesan kale salad, or even this Mexican kale salad!

Why Make This Raw Kale Salad?

  • Easy to make: During a busy holiday season, all you need is 20 minutes to make this raw kale salad!
  • Seasonal: Oranges, pomegranates and curly kale are more accessible and easier to find in the winter.
  • Nutrient dense: Kale is a superfood powerhouse full of vitamins and fiber while also being low calorie. 
  • Antioxidant rich: Pomegranates are not only full of antioxidants, 1 cup of arils provides 30% of your daily vitamin C! 
  • Oranges: Boost your immune system, making them a great choice during colder months.
  • Dairy free and gluten free: Naturally gluten free and dairy free this really is the best kale salad recipe for Christmas!

I devoured 5 cups, like this whole bowl, by myself, in one day. You got massaged tender kale, juicy pomegranates, sweet and fragrant citrus slices, toasted and crunchy almonds drowning in fresh orange juice based vinaigrette with a ginger kick. What not to like?! I guess it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t need a calorie count. 🙂

raw kale salad with orange ginger dressing

Ingredients for Best Kale Salad Recipe

  • Kale: For winter kale salad I prefer to use green curly kale as it is less bitter than Dinosaur kale.
  • Pomegranate: I find cleaning pomegranate is the most cumbersome part of this winter kale salad. You can buy pomegranate arils but be prepared to pay for someone’s time.

Pomegranate seeds are a wonderful addition to winter salads because of their vibrant ruby color, I use them in brussels sprout salad, too!

  • Citrus: Any citrus fruit like oranges, clementines, cuties etc. will work. I used mandarin oranges.
  • Almonds: I use slivered almonds but sliced or coarsely chopped whole work just as well. Hazelnuts, macadamia nuts or cashews will also make the best kale salad recipe.
  • Orange ginger dressing: Easy kale dressing recipe with orange juice, olive oil, freshly grated ginger, salt and pepper.

Don’t try dried ginger, you won’t be even able to taste it. Has to be fresh or no ginger at all for this best kale salad recipe!

massaged winter kale salad ingredients with orange pomegranate and ginger dressing

Is Massaging Kale Really Necessary?

For this raw kale salad, yes. I know it is absolute opposite to what I tell you to do in lemon kale salad– which is don’t waste your time massaging. For that salad, you don’t need to be massaging your kale because lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and olive oil do a good job at breaking down the fibrous kale leaves.

Kale pomegranate salad needs massaging. Here are my best massaging kale tips:

  • Drizzle kale leaves with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt.
  • Literally give it a massage using your hands for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add remaining ingredients after. You don’t want to be massaging fruit as well. 🙂

How to Make Massaged Kale Salad

  • Prepare kale: De-stem kale, wash leaves and place in a large bowl. Using the massaging kale techniques listed above, rub the kale leaves with olive oil and salt.
  • Deseed pomegranate and peel and cut citrus: I sliced mandarin oranges into rounds, you could also separate it into segments. The key is to get your citrus into small bite-size pieces as close as possible. Place in bowl with your raw kale salad greens.

To remove pomegranate seeds: Roll the pomegranate around to loosen the seeds. Cut it open in half and then holding the cut side over a bowl, tap it with a wooden spoon while squeezing it slightly to pop the seeds out.

  • Toast nuts: Toast almonds (or nut of choice) in a skillet, over medium heat. Stir often as nuts burn fast. This should only take a few minutes. Transfer to bowl with kale, pomegranate and citrus.

Kale Salad Dressing Recipe

  • In small bowl add dressing ingredients: Whisk orange juice, olive oil, fresh minced ginger, salt and pepper and really well to combine.
  • Drizzle salad with dressing: Then toss gently to combine!

Optional Add-In’s and Variations

  • Cheese: Feta or goat cheese would add a creaminess to this kale pomegranate salad.
  • Avocado: Add creaminess with diced avocado while keeping this a vegan kale salad.
  • Dried cranberries: Could be substituted for pomegranate arils if you are having trouble finding them.
  • Dressings: Lemon dressing from brussels sprouts salad, carrot ginger salad dressing or balsamic dressing from arugula beet salad would be great kale salad dressing recipes, too.
  • Fruit: Chopped apples or ripe pear.
  • Additional vegetables: Raw broccoli or cauliflower in cut into bite sized florets.
  • Nut free: Use pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or pepitas.
  • Zest: Add some orange (or any citrus) zest to the dressing for additional flavor.
  • Fresh parsley: Mince and toss with raw kale salad before adding other ingredients.

Make a complete meal: Add protein such as quinoa, chickpeas, shredded chicken or leftover roast turkey for the best kale salad recipe turned full meal!

Tips for Best Results

  • Massage then let kale marinate: If time permits, let your kale sit after you massage it for 5 minutes up to overnight. This really helps turn non-kale lovers into kale salad fans! 
  • Thinly slice or chop kale: Kale is different than lettuce which you ‘tear’, slicing or chopping it helps you chew it better. 
  • De stem your kale: Just trust me on this, you don’t want to eat the stem.
  • Toss well: To incorporate not only the dressing but your salad toppings. Tongs are nice, using your hands is even better. 

FAQs

What kale is best for salad?

I prefer curly kale for this massaged kale salad. You can use baby kale (you will not need to massage). Lacinato kale, dinosaur kale has dark narrow leaves with bumps. Its leaves are quite soft, so if you use it, 
you might not need to massage salad either. I prefer to use dinosaur kale in soups like Instant Pot zuppa toscana.

Can I use fresh orange juice for kale salad dressing recipe?

You could, your dressing may not be as sweet as store bought juice is sweeter. You might want to add a pinch of sugar to the dressing or maple syrup.

Does massaging kale help with digestion?

Yes, it helps break down the fibrous leaves, making them soft, tender and more easily digestible.

Can you massage kale without oil?

You could omit the kale and use lemon juice, but your salad will be more tangy. Do not omit using the salt, it works like a tenderizer for the kale leaves.

Why is my curly kale tough?

Some may find their kale still tough even after massaging it. You can place it in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight to really let the kale salad dressing recipe ‘marinate’ the leaves. If your kale is still tough, it may have been harvested at the wrong time, resulting in leaves that might remain tough. Use that kale for soup instead!

Massaged Kale Salad with mandarins and pomegranate served in a bowl with metal salad spoons

What to Serve Kale Salad With?

This vegan kale salad is super crunchy and juicy from all that orange ginger dressing. Here are some of my favorite ways to pair it with:

How to Store and Make Ahead

Store: You can store salad leftovers for up to 36 hours without salad becoming soggy.

Make ahead: If you would like to make salad ahead, prepare kale leaves and store in a zip top bag for up to 7 days. I often prep kale like this for easy use throughout the week. If you buy chopped kale in bags, you might have to remove the ribs.

Then store toasted nuts in a dry place. Salad dressing can be made for up to 7 days in advance and refrigerated. Remove it from the fridge 30 minutes ahead of serving to allow olive oil to warm up.

More Healthy Salad Recipes

Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged Kale Salad

The best winter Massaged Kale Salad recipe with pomegranate arils, sweet orange slices and toasted slivered almonds. Massaging kale softens the leaves, leaving them tender and ready to be coated in a scrumptious orange ginger dressing!
5 from 3 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: North American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 190kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

For Salad:

  • 8 cups green curly kale packed, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large pomegranate arils only
  • 4 mandarins or 1 orange sliced
  • 1/2 cup almonds slivered, sliced or coarsely chopped

For Orange Ginger Dressing:

Instructions

  • In a large salad bowl, add kale, olive oil and salt. Massage with your hands for 2-3 minutes until the amount of kale shrinks a bit.
  • Prepare pomegranate and orange slices. Add to bowl. Set aside.
  • Toast nuts in a skillet on medium heat until fragrant, stirring often. Transfer to a bowl with salad.
  • In a small bowl, add orange juice, olive oil, ginger, salt, pepper and whisk with a fork.
  • Pour dressing over salad, toss gently.
  • Enjoy at the holidays or for winter dinner with a bowl of soup.

Store: You can store salad leftovers for up to 36 hours without salad becoming soggy.

    Make Ahead: If you would like to make salad ahead, prepare kale leaves and store in a zip top bag for up to 7 days. I often prep kale like this for easy use throughout the week. If you buy chopped kale in bags, you might have to remove the ribs.

      Then store toasted nuts in a dry place. Salad dressing can be made for up to 7 days in advance and refrigerated. Remove it from the fridge 30 minutes ahead of serving to allow olive oil to warm up.

        Notes

        • Don’t try dried ginger, you won’t be even able to taste it. Has to be fresh or no ginger at all, which will do.
        • I prefer to use green curly kale as it is less bitter than Dinosaur kale. Also known as Lacinato kale, dinosaur kale has dark narrow leaves with bumps. Its leaves are quite soft, so if you use it, chances are no massage is required.
        • You can buy pomegranate arils but be prepared to pay for someone’s time. Or I find using this method is not that bad.
        • I used mandarins and sliced them into rounds. You can also separate small mandarins into small segments. Any citrus fruit like oranges, clementines, cuties etc. will work. The key is to get them to small bite size pieces as close as possible.
        • I use slivered almonds but sliced or coarsely chopped whole work just as well. Hazelnuts, macadamia nuts or cashews will go well with kale.
        See recipe post for more tips and FAQs.

        Nutrition

        Serving: 1cup | Calories: 190kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 229mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g

        Recipes and images are a copyright of ifoodreal.com. It is against the law to republish recipes without permission. Nutritional info is approximate.

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        17 comments on “Massaged Kale Salad

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          1. Hi Christine. You know, that is so true. I always get protective over certain foods making sure they are not gone before making into an actual recipe.:)

        1. You had me at orange ginger dressing – 2 of my most persistent pregnancy cravings this time around. I could probably eat this dressing by itself, no salad needed, but the salad looks gorgeous too 🙂

          1. You could drink this dressing, that’s what I was doing when test tasting. Thank you, dear. When is your baby girl due?

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