Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged kale salad is a simple yet surprisingly flavorful and nutrient dense salad. The kale becomes tender and light while being tossed in garlic-infused olive oil and lemon juice. Top it off with freshly shaved parmesan cheese and voila!

kale salad in a white bowl next to a bowl of shredded parmesan.

When it comes to salad recipes it’s hard to beat the simplicity of a massaged kale salad. It’s fast, easy and makes for a great side salad to accompany heartier mains like Crispy Baked Chicken, Dijon Baked Salmon, Garlic Butter Shrimp and Salmon Patties.

Which Type of Kale to Use?

When it comes to kale, each one has its own strengths. Here’s a quick overview of the different types:

  • Curly Kale: probably the most common type of kale you will see at your local market. It’s wavy, curly edges give it that nice crispy texture, making it great for salads or sautéed dishes.
  • Tuscan Kale (Lacinato Kale or Dinosaur Kale): this kale is more tender and slightly thinner, which means it cooks more quickly. Toss this in a nice hearty soup or slice it into a slaw. Just make sure you don’t overcook it as its chewy texture will disappear.
  • Red Kale: also known as “scarlet kale,” is very similar to curly kale except for its appearance. Its ruffled leaves can range from a deep red to purple color, but can be tossed into salads or seared in a quick sautée.
  • Baby Kale: Yes, this is a younger version of kale, and is more likely to be found in a box of salad greens. This gives a hint that you’re better off using this to complement other greens in a salad.

Any variety of kale can be used in this recipe, though I prefer to use curly kale.

Massaged kale salad ingredients.
Massaged kale salad ingredients.

Why Do You Need To Massage Kale?

I get it, it might sound strange to massage your kale at first. But trust me, it’s the best way to enjoy raw kale on its own. Especially in this salad (or my roasted beet and kale salad and kale salad with apples and chicken!).

Massaging kale transforms its tough and stiff texture into soft, tender leaves with less bitterness. To give you a reference, have you ever ordered a kale salad at a restaurant to find that it’s extremely airy and light?  Guess what – it’s been given a nice little massage in the back kitchen.

Massaged kale salad topped with parmesan cheese.

How Do You Massage Kale?

To begin the process, first remove the stems by slicing them out with a knife or ripping the leaves off by hand. Cut the kale into ribbons and place it in a large bowl. You can massage kale plain, if you plan to add a dressing later. Or massage it with the dressing, as we do today.

Massage the kale with your hands for about 2 minutes, until the kale is well-coated and starts to wilt. It should reduce in volume by about 30%. Just remember that you don’t want to over-massage your kale, otherwise it will start to look a bit lifeless.

To test if you’ve massaged it enough, simply try it. You’ll want to taste a bit of crunch while not having to tear away or chew extremely hard.

A single portion of massaged kale salad on a white plate.

How to Make a Massaged Kale Salad

Now that you know how to officially give your kale a massage, let’s dive in and turn this method into a refreshing salad. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sauté the garlic with olive oil in a small skillet for about 30 seconds. Once the garlic softens, set the pan aside to cool.
  2. Squeeze one lemon and put the juice aside.
  3. Prepare the kale by removing the stems and and cutting it into ribbons.
  4. Toss the kale in a large bowl with the garlic infused olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  5. Massage the kale with your hands until it just starts to wilt and reduce in volume.
  6. Shave fresh parmesan cheese on top of the salad and serve!

If you’ve got some extra kale, try making Kale Chips, Kale Salad with Apples and Chicken or a Roasted Beet Kale Salad!

More Simple Salad Recipe You’ll Love

Massaged kale salad on a white table next to shaved parmesan.

Massaged Kale Salad (Super Easy!)

5 from 12 votes
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 2 mins
Total Time: 12 mins
Servings: 4 people
Author: Lisa Bryan
This massaged kale salad is simple, light and made with just a few fresh ingredients! It's a great side salad with enough flavor to hold it's own.


  • 1 bunch curly kale
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shaved
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic. Saute the garlic over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Set the garlic infused oil aside to cool.
  • Prepare the kale by removing the stems and cutting it into thin ribbons.
  • Place the kale ribbons in a large bowl and toss in the cooled olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Massage the kale for two minute with your hands, or until the leaves start to wilt.
  • Top it off with freshly shaved parmesan and serve.

Lisa’s Tips

  • Kale is a pretty durable green. You can store this salad for up to 3-4 days in a sealed container in your fridge. 
  • When it comes to juicing lemons, my little stainless steel juicer can’t be beat. 


Calories: 168kcal, Carbohydrates: 6g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 9mg, Sodium: 214mg, Potassium: 208mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 3344IU, Vitamin C: 54mg, Calcium: 206mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Healthy Kale Salad, Kale Salad, massaged kale salad, massaged kale salad recipe
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24 comments on “Massaged Kale Salad”

  1. Best kale salad ever!!  Thank you!!5 stars

  2. Any chance that some lettuce could be added to this? The bunch of kale I received in my pick-up order doesn’t look to be enough for my party.

  3. Made this last night and it was fantastic.  I don’t know how it feeds 4, I ate the whole thing 🤭🙀😹5 stars

  4. This is so easy and delicious. I’m trying to use kale more often, but not a huge fan. However, this recipe makes me want more. Thanks!5 stars

  5. Delicious zest, quick and simple- appealed to my kids thanks!!5 stars

  6. This is delicious!  5 stars

  7. Made this as a last minute Christmas Eve side dish and it was a huge hit! It was easy, delicious, fresh, and I’ll definitely be making it again. Thank you!5 stars

  8. This was delicious and especially easy with pre-prepped kale. Thank you!5 stars

  9. I am not a fan of kale, but my family loves it! I decided to try this variation as a side dish for dinner. I am in love with this version of kale!! It’s so delicious and easy! Even my small kids were helpful in “massaging” and preparing the recipe! I never knew I could like kale until I tried this! I am hooked!5 stars

  10. This is so simple and delicious. Love the tips on how and why to massage kale!5 stars

  11. This was so delicious. I made it today! It was approved by my entire family! I am adding it to the rotation! YUMMMM5 stars

  12. This Kale salad is perfect for my family! Yummy!

  13. I love that with this recipe I can make one of my favorite restaurant salads right at home. It’s so easy and simple.5 stars

  14. Loved this light and refreshing salad – so easy to make!5 stars