Simple Kale Salad


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You’ll love this simple, yet flavorful kale salad! After a little massage with garlic-infused oil and lemon juice, the kale leaves become tender and light. And while the freshly shaved parmesan is optional, I highly recommend it for a savory, cheesy touch.

A bowl of kale salad with parmesan.
Photo by: Gayle McLeod

When I need a quick and fresh side dish, I turn to this kale salad recipe every time. It may be simple, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s tender yet crunchy, savory yet tangy, and made in under 15 minutes. 

Enjoy its simplicity with freshly shaved parmesan or slivered almonds on top. But if you’d like to zhuzh it up a bit, you can also use this recipe as a base to make a roasted beet and kale salad or kale salad with apples and chicken. However you make your kale salad, the key is to massage the leaves, which I’ll go into more detail below!

Ingredients for kale salad on a table.

Kale Salad Ingredients

  • Kale: Any variety of kale can be used in this recipe, from curly kale to Tuscan kale.
  • Garlic-Infused Oil: A quick sauté with fresh garlic and oil will create a delicious oil to massage your kale with.
  • Salad Mix-Ins: Fresh lemon juice, salt, and black pepper tie this salad together. But I also love adding freshly shaved parmesan on top at the end.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below.

How To Make Kale Salad

Sauté the garlic. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and add the minced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant, then set it aside to cool.

Cooking garlic and oil in a pan.

Remove the kale leaves. Prep the kale by removing the leaves from the stems and roughly chopping (or tearing) the leaves into bite-sized pieces. 

Ripping kale leaves off the stem.

Get massaging. Place the kale pieces in a large bowl and add the cooled oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Gently massage the kale with your hands for about 2 minutes until the leaves are well coated and start to wilt. The kale 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.

Making kale salad in a bowl.


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.

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? Well guess what? It’s been given a nice little massage in the back kitchen to make it more palatable.

Massaging kale salad.

The Different Types of Kale

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

  • Curly Kale: This is 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: This is a younger version of kale, and is more likely to be found in a box of salad greens. A hint that you’re better off using this to complement other greens in a salad.
Kale salad on a plate

More Kale Recipes

I hope you enjoy this kale salad as much as I do. If you make it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the recipe in the comment box below. Your review will help other readers in the community.

A bowl of kale salad.

Simple Kale Salad

5 from 15 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 2 minutes
Total: 12 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Author: Lisa Bryan


This kale salad is simple, light and made with just a few fresh ingredients. It's a great side salad with enough flavor to hold its own. Watch the video below to see how I make it in my kitchen!



  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • Saute the garlic. 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.
    Cooking garlic in a pan.
  • Remove the kale leaves. Prepare the kale by removing the leaves from the stems and roughly chopping or tearing the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
    Prepping kale for salad.
  • Add ingredients and massage. Place the kale in a large bowl. Add the cooled oil and garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Then gently massage the kale for a minute or two with your hands, or until the leaves start to wilt.
    Massaging kale in a bowl.
  • Garnish. Top the kale salad off with freshly shaved parmesan and serve.
    A simple kale salad in a bowl.

Lisa’s Tips

  • Kale is a pretty durable green. You can store this salad for up to 3 to 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: 141kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 128mg | Potassium: 168mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 3307IU | Vitamin C: 45mg | Calcium: 148mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Healthy Kale Salad, Kale Salad, massaged kale salad, massaged kale salad recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally published September 2019, but updated to include new photos and information for your benefit!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I made this as a side to lasagna and the family really enjoyed this. Even my daughter who doesn’t like kale happily ate it. Simple, and quick and yummy!5 stars

  2. I’ll be making this tonight and it sounds delish. But I wanted to say Lisa that your approach to food is amazing. Healthy, enjoyable, recipes and videos so well done and easily followed….I’ve introduced you to many! Happily!!!! Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much for the comment and feedback Beth! Happy to hear you’re loving Downshiftology recipes :)

  3. 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.

    1. You can always mix in lettuce if you’d like. But there’s no need to massage the lettuce.

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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

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

  9. 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