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Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged kale salad is the best kale salad! The simple act of massaging kale makes the leaves tender and cuts their bitterness. Here’s how to do it!

tofu and massaged kale salad on a fork

I love a simple, satisfying, veggie-packed dish. And this massaged kale salad has been one of my go-to's for years. It makes a great quick and easy lunch for one, but it's also sophisticated enough to serve for entertaining. Truly, you can't go wrong with a classic kale salad dressed in a light and refreshing lemon-olive oil dressing.

And once I make a recipe that much, I know you need it too. So that's what I'm giving you today—what I'm calling the best-ever massaged kale salad. Because it's honestly the best EVER.

bowl of crispy tofu and kale salad with lemon

Why You’ll Love This Massaged Kale Salad Recipe

Here’s what makes massaged kale salad a hit:

  • Massaged kale is a game-changer. Think you don’t like raw kale? Massaging it might change your mind! It takes away that sharp raw flavor and softens the texture.
  • So, so simple. This is also one of the easiest salads you’ll ever make! You don’t have to prep a bunch of veggies and you only need five ingredients, with a sixth that’s optional.
  • Zippy and fresh dressing. Kale is livened up with a bright, citrusy lemon vinaigrette.
ingredients for kale salad with nutritional yeast, lemon and olive oil

What You’ll Need

Here are all of the ingredients you’ll need when making this massaged kale salad. Make sure to check out the recipe card at the bottom of the page to see the exact quantities for each ingredient. 

  • Kale – I like to use curly kale, but any variety will work. I've also used thinly sliced lacinato kale and that was delish.
  • Oil – I recommend a high-quality olive oil just because it has a nice flavor, but avocado is another option. Skip the super-refined oils like sunflower or vegetable!
  • Lemon juice – This adds brightness and acidity and helps to soften the kale's texture.
  • Salt – Because every salad needs a little flavor boost from salt! I recommend pink Himalayan salt.
  • Nutritional yeast – The main flavor booster of this salad—it's cheesy, it's high protein and it's SO good! Parmesan or pecorino can be used if you're not vegan/dairy-free!
  • Garlic powder – Optional. If you want to use it to boost flavor, go for it. If not, skipping it is totally fine!

Why Do You Need To Massage Kale?

Before we talk about how to massage your kale let's talk about why you should do it. You've probably heard of a massaged kale salad before, but what's the point of massaging kale leaves?

The simple answer is: kale is tough.

Unlike some other greens, kale is pretty fibrous. So in order to make the kale more palatable, you need to soften it. And that's where massaging comes in.

There are two main benefits of massaging kale:

  1. It breaks down the cell walls in the leaves and softens them.
  2. It makes the kale easier to chew and ultimately digest.

How to Make Massaged Kale Salad

Here’s how quick and easy it is to make massaged kale salad!

  • Prep the kale. Start at the bottom of the leaf and place your fingers gently around the stem. With a quick motion up, tear the leaves off the stem. Tear each leaf into smaller pieces and place them in a bowl.
  • Add the dressing ingredients. To the bowl with the kale, add the olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and garlic powder. 
  • Massage. Use your hands to massage the salad for about 1 minute, or until the kale is wilted and soft. Add the nutritional yeast and massage to combine.
  • Finish. Serve immediately or add additional toppings before serving.

Tips for Success

Follow these pointers for a perfect massaged kale salad.

  • Massage it well. This isn’t simply tossing the greens with the dressing. You really need to get in there with your hands, squeezing the kale between your palms, rubbing the leaves, etc.
  • Know when it’s done. The leaves will soften when they’re done, with an almost silky texture. This is a sign you’ve broken down the tough fibers in the greens. Good job!
  • Taste it if you’re in doubt. Still not sure? Taste a leaf; it should be tender and the bitterness should have softened too.
plate of massaged kale salad with crispy tofu

Serving Suggestions

I like to think of this recipe as either a base salad or as a side dish. We've been eating it a lot as a side dish, but it can totally be turned into a heartier meal by adding in more toppings.

Here's what I would focus on:

  • Protein. This massaged kale salad is great with pretty much any protein type! For a vegetarian topping, add crispy baked tofu or crispy chickpeas. If you're not vegetarian or vegan, add salmonchicken, or Grilled Pork Chops.
  • Fat. Add in some avocado, nuts, or seeds to amp up the fat content a bit.
  • Veggies. Tossing on some extra veggies also helps fill it out. I love adding in shredded cabbage, roasted broccoli, scallions and cucumber.
  • Carbohydrates. And the last thing to consider adding is a starch. We love putting roasted sweet potato or roasted potatoes on top of our salads (like in my Healthy Salmon Salad), and this works really well for that!

How to Store Leftovers

Store this massaged kale salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

bowl of kale salad with crispy tofu

Massaged Kale Salad FAQ

How long does it take to massage kale?

It only takes about a minute of massaging to soften up the leaves nicely.

Can you make kale salad ahead of time?

You can dress kale salad ahead of time. Unlike delicate lettuce, kale is hearty enough to stay dressed for a while before you enjoy it. In fact, the leaves will become even more flavorful and tender the longer they're dressed. Think about it like marinating your salad.

Do you have to massage kale?

You don't have to massage kale, but it definitely makes it more enjoyable to eat. If you don't massage your kale, the leaves will be tough and hard to chew.

Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes



  • If your kale is not prechopped, you'll need to first remove it from the stem. Start at the bottom of the leaf and place your fingers gently around the stem. With a quick motion up, tear the leaves off the stem. Then tear that larger piece into smaller pieces and add them to your bowl.
  • To the bowl with the kale add the olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and garlic powder. Massage with your hands for about 1 minute until the kale is wilted and soft.
  • Add the nutritional yeast and massage to combine (about 10 times).
  • Serve immediately or top with your desired toppings!



Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 216kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 342mg | Potassium: 768mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 13387IU | Vitamin C: 167mg | Calcium: 201mg | Iron: 2mg
cuisine: American
course: Salad

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