Massaged Kale Salad with Chickpeas and Parmesan

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Massaged Kale Salad will show you how to soften kale for the most tender leaves ever.  Toss with chickpeas and parmesan for an easy, satisfying salad!

overhead shot of massaged kale salad with chickpeas and parmesan with wooden servers

I’ve admitted before that I can be slow to embrace new trends and different methods of doing things.  Maybe it’s practicality, maybe it’s stubbornness…or a little bit of both.

Honestly, I think I just get set in my ways. 🙂

I’ve avoided making a Massaged Kale Salad until last month after eating kale salads for years.  I thought I loved kale just the way it was, and giving it a massage just sounded silly to me. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong!

front shot of massaged kale salad in bowl

I discovered how truly special massaged kale is when I visited the restaurant Revival Bar + Kitchen in Berkeley last month.  I ordered the kale salad with the dressing on the side, and it was so delicious that I didn’t even need the dressing.

The tuscan kale leaves were so soft and tender, seasoned just right with salt and olive oil, and I knew right then and there that it had been massaged first.  

I can’t believe that I’ve never been exposed to kale that’s been massaged before at a restaurant or otherwise, but I’ve definitely been missing out!

overhead shot of massaged kale salad

When should I massage my kale?

Raw kale should be massaged before eating in salads if the leaves are large, tough and bitter in flavor.  There is never any reason to massage kale before cooking as the cooking process softens the leaves.

There are (4) common varieties of kale that are used raw in salads:

  • Curly kale:  Tough, large, curly leaves with a bitter flavor
  • Dinosaur kale (otherwise known as lacinato or tuscan kale):  Large, tough, flat leaves with a bitter flavor
  • Baby kale:  Small, tender leaves with a sweeter flavor
  • Red Russian:  Smaller, ragged looking leaves that are more tender with a sweeter flavor

Curly kale and dinosaur kale benefit from massaging in olive oil as it breaks down the structure of the leaves and softens them, making them much more pleasurable in salads. 

Baby kale and Red Russian kale are already tender so there’s no need to massage them.

How to prep and massage kale

Kale before and after massaging -- front shot in bowl

overhead shot of kale in bowl before and after massaging

You can see what a dramatic difference massaging has on the kale in the before and after photos above.  It’s amazing how tender kale becomes after 30 seconds or so of massage!

Prep the kale:

  • Wash the kale thoroughly, drain and blot dry
  • Tear the leaves away from the tough, inner stem into medium to large pieces, then discard the stems

Massage the kale

  • Place the kale in a large bowl
  • Add the oil, lemon juice (if using) and salt to the kale
  • Using your hands, massage the oil mixture into the leaves for about 30 seconds or until the kale reaches the desired level of tenderness.  You’ll feel the leaves break down and soften in seconds.

How long does massaged kale keep?

Softened kale keeps for 3 days in the refrigerator in an air tight container.   Simply add a bit more olive oil if it seems on the dry side.

Massaged kale salad with chickpeas and parmesan in bowl -- front angled overhead shot

Kale Salad ingredients

  • 1 bunch curly kale or dinosaur kale
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon 
  • Kosher salt
  • Radicchio
  • Chickpeas
  • Fennel
  • Parmesan cheese

How to make Massaged Kale Salad

Once the kale has been massaged, add the radicchio, chickpeas, fennel and parmesan.  Adjust the seasoning as necessary and serve!

Recipe Notes and Substitutions

  • Add more lemon or herbs for even more flavor!
  • The massaged kale with radicchio and fennel will keep in an air tight container for up to 3 days. When ready to eat, simply add the chickpeas and shaved parmesan along with a bit more oil if it seems on the drier side.
  • Customize this salad with whatever ingredients you have on hand.  This salad is also wonderful with avocado!

close up shot of massaged kale salad in teak bowl

Hungry for more salads?  See all of my Salad recipes.

More kale recipes you’ll love:

Breakfast casserole

Brussels sprout kale salad

Kale chips by Minimalist Baker

Kale smoothie

White bean kale soup

Massaged Kale Salad

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Massaged Kale Salad will show you how to soften kale for the most tender leaves ever.  Toss with chickpeas and parmesan for an easy, satisfying salad!

Massaged Kale Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch curly kale or dinosaur kale, tough inner stems removed and torn into medium pieces
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chopped radicchio
  • 1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small fennel bulb, outer bulb removed, halved and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup shaved parmesan

Instructions

  1. Place the kale, olive oil, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl. Working with your hands, toss the kale in the oil and lemon while massaging the leaves. Massage until softened, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  2. Add the radicchio, chickpeas, fennel and parmesan and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Add more oil and lemon as desired.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • Add more lemon or herbs for even more flavor!
  • The massaged kale with radicchio and fennel will keep in an air tight container for up to 3 days. When ready to eat, simply add the chickpeas and shaved parmesan along with a bit more oil if it seems on the drier side.
  • Customize this salad with whatever ingredients you have on hand.  This salad is also wonderful with avocado!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 201Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 284mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 6g
Nutrition information is mean to be an estimate only. The numbers will vary based on the quantity consumed, brands used and substitutions that are made.

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