A deliciously simple recipe for kale crunch salad is made with dates, Parmesan cheese, and roasted almonds topped with a homemade lemon vinaigrette dressing. It makes the perfect side dish or can be topped with your favorite protein for a hearty nutrient-dense meal on its own!
This easy kale salad recipe with dates is, hands-down, my favorite kale salad to date. The flavors in this salad blend together so beautifully and the dates, cheese, and nuts provide the perfect contrast in texture.
Serve this versatile kale salad as an appetizer or pair it with a soup or sandwich for lunch. It's also hearty enough to be served as a healthy dinner topped with a customized protein such as chicken, salmon, or marinated tofu so anyone can enjoy it!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Kale is a great way to get in nutrients from leafy greens.
- Pairing massaged kale with dates helps cut through the bitterness by adding a naturally sweet flavor.
- There are many different flavors and textures in this salad that all balance beautifully into the perfect salad that you'll make over and over.
- The lemon vinaigrette dressing is easy to make and can be used on other salad dishes or as a marinade.
- It tastes even better than the similar salad at Chickfila because it's made with natural ingredients from scratch.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Green Kale - Prepare green kale by washing, drying then removing the stems and chopping into bite-sized pieces.
- Olive Oil - Helps break down the tough fibers in the kale making it easier to digest.
- Roasted Almonds - Gives the salad a healthy crunch.
- Pitted Dates - Adds a great texture and naturally sweet flavor without the addition of sugar.
- Parmesan Cheese - Gives the salad a salty flavor and kick of flavor that pairs well with kale. Make sure you're using good freshly grated parmesan cheese!
For the lemon vinaigrette dressing:
- Red Pepper Flakes - Gives a light kick of spice to the dressing. Add as little or as much as you'd like!
- Onion & Garlic - Infuses the dressing with a light onion and garlic flavor.
- Lemon Juice - Gives the dressing acidity and a bright flavor.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Olive oil makes up the base of the dressing and gives it a nice layer of flavor.
- Dijon Mustard - Adds a bit of tangy flavor and helps emulsify the ingredients.
- Honey - Helps give the dressing a naturally sweet flavor. You can also use maple syrup or agave.
- Sea Salt - Balances and enhances all the flavors in the dressing.
How To Make The Best Kale Salad
Step 1. Prepare and massage the kale.
Wash, rinse, and pat kale dry, gently pressing leaves to soak up the remaining water and cut the leaves away from the hard stalk.
Then chop leaves into small, bite-size pieces, you want to make sure that you only have the soft leaves for your salad, not any firm stalks. You can also tear the leaves into smaller pieces with your hands.
Massage chopped kale with ¼ cup olive oil for several minutes until leaves are thoroughly coated. Allow kale to sit for about 30 minutes to soak up the oil.
Step 2. Make the lemon vinaigrette.
Place all the dressing ingredients into a blender or Vitamix and blend until smooth.
Step 3. Assemble the kale salad & serve.
Pour dressing over kale and mix well, massaging the dressing into the leaves. Right before serving add the almonds, dates, and freshly grated parmesan, then toss and serve.
Optional: refrigerate massaged kale in a sealed container for 30 minutes and up to 24 hours for best flavor.
If you can't find roasted almonds that are already chopped, I use a mini food processor to chop whole roasted almonds.
Pulse a few times and you end up with perfectly chopped nuts.
Tips For Massaged Kale
- Make sure you're using just the leaves of the kale and not the stems. The stems are very fibrous and not easy to chew or eat when raw.
- Don't buy the pre-cut kale for salads, it's full of hard stems. It's great for soups and stews, but a no-go for a great kale salad.
- Massaging kale is KEY. I promise, giving your kale a rub-down makes all the difference in the texture of the leaves and makes them easy to digest.
- Massage the leaves with oil. My favorite oils for massaging kale are extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil because they have a neutral flavor.
- Use dinosaur kale or purple kale or a mix of different kale varieties in this salad recipe for different textures.
- For extra crunch and bulk, toss in some shredded red and green cabbage.
- Don't like dates? Try these dried fruits instead; raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, golden berries, or currants.
- Try topping the salad with shredded pecorino romano or shaved manchego to change up the flavors of the cheese.
- Change up the almonds and top with raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, or toasted sunflower seeds.
Storing and Freezing
- Storing: Since the kale has been broken down by massaging the leaves, it's best to consume within 2-3 days. Leftover kale salad can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Freezing: Freezing this salad is not recommended.
Kale is a healthy nutrient-dense leafy green that adds bulk and fiber to any dish making it a healthy option that can support weight loss.
To combat the sometimes bitter flavor of kale, use a dressing that has acidity such as lemon or vinegar and sweetness.
Both are healthy leafy greens that contain vital minerals and nutrients that aid in health making them both equally healthy.
More Salad Recipes You'll Love
*This post was originally published in August 2014 and has been updated to improve the reader experience. The delicious recipe remains the same.
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Kale Crunch Salad with Dates
For the Salad:
- 2 bunches of kale rinsed, patted dry, stalks & stems removed and chopped into bite-size pieces
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup roasted almonds chopped
- 8 dates pitted and chopped
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan use the good stuff!
For the Dressing:
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes this adds a little spicy kick, but you can leave this out if you prefer
- ¼ cup chopped sweet onion
- 2 garlic cloves peeled
- juice of 1 large lemon
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- ½ tsp sea salt
- Wash, rinse and pat kale dry, gently pressing leaves to soak up remaining water
- Cut leaves away from hard stalk, then chop leaves into small, bite-size pieces
- You want to make sure that you only have the soft leaves for your salad, not any firm stalks
- Massage chopped kale with ¼ cup olive oil for several minutes until leaves are thoroughly coated
- Allow kale to sit for about 30 minutes to soak up the oil
- Place all the dressing ingredients into a blender or Vitamix and blend until smooth
- Pour over kale and mix well, massaging the dressing into the leaves
- *Optional: refrigerate in a sealed container for 30 minutes and up to 24 hours for best flavor
- Right before serving add the almonds, dates, and freshly grated parmesan, then toss and serve