How To Massage Kale for Salads & Sides

Kale salads seem to be popping up on menus everywhere. The problem is that raw kale isn’t particularly tender and often has a grassy flavor. However, after a little massaging, kale can be transformed into a tender, yet hearty, salad or side dish.

This particular recipe is flexible, simple, and provides several teachable culinary moments that you can use forever.

First, let’s talk about the massage. Just like you, kale will be relaxed after a massage. Simply squeezing the greens in your hands with a firm press will break down the fibrous leaves. That’s right, no cooking necessary!

Second, using the vinaigrette (oil and vinegar base) as the lubricant helps tenderize and coat the kale leaves.

Third, don’t feel bound by the ingredient list.

  • Oil = fat. Any flavor neutral oil will work.
  • Vinegar = acid. Rice, red, apple cider, lemon juice are all acids.
  • Almonds = texture. Any seed, nut or crunchy bits will work.
  • Raisins/Cranberries = sweetness and eye appeal. Any dried fruit will work.
  • Brown Sugar = balance to the vinegar. Try honey, maple syrup, palm sugar.

Feel free to substitute. Experiment and make this recipe yours!


Massaged Kale Salad
Prep 15 minutes

Yield Serves 8




2 Bunches Kale: deribbed, washed, dried

¼ Cup Olive/Canola oil blend

¼ Cup Rice Wine Vinegar

¼ Cup Brown Sugar

¼ Cup Almonds: sliced

¼ Cup Raisins/Dried Cranberries




1. Combine sugar, oil, and vinegar in separate bowl. Whisk until well combined. Reserve.


2. Place washed and dried kale into a large bowl. Pour all the dressing over the kale.



3. Toss the kale in the dressing until evenly coated.

4. Squeeze the kale firmly in hands like balling up a piece of paper. Do this several times with both hands.


5. Taste the kale for tenderness. Continue to massage “squeeze” the kale until desired tenderness.


6. Sprinkle almonds and dried fruit over the top. Toss to mix.



7. Plate


Photo Credit: Andrew Dole

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