This beautiful sizeable green kale apple salad is full of flavors, combining sweet with hearty while the texture is creamy and crunchy at the same time.
It's a nourishing, super healthy, delicious, and easy to prepare massaged kale salad with a homemade avocado pesto to enjoy this famously healthy vegetable in a whole new way!
Vegan, whole30, and Paleo-friendly!
If you know a couple of tasty salad recipes like this raw kale salad, dinner or lunch becomes a whole lot easier. It's a healthy sharing portion, ready in less than 15 minutes, and pairs with just about any heartier mains like bunless burgers or oven-baked chicken drumsticks (I share more ideas below).
Kale Nutrition: Kale is a nutritious cruciferous vegetable packed with essential vitamins, especially vitamins A, K, C. It is notably rich in the mineral manganese. But it is also an excellent source of calcium. I include this vegetable regularly into my family's diet, mainly because it is one of the few dark greens that are exceptionally versatile. It's delicious raw when tenderized and sturdy enough to withstand heat well and, therefore, great to add to soups or make kale chips.
Make a healthy kale apple salad
You only need a few fresh ingredients like kale leaves, cucumber, and a green apple to ensemble this raw salad. Optional add-ons are green spring onions and chopped walnuts.
Which type and how to buy kale
For raw salads, I use either baby kale leaves or the Lacinato, best known as the dinosaur kale, because I find their taste slightly sweeter than the curly or red kale.
You have to find out for yourself which one you prefer. Occasionally I enjoy curly kale too, but I use it more often in soups.
Any variety of kale can be used here, but whatever type you pick,
- Always choose fresh bunches with deep colors;
- Avoid leaves that appear to have dried out.
- The stems should be plump and juicy.
How to quickly wash kale
I usually place the greens in a colander and simply rinse the kale leaves thoroughly under cold running water.
Then I gently shake off any excess water and, if needed, loosely pat dry the leaves with a clean kitchen towel.
If the kale leaves have a lot of grit or dirt on them, I'll soak them first for 5 minutes in a large bowl of water with a tad of vinegar—a natural disinfectant. Then I'll dig my hand in the bowl and give the leaves a good shake to loosen any dirt before rinsing them from top to bottom.
How to prep and chop the kale
First, remove the stems from the kale leaves. And there are several ways you can do this:
- You can place each kale leaf flat on a kitchen board and cut along the stem with a knife, separating it from the leafy parts.
- You can also hold the top of the stem with one hand and, with the other, run your fingers along either side of the stem, ripping the leaves off in one swooping motion. A bit more imprecise, but it saves time (see picture A below).
- Or grab the stem with one hand and tear off the leafy parts first on one side, then switch hands and do the other side, staying close to the stem while your hands moving along down the leave until you reach the end—a bit gentler but equally effective (picture B).
Then either chop or shred the leavy parts into small pieces, so this vegetable becomes so much easier to massage and combine with other ingredients.
Should you eat the stems of kale in a salad: when finely chopped, the thinner fleshy stalks can add great crunchiness to the salad. It is, of course, a personal preference. I would still remove the bulkier and larger portions of the stems as they are difficult to chew—throw them into green smoothies or soups.
Massage the kale
It takes only a few minutes to massage the kale with my pesto dressing or some olive oil using your hands. It ultimately tenderizes kale, changes its structure, and brings out the sweetness of this vegetable while making harder or crunchier parts softer and lighter.
Toss in some apples or other crunchy fruits or vegetables
There are so many great ingredients that you can add to a kale salad:
- Like chopped hard cheese, nuts, etc.
- But my favorites are green apples or pomegranate seeds.
- The sweet and slightly sour taste of these fruits surprisingly pops into your mouth and compliments the dark leafy greens.
- I also toss in cucumbers in this salad, which add a refreshing and more cooling taste, especially when paired with a homemade creamy pesto recipe.
Kale salad dressing
There are two ways I often enjoy crunchy raw kale at home. Either with a simple olive oil-based dressing or with a homemade Basil Pesto recipe. They both are super easy to make and take almost no time to put together. So, let's have a look.
An easy oil-based dressing
- Massage the kale in a little bit of olive oil (about two tablespoons) to soften its texture for a couple of minutes.
- Add a little bit of salt to taste.
- Then add some lemon juice (about one tablespoon)
- Toss in the cucumber and apple pieces.
- Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.
A creamy avocado pesto recipe
- More often than not, I like to massage it in my homemade pesto recipe made with fresh avocado and other hearty ingredients to make the kale salad super creamy.
- This recipe is put together in minutes, so I always make it ad hoc.
- But feel free to make this avocado pesto ahead and enjoy it whenever you want to add some pizzazz to raw salads or plates of pasta.
- Store in an airtight container or sealed mason jar and refrigerate for up to 3 or 4 days.
Avocado Pesto ingredients
- Avocado: this is the base of this (vegan) pesto dressing, and it is all you need to make it super creamy.
- Garlic: the amount will not overpower the taste, but it is just enough to give it a little zip.
- Roasted, salted sunflower seeds: it replaces nuts in this dressing but still gives you that mild nutty flavor. Roasted seeds enhance the overall taste.
- Extra virgin olive oil: you can go a bit lighter on the olive oil if preferred, but this sauce needs a bit to compliment the herbal flavors and help coat the vegetables.
- Lemon juice: adds a bright, refreshing citrusy element.
- Dried Basil: when you have fresh sweet Basil on hand, feel free to use a few leaves instead. But if not, dried Basil works just as well. It will be a tad mintier in flavor.
Massage the Basil avocado pesto first into the kale before adding the rest of the ingredients.
This kale apple salad is one of my favorite raw green side dishes, and I often enjoy it with:
- Either a quick-seared or oven-roasted salmon, grilled meat, or white fish.
- Pair it with my slow cooker beef short ribs.
- Sometimes I toss some crumbled hard-boiled eggs on top or a can of tuna. And, voila, you have a quick and easy lunch or light dinner!
- Want to keep it vegan? Serve it with my Savory Veggie Fritters, pair it with a protein-rich soup, or just toss in some canned garbanzo beans—all good options.
If you follow a low-carb, paleo diet, this is one of the kale salad recipes you want to have in your kitchen repertoire. Note: if you are on a ketogenic diet, omit the apple or choose to add only half of it!
- Make it a tad punchier by adding chopped green onions, and chopped walnuts.
- Serve it on a slice of dark seed bread for a healthy avocado pesto sandwich.
I hope you will enjoy this recipe and check out some of my other kale salads or healthy and refreshing bites like the Citrusy Kale, Fennel, Salmon Salad with Mozzarella, and my nourishing Mango Avocado salad, or The Fennel Cucumber Bites with Creamy Tuna.
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Kale Apple Salad with Creamy Avocado PestoMariska Ramondino
To Make the Pesto
- 1 avocado
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 tablespoons roasted, salted sunflower seeds
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried Basil
To Make the Salad
- 1 large bunch Dinosaur Kale or more as preferred, finely chopped
- 1 green apple chopped
- ½ European cucumber peeled and chopped
- Sea salt to taste
- Optional: 2 chopped green onions and a handful of chopped walnuts
Make the Pesto
- Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
- Blend on high speed until you have a beautiful green paste, set aside.
Make the Salad
- Place the kale in a large bowl.
- Add the avocado pesto and start massaging the green paste into the kale to soften the vegetable until the pesto is evenly divided (less than one minute.)
- Add the cucumber and apples. Toss to combine.
- Taste test and season with a few pinches of salt, if preferred (optional.)
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Add only ½ apple if you prefer your salad less sweet.
- For raw salads, I use either baby kale leaves or the Lacinato, best known as the dinosaur kale, because I find their taste slightly sweeter than the curly or red kale.
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Nutrition (% Daily value)
Disclaimer: This nutritional data is calculated using third party tools and is only intended as a reference.
(Note: this post was initially published in May 2018. This post has been updated to include new info)