If you’re looking for an easy kale salad recipe that also makes great leftovers, this one is for you! It has just enough sweetness from the oranges and cherries and a soft crunch from the pistachios. Plus, it doubles well to feed a crowd!
Kale is one of my go-to’s for salads because it’s hearty (i.e. filling), has great chew (i.e. no soggy lettuce!) and makes great leftovers (doesn’t get sad and gross in the fridge). I know lots of people who are a little intimidated by kale or have a bad impression of it, and I’m here to change that!
This is my favorite salad go-to to take to dinner parties. The last dinner I took it to included two teenagers who both went back for seconds. That’s a winner in my book! Plus, it has just a few ingredients so it’s quick the pull together and can be made in advance. It’s also a nice option to get some dark greens into your diet during a time of year where it’s easy to feel like your diet is mostly holiday treats (see how I stay healthy during the holidays here).
Easy Kale Salad Recipe with oranges, pistachios and cherries
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
White Balsamic Dressing
(You could also try adding red onion for a nice kick).
This recipe also works well as a template so you can tweak it to your liking.
I prefer dried unsweetened cherries, but you could sub dried cranberries. I like the tartness of dried cherries better than overly-sweet cranberries, which also have lots of added refined sugar – no thanks!
For the fresh fruit, experiment with fruits besides mandarin oranges. It’s great with blood oranges, which also add gorgeous color. Apple or grapefruit would work also work well in this recipe. I try to buy whatever is in season.
And any nut will do! I particularly love pistachios as the weather cools down, and pecans are another favorite cool-weather nut. And for the summer, you could add sunflower seeds. (Does anyone else have favorite nuts by season? Anyone? Okay… I’ll show myself out.) You could add a nut seasoned with salt and pepper if you wanted to, both I’d stick to un-seasoned nuts other than that for this recipe.
1. Wash and massage your kale in a to soften it
2. Peel the mandarin orange and divide into segments
3. Top with pistachios and dried cherries a large bowl. Once those are in the bowl, combine with the mandarin oranges (I like these to stay on top so they don’t get soggy).
4. Drizzle with salad dressing and toss to combine
Kale Salad Tips
How do you massage kale?
I love raw kale in my salads but for kale newbies, it can be a bit intense, requiring more chewing than romaine or spinach. To improve that, you want to massage your kale. After you wash it and spin it dry, pat it to remove even more moisture. Then, drizzle olive oil on top – not a ton, start with a small amount – and use your hands to massage it into the kale. Just grab the leaves and mash them a bit! It will soften the kale leaves so you don’t feel like it’s difficult to chew and eat. And taking the kale off the stalk will also make it more enjoyable. I’d rip the kale into bite sized pieces so that you’re not having to cut the salad a lot while eating it. See my thoughts on that below.
What’s the best kale to use in salads?
I much prefer the lacinato kale that is on the stalk rather than pre-washed/pre-chopped kale. Yes, you have to wash it and tear the leaves off the stalk during your meal prep. But all the pre-chopped kale I’ve seen has the stalks in it and that is serious chewing! No thanks. If you buy pre-washed baby kale (often at Trader Joes), you don’t need to massage it but it will have a different look and taste. And I don’t find it quite as filling as lacinato kale. Curly kale is good too, but again lacinato (aka dinosaur kale) is my favorite.
How long will massaged kale salad keep?
Massaged kale will keep 3-4 days. And the longer it sits, the softer the kale will get. I made a double batch of this recipe for a family dinner last Sunday and it was still tasty three days later. It makes great leftovers with chicken or lentils as a main or side dish! I actually like this salad as leftovers even better since the kale softens as it sits with dressing on it.
What is the best dressing for kale
Kale stands up really well to a variety of salad dressings – it makes an especially great stand-in for romaine in a caesar salad — so just pick your favorite that pairs well with whatever you’re throwing in the salad. For this combination, I really like it paired with this white balsamic dressing. You could use regular balsamic vinegar in this salad dressing too!
Pull the kale off the stems and tear into smaller pieces. Place in a salad spinner, wash well and then dry well. I dab it with a paper towel after spinning to get all the water off. Place kale in a large salad bowl.
Drizzle olive oil over the kale and massage it into the leaves with your hands until coated and the leaves start to shrink in size a bit. You want just a enough to coat the leaves but not a heavy dressing.
Add the mandarin oranges, pistachios and dried cherries.
Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons dressing over the top and toss to coat. Again, add just enough dressing to lightly coat everything but not too much that it becomes heavy. Start with a smaller amount to toss, add more as necessary and serve extra dressing on the side.