This kale salad with strawberries is quick, seasonal and delicious. Add your favorite protein and make it a lunch or dinner! With strawberries, kale, caramelized pepitas, dates and pecorino romano, you get the best combo of sweet and crunchy and a great source of iron! Did I mention it’s gluten-free?
Kale will forever be one of my favorite bases for a salad. It’s super hearty, I love the texture and it pairs well with fruit and cheese. And everyone knows those are really the best part of a salad. This kale salad with strawberries, dates, and pepitas is a great combo of sweet, salty, chewy, and crunchy. Plus, the kale gives it some major staying power (three cups of kale, which is roughly what I use– has 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.) Pecorino romano, one of my favorite hard cheeses, gives it that salty goodness. I topped mine with grilled chicken since it was what I had in my fridge. But you could also top it with plain chickpeas, shrimp, salmon cakes or serve it without any added protein.
If kale makes you nervous, this is a great option to start with! (This is another favorite kale salad recipe!) Spring is a perfect time to try this salad because kale and strawberries are in season and available at most farmers’ markets!
Kale Salad with Strawberries, Caramelized Pepitas, Dates & Pecorino Romano
What’s the deal with massaging kale?
Kale is SUPER high in fiber, and it also contains B vitamins, and vitamin C, which promote iron absorption. Lacinato Kale is my favorite kale for salads, but it can be a little tough so I always thinly slice or tear it up. And sometimes, I’ll even massage it.
Massaging kale helps break down the tough cell structure and gives the kale a softer texture and sort of a gentler flavor. I think it makes it easier to digest and enjoy. All you need to do is use your hands and a little bit of olive oil to soften the kale, massaging it with your hands. Unlike other leafy greens, it won’t get soggy and wilt when it sits with salad dressing or olive oil on it.
This kale salad hits the spot on multiple fronts. Kale is a great source of iron, and it goes well with almost anything! A tip for preparing your kale: slice the stem into smaller pieces to reduce the amount of chewing as they can be tougher to chew through than the leaves
3 cups kale, tough stalk removed and chopped
5 fresh strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoon pepitas + 1 T sugar for caramelizing
1–2 dates, chopped (pit removed)
Protein & dressing of choice!
Caramelize pepitas in a skillet over medium-low heat for a minute or two. Keep a close eye since they’ll burn easily!
Place sliced kale in a large bowl and add strawberries on top, along with dates, pecorino romano, pepitas and protein of choice.
Place caramelized pepitas in a small bowl to cool before adding them to the salad
Drizzle with a salad dressing of your choice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Gently toss salad to mix all ingredients together
This is a basic salad dressing I often pair it with! But I do love alternating that dressing with a simple splash of apple cider vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil, too.
I’ve also tried it with balsamic vinegar, mustard vinegar, and even freshly squeezed lemon juice. The options of dressing are endless because this salad really does work well with most of them. I suggest refraining from overdoing the dressing because this salad is already tasty enough by itself!
Kale Salad Variations and Toppings
Pepitas, aka pumpkin seeds, are a great source of healthy fats, magnesium and zinc. I often caramelize them because it makes them crunchier and sweeter, but if I’m in a rush, raw ones work great too. Sliced almonds and walnuts work well in this recipe too.
Dates also help add some sweetness to this salad. Any dried fruit – like cherries, raisins, cranberries or apricots – will work well in this salad!
Fresh fruit adds another layer or sweetness to balance the bitter kale, and using fresh fruit adds crisp texture, while the dried fruit gives it chewiness! Pairing it with strawberries is a must when they are in season, like right now. In the summer, I add pears. And in the fall, I go for crisp apples!
If you’re dairy-free you can skip the Pecorino Romano, but if you aren’t, add every bit of it. It’s similar to parmesan but typically cheaper and I like it better. Adding crumbles of goat cheese on top of this salad is a delicious option if you don’t love Pecorino Romano as much as I do.