Massaged Kale Salad

This Massaged Kale Salad is one of our favorite easy salad recipes. It’s the perfect side dish for weeknight dinners or a holiday meal.

Massaged kale salad with cranberries, pepitas and goat cheese in a bowl with a fork.

Looking for an easy kale salad that will impress? This massaged kale salad recipe is simple yet so delicious. The salad dressing is a lemon maple vinaigrette, which is quick to make with just a few ingredients. Dried cranberries, pepitas and goat cheese make this simple kale salad completely irresistible!

If you prep your kale ahead of time by washing and chopping the kale leaves, it will take you only a few minutes to make this massaged kale salad. Leftovers of this salad make a healthy lunch the next day.

You might also like our favorite simple green salad recipe and this zesty Italian salad.

Why Massage Kale?

If you’re still learning to enjoy raw kale, a massaged kale salad is a good place to start. Raw kale leaves can be tough and sometimes bitter. Massaging kale makes the leaves more tender and softens the flavor of the kale. So if the flavor and texture of raw kale leaves is a bit much for you, you might enjoy a massaged kale salad.

Another way to soften the texture and flavor of kale is to let the leaves marinate in an acidic dressing. The lemon juice in the dressing for this massaged kale salad helps to soften the kale. My Lemon Parmesan Kale Salad recipe also uses this trick to help wilt the kale leaves.

How to Massage Kale

First you’ll want to cut the kale leaves off of the tough stems, chop your kale, and wash it well. Read my best tips for how to cut kale, plus how to wash and store kale.

Massaging kale in a bowl with hands.

Put the chopped kale leaves in a large bowl. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil and lemon juice over the kale leaves. This will help to soften the kale as you massage it. Use your fingers to massage the kale until it wilts down, squeezing and rubbing the kale gently in your hands.

How to Make this Massaged Kale Salad

To make this kale salad, you’ll start by making the dressing. In a small bowl or jar, combine olive oil, lemon juice, pure maple syrup (or honey), salt and pepper.

You can dip a kale leaf into the dressing and taste to see if any of the ingredients need adjusting. For example, if it’s too sweet you can add a little more lemon juice or olive oil.

In a large bowl, toss the salad dressing with the massaged kale leaves until the dressing is well distributed. Then add the pepitas, dried cranberries and goat cheese to the salad. Toss gently to combine. Your salad is ready to serve!

Massaged kale salad in a serving bowl with salad tongs.

Tips for the best kale salad

  • You can make this kale salad a few hours ahead. The salad is best the day it is made, but if you have leftover salad it will still be good on the second day.
  • You can substitute the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) with walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds. Pomegranate seeds are a good substitute for the dried cranberries.
  • If you don’t have pure maple syrup, you can substitute honey in the dressing.
  • Try adding your other favorite salad ingredients to this kale salad. Sliced apples or pears would be perfect additions!

More Kale Salad Recipes:

Kale salad with maple lemon dressing in a white bowl.

Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged kale salad with cranberries, pepitas and goat cheese in a bowl with a fork.
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5 from 1 vote
This Massaged Kale Salad is one of our favorite easy salad recipes. It's the perfect side dish for weeknight dinners or a holiday meal.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword kale salad, kale salad recipes, massaged kale salad
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings 4 servings
Calories 234kcal


For the Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (or honey)
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • black pepper

For the Salad

  • 1 large bunch kale (8 to 10 cups, loosely packed)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • cup pepitas ((pumpkin seeds))
  • cup dried cranberries
  • 2 ounces goat cheese (crumbled)


Make the Salad Dressing

  • Combine salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl, using black pepper to taste, and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Make the Salad

  • Cut the kale leaves off of the tough stalks and discard the stalks. Chop the kale into thin slices and wash thoroughly in cold water. Drain, dry, and place kale in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon olive oil over the kale. Using your hands, massage the kale until it wilts, softens, and turns darker in color, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour the salad dressing over the kale and toss to distribute evenly. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  • Add the pepitas, cranberries and goat cheese to the salad and mix briefly to combine.
  • Salad is best served the day it is made, but is still good on the second day.


Serving: 1/4 recipe | Calories: 234kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 237mg | Potassium: 548mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 10186IU | Vitamin C: 124mg | Calcium: 176mg | Iron: 2mg
Nutrition information is an estimate.
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