Lemony Kale Salad Recipe – Cookie and Kate

simple kale salad recipe

Trust me, you need this lemony kale salad recipe. It might not look like much at first glance, but this hearty green salad is boldly flavored and just what you need to round out tonight’s dinner.

This simple kale salad features finely shredded Tuscan kale tossed in a bold, lemony dressing with freshly-grated pecorino romano or Parmesan cheese.

Tuscan kale goes by many names—you might know it as lacinato kale, dinosaur kale or cavolo nero (literally “black cabbage” in Italian). It’s less curly than standard kale, which makes it easier to stack, roll and thinly slice. Once prepared, this salad is almost slaw-like in texture. It’s really irresistible.

kale salad ingredients

This food blog has no less than 22 kale salad recipes already, plus this kale salad roundup with tips. But the collection truly isn’t complete without this one, which draws heavy inspiration from the mother of all kale salads created by Joshua McFadden in 2007.

I always order a salad like this one when we eat at True Foods Kitchen. The main difference between this salad and the aforementioned kale salads is that this recipe omits the bread crumbs. I tried with and without, and the breadcrumbs didn’t do a whole lot in terms of flavor and don’t keep well on the salad for leftovers.

You’ll find the recipe and instructional video below. I’m also sharing my best tips that will help you create consistently flavored batches of salad, which is honestly tricky!

how to prepare kale

How to Make Lemony Kale Salad

Here’s the funny thing about kale—it’s sold in bunches that are not consistent by weight. Is this a kale-spiracy? Quite possibly. This recipe calls for specifically for one medium-to-large bunch of Tuscan kale, which is about eight ounces by weight. If your kale bunches are quite small, you might even need two of them. 

The recipe offers a suggested range of lemon juice since kale bunches vary in size, and even a bit in flavor from one bunch to the next. We’ll start with one tablespoon, and you can add up to one more to taste at the end. You want the salad to taste a little puckery because the tartness of the lemon helps counter the bitterness of the kale.

You’ll need to finely shred and massage the kale for best results. This sounds fussy, but it’s not very difficult, I promise! Finely shredding the kale yields an awesome texture, which is improved further by massaging the kale. If you’ve ever struggled to eat a poky, large-leafed kale salad, this one is a totally different ballgame. You’ll find the full how-tos in the recipe below, and you can see these techniques in action in the video.

Pecorino romano vs. Parmesan: Pecorino is my top pick, but Parmesan will work if that’s what you have. They’re similar because they’re both aged hard cheeses, though pecorino is made from sheep’s milk and Parmesan is from cow’s milk. Pecorino has a sharper flavor and it’s more salty, so it really stands out more in this salad. The salty aspect is a plus because salt helps counter the bitterness of the kale (you can always add another pinch of salt, to taste, if needed).

Watch How to Make Kale Salad

tuscan kale salad with parmesan on top

Kale Salad Serving Suggestions

This versatile kale salad will brighten any meal that’s on the heavier or more traditional side. It goes well with hearty Italian meals like Eggplant Parmesan, and creamy soups and pastas. Hear are just a few suggestions to make a full meal:

easy kale salad

More Kale Salads to Enjoy

View all kale salads here. Below are a few select favorites (I love them all, though).

Please let me know how your kale salad turns out in the comments! I’d be delighted to hear from you.

simple kale salad


Lemony Kale Salad

  • Author: Cookie and Kate
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: By hand
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

4.7 from 7 reviews

Make this lemony kale salad! It’s a simple kale salad recipe featuring a bright lemon dressing and freshly-grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese. This boldly flavored kale salad is the perfect side salad to complement your meal. Recipe yields 4 to 6 side salads, and is easily doubled.



Lemon dressing

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • Several twists of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Kale salad

  • 1 medium-to-large bunch of Tuscan kale (8 ounces)
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine salt 
  • ½ cup (1 ½ ounces) finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese


  1. In a small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients (use just 1 tablespoon lemon juice) and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  2. To prepare the kale, fold the leaf so the larger rib side is out and pull the tough rib out from the kale to make each leaf into two separate halves. Stack a few leaves at a time and roll them up, from one short end to the other. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice them as thinly as possible across the roll. Then use a chop or two to cut all of the rounds in half.
  3. Transfer the chopped kale to a medium serving bowl and sprinkle it with the salt. Massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, over and over until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  4. Drizzle in all of the dressing, add all of the cheese and gently toss until thoroughly combined. Taste, and add more lemon juice if desired—it should taste pleasantly lemony and a little tart (the tartness helps cut the bitterness of the kale). 
  5. Ideally, let the salad rest for 10 minutes or more before serving. This salad will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.

▸ Nutrition Information

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

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