4.95 from 35 votes

Ultimate Kale Salad With Creamy Tahini Lemon Dressing

 January 3, 2021
A large bowl of the ultimate kale salad, sitting on a table surrounded by s small bowl of dressing and a plate of kale. A large serving fork and spoon

The Ultimate Kale Salad with Creamy-Lemon Tahini Dressing is one of the best kale salads I’ve ever had – it’s loaded to the brim with toasted quinoa, dried cranberries, shaved parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and tossed in a creamy tahini-lemon-garlic dressing, that will knock your socks off. This is one salad that’s pretty addicting, and perfect to enjoy for lunch or dinner, all year round.

So, @kalejunkie is finally sharing a kale recipe? What’s up with that!?!

I get this question all the time. People want to know why my Instagram handle / blog is named KALEJUNKIE, when there’s hardly any kale. Instead, my blog is filled with mostly sweet treats and a few savory dishes, none of which have kale in them. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to tell you why!

I started my Instagram account over 5 years ago, while I was on maternity leave. I was healing from a 15 + year eating disorder that I successfully hid from everyone. At the time, I felt stuck in my career as an Employment Defense Lawyer. I was miserable in so many areas of my life—and my definition of “healthy” was a diet consisting solely of kale salads, green juice, foods with few carbs, and to be honest, that’s pretty much it—and so, the name KALEJUNKIE was born, and I was actually pretty proud of it.

But over time, my relationship with food began to shift. I learned to stop restricting food, and instead gave myself permission to enjoy all food, including yummy desserts. I then very quickly found myself spending hours upon hours in the kitchen, teaching myself how to develop simple, easy recipes. These days, I still love a loaded kale salad (like this one!) and green juice; it’s just that my definition of “healthy” has expanded to encompass more than that – so much more.

People often ask me why I haven’t rebranded and ditched the KALEJUNKIE name. The reason I won’t rebrand is because I always want to remember my journey. I think that too often we run from our past as we propel ourselves forward. For me, my struggle is my strength, and the name KALEJUNKIE serves as a powerful reminder of that.

But back to this delicious kale salad, because I know that’s really why you are here!

What you need to make the Ultimate Kale Salad with Creamy Tahini-Lemon Dressing

To make this salad, you need the following:

  • Kale: You can use any kale variety you like, but I always recommend Dino (Lacinato) kale for this recipe. Curly kale will also work nicely. I always tear the kale leaves away from the stem, because the stem is bitter and I don’t use it in the salad. But if you enjoy it, by all means, feel free to include it. I also recommend chopping the kale thin; this will help the kale get nice and soft.
  • Quinoa: In this recipe, we will be toasting the quinoa in the pot before cooking it. The reason for this, is because it gives the quinoa a nice, toasty flavor. However, if you are in a hurry, feel free to skip this step and move on.
  • Dried cranberries: I think the dried cranberries really make this recipe so special, and that’s because the salad is full of savory ingredients, but adding the tanginess of dried cranberries takes this to another level. I always make sure that my dried cranberries don’t contain any added sugars; but fruit-juiced sweetened is okay! Here’s a great brand!
  • Shaved parmesan cheese: If you are dairy-free, you can leave out the cheese. But if you aren’t, I think it’s worth hitting up the grocery store and purchasing a fresh block of parmesan, just for this recipe. You will thank me later.
  • Sliced almonds: Sliced almonds are super easy to find at the grocery store. If you want to omit them, you can, and if you prefer to use whole or crushed almonds, feel free to play around. The one thing I do suggest, is to toast the almonds! I have added this step in the Notes section of the recipe card. This just gives the almonds extra flavor, which in turn will make the salad even better. But if you are short on time, skip it!
  • Lemon juice: I recommend using a lemon, vs lemon from concentrate. It just tastes better!
  • Olive oil: This is one of those recipes, where you can taste the quality of the olive oil that you use. So if you have a nice bottle, bust it out and use it in this recipe. Your dressing will be out of this world. But again, just use what you have, it will still be amazing.
  • Tahini: By now, everyone that follows me knows that I have a mild obsession with tahini. It’s the star ingredient in my most popular recipe, my Life Changing Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies, which, if you haven’t made them yet, you are missing out on life. But anyway, you can find tahini at any grocery store these days, but this is the brand that I love most and recommend.
  • Honey: Honey adds a nice sweetness to go along with the tanginess of the lemon and red wine vinegar.
  • Red wine vinegar: I love the flavor of red wine vinegar, so if you have it on hand, make sure to use it!
  • Garlic: I love to use fresh garlic and mash it. It’s much more flavorful than using garlic powder, but if you don’t have fresh garlic on hand, then use 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Salt & Pepper: Because obviously, you need salt and pepper! 
A close-up image of a large bowl of the ultimate kale salad, in a wooden bowl on a countertop.

How to make this ultimate kale salad

This salad is really easy to make; it just entails a few steps! The first thing you need to do is toast the quinoa in a sauce pan, before cooking the quinoa. This really helps enhance the flavor of the quinoa, giving it a rich nuttiness. I always rinse and dry the quinoa completely before doing this, but if you are short on time and don’t feel like toasting the quinoa, you can just skip that step. Instead, prepare the quinoa on the stove like you normally would. The full instructions are in the recipe card below.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the salad dressing. All you have to do is add the dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor, and blend/process until the dressing is nice and creamy. Taste the dressing and adjust any seasonings as needed. If it’s too thick, add a touch of water. 

The next step is to chop the kale. I suggest ripping the kale off and leaving the stem behind. The stem is super bitter. Once you have the kale pulled off, fold it together tightly like a cigar, and slice it thin. This is just an easy way to chop kale! Then transfer it to a large bowl, add some sea salt, and use your hands to massage the kale. Like really massage the kale good. This will help soften the leaves and make it easier to digest.

The last step, before you assemble the salad, is to toast the sliced almonds. This is an optional step, but again, a step that takes like 5 minutes, and will really bring out the flavors in the almonds. Short on time? Skip it.

Last, assemble the salad! Add the dressing, cooked quinoa, dried cranberries, shaved parmesan and toasted almonds, and toss to coat well. Then you dig in and enjoy!

A small plate with some of the ultimate kale salad inside. A large bowl with the salad and salad tongs sits next to the plate, as well as a small bowl of cranberries and another small bowl of flaky sea salt.

Pro tip for making this salad

The best tip I can give you for making this salad the best kale salad of your life, it to really massage that kale. Get your hands in there and rub it with the salt, and once the dressing is on there, get those hands back in there and coat all the pieces with the dressing. You will thank me!

And if you’re looking for more kale salad recipes to try, especially now that you know how to make the best kale EVER 😉 then you have to try my Copycat Hillstone Emerald Kale Salad or my Fall Harvest Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing. They are some of my favorite kale salad recipes – aside from this one, of course!

If you make this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and rating below! And, since I practically live on Instagram, be sure to tag me in your creations so I can repost on my IG stories!

gluten-free/Refined Sugar Free

The Ultimate Kale Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing

4.95 from 35 votes
Nicole Modic
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
SERVES 4 Servings
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Locked and loaded kale salad topped with toasted quinoa, dried cranberries, shaved parmesan cheese, and toasted almonds, all tossed in a super creamy tahini-lemon-garlic dressing. This addicting salad is one that you will come back to, again and again! It's mind-blowing good!



  • 2 bunches of the Dino kale
  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa rinsed, drained, and dried
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup grated or shaved parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup sliced almonds plus extra for topping


  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic mashed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  • Prepare quinoa. In a medium pot, add the rinsed and dried quinoa. Mix it around until it gets nice and toasted, which is about 6 minutes or so. You might hear some popping noise and it smells good.
  • Next, add the water. Give everything a stir.
  • Cover, reduce heat to low, and set timer for 18 minutes.
  • Once the timer goes off, carefully remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool.
  • Next, it’s time to prepare the salad dressing. Add all of the ingredients to a blender or food processor, and blend/process everything together until creamy.
  • After you make the dressing, prepare the kale.
  • The best way to do this, is to remove the kale from the stems (the stems are bitter, so throw that away). Then fold up the kale tightly, and chop it pretty thin, about ¼-½ inch pieces.
  • Add the kale to a large bowl. Then add a pinch of salt and use your hands to massage the kale VERY WELL, until the leaves begin to wilt; this will help the kale soften.
  • Last, add the dressing, the cooked quinoa, cranberries, and toasted almond slices. Toss everything well and plate!
  • Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese and extra toasted almonds!


Optional step: toast the sliced almonds in a small pan on the stove (just add them to the pan and stir for a few minutes until they get slightly browned).

Did you make this recipe?

I’d love to see what you made – tag @kalejunkie
in your posts and I’ll re-share!



Rate + Review

4.95 from 35 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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  1. Made this for my husband, who is usually not a huge fan of kale, and we both loved it!!! It will definitely be in our rotation. Only problem is that we couldn’t stop going back for more!

  2. 4 stars
    I just bought your cookbook and it’s fantastic! I just made this dressing and it does not look like the picture, flowing so easily. It was thick like mayo and I did follow the recipe. I added some water as I saw others had mentioned this. I would probably address this. But thank YOU!! Loving your recipes!

    • Hi Jules, thank you for your support! How thick the dressing is will depend on how thick your tahini is. I use a more liquid-y tahini, so it does not need water. But if your tahini is thicker, water can work well.

  3. Hi! This is my go to salad for a lot of dishes, especially with company. I’m going to make it tonight for 7 people and wanted to know how many kales u recommend using . Thanks!!

  4. 5 stars
    OBSESSED. Someone brought this to a “Friendsgiving” a couple weeks ago and I have already made it twice since then. Why is this kale salad so good?? I have been telling my brother to try it, but make it just like the recipe says, tahini and all. Yummmmm!

    I never make kale salad because I am too lazy to massage kale. But one trick I got from the “Friendsgiving” was to punch the salad instead. Which to me equates to putting it in a mixing bowl and beating it up with a pestle for a few minutes. This hack is helping me eat so much more kale salad!

    • Wow, Sadiya I am so thrilled to hear that! What a cool way to discover a new recipe. Thank you so much for making it and for leaving such a kind review!

  5. The salad is good. The dressing is where it’s really at. First few times I made this, I started quadrupling the recipe because I ate it so fast. That was too much fiber for my body, and I thought, how can I still enjoy this salad?

    So I made the dressing on its own. It is good on everything, from salads to sandwiches to eggs to pineapple and watermelon (so I’m told). I now quadruple the dressing recipe, throw everything in a blender, and have normal dressing-sized bottles of this sauce to use every day. I’ve shared 12-oz bottles of the dressing with friends and shared the recipe with practically everyone I know.

    Tiny changes to the dressing recipe make a difference, and the tahini makes or breaks it. I sun maple syrup for honey, and otherwise follow the recipe as written.

    Thank you for sharing this!

    • Autumn, this is an amazing review and I am so grateful! Thank you so much for making this recipe and for taking the time to write such a thorough review!

  6. I know my kale. I know how to do great things with kale and I love kale every which way. But this! This was hands-down the best kale salad I ever had at any time, in any restaurant, even better than my own and that’s hard to admit! 🙂 Even more phenomenal is your beautiful way of telling people to substitute or leave out or add in anything desired. WONDERFUL! I didn’t have time to make and cool quinoa, so I used brown rice that was already in the fridge. I didn’t have time to toast almonds, didn’t have sliced almonds, took some whole almonds and chopped them with my sharp knife on a cutting board. Didn’t have Dino kale, just half Russian kale and half green curly. Left out the parm, on purpose. Added chickpeas for protein and texture. I made the dressing in my Viitamix, didn’t mash the garlic, just threw it in and it was EXCELLENT. Omigosh, I had to share it with two other people who I love dearly but I’m making it again just for myself TODAY. Thank you for this amazing recipe!

    • Stacy, this review totally made my day! Thank you so much for leaving such a detailed review, it’s so valuable to me and really helps other people find this recipe too! I am so happy you enjoyed this recipe so much. ☻

    • Hi Diane! It was likely your tahini. Try using a little less tahini if yours is on the thicker side (I usually use a more liquid-y tahini) ☻

  7. I made this for the first time in a while tonight, and I forgot how amazing this salad is. That dressing is just magical. Definitely bringing this back to the regular rotation. I’ve been making your recipes for years, and they never disappoint!

    • YAY! Colleen, thank you so much for all of your support over the years. It truly means so much to me and I am so grateful to have you as part of our community!

  8. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe at least a dozen times!! It is a go to! I typically substitute fresh golden berries for the craisins but both ways are delicious.
    For the users who say the dressing gets very thick, just thin it down with water. That is caused by blending on high speeds. Tahini thickens quickly when blended

    • That is a wonderful tip, Renee! Thank you so much for sharing, and for making this recipe!

  9. I love kale salads, and this was very tasty, except that my dressing came out more like a mayonnaise… It was very thick and not pourable. What do you think I did wrong? The tahini I use is a pourable tahini so I don’t think it was that.

    • Hi Kim, oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that! Did you follow the dressing recipe exactly?

  10. 4 stars
    I made the dressing with a distilled white vinegar sub. – missed the blender/food processor step. I mixed it just with a fork, so it did not get that creaminess. To make this recipe more idiot-proof, I’ll include ‘Dressing (in blender/food processor):’ as the heading rather than ‘Dressing:’. Of course, most read instructions!!! 🙂 Mine was a bit too salty and could have used a bit more tahini; not sure if blending would impact these features. I expect the tahini will be more present once blended and the garlic will be more evenly distributed. Fortunately I can blend the rest of mine, since I set it in a jar in the fridge. I’ll use it with some spinach too. If using this dressing with dried cranberries and unseasoned quinoa, that may indeed balance the salt.
    I’d rate this recipe even higher if it instructed users to set aside (conserve rather than trash) kale ribs for other use (good food: add into soup/stew/chili/curry/stir-fry) or to chop fine and include raw in this dish or even cook in the quinoa.

  11. 5 stars
    This recipe is perfection! I can’t stop eating it. I subbed sunflower seeds instead of almonds because of a nut allergy.

    • Yum! Sunflower seeds sounds like a great substitution in this recipe, Katherine! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a kind review!

  12. This recipe sounds amazing! I love kale salads and the addition of toasted quinoa, dried cranberries, parmesan cheese, and almonds sounds like the perfect combination. I also appreciate the personal story shared in the post about the evolution of your relationship with food and the inspiration behind your Instagram handle/blog name. I will definitely be trying this recipe out soon and can’t wait to taste the delicious tahini-lemon-garlic dressing. Thanks for sharing!

    • Rodney, I am so thrilled that you loved this recipe, and this post! Thank you so much for your support, and for leaving such a kind review!

  13. How long could you store this salad and would I store with the dressing mixed in? Probably wouldn’t hurt kale since it’s so tough right? Have any suggestions for storage containers?

    • Hi Tori! I recommend storing this salad in a separate container from the dressing, so that it doesn’t get soggy. I recommend storing them both in the fridge for up to one week. As for containers, I love these ones!

  14. Obsessed – will be making this on repeat all winter. Dressing is amazing and toasting the quinoa & almonds such an easy way to elevate these flavors. Plz make more salad recipes!!!

    • Woohoo! Cara, I am so thrilled to hear this! Thank you so much for making this recipe. And I have a TON of salad recipes on my blog and in the works!

  15. 5 stars
    Loved this. Substituted Cavolo Nero, goji berries and apple cider vinegar which worked really well. My new favourite salad!

    • I’m so glad you found substitutions that work for you, Louise! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a kind review!

  16. I made this tonight for company tonight and everyone loved it. I substituted spinach for the Kale. The flavors and texture were wonderful together.

    • I’m so happy this recipe turned out so well for you, Terry! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a kind review!

    • Hi Mel! This recipe has not been tested with any other substitutions, so I cannot guarantee that the flavor would turn out the same. However you are welcome to try it out, and if you do, please let me know how it works out for you!

  17. 5 stars
    This is a delicious, healthy, and filling salad, easy to customize with additions. One of my favorite salads – great recipe and tasty dressing.

    • YAY! I am so happy to hear that you love this recipe, Demelza! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a kind review!

  18. 5 stars
    I make tons of recipes and this is one of the most delicious salads I’ve ever eaten in my life. Totally in love! I added some toasted sunflower seeds too. I ran out of cheese so I can only imagine how amazing it is with parmesan! Next time 🙂

    • Woohoo! I am so thrilled that you loved this recipe, Kori! Thank you so much for making it, and for leaving such a sweet review!

    • Woohoo! So happy to hear that! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for your review, Andrea!

  19. 5 stars
    Delicious! I love a good tahini lemon dressing. I didn’t have the dried cranberries at home but I can see how they would be so perfect in this salad!

    • Thank you so much for leaving such a sweet review Linds! I am so thrilled that you loved this recipe, and I definitely recommend trying it with the dried cranberries next time!

    • Woohoo! Mia, I am so thrilled to hear that! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a kind review!

  20. My absolute FAVORITE kale salad. This salad was a game changer in my house. My very picky teenager, who would NEVER eat a vegetable, inhaled this salad. Thank you!

    • Woohoo! Nikki, I am so thrilled to hear that! That makes me so happy 🙂 Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a kind review!

  21. 5 stars
    This is the ~king~ of kale salads. I served this to my father, who strictly believes kale is a garnish not meant to be eaten and he LOVED it! Thanks Nicole!

    • YES! Nat, I am so so happy to hear that!! Kale is a delicious vegetable that everyone can enjoy, and I hope that this salad will start your dad on a path to becoming a kale junkie too. 🙂 Thank you so much for your sweet review!

    • Woohoo! I am so thrilled to hear that you loved it, Elin! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a sweet review!

    • Hi Mara! If stored in an airtight container in the fridge, the dressing should stay good for about one week!

  22. 5 stars
    I made your Kale salad and its fenominal!!! I love it. I’m making the avocado cucumber one next. Thank you!

    • Woohoo! I love that you’re working your way through the Kalejunkie salad recipes! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a sweet review, Tessa!

  23. 5 stars
    This salad is delicious! My 12 year old daughter who never eats salads devoured this salad! Thanks for sharing this recipe! I’ll surely be making this again!

    • YAY! Cherry, I love that so much and I’m so thrilled to hear that! Thank you so much for making this recipe, I am so so glad that you and your daughter enjoyed it!

  24. Made this today and added chicken. It’s absolutely delicious! Will definitely be making this one again!

    • YUM! Chicken sounds like the perfect addition to this salad, Renee! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for the review!

    • Yay! Calla, I am so thrilled to hear that! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a kind review!

  25. 5 stars
    I’ve recently been on a tahini kick, just can’t enough of that creamy, sesame deliciousness. I’ve been trying many tahini dressing recipes and this is by far the best one! I added roasted delicata squash and subbed toasted pepitas because I was out of almonds. Delish!

    • Jenny, that totally makes my day to hear that! Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a sweet review. I am so happy to hear that this is your favorite tahini dressing, and the addition of roasted delicata squash sounds delicious!

  26. Made this tonight for the first time- so good, and the dressing was sooo easy to do in a small bowl with my emersion blender. I added chopped up chicken breast and also added a shallot to the dressing. Will definitely make again.

    • Oooh the shallot and the chicken sound like the perfect additions, Ashley! I am so thrilled to hear that you loved this salad. Thank you so much for making this recipe, and for leaving such a sweet review!

  27. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious. Didn’t have enough kale in the garden to use all of the dressing and I’m so psyched I have it leftover for greens tomorrow. Keeper! 🧡

    • Thank you so much for your review, Cat! I love that you used kale from your garden — that is amazing!!

  28. 5 stars
    This dressing… OMG. Will become a staple in my fridge that’s for sure! Thank you for this awesome recipe ☺️

    • So happy you’re loving them, Sarah!! Thank you so much for your review!

  29. 5 stars
    Do yourself a favor and make a batch of this ASAP. You will no longer be able to live without it, trust me. I now make a weekly stash for my fridge! You NEED this dressing in your life!!!!!

    • Oooh yes!! I love to prep this dressing for busy days too. And the addition of olives and pine nuts sounds delicious!

  30. 5 stars
    I just made this for the second night in a row. I switched up the toppings based on what I had on hand, but the dressing is so perfect. Your recipes are always reliable.
    Thanks for all the recipes and positive energy you put out into the world! 💕

    • Oh, I love hearing that so much!! Thank you so much for all of the love and support!

  31. So……… I made this salad today and OMG you were right! It IS life changing!! Best Kale Salad ever and the dressing………. wasn’t expecting it to be so amazing. I will be making this all the time now. Thank you.

  32. 5 stars
    The dressing on this salad was out of this world. I followed the recipe as is for a base, and then added left over grilled chicken and sliced radishes. Absolutely delicious and without the chicken I think it would have been just as filling and satisfying. I’ll be making this again and again.

  33. I made this salad for diner Sunday, took left overs for lunch Monday and made more for dinner Tuesday! Yes I love it! Didn’t have quinoa so added hemp hearts and chicken, Delish!!! I love all your recipes I’ve tried💕💕

  34. Not sure how I found this recipe but I tasked my husband to make it and it was FANTASTIC!!! This will definitely we a weekly go to for us! Looking forward to trying more of your recipes!

  35. 5 stars
    Thanks Nicole for sharing with us your your relationship with food so openly. I’ve made this salad and I can say that it is fabulous!! Love the tahini sauce so much! Lots of love, B.