Ultimate Kale Salad With Creamy Tahini Lemon Dressing

January 3, 2021

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! 

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!

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!

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!

The Ultimate Kale Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing

Author: Nicole Modic of @KALEJUNKIE

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
SERVES 4
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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!

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 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

Dressing:

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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!

Notes

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!

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

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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💕💕

  6. 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!

  7. 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.