When made properly, a kale salad is pretty much perfect — it's sturdy (making it great for brown bag lunches), flavorful, and virtuous-feeling. When made inexpertly, a kale salad can be leathery, bitter, and nearly inedible. The difference? A few key (but simple) steps:
- Use lacinato (also known as Tuscan or dinosaur) kale, not curly or baby kale. Curly kale tends to be too tough to be enjoyed raw, whereas baby kale is less flavorful.
- Remove the center rib. Tough and fibrous, it's unpleasantly chewy and brings little to the
- Cut or tear the leaves into small pieces that are no larger than about 2 inches square, or shred into ribbons by stacking and then rolling up the leaves before cutting them thinly crosswise, much as you would chiffonade basil. This is a good tip for all salads — big pieces are awkward to eat — but especially with kale, as it minimizes its leathery texture.
- Massage the kale pieces with salt before dressing; not only does this help season the kale, but it also makes its texture more supple.
- Use a more acidic dressing than is standard (closer to 2:1 oil:vinegar versus 3:1), and be generous with the amount used, tasting as you add it. Acidity balances kale's bitter flavor.
- Let the salad rest in the fridge with dressing for 30 minutes to 2 hours if you have time. This isn't imperative, but if you have the time to spare, do it. Plus, this allows you to make much of the salad ahead of time — a boon for dinner parties.
- Use bold flavors; others will be lost. Bring on the sharp, nutty hard cheeses, like parmesan, pecorino romano, or even cheddar. Citrus, pickled elements, garlicky or anchovy-accented dressings like Caesar, bacon, pomegranate arils, and flavorful nuts like walnuts are also welcome additions.
Now that you know the ins and outs of kale salad prep, try one of these stellar recipes.