This Kale Salad with Granola is a hearty, fun salad, especially with the Avocado Green Goddess Dressing!
If you’ve never tried crunchy granola clusters in a salad, prepare to have your mind blown.
Plus this recipe is full of tips to make the prep as easy as possible.
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Kale Salad with Granola
I love this Kale Salad with Granola: crunchy granola, sweet, earthy beets, juicy oranges and a creamy, herb-y dressing.
And yes, I actually like kale.
I just don’t like to “massage” it like so many recipes for raw kale salad instruct to make it more tender.
You see, many kale salads will tell you to “massage” the raw kale leaves, meaning rub the leaves between your fingers over and over for 5-10 minutes.
This will help break down their structure, making them more tender, easier to eat and maybe even easier to digest.
And it works! I’ve done it! Many times.
But you also add salt and sometimes other ingredients like oil to help the process.
So you stand there, for 5 minutes at least, just rubbing leaves.
Your fingers get coated in leaves and oil and salt so if you have to stop to do anything else you first have to wash your hands fairly thoroughly to scrub off the oily residue.
So multi-tasking is basically out of the picture.
Now, if you like these sort of meditative activities in the kitchen where you can just get lost in the repetition, that’s great! Go for it.
I am not one of those people.
So read below for my secret trick for tender massaged kale without the boring hands-on prep.
Tip #1: Hands-free “massaged” kale
So what else could break down the leaves so I don’t have to?
So I tried it and reader, it worked. It worked so well!
Just a few minutes of hands-off paddle-bashing and the leaves had surrendered.
And even though it didn’t take that long, that was time I could spend prepping my other ingredients.
So it’s less messy, faster and more efficient.
OK, you have one more thing to wash – the paddle – but that’s the work of mere moments. It is so worth it.
Tip #2: Use granola for croutons.
Croutons are out for this gluten-free guy.
And honestly? I don’t really get croutons anyway.
You can’t really stab the hard bread cubes with your fork so you have to balance it on the tines.
That requires coordination. Coordination that I apparently don’t have because my croutons always fall off said fork.
So hard bread cubes are out.
And I was thinking about how I like nuts and dried fruit like walnuts and cranberries in my salads.
It just hit me: grain-free (meaning: oat-free) granola is nuts and dried fruit in clusters.
Like croutons! Plus that extra bit of sweetness in granola would work well with the bitter kale leaves.
And lo and behold, it works!
This is not the time for a strongly flavored granola (pumpkin spice, I’m looking in your direction).
No chocolate, no banana bread. Nothing too coconutty.
You don’t want anything to clash with the bright freshness of the dressing.
I use grain-free granola that’s just nuts, dried fruit and honey, like this one. Not paid to say that, it’s the just one I keep reaching for when I make this recipe.
Tip #3: Use pantry ingredients
I know I should encourage everyone to use the freshest ingredients possible, but let’s face it: that’s not always possible.
So while I could tell you to buy raw beets and roast them yourself, I don’t think you need to bother.
If you can use cooked, packaged beets like these, the salad would still be great.
And while I do call for an orange, if you want to use a can of mandarin oranges packed in juice, go for it! I have done that many times and they’re great.
Finally, if you don’t want to make your own dressing (although I will say, this Avocado Green Goddess Dressing is so good you’ll want to use it as a dip or dressing for everything), you can always use store-bought.
What you need for this Kale Salad with Granola
Ingredients for the salad:
- 1 bunch curly leaf kale
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 pound (approx. 6-8 oz.) cooked beets, packed in water or no/low vinegar
- 1 orange
- 1 1/4 cups plain grain-free granola
Ingredients for the dressing:
- 1/2 cup avocado oil mayonnaise
- 1/4 avocado
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (or 1 anchovy rinsed, patted dry and minced)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more if necessary
- freshly ground black pepper
- a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer with the paddle attachment)
- measuring spoons
- measuring cups
- a cutting board
- a chef’s knife
- a blender, food processor or stick blender
- a serving bowl
- salad tongs
Substitutions and variations
- You can use other hearty greens instead of kale, such as spinach, Swiss chard or arugula.
- You can use one can of mandarin oranges packed in juice, drained, instead of the orange
- You can use whatever store-bought dressing you prefer. If you don’t want Green Goddess, a balsamic vinaigrette would also be good.
- Instead of granola, you can add whatever nuts and/or dried fruit you like, such as almonds, walnuts, dried cherries, etc.
Other recipes you might like:
- Rainbow Crunch Salad with Almond Butter Dressing
- Citrus Avocado Salad
- Strawberry, Cucumber and Arugula Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
- Peach, Avocado and Bacon Salad
Kale Salad with Granola, Avocado Green Goddess Dressing and a Secret
For the salad:
- 1 bunch curly leaf kale
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ pound (approx. 6-8 oz.) cooked beets, packed in water or no/low vinegar (see notes)
- 1 orange
- 1¼ cups grain-free granola (see notes)
For the Avocado Green Goddess Dressing
- ½ cup avocado oil mayonnaise (or any mayo you like)
- ¼ avocado (see notes)
- ½ cup (not too tightly packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup (not too tightly packed) basil, roughly chopped (if not available, try mint or another ¼ cup parsley)
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or red wine vinegar (or a combination)
- ½ teaspoon anchovy paste (or 1 anchovy rinsed, patted dry and minced)
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more if necessary
- ground black pepper
For the salad:
- Rinse and pat dry the kale leaves. Fold each leaf in half lengthwise and trim right down next to the stem to remove the leaves from the stem. Coarsely chop the leaves and add them to the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle over the salt. (Note: I have a 5 quart mixer - if you have a smaller one, you may have to do this in batches.)
- With the paddle attachment, start on the lowest speed. After the leaves have settled a bit more into the bowl, increase speed to medium. If bits of leaves start popping out of the bowl, you know you've raised the speed too high. Continue bashing the leaves until they've softened, darkened in color and reduced in size by about half, another 1-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, depending on the size of your beets, halve them, quarter them or, if they're really big, cut those quarters in half crosswise.
- Supreme the orange: Slice the top and bottom off the orange. Stand it on one of the cut sides and use a paring knife to slice off all the peel and pith from the top to the bottom. Slice off any remaining bits of peel or pith. Now slice right next to the membranes (the little strings running up and down, dividing the orange into sections) toward the core to release the wedges. Discard the membrane-y remnants of the orange when you're done.
- Add the beets, orange slices and granola to the bowl with the kale.
For the dressing:
- Using a blender, food processor or stick blender, blend all the dressing ingredients, including a good grinding of black pepper, until mostly smooth (it's okay if there's still little bits of herbs). If you don't have any of those appliances, that's fine! Mince the herbs as finely as you can, add them to rest of the ingredients and blend, mashing up the avocado as you go.
- Taste the dressing: it should be pretty zippy. If not, add a bit more salt. If you think it's maybe a bit too much salt, I encourage you to use it anyway. Once it's thinned out over all the ingredients, it's not quite as punchy. However, if it's too thick you can blend in a teaspoon or two of water to think it out. If you do this, taste it again to see if the water diluted the flavor and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Toss the salad with most of the dressing until everything is coated evenly. Taste a leaf: can you taste all the ingredients? If it's a little bland, sprinkle salt over the whole salad, toss and taste again. Does it need more acid? Drizzle a little more lemon juice or vinegar over the whole salad, toss and taste again.
- Add more dressing if necessary or serve with the remaining dressing on the side.