Kale Salad for Beginners

Kale Salad Front

Kale always seemed like a scary food to me- undoubtedly healthy but quite an ambitious step on my journey to healthier eating. An aspirational food. Like many of my patients, healthy eating is a struggle for me, one that I felt very overwhelmed by to begin. I don’t think I ate a vegetable until I turned 30. “Healthy eating” was like a foreign land and it has taken me a while to learn the customs.

Kale is all the rage these days, and for good reason- it’s saturated with vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A, C, K and calcium, iron, and potassium. It’s like a multivitamin in leaf form. But kale alone can be bitter and pouring on a bunch of oily salad dressing negates a lot of those health benefits.

The following salad has been my gateway to more prolific vegetable eating, and my hope is that it does the same for you. You need no kitchen skills to prepare this dish, and you can’t screw this up. It’s delicious, easy, filled with nutritious ingredients, and perfect for meals and snacks alike.  It is adapted from a similar recipe at Smitten Kitchen.

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  • 1 bunch of dinosaur or Lacinato kale
  • 1/2 c. quinoa, uncooked
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c. feta crumbles


  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 tsp. smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. coarse Dijon
  • 1.5 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • salt & pepper

The culinarily inclined tell me to rinse quinoa beforehand- this I usually forget and haven’t had a problem yet. Add the quinoa to 1 cup of water on low-medium until simmering, then turn the heat down to low and cook for about 18 minutes.  You can also just throw this in the rice cooker and let it do its thing.  Remove from heat when tender and there’s very little water left. Heep the quinoa on to a plate and let cool. I often make the quinoa the night beforehand so it can cool in the refrigerator overnight for convenience.

Kale Salad 1

Rinse the kale and (gently) wave it in the air like you just don’t care. This is my default drying method. Even better, rinse the kale the night before when you make the quinoa, and let it dry on it’s own. Grab a stalk, flip the leaf in on itself so the underside is facing out and the cut along the stalk so you have long, narrow piles of kales. After you have a full stack (about 1 inch high) of kale, roll the kale stack up like a sleep bag. Keeping a good grip on the roll, hold on it’s side and cut so you end up with ribbons of kale. Cool, huh? Repeat for the rest of the kale.

Kale Salad 2

If your almonds are not already toasted, toast them in a small skillet for a few minutes, stirring frequently because they go from toasted to burnt quickly. Add the kale, the quinoa, and the rest of the ingredients to a large salad bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients. I have used all smooth Dijon mustard when I didn’t have coarse Dijon, but using both truly does make the salad taste more tangy and sophisticated. Pour the dressing over the bowl of salad and toss.  Voila! Delicious, nutritious kale salad that even the most vegetable-phobic can enjoy.

Food As Medicine:

  • Kale: Vitamins A, C, K, iron, calcium, potassium, folate, lutein, zinc
  • Quinoa: rich in protein, fiber, and magnesium
  • Almonds: healthy fats, plant sterols, Vitamin E, magnesium, biotin
  • Dill: antioxidants, vitamin C, digestive antibacterial
  • Cranberries: Vitamin C, E, antioxidants, fiber

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