Massaged Kale Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette

A leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

Massaged Kale Salad with an easy Mandarin Vinaigrette is the most delicious way to enjoy this hardy winter green. Give those leaves a little extra love makes them so tender and converts even the most intense kale haters to kale lovers!

Eating more fruits and vegetables isn’t a chore when they are mixed together in a stunning composed salad. Winter salads can be so tasty and nutritious, like this Pink Grapefruit Endive Avocado Salad or as simple as a Snap Pea Salad with Goat Feta.

A leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

Massaged Kale Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette

YUM YUM YUM! This Massaged Kale Salad recipe has it all. Tender seasoned salad greens, crispy sweet and sour apples, toasted nuts, and beautiful eye catching textural accents.

The crunchy daikon stars and ruby red pomegranate seeds add seasonal inspiration, flavour, and texture to this composed salad.

Finally, the Mandarin Vinaigrette really allows all of the elements to shine together. It’s simple to make…just add and shake the ingredients together, then pour.

Massaged Kale on a wooden platter surrounded by salad ingredients.

Massaged Kale Salad

Do you think kale is over hyped? My husband sure does. I’ve attempted more than a few kale salads at home with mixed results but I know the perfect kale salad exists. Wanna know the secret?

The trick is to soften the kale leaves with oil and lemon. Spend a little time giving kale a little extra love and you’ll be rewarded with tender, tasty greens that make a wonderful winter salad base.

And the haters? Converted!

A hand holds red pomegranate seeds over a leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, and almonds.

How to Massage Kale

Physically massaging the kale may seem like a strange thing to do but it’s a very useful culinary technique. The physical motion breaks down the cell walls of the kale and releases moisture. I use this same technique when I make sauerkraut and kimchi.

“The perfect kale salad exists. Wanna know the secret?”

It’s an easy technique to master. Begin with clean hands (always!) and clean, dry chopped kale (remove the stem first!) in a large bowl. Drizzle oil lemon juice and salt over the kale, then reach in and just knead it.

How long you massage the kale is up to you. Personally, I aim for slightly soft greens that can still hold their shape. Any longer than 2 or 3 minutes and the kale will become wilted and limp. No one loves a limp salad.

A leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

Ingredients List

  • Kale
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Salt
  • Apple
  • Pomegranate Seeds
  • Daikon
  • Sliced Almonds
  • Parsley
  • Mandarin Orange Juice
  • Ginger
  • Sesame Oil
  • Honey
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Dijon Mustard (optional)
  • Shallots (optional)

There are many varieties of kale available during fall and winter months. The most commonly found kale in salads is basic green curly kale.

  • Tuscan kale (cavolo nero, black kale, or dinosaur kale) would be lovely in this salad. The leaves are straighter and slightly more wrinkled rather than curly. It is darker than curly kale and often has a more earthy or nutty flavour with less bitterness.
  • Russian Red Kale is smaller with flat variegated red leaves. It looks more like mature arugula leaves and has a similar peppery flavour.
A leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

Choose any apple variety you prefer. I like a sweet and tart apple such as Pink Lady or Honeycrisp. Apples oxidize rapidly after cutting so place them immediately in a bowl of cold acidulated water so they don’t turn brown.

Buy a whole pomegranate and enjoy the adventure! Or splurge and buy them processed in a cup.

For those of you wondering what a Daikon is, it’s a mild flavoured winter radish used in South and East Asian cooking. The striking white colour and characteristic crunch makes it a great choice for the cut out stars, however you could substitute apples or a firm white cheese, such as Havarti.

Mandarin orange vinaigrette being poured over a leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

Yes, Kale is a SUPERFOOD

Can something so darn delicious also be healthy? You bet! Kale is a superfood (it contains multiple health benefits) and we all need to eat more of it. Now that you have this great recipe, you can!

Kale is high in fibre and loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin C. It is also an amazing source of Vitamin K and Vitamin A from Beta-Carotene. This nutrient dense cruciferous vegetable is said to help lower bad cholesterol, protect against cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

How to Make a Mandarin Vinaigrette…it’s SCIENCE

A vinaigrette, or vinegar based salad dressing is one of the simplest to make. There’s a simple ratio of vinegar to oil (1:3) that is followed in order to create the perfect emulsified dressing.

This dressing contains a touch more mandarin orange juice and additional sesame oil for a more intense flavour.

A leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

The simplest way to make a vinaigrette is to add all the ingredients to a half pint jar, screw on the lid, and give it a good long vigorous shake.

The physical action will cause the vinegar to emulsify into the oil, where it stays suspended in little droplets or particles. The more energy you put into shaking the dressing, the smaller the particles.

Additionally, the smaller the particles present in the dressing the more stable it will be. However, no matter how long or vigorously you shake the emulsion, it will eventually separate.

You can avoid separation a little longer by introducing a stabilizer (such as Dijon mustard) to the vinaigrette. Or, you can just shake the jar again as needed.

Wooden salad servers serving a leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

How to Dress a Salad

This salad can be composed on a shallow platter or simply mixed in a deep salad bowl. The flavours are the same no matter how the salad looks right?

To dress a composed salad, simply drizzle the vinaigrette over the entire surface and serve with salad tongs. Keep a little reserved dressing for an extra drizzle once the salad has been plated.

A leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

Leftover Salad

Unlike many salads, this salad (and most green salads) does not get better if it sits for too long in the fridge. It is best to consume this entire salad once it has been dressed.

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Pinterest image of leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.
Yield: 4 servings

Massaged Kale Salad with Mandarin Vinaigrette

A leafy green massaged kale salad topped with apple slices, daikon stars, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

Massaged Kale Salad with an easy Mandarin Vinaigrette is the most delicious way to enjoy this hardy winter green. Give those leaves a little extra love makes them so tender and converts even the most intense kale haters to kale lovers!

Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of kale
  • 1 lemon
  • t tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1 small daikon (optional)
  • 1/4 cup almond; sliced
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 apple
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE

  • 3 tbsp mandarin orange juice 
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp finely minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1 tbsp shallots; finely minced

Instructions

  1. Wash kale well and drain using a salad spinner. Allow the leaves to dry on a clean dish towel.
  2. Slice kale leaves along the rib of the leaf to remove the tough centre. Cut strips of kale into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle the juice from a lemon and 2 tbsp olive oil over the leaves. Massage the leaves with your clean bare hands for 2-3 minutes, or until you feel them soften.
  4. Season the kale with sea salt and arrange on a platter (If you are making a composed salad).
  5. Peel the daikon (if using) and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Use a small star cookie cutter to cut out the daikon shapes. Place cut pieces in a small bowl of cold water to prevent drying.
  6. Cut the apple into 3 'cheeks' around the core. Cut the cheeks into slices and place in a small bowl filled with cold water and 2 tbsp lemon juice.
  7. Place the sliced almonds in a frying pan and heat on medium. Carefully move the almonds around the pan until they become aromatic and turn a toasty brown colour. Remove from the hot pan.

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE

  1. Place mandarin orange juice, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, minced ginger, honey, and salt (plus Dijon mustard and shallots if using) in a small jar. Screw the lid on well and shake vigorously.


TO FINISH

Top the salad with sliced almonds, daikon stars, and apple slices. Scatter the pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley over all then drizzle with Mandarin Vinaigrette.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 581Total Fat: 50gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 42gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 863mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 6gSugar: 23gProtein: 4g

Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.

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22 comments

  1. Daniela

    I am very impressed by this salad! The mandarin vinaigrette sounds really intriguing. An absolute must try!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It is quite tasty and very seasonal

      Reply

  2. Chef Dennis

    I rarely use Mandarin Vinaigrette but this Massaged Kale salad looks soooo delicious and satisfying. I will try making this at home.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It’s quite subtle, yet it is lovely with the sesame oil and ginger.

      Reply

  3. Tracy

    I love love love that mandarin vinaigrette! This is so delicious, a wonderful kale salad and a great way to get kale into your diet! Even my husband loved it!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      LOl Mine too. I think that’s a win!

      Reply

  4. Kathryn Donangelo

    This is such a delicious and beautiful salad, especially for the holidays! I love kale recipes and the Mandarin vinaigrette paired perfectly! Making again this week!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      haha Me too!! Kale is ready to go!

      Reply

  5. Addison

    There are so many bright and fresh flavors in this! Perfect for a light lunch or side dish!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      mmm Yes! I already have all of the ingredients to make it again tonight.

      Reply

  6. Julia Pinney

    What a beautiful winter salad. Love the addition of the pomegranate seeds and that vinaigrette. A great way to serve a winter salad

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Thank you Julia, have a very Merry Christmas.

      Reply

  7. Denise

    What a beautiful salad! That Mandarin Vinaigrette sounds absolutely delicious, I can’t wait to give this a try.

    Reply

  8. Kushigalu

    Love kale and totally loved this salad and dressing. Will be making it again soon. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      I’m so glad you liked it, thanks for letting me know Kushi.

      Reply

  9. Loreto Nardelli

    I laughed at first when I saw massaged kale. The visual was hilarious! However thinking about it and using oil and lemon makes me think that this kale us absolutely delicioys. Love the daikon, nice play on texture. That dressing has my tastebuds watering! Well done Bernice! Thanjs fir sharing oh that volir of the kale us so vibrant!❤😍

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Thank you Loreto. I made even more kale salad last night (gotta sneak in those vegetables!) but used a pomegranate vinaigrette. It’s just so delicious!

      Reply

  10. Beth

    This salad is beautiful, and I so agree with you that massaging the kale is the key to a great salad. Love the daikon stars – we will probably try it with pickled daikon as we make that often, I’ll just have to remember to slice it rather than julienne. Yum!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Great idea! I thought about pickling the daikon and thought it might be too much with the vinaigrette. But looking back I think it would be fine pickled.

      Reply

  11. Moop Brown

    This looks delicious and perfect for the holiday season! I really appreciate your explanation of how to massage the kale as well.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Massaging the kale sure makes a difference!

      Reply

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