One Bowl Crunchy Kale Salad with Cranberries

This crunchy massaged kale salad with cranberries is a perfect side dish or healthy lunch. It’s easy to make and perfect for meal prep, saving you time in the kitchen.

Be sure to add this delicious broccoli salad to the rotation, too!

kale salad with cranberries and slivered almonds in a white bowl.

I was introduced to this kale salad recipe many years ago. I don’t love kale, so for me to say that it’s absolutely delicious is notable. Seriously, if you’re one of those “Ew, kale!” people, this is a great recipe to change your taste buds’ mind.

Massaged Kale Salad with Cranberries

Why massage the kale? If you grow kale, you know how stiff it can be, straight out of the garden. It may be counterintuitive, but massaging the sturdy kale leaves makes them more palatable. Massaged kale salad has still got a nice crunch to it — it’s just a little bit more…relaxed.

lacinato kale with ingredients for kale salad.

Ingredients

Raw kale — There are a number of varieties of kale available at the market or grocery store. Really, any type will work, but I tend to use the curly varieties, like lacinato kale or common curly kale.

Olive oil Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil. The recipe doesn’t call for much, but the flavor of the oil will shine through.

Lemon juice Freshly squeezed lemon juice is ideal, but if you’ve got bottled juice, that’s just fine. This ingredient offers a little tang to the salad. If you like a sweeter dressing, feel free to substitute orange juice. If you have neither of these on hand, apple cider vinegar can work.

Liquid aminos This is an ingredient that not every household has on hand. I use Bragg’s liquid aminos, but if you don’t have that on hand, you can substitute soy sauce. (If you’re gluten free, use coconut aminos.)

Avocado Choose a very ripe avocado for this recipe. You’ll be incorporating the soft avocado as a part of the dressing ingredients, rather than adding it in the form of chunks, creating a creamy dressing for the kale leaves.

Cranberries Dried sweet cranberries are a must for this recipe, offering a little sweetness to counter the tang of the dressing.

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Add-ins This is where this delicious kale salad allows you to get creative. It’s never the same salad in my household, as we add something different every time depending on what’s in the cupboard or fridge. Crunchy almonds (chopped or slivered), crisp apples, pumpkin seeds, sliced red onion, feta cheese or  creamy goat cheese are all fair game. (Skip the cheese for a vegan kale salad.)

hand cutting kale leaves on a marble surface.

Making the Salad

Start by thoroughly washing the kale. I like to soak mine in a large bowl of water before rinsing well. Remove excess water by setting leaves on a dry kitchen towel or in a salad spinner. 

Roughly chop the kale leaves and transfer to a salad bowl. 

The salad dressing for this recipe isn’t made in a separate container. Instead, you’ll add the dressing ingredients to the kale and massage them in. Start by adding the olive oil, lemon juice, and amino acids, then the avocado. Use your hands to squish the avocado until it no longer resembles avocado, and the kale leaves are coated. 

Once the leaves are well-coated, add the cranberries and your choice of nuts, seeds, cheese, or other “extras” and toss. 

kale salad with feta and red onions on a white platter.

Measuring Optional for an Extra Easy Salad

If you cook by feel, I totally recommend that you just eyeball the amount of ingredients. This is not a finicky recipe at all.

The finished salad has a lovely earthy flavor and I find that I crave it. If I have it made in the fridge I keep going back for “just a bit more.” But there’s nothing wrong with snacking on kale all day, right? Especially if it’s straight from the garden!

Storage

Kale tends to hold up better over time than lettuce, so this is a great salad to make ahead. Transfer the finished kale cranberry salad to an airtight container in the fridge and you’ll be all set for a light lunch that’s healthy and easy to grab. It’s just as delicious the next day!

close up of kale salad with red onions and feta cheese.

★ Did you make this massaged cranberry kale salad? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

kale salad with feta and red onions on a white platter.

Massaged Kale Salad with Cranberries

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Sweet cranberries offset the tanginess of the dressing on this easy kale salad recipe. With just a few simple ingredients, it's our favorite kale salad!

Ingredients

  • 12 kale leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons liquid aminos (see notes)
  • 1/2 very ripe avocado
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of add-ins: sunflower seeds, pepitos, dried cranberries, nuts - whatever you like
  • 1-2 tablespoons feta cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Thoroughly was and dry the kale leaves.
  2. Remove the stem from the kale leaves, then cut or tear them into bite sized pieces.
  3. Place the prepared leaves in a large bowl along with the olive oil. Use your hands to massage the oil into the kale leaves. 
  4. Add the lemon juice and liquid aminos; massage more.
  5. Add the avocado; massage until the avocado is no longer recognizable and coating the kale leaves.
  6. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Notes

I use Bragg’s liquid aminos, but if you don’t have that on hand, you can substitute soy sauce. (If you’re gluten free, use coconut aminos.)

It’s never the same salad in my household, as we add something different every time depending on what’s in the cupboard or fridge. Crunchy almonds (chopped or slivered), crisp apples, pumpkin seeds, sliced red onion, feta cheese or  creamy goat cheese are all fair game. (Skip the cheese for a vegan kale salad.)

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1-1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 229Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 0gSodium: 103mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 3gProtein: 11g

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Originally published April 2013; this post has been updated.

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

10 comments… add one
  • Jane Jun 1, 2019 @ 14:40

    This salad looks delish. Definitely going to try it. I’m always looking for more ways to use kale.

  • Michelle Mar 24, 2018 @ 21:49

    So easy to make and super tasty!

  • Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi Apr 15, 2013 @ 7:13

    Sounds yummy! Any thoughts on Liquid Amino replacement? I can’t get that here in NZ.

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 15, 2013 @ 7:27

      Soy sauce. I use the Bragg’s because it’s wheat free.

      • Toni Sep 18, 2016 @ 0:36

        San-J also makes gluten free soy sauce. I buy the organic kind.

  • April Apr 13, 2013 @ 7:45

    How long does this keep? It doesn’t get soggy bc it’s kale? I’m hoping to plant make today. I think I’m late but better late than never 🙂 this sounds yummy. I just love salads. I’m bussing I wouldn’t massage the baby name they sell at costco? Just big kale?

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 13, 2013 @ 12:01

      Woo! Autocorrect gone wild. 😉 I’ve had it keep in the fridge for a couple of days, but it’s usually gone long before that. It doesn’t get soggy like lettuce would. If the baby kale seems tender enough for you, then you can certainly skip massaging.

      • April Apr 14, 2013 @ 5:05

        Holy cow! I did that on my phone! I should have read it first 🙂 Hopefully you could translate. I’ve never actually eaten the baby kale in a salad. I always juice it. It is more tender than full grown kale so massaging may not be necessary. I’ll try it.

  • Alexandra Apr 13, 2013 @ 7:05

    Make those cranberries organic! I love massaged kale salad. I put peppers and tomatoes in mine. Will try your version. Thanks.

  • Brette Apr 12, 2013 @ 15:30

    This sounds amazing.

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