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Kale Salad with a Tahini-Lemon Dressing

I’ve been obsessed with this salad for the last week or so.  Like really, totally, completely, ridiculously obsessed.

And let me be the first to say that I have never been obsessed with eating anything green and leafy.  I mean, yeah, I love me some green monsters, but that’s ’cause they taste like peanut butter.  Or coffee.  Or bananas (my other vegetation infatuation).  But nary a once have I caught myself day dreaming about kale.

And let me preface this by saying I don’t like raw bitter greens.  I prefer to use spinach in my green monsters, and have previously only enjoyed kale when cooked with cheese and chorizo, or baked into chips.  Raw…not so much.

However, I finally decided to take a leap of faith and try making kale salad the way food bloggers have said I should for generations (…okay, the last year or so).  By making it with a simple dressing that I want to eat with a spoon, and letting it sit for a half-hour or so until those weedy, tough greens become tender.  And delectable.  And until I’m surprised to find myself scraping the bottom of the bowl, wishing I had another leaf or two to get at the last of that dressing.

But I wax poetic.

This salad was inspired by Angela of Oh She Glows, and by golly, she’s got it right.  I let the dressing speak for itself, with only one add-in (for protein and staying power: lentils), but you can add whatever the ach-ee-double-hockey-sticks you want.

Kale Salad with a Tahini-Lemon Dressing

  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 C tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 C lemon juice (about two lemons)
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T water (or more to thin as needed)

Combine all the above ingredients in a food processor (I used the mini version for easier clean up), and process until smooth.

I also doubled this recipe and kept it in a jar in the fridge to make the salad fresh every day (like I said…obsessed).

To put together the salad, you need:

  • 3-4 handfuls kale (I buy a cheap yet humongous bag of organic washed and chopped kale at BJs for $1.99–by far the best deal I’ve seen, and it lasts forever)
  • 1/2 C lentils (see below for cooking instructions)
  • Tahini-lemon dressing to taste (I probably used around 1/4 C for an individual salad)

When making a kale salad, it’s a good idea to not eat all the big fat stems–I just rip ’em out and toss ’em.  Totally bitter, friends.

Combine the chopped kale and the dressing together and give it a really hearty mix.  You can get right in there with your hands and massage the dressing into the leaves if you like, which makes them wilt a bit and takes away a lot of that bitterness right away.  A serious toss with a spoon will work just as well, too.  You’ll also be surprised at how much kale can go into this salad–letting it marinate in the dressing basically “cooks” it down, so there’s a lot less volume of kale at the end than there is at the beginning.  Stick the kale and dressing into a bowl, cover it, and let it sit for 15 minutes to a half hour before eating.

I’m not gonna lie–I combined the kale and dressing in the morning and let it sit in the fridge until noon at work.  Still delicious–kale is hearty, so it won’t get too wilty, slimy, and gross.

To make the lentils, combine 1 C dry lentils with 2 C low-sodium chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer until they are tender and the broth is absorbed.  I just left a container of these in the fridge all week to add to whatever meal I could.  Great way to get in some protein and fiber–and it tastes great with the lemony, garlicky dressing.

Know why I like this dressing so much?  It’s like hummus, just without the chickpeas.

And I also love, love, luuuve hummus.

Which would probably also be delicious dolloped on top of this salad.

Seriously–if you doubt your kale eating abilities but would like to expand your green repertoire, try this method of making kale salads.

Truly delicious and amazingly yummy.  Has a nice lemony bite with the warm sesame undertone.

Have you massaged your kale lately?

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.fullmeasureofhappiness.com/2012/06/22/kale-salad-with-a-tahini-lemon-dressing/


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  1. Bernadette

    Lauren, I too preferred spinach in my smoothies until I discovered baby kale. Olivia’s Organics has large packages of organic baby kale and other varieties of cooking greens……http://www.oliviasorganics.org/cooking%20greens.html I find the flavor of the baby kale to be quite different…much milder and barely detectable in a smoothie.

  2. Hannah

    This looks great. A vegan/vegetarian cafe at my school serves steamed kale with a similar tahini dressing (same ingredients but theirs has olive oil in it) and it made me learn to love kale!

  3. Connie

    fantastic, thank you!

  4. Nuts about food

    I love this idea, thanks for the tip.

  5. Caitlin

    We made this last night and it was pretty good. It was a bit lemony and I think our kale was too firm/raw – steaming it 5-10 minutes beforehand might have helped. This problem could have also been avoided by buying baby kale. (On the plus side, it was still very crunchy the next day.) My husband is a big fan of all things sour so he really liked the dressing, but if I were making it for myself, I probably would have added extra lentils (or chickpeas, which I used and really liked) and/or maybe tahini to cut the bitterness of the kale and sourness of the lemon a little bit. But I think we will probably make this recipe again with a few tweaks. It tastes especially good on a hot summer day after chilling in the fridge, and it’s oh-so-healthy. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Abena

      I couldn’t imaging kale being tender enough for a salad until I saw the recommendation to massage it for a minute or two, then let it sit. The lemon, I’m thinking, tenderizes the kale and brings it midway between raw and wilted. I love that texture. I tried this recipe today, and I liked the extra zing the lemon zest gave it.

  6. jamieJajmjamieiejJ

    OMG this sounds so delicious and the photos look so good. Can’t wait to make this tomorrow. I don’t have any lentils but will try with chick peas. Thanks for the recipe.

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