Massaged Umami Kale Salad

Kale has got to be one of the most nutrient-dense plant foods out there... but that's still not enough to convince many of us to eat it. I mean being healthy just isn't enough... it has to taste good too, right?

I recently purchased a MASSIVE head of kale from the farmer's market (for only €1.50!) and started brainstorming all the things I could do with it. The options seem endless: stir-frys, soups, smoothies, nourish bowls, salads... I know I'm a total nutrition nerd but the thought makes me very excited. So I posted the above picture to Instagram and Facebook asking if you guys share the same love for kale. The response:


About half of you seemed to like it, and half of you seemed to despise it.

I'll be honest and say: I can relate to those who don't like it. I didn't always use to like this leafy green, especially when raw. I found it bitter and tough and didn't understand the hype. Until I learned this little trick...

Massage the kale!

Since having learned this trick I now genuinely enjoy eating kale in its raw form too.

Apparently we aren't the only ones who appreciate a massage every now and then. It might sound super strange, but massaging the kale helps to break it down, making it more soft and tender. This makes it much more enjoyable to eat raw, and I also find it decreases the bitter taste.

I recommend firmly massaging the kale for at least a couple minutes. You'll see the kale decrease in volume and transform in colour (becomes a deeper green) before your very eyes as you go along.

Another tip, although optional, is to also massage the dressing into the kale after you've massaged the kale first. This helps to evenly distrubute the dressing between the curls and crevices of the kale leaves, making each bite flavourful instead of having the dressing all congregate on a single leaf or at the bottom of the bowl. After all the massaging is done, you're welcome to top it with the desired toppings.

Now in my experience, another thing to take into consideration when it comes to kale is it's earthy flavour. This means this kale doesn't pair particularly well with just any kind of salad dressing, as would be the case with a more flavourless leafy green like iceberg lettuce. I find it pairs better with salad dressings that are more intense and flavourful, which is certainly the case with the salad dressing featured in this recipe.

Definition: "umami" is a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salty or bitter) that imparts a more savoury taste. Food made with soy sauce or miso paste impart an umami taste.

Pro tip: miso paste goes great in salad dressings and can be ordered online or purchased from many Asian supermarkets. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend giving it a go!

Robin doesn't like his greens so much, but his first bite of this salad and he was like, "Whoa, that's really good," and actually ate a whole bowl alongside his pasta without me needing to remind him to make sure to grab salad too. I call that a success.



Massaged Umami Kale Salad

Recipe PDF

▸ ▹ Vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free

Yield: 2 large servings, 4 small servings Prep Time: 10 min Total Time: 10 min

INGREDIENTS: Salad + Dressing

10 leaves of kale (I used curly leaf kale)

1/2 lemon, juiced (1 Tbsp or 15 mL)

2 Tbsp (30 mL) tahini (sesame seed paste)

1 Tbsp (15 mL) water

1 Tbsp (15 mL) soy sauce (tamari if GF)

1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil

1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil

1/2 tsp miso paste

1/2 tsp onion powder

Black pepper to taste

INGREDIENTS: Optional (but recommended) Toppings

1/4 cup (35 g) pine nuts*

3 Tbsp (30 g) raw or toasted pumpkin seeds

2 Tbsp (15 g) dried cranberries

2 tsp (25 g) nutritional yeast


  1. Remove the leaves of the kale from the stem (we don’t want to keep the stems as they are too tough to eat). Then cut up the leaves into bite-sized pieces, either by tearing with your hands or by rolling it up and then slicing into shreds with a knife.

  2. Place the cut-up kale in a large bowl and massage with your hands for 2-3 minutes until reduced in volume, soft and tender.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the lemon through to black pepper until creamy. Then massage this into the kale as well until evenly distributed.

  4. Top with the desired toppings and enjoy!


  1. *If your pine nuts are raw, and not purchased roasted, you can roast them yourself in the oven (bake at 350 F / 180 C for 5-7 minutes, stirring halfway) or on the stove (dry roast on high heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring throughout). Be careful not to overcook as it continues to roast even after removed from the oven/pan.

  2. Variations: roasted squash would go wonderfully with this dish, or add other veggies of your choosing like roasted cauliflower or fresh cucumber slices.

  3. Make-ahead: you can make the dressing ahead of time and also massage the kale ahead of time and store separately in the fridge. When ready to serve, simply toss together.

  4. Storage: store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to three days, if kale and sauce stored separately. If already mixed, best if enjoy within 1-2 days.


Did You Try This Recipe?

Let me know how it went! Comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #pickuplimes

❤ Sadia

Featured Posts