Kale Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

photo of kale saladI may have been late to the national obsession with kale, but I think I’ll be one of its best long term fans. Do you remember the kale with bacon and dried cherries I did a while back? That was delicious. This is different, though. I didn’t know that you could eat kale raw. I still find the notion a little odd, because it really doesn’t taste very good all by itself. Pop a bit of it in your mouth raw and you will make a funny face. But this is yet another one of those miracle recipes like the corn with basil, where a few tiny moves create a miraculously delicious and entirely healthful treat.

I have Carla Bass to thank for this dish. She gave me this recipe recently as we dined on a really stupendous pizza at the Bryan Street Tavern. Her daughter, Karen, is my friend. The LaBarba clan has their food creds in good order. It is a large and lovely family tree with several branches in the food business, including Chena Civello who runs Civello’s Raviolismo with her brother Phil. I may have had my doubts about raw kale, but they were dispelled when Carla presented to me a hand written recipe for this salad. I understand that the woman doesn’t make anything that isn’t superior. Karen has told me about their family holiday get togethers and it sounds like something out of an Italian story book. I knew that this was going to be good.

photo of how to prepare kaleAnd, it is good. But it is also simple. It is elemental and easy. You know that I love to gripe about pine nuts. At around $34.99 per pound, I steer clear of them for most uses. I even use pecans in pesto instead of pine nuts. But I have now found a recipe that makes it worth buying them. First, you will use them all, and the more the better. So you aren’t stuck with an expensive half bottle of nuts that go rancid. Second, the flavor is perfect. It is the right nut for this job and I wasn’t inclined to substitute it. And, third, the other ingredients are inexpensive and the yield for this recipe is very impressive. One bunch of kale makes enough salad for four very large servings or eight side servings. I will be making this salad often.

photo of ingredients for kale salad

Kale Salad with Lemon and Parmesan
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. This kale salad is tangy, nutritious, and pretty, to boot. Don't neglect to season it before serving.
  • 1 bunch curly kale, chopped thinly
  • 1 cup pine nuts (no need to toast)
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  1. Wash and dry the kale. Remove the stems and chop it into strips by rolling the leaves into a ball and making thin slices. Cut it all once again going in the other direction so you end up with a pile of nicely chopped greens.
  2. In a small jar, combine the juice of one lemon and the olive oil. Put a lid on the jar and shake it vigorously.
  3. Add the pine nuts and cheese to the greens and toss them to combine. Add the dressing to the greens, and again, toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, as needed.

photo of how to assemble kale saladNotes:

I found the salt to be crucial to the final dish. Don’t neglect to season this salad a bit.

Now, I’m going to tell you why you don’t need to buy a salad spinner. My mother taught me about centrifugal force when I was a little kid and it is a lesson I have enjoyed to this day. After you rinse your greens, wrap them up in a big flour sack towel holding all four corners together at the top. Go outside and swing it round and round and round. All of the water flies out of the bottom of the towel. Don’t let go of any corners, though, or your salad will be on the lawn. Don’t think you can perform it in your house, either. Well, you can…but you will have a giant trail of speckles on your ceiling and floor and feel stupid. You can also do this by putting the greens in a big resealable bag, snipping a small bit off of the corner and swinging the plastic bag around and around. At this point I don’t have room in my kitchen for any more “stuff.” I’ve come THIS close to buying a spinner about one thousand times and I always decide not to do so because I can create centrifugal force just as well as a little plastic gizmo can.

photo of bowl of mixed kale salad and pine nutsAnd, finally, speaking of my mother…. That wonderful bowl in the photo has “The Meaning of Pie” and my name etched on it. It was a gift from my mother. She also has a giant one at her house which is inscribed, “The River of the arms of God” and the Spanish version, “Rio de los Brazos de Dios”. She fills it with lavender buds and it is gorgeous. She got them through Erika Reade Ltd. and they are a really a great gift. Oh, yes…the story of her bowl is that she lives on Possum Kingdom Lake which is part of the Brazos River, and the name was memorialized in John Graves’ Goodbye to a River, which is one of my favorite books.

Much to my delight, this recipe was featured in the UK Guardian.


  1. says

    this looks so yummy and healthy…definitely need to make this soon.
    another great trick for drying greens is a pillow case designated for the task!)

  2. Kelly says

    I love the pillow case idea! I think you have told me that one before and I totally blanked on it. Thank you for the reminder.

    (BTW, friends…Val is my SIL and she is a fabulous artist who makes all kinds of neat things. You should click on her name and go visit her website).

  3. Allison says

    cannot wait to make this one!
    and i love the two great tips i got from this post….the flour sack towel method and the beautiful bowl resource! as always, thank you!!

  4. says

    I was late to the obsession too. Now I can’t get enough of it. But it’s super hard to find it here in Puerto Rico. As soon as I get some in my hands, I will make this recipe. I like simplicity of it.

  5. says

    Have you ever been to Texas Pecan Company’s Outlet Store? It’s south of 635 off of Josey. they have pine nuts at a very reasonable price. I freeze them so I can use them all year.

  6. Alex says


    We don’t have Kale here in Catalonia, well, we have in cabbage form, but Kale is not popular here and have never tried it, so I don’t know how does it taste.

    so, the question is.. any other substitute or similar ingredient that could do well in this recipe?


  7. Kelly says

    Great question. And the answer is, I’m not sure. I have read that you can still eat young Swiss Chard raw and you could try spinach leaves, but I’m not sure spinach would hold up as nicely. I would suspect that most of the other hardy greens like collards and mustard greens really do need to be cooked a little bit but I’m honestly not sure. I was shocked that kale was so good raw. Maybe you need to order some kale seeds and start a new trend in Catalonia. I wish I could send you a big bunch of fresh kale to try. And, I wish I had a better answer on a substitute.

  8. Kelly says

    Wow…another great question. I want to say kale tastes like kale. But it bears a little similarity to all of those strong greens like collards or mustard greens but with a little less of the pungency when raw. That being said, I wasn’t a huge fan of the kale raw AND plain. I like it raw and with the lemon dressing. The nice thing about the kale is that it can do with no cooking or a quick saute whereas the others need some work. Kale might taste similar to raw brussel sprout leaves. In fact, if you slice raw brussel sprout leaves you might get a similar effect. Raw brussel sprout salads are pretty great, though it can be tedious to unravel all the little heads.

  9. Lee says

    Made this tonight and LOVED it. My husband is not a big salad eater but even he gave it a big thumbs up. The only thing I may do differently next time is to try making it with St. Helena Olive Oil Company’s Lemon Olive Oil. All their flavored oils are sublime. Rather than infused, they actually crush the added flavor in (in this case, lemons). They’re pricey but a little goes a long way and they’re worth every penny in our book.

  10. Kate says

    This is so delicious and easy! I didn’t have pine nuts and so I toasted pumpkin seeds and they added a great crunch and flavor!

  11. karie says

    This was so good and so easy. I used pumpkin seeds (thank you, Kate) and they worked great with this salad. Thanks, Kelly, for sharing!

  12. Andrea Oddi says

    Made the Kale Salad yesterday for Easter, so many non-leafy green lovers surprised themselves by LOVING this! Kale is one of my staple items now.


  13. Diana says

    Just made this my husband loved it, I used sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Yum!! Salt and pepper to taste, I will make this again. So easy and so tasty!

  14. Kelly says

    I love the sunflower seed idea, and I know that cranberries are terrific with kale. Great plan! Thank you for sharing this variation. I love it.

  15. TeaJae says

    made this today it is most delicious. forgot the pine nuts had sunflower seeds used them instead served it along side of rice noodles and shrimp scampi. i’m officially in love with kale.

  16. Chrissy says

    This salad is so absolutely surprisingly scrumptious! I’ve renamed it “Rick’s Salad”, because the boarder who stayed with us for 4 months LOVED it, and I ended up loving him! He was the nicest 71 year old man I had ever met! And smart too! He lost 50lbs at our house on his “diet”, and would never eat anything I offered him because he was so bent on losing weight and surprising his wife when he finally got home. BUT, he would eat this SALAD! Here’s to Rick’s Salad, and fond memories! Thanks so much!

  17. Maggie says

    I just had this tonight at a church pot luck. I could not wait to get home and look up the reciept. I am making this for my Thanksgiving dinner. I have 25 people over so more people will get aquainted with kale. I had never eaten it before.


  18. Kelly says

    WAY too much?? Oh well, I’m glad you liked the rest of it. At least that is an easy issue to fix for yourself next time. Thanks for the feedback.

  19. Renee says

    I am excited to try this salad – making it tonight.

    FYI, if you are near a Costco, they sell large bags of pine nuts for a much more reasonable price than Whole Foods!

  20. Alison says

    We had this at a restaurant last night and it was fabulous! Couple of differences….the waiter let us in on the secret…make sure you dress the salad early…the lemon juice softens the kale…it “cooked” the kale like you would in ceviche…was buttery soft. Also, instead of pine nuts, they put little bits of crotons but not until the end…they were nice and crispy

  21. Sharon says

    Kelly, we just love this salad! In fact, I’ve never tried another kale salad recipe because this one is so good and easy. It may be that our kale bunches are smaller than yours, but I’ve found that if we use 3/8C olive oil, and 3/4C each of the cheese and nuts, it is just perfect. You’re right about the seasoning — without the salt and pepper it’s just not nearly as good. My husband was really a kale skeptic, but he eats huge piles of this. My kids won’t try it…but one day they will and then I’ll be buying a lot more kale. :)

    I get my pine nuts at Trader Joes and they are toasted already. Delicious!

    Thanks, stay cool. We’re over in Fort Worth and ready for fall.

  22. NapaCasual says

    That was sentsational! I had no pinenuts in the pantry and no kale in the fridge so I improvised with some Trader Joe candied slivered almonds and the bag of Costco power greens in the fridge. Wonderful!


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