This lemon kale salad has a simple, tangy dressing that pairs perfectly with creamy avocado and salty pine nuts!

I got the inspiration for this salad from Ellwood Thompson’s, a local grocery store here in Richmond. Their kale salad recipe is light and delicious with pine nuts that give it a perfect crunch. I started with that idea and then added avocado since avocado makes basically anything better. To finish it off, I added in some cheese, because you can’t go wrong with cheese. (Unless you’re a vegan… in that case, just leave it off and add a little extra salt to balance things out.) Then I whipped up a super simple dressing to finish it off!

kale salad with avocado in a bowl

How to Massage Kale

Let’s talk about massaging for a second. You need to be hands-on with your kale. Please don’t skip this step. It’s super important because kale is an intense green. It’s tough. And it will stay tough unless you really massage it. So get your hands covered in kale and massage the dressing for at least 5 minutes. Even better, let it sit for about an hour before serving. It’ll help the kale wilt a little bit.

kale salad in a bowl

Tips for Preparing Kale

  1. Let me say it again: Kale is a tough green and it needs massaging to make it tender. After you’ve washed your kale, you want to literally massage it with your hands. I typically massage the dressing right in.
  2. Use the right dressing. Kale is a very bitter green and it needs something to help soften it a bit. An acidic dressing will help break down the fiber in the kale which will make it easier to chew.
  3. Remove the kale stems. The stems are extremely bitter and very hard to chew. Do yourself a favor and de-stem the kale. You can either fold the leaves in half and slice the stem off or you can just tear the leaves right off the stem.

Now give this lemon kale salad a try!

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Lemon Kale Salad

  • Author: Liz Thomson
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: Salad


This lemon kale salad has a simple, tangy dressing that pairs perfectly with creamy avocado and salty pine nuts!


  • 6 cups raw kale (about 8oz)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste


  1. Wash the kale and remove the stems. Discard the stems and place the remaining leaves in a large bowl.
  2. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the kale leaves and massage it into the leaves with your hands. This will help break down the kale and soften it. You can do this step an hour or two in advance if you like. The kale will continue to soften.
  3. Top with the avocado, pine nuts, and shredded cheese just before serving.

Keywords: Lemon kale salad

This lemon kale salad recipe is so easy! It’s delicious served with a veggie burger or a plate of pasta!

Kale salad in a bowl with salad tongs

Substitution Ideas

  • To make this vegan, skip the parmesan cheese and add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt!
  • You can make this salad with curly kale or flat-leaf, lacinato kale.
  • If you don’t have pine nuts, try it with sliced almonds instead.

Craving more kale salads? Try one of these recipes!

parmesan kale salad

Lacinato Kale Salad

White Balsamic Kale Salad

Do you like kale or do you prefer a different leafy green?

This post was originally published in March 2013. Updated August 2018.