This delicious kale salad gets its heat from crushed red pepper flakes. Combined with salty cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice, this salad is simple to make but loaded with flavor.

kale salad in a bowl
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I’ve tried a lot of kale salads. If it’s on the menu, I have to try it. One of my very favorite kale salads is from a local restaurant here in Richmond called Tazza Kitchen. Their kale salad is so simple but so delicious, I just had to try making a similar salad at home. I love spicy things so this salad was perfect for me but if you’re sensitive to spice then you may want to add a little less crushed red pepper.

spicy kale salad

Tips for a Better Kale Salad

  1. 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, like this one with lemon juice, 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.
kale salad in a bowl

The Best Dressing for Kale Salad

I like using a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon with this salad, because the crushed red pepper flakes add a strong, spicy flavor. Typically when I’m making kale salad, I like to use olive oil and something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice. I have a whole post with kale salad dressing ideas if you want to try something new!

What to Serve with Kale Salad

You could turn this into a main dish by adding your favorite protein like Roasted Chickpeas or Tempeh Bacon. Or you could serve this as a side dish to Pasta Alla Norma or Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup!

I loved the kick of the spicy red pepper flakes. If you’re sensitive to spice, start with just a pinch and add more from there. The other great thing about this salad is, most of the ingredients are fairly common, so I usually have all of these things on hand! I’ll definitely be making this salad again soon!

spicy kale salad
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kale salad in a bowl

Spicy Kale Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Liz Thomson
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: Salad


This delicious kale salad gets its heat from crushed red pepper flakes. Combined with salty cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice, this salad is simple to make but loaded with flavor.


  • 5 cups chopped kale (curly kale or dinosaur kale) or about 8 large leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Crushed red pepper to taste (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts or almonds (optional)


  1. Wash the kale leaves and de-stem the leaves by removing the ribs. (This is the bitter tough part in the center.)
  2. Shred the kale using a sharp knife into thin strips. Dinosaur kale is a little easier to make into strips but if you’re using curly kale, just roughly chop it.
  3. In a small dish, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil until combined.
  4. Massage the kale leaves with the oil and lemon mixture until the kale begins to soften.
  5. Top with cheese, pine nuts, and red pepper just before serving.

kale salad with ingredients

Looking for other kale salad recipes? Here are a few of my favorites!

kale and chickpea salad