Raw Kale Salad with Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette

A personal chef, Alyssa, recently made this salad for a party. Raw kale salads were new to all of us and many of us went back for seconds. Two factors account for its amazing flavor—salting the kale “cooks” it a bit, softening both its texture and taste. And using a good, aged balsamic vinegar makes a standout dressing. Its sweet/tart flavors play against the slight bitterness of the kale. This is a beautiful salad: the kale turns a glistening dark green color. Since all the elements can be prepared ahead of time and just tossed together for serving, it’s a great dish for entertaining and pot lucks.

Serves 6 to 8


  • 1 large bunch (about 1 pound) dinosaur kale
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 ounce (28 grams, about 2 tablespoons) aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ounces (56 grams, about 1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • About 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
  • 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) walnuts, toasted
  • 1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) dried cranberries


  1. Strip the leaves from the tough stems and save fthe stems for another use or discard. Wash and spin dry the leaves. Then fold the leaves in half, stack several together, and cut crosswise into a thin chiffonade. Repeat until you’ve done all the kale.
  2. Pile the kale in a salad bowl and sprinkle over 1/4 teaspoon salt. Massage the salt into the leaves until the kale begins to feel moist and darken a bit, about 2 or 3 minutes. You can do this well ahead of time, cover the salad with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature several hours.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar. Grind in some pepper and then whisk in the oil. Taste for balance and add as much lemon juice, salt, and pepper as needed to create a vibrant, fresh, sweet/tart balance. Go easy on the salt to account for the salt already on the kale.
  4. When ready to serve, toss the greens with the dressing. Use your hands to roughly crush the nuts over the salad, add the cranberries, and toss again. Serve immediately.

Quick Notes

Aged balsamics have a more complex flavor and a richer, thicker texture than their younger, less expensive cousins.

Add the nuts only just before serving so they stay as crisp as possible.


Add a diced shallot and a little walnut oil to the vinaigrette and sprinkle the finished salad with crumbled feta or goat cheese.

Give the salad an Italian flavor by adding garlic to the dressing and olives and pine nuts to the salad, omitting the cranberries and walnuts.

Any spinach recipe could easily be adapted to the kale from a warm bacon vinaigrette and diced apples to a blue cheese dressing with diced pears and pecans.

When company comes: Candy the walnuts to add another level of flavor.




3 Responses to “Raw Kale Salad with Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette”

  1. BBG Communication
    24. June 2010 um 16:46

    That was exactly what I was looking for. You have done a good job communicating your message. Keep up the good writing.

  2. Augustine Goulet
    2. December 2010 um 08:32

    Thank you, very useful. I wasnt actually a big fan of Spinach for many years (ok, that’s a total understatement, I hated the stuff), but after shacking up with a vegetarian I kind of had to get used to it, and have slowly come to love the stuff. Spinach curry is undoubtedly my absolute favouritest! I recently found an entire spinach recipes website which is my new favourite site now, you should have a look!


The cooking was a huge success. My daughter is really thrilled with herself. She enjoyed herself so much that she made dinner last night. She also made the rice again that you made together. She likes it so much she sat around eating the leftovers. She is even making dinner now—pasta with meat and tomato sauce. She said she likes cooking and considers it a real interest.  She grew an awful lot from the experience.

-Anne Doherty, San Francisco

About Penni

Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
'The Basque Kitchen' for Gerald Hirigoyen
and 'BurgerBar' for Hubert Keller.

Contact Penni Wisner