Looking for a light yet filling meal this fall? This massaged kale salad is the perfect, protein-packed dish. Add this recipe to your meal prep routine, holiday table, or party platter.
How to make this kale salad:
This salad is a seasonal spin off my fruit and nut salad with homemade vinaigrette. I added some fall produce favorites, marinated chicken, and grains for extra flavor and protein.
This salad may seem intimidating at first with various different steps, but it’s very simple when you break it down.
First, marinate your chicken.
In this recipe, I am dousing the chicken in an acidic marinade. This is great for bringing out flavor, but can also make chicken tough if it stays in the liquid for too long. Marinade it for 20 minutes up to 2 hours max.
Next, prepare the dressing and kale.
Skip the store-bought dressings and make your own apple cider vinaigrette. Add all your vinaigrette ingredients to a mason jar. The key here is to shake vigorously until all the ingredients are combined so it doesn’t separate.
Kale is the base for this massaged salad. You can find this leafy green in the produce section of the grocery store or year-round at farmers markets. I chose curly kale, but you can use any variety you desire.
What is massaged kale?
Massaging kale is a technique used to break down the bitterness often associated with kale. You can massage kale by itself or with a bit of oil and salt. In this case, I’m massaging the kale with ¼ cup of our prepared vinaigrette as it contains the oil and salt in it.
I like massaging my dressing into the kale because it helps marinate and distribute the flavor. Unlike most leafy greens, kale does not generally wilt so you can dress kale ahead of time.
First, remove the leaves from the stems. Hold onto the base of the stem and wrap your fingers around the bottom. Then, pull your fingers along the stem, stripping the kale leaf off as you go. Then rip into bite sized pieces.
Add kale to a large salad bowl, then rotate and squeeze the kale with both hands. You’ll want to do this for about 2-3 minutes. At the end, the kale will feel a bit softer, appear more vibrant in color, and should reduce down by about half.
Other kale recipes to try:
Then, cook your chicken and veggies.
Take out two skillets and heat them over medium-high heat. You’ll have both skillets on at the same time. One for the chicken, and one for the squash or potato of your choice. You can find sweet potatoes and winter squash readily available at your local farmers market or grocery store. In this recipe, you get to choose your favorite to use. Cubed butternut squash, acorn squash, delicata squash, or sweet potatoes all work well in this salad.
With whatever squash or potato you choose, you’ll simply drizzle on some vinaigrette and then add the vegetables to a skillet. Stir every so often for 15 minutes until browned. You can also roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees if desired.
For the chicken, simply take it out of the marinade and cook one side for 5 to 6 minutes. Flip. Then, cook the other side for about 8 minutes until it’s done.
Finally, pile all other toppings on.
There are lots of ingredients in this massaged kale salad but they all work harmoniously together. Layer cooked chicken, cooked quinoa, squash or potato, apples, pecans, and goat cheese on top of the prepared kale. You can drizzle on more vinaigrette as desired and store the leftover dressing for later.
Customize it your way.
Feel free to swap out ingredients or remove ingredients depending on what you like and what items you have on hand.
Not a fan of kale? Swap it out for spinach or romaine and skip the massaging greens step.
No apples on hand? Swap it out for other fruit such as pomegranates, pears, dried cranberries, or grapes.
Want to make it vegetarian? You can easily cut out the chicken for a vegetarian focused dish. You could also try swapping it out for tofu or double the pecans used.
This salad uses lots of seasonal produce picks.
Looking for other ways to incorporate these fall produce favorites? Check out this guide for cooking tips and 50 healthy recipes.
Serve this Massaged Kale Salad alongside holiday entrees, bring to your next party, or meal prep for lunches. This salad will keep for up to 3 days, so feel free to make ahead. Let me know if you try this recipe!
Chicken Marinade Ingredients:
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 bunch kale, about 8 cups, chopped or ripped into bite-sized pieces
- 2 cups sweet potato or squash variety of your choice, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (butternut squash, delicata squash, or acorn squash)
- 1/4 cup pecans
- 1 apple of your choice, julienned (any variety of apple you like)
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese
Apple Cider Vinaigrette Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Combine all chicken marinade ingredients in a large zip top bag or container and let marinate for 20 minutes up to 2 hours.
- While waiting for the chicken to marinate, combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar or tupperware. Shake vigorously until combined.
- Add kale to a large salad bowl. Pour ¼ cup of prepared vinaigrette over kale. Using both hands, massage kale for 2-3 minutes until kale feels softer and reduces down by about half.
- Heat two separate skillets over medium-high heat. Coat sweet potato or squash in 2 tablespoons vinaigrette then add to one of the skillets. Sauté for about 15 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.
- At the same time, remove chicken from marinade and add into the other skillet. Cook chicken 5 to 6 minutes on one side without moving it around. Then, flip chicken and cook for 8 more minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165º F. Remove from heat and cut into cubes.
- Top kale with cooked sweet potato or squash, chicken, pecans, apple, cooked quinoa, and crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle with more vinaigrette as desired and enjoy!
Any extra vinaigrette can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week. If the vinaigrette solidifies in the fridge, simply set it out at room temperature or put in a bowl of hot water to liquify.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 600Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 590mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 7gSugar: 12gProtein: 42g
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. Nutrition vary depending on ingredients used. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional registered dietitian nutritionist’s advice.