Let me tell you about this quick and delicious massaged kale tahini salad. It’s hearty and satisfying, and topped with a smooth tahini dressing, juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and briny feta. This salad is LOADED with flavor and comes together in less than 10 minutes.
I think about this tahini kale salad all the time. I crave it in the Fall when the days are cool. And the garden is full of fresh kale. The massaged kale makes it heartier than most salads.
Its hearty nature makes it a perfect and healthy option when you’re craving comforting foods. It’s loaded with Mediterranean ingredients and brings Greek salad and hummus vibes. Add some grilled chicken and a buttered baguette. You’ve got a meal!
This kale salad was inspired by a wonderful little North Carolina cafe called The Mad Batter.
It was originally located in Cullowhee, NC. Right in the middle of the Western Carolina University campus.
That $1 in your own cup, seriously good fair trade coffee. Dried spaghetti noodle stirrers. The smell of fresh baked goods. And the chill vibes. I spent many days sipping coffee on a barstool, people-watching, and studying biology. It kept me going.
I miss those days. I miss that place.
The old place burned down, and they opened a new shop downtown with a rebranded menu. That’s when I found a new favorite. Their kale salad. I haven’t had it in years, but I loved it. So darn good. And so simple.
I wish I could remember it in better detail, the way I remember those cups of coffee.
It was something like this. Massaged kale, lemony tahini dressing, feta, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Served with freshly baked French bread and grilled chicken (if you want).
I still think about it almost a decade later. I’m so happy to share my version with you here.
Kale & tahini salad ingredients
Fresh kale is robust and chewy. Massaging it with a little bit of tahini dressing makes it tender and succulent. Don’t skip the massage!
Cucumbers and tomatoes are juicy, fresh, and cooling. They add a nice contrasting texture to the kale.
Feta cheese is creamy and briny. It adds a ton of flavor without being overwhelming. Plus, it makes this taste like a Greek salad.
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It has a nutty, earthy flavor. It makes this dressing smooth and creamy without using dairy. Be sure to get a good quality tahini. The best I’ve found is Baron’s pure sesame tahini paste. Tahini is usually in the peanut butter aisle at the grocery store. If you have trouble finding it, you can order it online.
Fresh lemon juice adds a bright and fresh flavor. It is so much better than the bottled stuff.
Honey adds a hint of sweetness.
Fresh garlic adds a bold flavor and a hint of spice to the dressing.
Olive oil helps thin the tahini and turn it into a pourable dressing.
Salt and pepper elevate all the flavors and tie everything together.
Make it vegan: Replace the honey in the dressing with maple syrup. Then, omit the feta or replace it with a vegan feta substitute. Rainbow Plant Life has a tofu-based feta recipe that looks awesome.
Add a protein: I’ve got the perfect easy grilled chicken recipe for this. Salmon or tempeh are other great options.
How to make massaged kale salad and tahini dressing
First Prepare the dressing. You’ll need to mince the garlic and juice the lemon. Then, add everything to a 8-ounce jelly jar, close the lid tight, and shake it until it forms a smooth, creamy dressing.
Now drizzle just a little tahini dressing into a bowl of chopped kale. Use your hands to massage it until the kale is fully coated and tender. It will be reduced in volume and nice and glossy.
Now, build the salad. First goes kale, then a layer of cucumbers & tomatoes.
Drizzle it with the rest of the tahini dressing. Then sprinkle the crumbled feta on top.
How to serve tahini kale salad
This salad is beautiful on a platter. Include salad tongs for easy serving. Or you can layer it onto individual plates.
Pro-tip: Use the 2x or 3x button in the recipe card to make a bigger batch of kale salad. Just make sure to use a bigger jar for the dressing!
- Serve with crusty bread such as a baguette and butter.
- Or with pita wedges, hummus, and tzatziki.
- Top it with your choice of protein. I like it with this juicy grilled chicken breast.
- Serve it as a side with any grilled meat or with these hummus and veggie wraps.
Looking for more salad inspiration?
Need inspiration to use up leftover kale?
Make my Creamy kale and potato soup with Italian sausage. It’s seriously my favorite soup!
Have you ever visited Cullowhee, NC? What fun memories do you have of the Whee?
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