Vegan Kale Salad with Sweet Lemon Maple Dressing

Vegan kale salad with sweet lemon maple dressing

So you all know that I’m a bit obsessed with raw kale salads! Come on, let’s just admit that kale rocks. It’s truly the “rock star” of all greens. Not only is kale salad chock full of nutrition, but it’s the only salad that you can make up ahead of time and enjoy for 3 days. Awesome!

This was actually the first kale salad (yes, this was the salad that started my kale obsession) that I posted on the blog, and I’m reposting it today because it’s a great fall salad, and one that I wanted to share with you all again. I discovered this recipe at a vegan cooking class that I took years ago at Cavallo Point with Mikoyo Schinner.

This salad is perfect for those who like a sweeter dressing and salad. The dressing is vegan and made up of tofu (yes, tofu folks) maple syrup (there’s your sweet) and lemon juice. The dressing is super simple to whip up, and very kid friendly. My kids even use the dressing as a dipping sauce. They love to dip apple and cucumber slices into it, making for a great and healthy afternoon snack. 

This salad has a totally different flavor than my ALL-TIME favorite kale salad, my lacinato kale salad, which uses lemon, garlic, red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese, but hey, sometimes we have to switch it up a bit. I mean, I can’t serve the same salad all the time (even though I do eat the lacinato one at least 3-4 times a week)!  Addicted!

Lacinato kale salad in a white bowl

This salad is beautiful in color, with the vibrant reds of the red kale and cranberries, and the greens of the curly kale. It sort of looks a bit like Christmas. I love bringing this salad to a dinner party, because it’s always well received, and can be made ahead in the morning. Kids and adults love this salad, so it’s definitely a crowd pleaser. This salad along with my lacinato kale salad are the perfect “first-time” kale salads to try, and both of these salads have turned kale haters into kale lovers!  So, if you like your salad on the sweeter side, then you will love this!

Vegan kale salad with sweet lemon maple dressing

vegan kale salad with sweet lemon maple dressing:

Serves 4-6
recipe from Artisan Vegan Life

salad:

dressing:

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1.5  juicy lemons)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup, agave or honey – You can use any one of these.  I used maple syrup
  • 1.5 ounces extra firm tofu – approximately 1/4 cup

Below are the ingredients you will need for the dressing.  

Ingredients for kale apple and cranberry salad

First toast up the sliced almonds. I usually toast up a batch of almond ahead of time and just keep them in a sealed container till I need them. 

To toast them, just put some sliced raw almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and swirl them around in the pan for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color. Reserve them to the side.

Toasting sliced almonds in a pan on the stove.
Zest and squeeze up the lemons.

Wash, de-stem and thinly slice the kale, or tear the kale into small pieces if you’re using curly kale.  If you’re not sure how to de-stem and slice kale then you can check out my post on how to de-stem and thinly slice kale, or you can watch the beginning part of my lacinato kale salad video for instructions as well.  This video has really helped my readers easily understand how to de-stem kale quickly over the sink.

Measure out 1.5 ounces of tofu. I would highly recommend getting one of these portion scales, or a scale in general.  I use this all the time when a recipes calls for ounces or grams.  If you don’t have this tool, then 1.5 ounces is roughly about 1/4 cup.

Tofu in a scale

Get out a blender and add in the 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/8 cup maple syrup and the tofu and puree until smooth and creamy.
 
Blending the tofu maple syrup lemon juice lemon zest and olive oil
 
Put your torn or sliced kale into a bowl.

Ingredients for vegan kale salad

Add 1/2 of the dressing to the kale. This next step is a bit strange, but very necessary. Massage the dressing into the kale. Yes, you heard me right, “massage” the dressing into the kale.  You literally want to massage the kale with 2 hands making sure to squeeze the kale as you go along, do this step for about 1 minute. The volume of the kale should reduce by about 1/3 and the kale will wilt and have a cooked texture and the bitter taste will go away.  Keep adding the dressing to taste as you massage it.

See how much the kale reduced down after it was massaged?

Taste the salad and if you want to add more dressing, then add a bit more. This part is to taste. The dressing makes enough for a double batch of this salad, so if you have extra dressing, then you can store it in a sealed container for up to a week.  Just make sure to stir or shake it before you use it next.
 
Massaged kale salad
 
 Add in your cranberries and let the salad sit for at least an hour to soften.  This salad can be made hours ahead of time (even in the morning).  The longer the kale sits, the softer the kale will become.
Note: If you are going to let this sit for more than an hour, then you will want to put it in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  

When you’re ready to serve up the salad, mix in your toasted nuts and diced apple.

This salad is filled with raw green goodness, and packed with flavor.

I hope this becomes a popular go-to salad in your house and turns those kale haters into kale lovers.
 
Vegan kale salad with sweet lemon maple dressing
With love Jackie

Vegan Kale Salad with Sweet Lemon Maple Dressing

0 from 0 votes
Recipe by Jackie
Servings

4-6

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Total time

10

minutes

    Ingredients

    • salad
    • 1 -2 bunches kale, de-stemmed, and thinly sliced (how much kale you use depends on how large the bunch is) - I used a mixture of lacinato kale and curly kale, or curly kale and red kale

    • ¼ cup dried cranberries

       

    • ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

       

    • ½ apple sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces

       

    • dressing:
    • ½ teaspoon lemon zest

       

    • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 1.5 juicy lemons)

       

    • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

       

    • ⅛ cup maple syrup, agave or honey - you can use any one of these. I used maple syrup

    • 1.5 ounces extra firm tofu - approximately ¼ cup

    Directions

    • First toast up the sliced almonds. I usually toast up a batch of almond ahead of time and just keep them in a sealed container till I need them.

    • To toast them, just put some sliced raw almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and swirl them around in the pan for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color. Reserve them to the side.

    • Zest and squeeze up the lemons.

    • Wash, de-stem and thinly slice the kale, or tear the kale into small pieces if you're using curly kale. If you’re not sure how to de-stem and slice kale then you can check out my post on how to de-stem and thinly slice kale, or you can watch the beginning part of my lacinato kale salad video for instructions as well. This video has really helped my readers easily understand how to de-stem kale quickly over the sink.

    • Measure out 1.5 ounces of tofu. I would highly recommend getting a portion scale, or a scale in general. I use this all the time when a recipes calls for ounces or grams. If you don't have this tool, then 1.5 ounces is roughly about ¼ cup.

    • Get out a blender and add in the ½ teaspoon lemon zest, ¼ cup lemon juice, ¼ cup olive oil, ⅛ cup maple syrup and the tofu and puree until smooth and creamy.

    • Put your torn or sliced kale into a bowl.

    • Add ½ of the dressing to the kale.

    • This next step is a bit strange, but very necessary. Massage the dressing into the kale. Yes, you heard me right, "massage" the dressing into the kale. You literally want to massage the kale with 2 hands making sure to squeeze the kale as you go along, do this step for about 1 minute. The volume of the kale should reduce by about ⅓ and the kale will wilt and have a cooked texture and the bitter taste will go away.

    • Keep adding the dressing to taste as you massage it.

    • Taste the salad and if you want to add more dressing, then add a bit more. This part is to taste.

    • Note: The dressing makes enough for a double batch of this salad, so if you have extra dressing, then you can store it in a sealed container for up to a week. Just make sure to stir or shake it before you use it next.

    • Add in your cranberries and let the salad sit for at least an hour to soften. This salad can be made hours ahead of time (even in the morning). The longer the kale sits, the softer the kale will become.

    • Note: If you are going to let this sit for more than an hour, then you will want to put it in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

    • When you're ready to serve up the salad, mix in your toasted nuts and diced apple.

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      32 thoughts on “Vegan Kale Salad with Sweet Lemon Maple Dressing”

      1. Jane Garrett of Mabel Dodge Luhan House taught me to make a similar salad with blanched kale: the differences are that you don’t need to massage it and the dressing takes tahini rather than tofu. It is now my favorite kale recipe. You can see it here: http://thekalechronicles.com/…/kale-conquered-the-kale-salad-i-love-and-t…

        1. Hi Sharyn. I am going to give that kale salad a try as well. I loved this one so why not try another. It’s an easy and great way to get our kale in. Thanks for the recipe link 🙂

      2. That looks SO good! I love kale ~ we grow it during the winter sometimes, but usually eat it 1-3 times a week even if we’re not growing it ourselves. I usually chop & sautee with olive oil, garlic, and lemon ~ rarely make salad but this I will have to try! I like the idea of tahini in place of tofu, too!

        1. Hi Andrea! I would love to grow kale as well as some of my favorite herbs. I think this spring I will have to do some planting. I usually sauté my kale or blend it in a smoothie as well. I was always afraid of trying a salad because I thought it would be to bitter, but I really love the way it tastes with the cranberries and the lemon dressing. Kale is now replacing my normal spinach and arugula salad.

      3. Kale is not a favorite of mine, but your salad just might make me a convert. It looks and sounds delicious. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

      4. Mmme – looks so yummy! Im a kale obsessive. I like it steamed with SUPER mustardy vinegarette. Im also a fan of bought kale chips… but I’ve never quite managed to make my own taste a as good. A company called Raw Live ( I believe) make one with a cashew and sundried tomato coating that Ive been trying to recreate ever since.
        Your blog has made me miss sausilito! 🙂

        1. Hi Em! Are you from the bay area? That super mustardy vinaigrette sounds very appealing, is the recipe posted on your blog? I love kale chips and make them quite often. My kids love them as well and they are a great after school snack alongside some popcorn.

      5. Hi Stephanie! You don’t even taste the tofu in this recipe. Honestly, it’s just a itty bit that goes into this dressing. The agave and the lemon take on the flavor in the salad and if I told you there was tofu in this recipe, you wouldn’t even know it.

        I served this up to some friends that do not like tofu either and they loved this salad. You really don’t taste the bitterness of the kale either as there are so many flavors involved.

        1. Thanks I will try it out! Whole foods has a great raw kale salad in their deli so I am sure I will love this! Stephanie

      6. Amazing salad Jackie. My whole family loved this tonight. It was a perfect complement to gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce!

        1. Yaay girl! I’m so glad you tried the salad and that it was a hit. I love that Tucker loves kale, so cute! I’m so going to make gnocchi with tomato sauce next week, thanks for the idea. Was it homemade?

      7. My favorite kale dish in the world is so simple. I sautee onions in sesame oil and coconut oil until they are almost carmelized. I slice my kale into thin ribbons, stems and all, then cut it again crossways so it’s in 2 in by 1/3 inch strips. I add that into the onions and wilt the kale. Then I throw a couple tbsps. of San-J’s gluten-free thai peanut sauce. It’s so good you could eat bowls of it…and it’s so good for you, why not? Did you know onions reduce the risk of heart attack by over 70%? I put TONS of onions in this recipe, and their sweetness takes away any bitterness the kale might have.

        1. Hi Donna! Your recipe sounds great and I just love caramelized onions. I could seriously eat a whole bowl of them and mix them with kale, oh yeah 🙂 I didn’t know that fact about onions and it makes me love them even more. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I will totally give it a try. xoxo, Jackie

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      11. I love your Lacinto Kale salad. It has become a staple here in our family. Even my husband loves it. And the only way I cook broccoli now is your roasted broccoli technique. Love your blog — keep it up.

        1. Hi Marta! Wow, thanks for your super sweet comment! I seriously love hearing from readers and also hearing what their favorite recipes are! I’m actually making up a my kale salad tonight for dinner and pairing it with some avocado and heirloom tomato toast! Thanks again for reaching out and saying hi, I really appreciate it! I hope that you find other great recipes on the blog that become staples in your house! Cheers! xoxo, Jacquelyn

      12. My daughter Jenn sent me a recipe for Spaghetti squash with kale pesto sauce- She is in CA-Mom in NJ. I looked all over for the squash & Italian kale. Went shopping-could not find either. Thanks to your website, I now know what to look for in buying the kale. So I am off to the store again! Let you know how we liked it. Thanks for the kale salad recipe. Would the curly kale do as well?

        1. Hi Irene! I hope you had better luck at the grocery store this time. Yes, you can totally use curly kale in any of my kale recipes. Just make sure to massage it down well, as curly kale tends to have a slightly bitter aftertaste! Cheers! Jacquelyn

      13. Hi there Jackie! I just got a huge bunch of kale in my CSA box (this is only the second bunch of kale I’ve had since moving to the Czech Rep almost 3 yrs ago), so you know I had to pop over to see what’s new… and lo and behold, a new kale recipe! Last time I got a bunch, I tried your original kale salad recipe, but this time I am definitely going to go with this one… looks delicious. And maybe kale chips with the rest of it…. (it’s a big bunch!) Hope all is well with you and happy autumn! Cynthia

        1. Hi Cynthia! Wow, so amazing to hear that you’re living in the Czech Republic! What an incredible experience! I love that you came to my blog to look for recipes when you received your kale, that’s awesome! I hope you like this one. It’s a bit sweeter in taste and the texture is different with the curly kale, but I love it. Kale chips, yum! I haven’t made those in a while, might have to do that soon! Anyway, thanks for saying hi sweetie and I hope you enjoy this salad! Cheers! xoxo, Jacquelyn

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