Massaged kale salad with creamy avocado, tangy cranberries and nutty wild rice, this vegetarian recipe creates a delicious mouthful of textures. It’s a satisfying lunch or a wonderful side dish for dinner.
Why You’ll Love Our Kale Salad with Avocado
Don’t let the label “superfood” fool you into thinking kale is boring or bland. Our massaged kale salad with creamy avocado is a tasty and exciting way to enjoy this nutrient-packed leafy green.
The richness of avocado enhances the grassy flavour of kale, while nutty wild rice, sweet dried cranberries, crunchy pistachios, and sunflower seeds create a mouthful of wonderful textures.
And together with our pomegranate molasses vinaigrette, this is a hearty vegetarian salad with loads of oomph and a nutty, tangy flavour.
I love that I can make this kale salad recipe a few hours in advance without the leaves going limp.
It’s a great recipe to serve as a side dish for BBQ, roast chicken, grilled fish or baked pasta. And if I were craving a good hearty salad for lunch, this kale avocado salad would satisfy my taste buds.
Why Do We Massage Kale?
Compared to other leafy greens, kale is far more fibrous. That’s why kale is the perfect candidate for stews, soups, stir fries and crispy chips! It holds its shape and does not wilt into mush when cooked.
We also love adding kale to salads, but when it comes to raw kale, the fibrous texture makes it tough and difficult to eat. Think of chewing paper in your mouth. Ew.
So how do we make it better? Massage.
It may sound weird we are massaging kale, but there are good reasons for it! Massaging kale with oil helps to break down the leaves. The rubbing motion softens the leaves and makes them tender enough to eat.
In this vegan kale salad recipe, I have also decided to massage avocado with the kale. Adding another layer of healthy fat and creaminess to help soften the leaves.
What Is Wild Rice?
Although we call it rice, wild rice is not rice at all. It is referred to as rice because wild rice looks and cooks like other types of rice.
Wild rice is the seed of aquatic grass grown in shallow freshwater marshes and banks of lakes.
Wild rice tends to be longer in shape with a thicker hull than white rice or brown rice. When cooked properly, wild rice has a chewy texture with a nutty, earthy flavour.
It is a delicious grain to add as a side dish, mixed pilaf, salads, stews and soups. Allow more time when using wild rice as it will take longer to cook.
Flavour/Texture: Prepare for a flavour and texture explosion with this delicious salad. Our massaged kale is paired with nutty wild rice, crisp apple slices, creamy avocado, and crunchy sunflower seeds, creating a delightful dance party of textures in every bite.
Even better, this salad is hearty and filling, making it an excellent option for a satisfying meal.
Ease: There are a few steps involved in cooking wild rice and massaging the kale, but they are not too laborious. It is a great salad to prep ahead.
Time: Allow approximately 45 minutes to cook wild rice. You can prep the rest of the ingredients whilst the wild rice is cooking.
These are the main ingredients you need for Kale Avocado Salad:
Wild rice: I adore the nutty flavours of wild rice. It also adds a chewy texture to the salad. I normally cook wild rice on the stovetop but you can also use an instant pot.
Kale: I normally use curly kale for salad, but you can also try Tuscan kale or purple kale, like our Rainbow chard salad.
Avocado: To help soften the kale, I first massage one avocado with kale and then add the remaining avocado cubes to the salad.
Apple: Crisp red apples add a touch of sweetness and help cut through all the other hearty elements.
Dried cranberries: Kale and cranberries is a great pairing in salads. The tangy sweetness of dried cranberries offsets the grassy flavours of kale.
Seeds/nuts: For added crunch, I’ve included pistachio and sunflower seeds. This is great mix along with wild rice for extra texture.
Pomegranate molasses/Balsamic vinegar: This salad dressing was originally created by Amy for her Persimmon salad. It uses both pomegranate molasses and balsamic vinegar.
Together they create a rich, deep tangy flavour that is also slightly sweet. I love the combination with this kale salad recipe.
Variations and Substitutions
Wild rice substitutes: If you can’t find wild rice, you can use black rice (AKA forbidden rice) or brown rice. Alternatively, other grains like quinoa or freekeh will work with kale salad.
Seeds/nuts alternatives: If there is a nut allergy, omit pistachios and add extra sunflower seeds or pepitas. You can swap pistachio with pine nuts or even chopped walnuts.
Alternative dressing: If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, try our balsamic vinaigrette.
Step by step instructions for how to make Kale Salad:
How to Cook Wild Rice
Give wild rice a rinse under cold water and drain.
Add wild rice and at least 2 cups of water into a medium sized pot.
Bring the pot of water to boil, then turn to medium-low heat and let the wild rice simmer.
Cook for approximately 45 minutes or until cooked. The rice is ready when tender but still has a chewy texture. Any grains that are bursting open, then it is most likely done.
How to Prepare The Salad
Destem and finely slice kale into ribbons or small pieces.
Peel and cut 1 avocado into cubes. The other avocado will be used for massaging into kale.
Cut apple into cubes.
Roughly chop pistachio.
How to Make Pomegranate Molasses Dressing
In a small bowl, add pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Mix together until well combined.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a large mixing bowl, add kale, olive oil and a pinch of salt.
This next step requires you to get in with your bare hands to massage the kale. Tossing it in oil will not suffice!
Massage kale for 2 minutes so the leaves are fully covered with the oil and become tender and pliable. The leaves will darken in colour as you massage them.
Place one cut the avocado in the kale and give them a good squish. Next, massage the avocado into the kale so that all the kale leaves are covered with a thin layer of avocado.
Add wild rice, remaining avocado, dried cranberries, chopped pistachio and sunflower seeds to the massaged kale. Gently mix together.
Drizzle pomegranate molasses dressing over salad and mix again.
Finally, add cut apple to the massaged kale salad.
Tumble into a serving bowl and serve.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Do not skip the massage: Massaging kale is an important step. Make sure you rub the kale until the leaves soften.
Choose ripe avocados: Be sure to choose avocados that are fully ripe and soft to use. It would be hard to massage the avocado with kale if the fruit was not fully ripe.
Prep the salad ahead: I find kale salads are often best made in advance to let the salad dressing meld with the ingredients. You can make this salad up to 2-3 hours in advance. Let the salad chill in the fridge before serving.
If you want to prepare the night before, prep all the ingredients and assemble as mentioned, except the steps involving avocado and apple. I would massage the avocado and add apples the next day to avoid them turning brown when left overnight.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with this kale salad recipe? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
As we venture into more meatless meals, we’re often looking for fun and interesting recipes. To pair with our delicious kale salad recipe, you can try this lemon garlic butter steelhead. A great recipe if you’re needing to add some fish into your diet.
Alternatively these plant based and vegan recipes are great too. We recommend zucchini and squash casserole or vegan eggplant meatballs.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, you don’t need to cook kale for salad. Massaging the kale leaves with oil tenderises and softens the leaves enough to eat raw.
Yes! This salad will benefit from preparing it in advance. Leave in the fridge to chill before serving. If you want to prep the day before, I would check more expert tips above.
Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days. However, do keep in mind the avocado and apple may turn brown if left overnight.
When you are looking for a green salad that holds its ground, this kale avocado salad recipe will definitely fill the vacancy. No limp salad leaves are in sight, and it is full of delicious textures and flavours. Guarantee this is NOT another boring kale salad.
More Plant Based Salad Recipes
Kale Salad with Avocado
- 1 bunch kale, 4-5 cups
- 2 avocado
- 1 red apple
- ½ cup wild rice
- 2 tbsp dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp pistachio
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt, pinch
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Give wild rice a rinse under cold water and drain.Add wild rice and at least 2 cups of water into a medium sized pot.Bring the pot of water to boil, then turn to low heat and let the wild rice simmer. Cook for approximately 45 minutes or until cooked. The rice is ready when tender but still has a chewy texture. Any grains that are bursting open, then it is most likely done.
- Destem and finely slice kale into ribbons or small pieces.
- Peel and cut the avocado into cubes.
- Cut apple into cubes.
- Roughly chop pistachio.
- In a small bowl, add pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
- Mix together until well combined.
- In a large mixing bowl, add kale, olive oil and a pinch of salt.
- Massage kale for 2 minutes so that the leaves are fully covered with the oil and become tender and pliable.
- Place one cut avocado in the kale and continue to massage so that all the kale leaves are covered with a thin layer of avocado.
- Add wild rice, avocado, dried cranberries, chopped pistachio and sunflower seeds to the massaged kale. Gently mix together.
- Drizzle pomegranate molasses dressing over salad and mix again.
- Finally, add cut apple into the massaged kale salad and gently toss together.
- Tumble into a serving bowl.
- Serve chilled.
- If you can’t find wild rice, you can use black rice (AKA forbidden rice) or brown rice. Alternatively, other grains like quinoa or freekeh will work with kale salad.
- If there is a nut allergy, omit pistachios and add extra sunflower seeds or pepitas. You can swap pistachio with pine nuts or even chopped walnuts.
- If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, try our balsamic vinaigrette.
- Massaging kale is an important step. Make sure you rub the kale until the leaves soften.
- Be sure to choose avocados that are fully ripe and soft to use.
- You can prepare this salad up to 2-3 hours in advance.
- If you want to prepare the night before, prep all the ingredients and assemble them as mentioned, except for the avocado and apple. Massage the avocado and add apples the next day to avoid them turning brown when left overnight.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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