Andy’s kale salad

By Claudia Zapata | 2013-10-01 13:02:00 | 10 Comments

Andy's kale salad

You know that dish, that one dish that makes you like a food for the first time? THIS kale salad is THAT dish. So delicious, it not only convinced me to enjoy raw kale but also crave it.

When I first had Andy Bellatti’s “Bow Down the Kale Gods” salad, it was prepared by Andy himself. A registered dietitian, food policy activist (check out Andy Bellatti’s Small Bites Facebook page) and a co-founder of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, Andy was visiting us last Thanksgiving when he made a generous batch of the amazing salad for our family dinner. I’ve been making it ever since.

The most critical step in any kale salad, Andy explained, is massaging the kale leaves with salt for a couple of minutes. The salt softens the leaves and gets rid of that bitter taste most often associated with kale. Do this first and set the kale aside to allow it to rest while chopping the other ingredients and making the dressing.

Andy’s original version (see the full recipe here) also includes red peppers, dates or raisins, and avocado. I’ve posted the modified version that he made on Thanksgiving – with just the kale, apple, raw onion and toasted sunflower seeds. And, while you’ll realize there are no hard and fast rules about some ingredients (last night I added some pomegranate seeds to delicious effect), there’s something about the combination of the sweet, crisp apple and crunchy sunflower seeds that blends beautifully with the kale and makes the dish so satisfying.

One other ingredient that’s not in the original recipe is cayenne pepper. Andy added cayenne when he first made it for us, and it’s become a must. You can sprinkle the cayenne on the salad, but I like to mix it with the toasted sunflower seeds (after they’ve cooled).

I’d like to rename this the “Bow Down to Andy” kale salad. After one small bite, I think you’ll agree.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Andy's kale salad
Serves: 4-6
Prep time:
Total time:
  • 1 bunch Lacinato kale leaves (also known as Tuscan or Dino kale), de-stemmed
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 apple, cut into large dice
  • pomegranate seeds from 1 pomegranate (about ½ cup) - optional
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  1. Wash and dry the kale leaves and remove from stems. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Massage the leaves with the salt while also tearing the leaves into smaller pieces until the kale softens – about 2 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Toast the sunflower seeds in a sauté pan on medium heat until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool and sprinkle with the cayenne pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and vinegar.
  4. Add the apple, red onion, pomegranate seeds and sunflower seeds into the bowl with the kale and toss. Add the dressing and toss once more.

10 responses to “Andy’s kale salad”

  1. Kathy Donzis says:

    I love love love this recipe–the crunch, the flavors, and how healthy it is! You are right to rededicate it to your friend Andy. I started making it the first time you posted it, with the basic ingredients plus the chopped red pepper. I will try adding the cayenne; we thrive on spicy. Thanks!

    • Claudia Zapata MS, RD says:

      Hi Kathy,
      I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it! The kale salad recipe is definitely a keeper. Thanks for stopping by my site and taking the time to comment.

  2. Lilia Bruni says:

    I made this salad last night and absolutely loved it. My husband doesn’t like kale and ate it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Claudia Zapata MS, RD says:

      Hi Lilia,
      I’m so happy to hear that. This recipe can change your mind about kale! Thanks for the nice comment!

  3. Karen Gardner says:

    Claudia, I loved your Express-News columns and I love your blog! I just love your common sense, smart, live-able approach to food! Question about this recipe: is there any disadvantage to skipping the kale massage and using baby kale leaves in this? I’m always looking for timesavers. Thanks!

    • Claudia Zapata MS, RD says:

      Belated thank you, Karen! I truly appreciate your support and kind words. You can definitely substitute baby kale in this recipe, and since it’s so soft, you can easily skip the massage. Let me know what you think!

  4. Mary Dady says:

    Hi Claudia, I had this at Jason’s once when you brought it and have always wanted to try is. I am a new convert to kale and am so excited to try it myself. You rock!

  5. Donna Glawson says:

    Delicious and simple salad, Claudia. I’ve made it twice already and love it! In the past, I have been making the “Massaged kale salad” from It is tasty as well with slight variations. Thanks for the recipes! They have always been a hit.

  6. Claudia Zapata MS, RD says:

    Hi Donna,
    I was editing this post to include a print version of the recipe and just saw your comment. Thanks so much for your support. So glad you like this salad and my other recipes!

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