Kale Salad with Balsamic, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan


This Kale Salad with Balsamic, Pine Nuts and Parmesan is our most requested salad over the holidays. It's a crowd pleaser!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Some things take convincing, even when they are terribly trendy. When my friend Peg first told me about a fabulous raw kale salad, I smiled politely all the while thinking, “yeah, right, have fun with that.”

I mean it’s hard enough to get people to eat their greens, let alone to try something raw that they would normally only eat cooked.

But when my friend Katie brought this kale salad to a dinner party, it was the one dish, among a multitude of fabulous dishes, that I kept going back to. (Oh, I’ll have seconds. Uhm, thirds. Okay I’ve stopped counting, this is good.)

Here’s the deal. Normally if you dress a lettuce salad with a vinaigrette, the dressing breaks down the cellular walls of the lettuce, and within minutes it will become limpy, which is why we typically dress a salad right before serving. In the case of the kale, kale is tougher than lettuce (tougher than spinach too).

When you cook kale, which is what we do usually, the heat from the cooking breaks down the cellular walls, making the kale more tender to eat. In the absence of cooking, you can achieve much the same tenderizing result with a vinaigrette.

By the way, according to Shirley Corriher in CookWise (a brilliant book for anyone interested in the science of cooking), although vinegar will cause wilting, it’s the oil and the salt that do the most work to wilt a salad.

Kale Salad with Parmesan

So in the case of this salad made with raw kale leaves, instead of dressing and serving immediately, we dress the salad and then let it sit for a while, so the dressing can work its magic on the sturdy kale leaves, softening them up so we can more easily eat them.

The following recipe is one that I adapted from the recipe that my friend Katie gave me, which she adapted from a Dan Barber recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit.

The salad includes fresh raw lacinato kale leaves, cut into thin strips, dried sweetened cranberries, toasted pine nuts, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and a vinegar-rich balsamic vinaigrette, sweetened with a little honey. All together it is a deliciously festive salad, and would make a lovely accompaniment for any meal.

Kale Salad with Balsamic, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan Recipe

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Slightly adapted from a Dan Barber recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit in 2009.

Feel free to sub out the pine nuts with toasted slivered almonds, and the dried sweetened cranberries with golden raisins. We use both interchangeably in this salad.

If you are using regular kale instead of dinosaur kale, you might want to let the salad marinate a bit longer, an hour or two, before serving.


  • 1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped (or whole golden raisins or currants)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (can substitute slivered almonds)
  • 1 pound fresh Lacinato kale (also called Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale), about 2-3 bunches, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, packed


1 Toast the pine nuts: Heat a small skilled on medium high heat. Spread the pine nuts in an even layer on the bottom of the pan, cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Then remove to a bowl to allow to cool.

Hint when toasting nuts: do not take your eyes off of them! Nuts can go from browned to burned very quickly.

2 Prep the kale: Use a sharp knife to cut out the tough midrib of each kale leaf, and discard or compost. Slice the leaves crosswise into thin, 1/4 inch wide, slices.

The easiest way to do this is to work with a small bunch of leaves at a time, stack the leaves and roll them into a loose cigar shape. Then using a sharp knife, work from one end of the "cigar" to the other, slicing a 1/4 inch off from the end.

Place the kale slices into a large bowl.

3 Make the dressing: In a smaller bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rice vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper.

4 Dress the kale and toss with nuts and cranberries: A half hour to an hour before serving, toss the kale together with the toasted pine nuts, the dried cranberries, and the dressing, allowing the kale to marinate a bit.

5 Right before serving, stir in the grated Parmesan cheese.

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Raw Tuscan Kale Salad - from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

Kale Salad with Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon - from theKitchn

Kale salad with oranges, almonds, and avocado - from Eat Live Run

Raw Kale

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

39 Comments / Reviews

No ImageKale Salad with Balsamic, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Ana

    Great recipe. As I had some pomegranate seeds, I replaced the cranberries with pomegranate seeds. Also added some avocado.
    It would have been great with some chicken also, but also very nice on it’s own.


  2. Elizabeth

    Yes, I followed the recipe exactly, so unlike me. It was wonderful! I let the kale marinate for over an hour before adding the pine nuts and cranberries. I’ve been advised to eat more dark, leafy greens because of my eyes. My husband has asked often we have to eat kale. After last night, he isnt afraid.


  3. Lejla

    This is SO delicious. I make this all the time now (at least 2 times a week).

  4. Emily

    Have made this several times and it’s so good. Thank you!! Good with walnuts and feta and whatever dried fruit you have on hand! It’s hard for me to stop eating this and I’ve never liked kale salad before. I’ve had a csa for 10 years so that’s saying a lot! Ha.


  5. Lisa

    This was wonderful new addition to our Thanksgiving dinner. I loved that I could prep everything the day before, then just add the dressing + toppings a few hours before dinner. The kale was a wonderful, deep green and hearty, no-fuss, healthy addition to a carb-heavy meal. I made a few substitutions: 1) skipped the parmesan altogether (making it vegan) 2) used agave in place of honey 3) used the regular kale instead of Tuscan kale 4) used “fig basalmic dressing” which added a little extra sweetness I think. Can’t wait to try this out with the pumpkin seeds and other variations that folks have tried. Thank you for sharing! This one will be made again!

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Kale Salad with ParmesanKale Salad with Balsamic, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan