Kale Salad with Balsamic, Pine Nuts, and Parmesan

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.

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


  • 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.

How to cut the rib from a leaf of kale

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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  • 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.


  • 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.


  • Lejla

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

  • 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.


  • 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!

  • Ashli

    This salad was amazing!! I didn’t have the pine nuts or any fruit to go with it…we just used kale, the dressing, and parmesan cheese! Totally surprising and very delicious!

  • Robin

    I made this with golden raisins instead of cranberries. I couldn’t stop eating it. I am making it again and again.

  • Dre

    i, i love it! Do you think i can add dried tomatoes instead of cranberries? I just dont have it in hand but i do have the dried tomatoes :)

  • Paul Roy

    I found this recipe soon after it was posted and have been making it ever since. It is always the first salad to go at potluck and I share the recipe at least once each time I make it. It is such a yummy recipe!! I also use salted pumpkin seeds when I make it and substitute an orange citrus balsamic vinegar. Thank you for sharing this great recipe Elise!

  • Linda

    This is an amazing salad. Kale from the garden, flavor of the ingredients was just perfect!

  • gabbe

    this has to be the salad from the King of Queens episode where Doug has a “food affair”…we made this with slivered dates and it was awesome.
    thank you for a new diet staple.

  • Penny

    My friend has been telling me about Kale salad for awhile, but the whole massaging thing threw me off. Well I tried yours and its my husbands new favorite recipe! Wow is it good, no massaging necessary.

  • Sylvia Davis

    I made this for the office Thanksgiving potluck and everyone ate it up! So easy and love that it gets better the longer it sits. I used almonds and raisins in place of the pine nuts and craisins.


  • Mark

    This recipe has been a constant favorite since it first posted. Thanks, Elise.

    I’m making some today (by request) for a pot luck. We use pumpkin seeds instead of the costlier pine nuts.

  • Conniebird

    This salad is awesome – have made it twice, using regular kale. It keeps well over several days, dinner guests love this, too.


  • Rachael

    We make this all the time, and it is fantastic. We substituted chopped figs for the cranberries/currants the other night, and it tasted great.

  • Shades70

    can I make the dressing ahead and store it in the fridge until I am ready to use it? Can at be stored for a few weeks? I would just add the kale, parmesan and nuts when I’m ready to mix the salad.

    • Elise Bauer

      Sure, it’s just a balsamic vinaigrette. You can make this ahead and store it for several weeks.

  • Sean

    I added all three, cranberries, currants and golden raisins as well as toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) along with using fennel salt in place of regular and substituting 1/2 the normal balsamic with white balsamic. The results were great and a big hit for Easter dinner! I will do this one again.

  • Jennifer

    I used a mixture of currants, cranberries, and dried cherries. I think the cherries tasted the best!! I took this salad to a potluck and it was very popular and many of them had not tried kale before. I think this is a great way to introduce kale.

  • kimek

    Wow. I like this light bitter taste mixed with sweet honey, cranberries and vinegar. Yummy.

  • Tj's Mamma

    Made this for the in-laws last night. Huge hit! Hubby said to file in our recipe box. Thankyou!

  • randi

    We only have curly kale avaiable in my neighbourhood. Do you think it might be too bitter?

    • Elise Bauer

      I think you can make raw kale salad with just about any kale. That said, I’ve only tried this salad with the Tuscan kale.

  • Chris S.

    Oh, YES! Thanks for reminding me what a good idea kale salads are. We have some lovely local kale in the fridge, purchased just this week before our favorite organic provider gave up the ghost until 2013, and I’m going to make your salad tonight. (I also munch on kale right out of the fridge — makes a great snack, when you want something kind of crunchy that has basically no calories — whew!!).

    By the way, there’s a kale and brussels sprouts recipe at Epicurious that took that site by storm during the previous holiday season. We took it to two holiday parties for rave reviews and made it at home five or six times for a lovely fresh salad taste when most places won’t have any local lettuce for months. You can find it at http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Kale-Brussels-Sprout-Salad-368295 (if my HTML didn’t work properly, you can locate it at epicurious.com just by searching “kale brussels sprouts salad”. THANKS for spurring me to make your kale salad tonight!! -Chris

  • Louise

    I’ve been making something similiar for a couple of years now, kale, olive oil, lemon and a pinch of salt and parmesan. It’s SO good. I have kale salad almost everyday. Delicious and so good for you.

  • Margaret

    If considering this for a potluck, how long can all the ingredients sit together before becoming unappetizing? It would be handy to mix all together before heading out to my event.

    • Elise Bauer

      I had leftovers of this salad several hours after making it, and liked it even better.

      • Chris S.

        I’ve had leftover kale and brussels sprouts salad from epicurioius.com that I’ve eaten with delight from the fridge after four days! Kale is strong enough that essentially it ends up being marinated, not withered to a pulp as lettuce would be in the same circumstances. Elise’s recipe looks fabulous, and if I have any left over tonight (hah!), I will happily eat it tomorrow (or even the next day, if it lasts that long before we gobble it up!). :)

      • Jennifer

        I even had it the next day and it was still delightful.

    • Mike

      I made this on New Year’s day and ate the leftovers yesterday and it was still very good. A few hours won’t hurt it at all.

      Great recipe, btw. I toasted almonds instead of pine nuts (because I had them) and they worked well.

  • Sara

    Hi Elise,

    So, this sounds like you get the same results as the current trend for “massaging” the kale. Yes? Your way is a lot easier!

  • PepperReed

    Another good addition (or sub) is grapes; they’re available year round and add a juicy sweet/tart-ness to the salad. I also make this in the summer time with melon and feta. Fantastic! and a sure way to convert someone to be a kale lover.

  • Ryan

    It’s actually the oil that breaks down the cells, it penetrates the waxy cuticle.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Ryan, thanks for setting me straight on that. I pulled out my Shirley Corriher to confirm, and you are totally right. Learned something new today, thank you! I’ve adjusted my intro accordingly.

    • Gloria

      I dressed the salad the day before and it made a nice improvement in the texture and bitterness of the kale. It was softened just enough that it still looked crisp, but wasn’t so hard. Also, I added crumbled goat cheese instead of the parmesan cheese and roasted cubed sweet potato instead of cranberries. I also added some carmelized onions and sliced raw mushrooms since they sounded good. It was a huge hit!