Massaged Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Seed Dressing

by on October 7, 2012
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Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Seed Dressing

When it comes to kale, I always seem to be lagging behind the cool kids. Though I’m crazy about kale in soups and casseroles and skillet dinners, I haven’t loved the more trendy ways of eating it. I was one of the last food bloggers to try kale chips, and when I did, I was unimpressed. And though for the last few years people all over the planet have been rubbing their kale like deranged massage therapists, every time I tried a massaged kale salad, I wound up wanting to put the whole thing into a steamer. But this week I became a massaged kale convert when I finally realized what I was doing wrong.

Basically, I wasn’t massaging the kale hard enough or long enough. [Insert husband joke here.] You might think that’s because I’m one of those selfish people who prefer getting massages to giving them (don’t we all?), but the real reason I’ve treated my kale too gently is that I’m always thinking ahead to the photo. Massaging takes the perkiness right out of kale leaves, leaving them limp and less attractive to the camera lens. But the harder you rub, the more the cell walls break down, making the kale more tender and less bitter. So don’t be afraid to rub kale the wrong way; you can’t, unless you just don’t try hard enough.

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need oil to massage kale. Any salad dressing will do, whether it contains fat or not, and, as Nava Atlas points out in Wild About Greens, you can even use salt, though you have to be very careful not to add a salty dressing on top of it. In this recipe, I made a dressing from pepitas, shelled pumpkin seeds, and used it both as my “massage oil” and as a final salad dressing. I liked the contrast of the tangy lime and jalapeno flavor of the dressing with the sweetness of grilled sweet potatoes, and I added pinto beans to make this a main dish salad. Both the dressing and the salad were a hit with my husband, who was probably wondering what he’d have to do to get the kale treatment.

Speaking of erotic treatments of kale, my friend Julia at SnarkyVegan is doing a “50 Shades of Kale” theme for VeganMoFo; check out her Massaged Kale Salad with Avocado and Marinated Beans, which is hilarious to read and, I’m sure, delicious to eat. It’s the fourth in a series of posts, so be sure to start at the beginning to follow the story.

Massaged Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Seed Dressing
Note: I’ve added a small photo to the printable recipes; if you want to print a recipe without the photo, simply go to the printer page, select only the text, and choose “Print Selection” as your print option.

Pumpkin Seed Dressing
Note: I’ve added a small photo to the printable recipes; if you want to print a recipe without the photo, simply go to the printer page, select only the text, and choose “Print Selection” as your print option.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Solveig Berg Vollan @ Gluten-free-vegan-girl October 7, 2012 at 7:44 am

Looks delish as always Susan! Cannot wait to try this one out :)


2 Alexandra October 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

I’m definitely going to make this as it looks and sounds delicious. I’m a fan of kale particularly the organic Lacinto variety. I use kale several times a week in smoothies which is another healthy and delicious way to go with this fantastic vegetable. Thanks for this recipe!


3 moonwatcher October 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

Hi Susan–

This looks fabulous! Three of my favorite tastes–kale, sweet potato and pumpkin seeds altogether. And the post is very funny, too. I look forward to reading the other one you recommended. I massaged my kale this summer in just lime juice and it worked well enough. I am going to ponder on playing with the dressing to make it soy free. Thanks for the inspiration! And the photo is gorgeous–the kale looks very vibrant after its massage! LOL




4 Betty A. October 7, 2012 at 11:35 am

Thanks for including a photo with the printable recipe!


5 Muriel October 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm

How do you massage the kale? Do you roll up and squeeze the whole leaves several times?or do you slice up the leaves and squeeze? Or do you you. Hold the who,e leaves in your hands and rub back and forth? If the latter, how do you know when it is enough?


6 carol October 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm

I massaged my Kale for other salads by mixing it by hand in the same way you would mix a meat loaf by hand. (before I turned Vegan) Firmly squeezing it through your hand and fingers…Use the biggest, widest top bowl you have and dig in and squeeze with both (clean) hands.


7 Susan Voisin October 8, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I second everything that carol said and add that one way you know it’s enough is when it’s reduced to about 1/3 of the volume it was when you started. But of course, the best way of knowing it’s done is when it tastes good to you.


8 NottinghamKate October 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Hi Susan, this looks like another amazing recipe, thank you so much for everything that you have shared.
I have a question about kale. Here in England I can only buy it pre-packed and cut/washed so have no idea how much is in a bunch. Could you give me a rough guide to how many grams or cups that would be?
I’m going to go ahead and just try this out anyway, but it would be great to know amounts too.
Thanks again,


9 Susan Voisin October 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Kate, I believe a bunch is somewhere between 10 and 12 ounces, so I’m guessing that 300 grams might be an amount to shoot for.


10 NottinghamKate October 9, 2012 at 1:17 am



11 urbanvegan October 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Agree about the oil. I think I little salt helps any raw veggie!


12 moonwatcher October 7, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Hi Susan,

I couldn’t wait 24 hours even–I just had to try making a soy free version of this with what I had on hand. I had a Japanese sweet potato all baked so I mashed a
little of that up with a little hazelnut milk. It tasted great, but made
the dressing a little thicker, so I added a bit more vinegar and lime
juice. I didn’t have jalapeño so put a little tomatillo salsa in, and
smoked paprika and extra roasted ground cumin seeds for a similar but milder
smoky flavor. I ate it with baked delicate squash cubes done the way you
suggested doing the sweet potato. I added a little red cabbage for crunch.
Very pretty and delicious! I will keep fiddling with this. It’s a very impressive salad to serve people who aren’t sure they like raw kale. And for those of us who love it, it’s yet another wonderful way to eat it!





13 Billie St. Marie October 8, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Well Well Well…I so never knew or even heard of massaging kale! Thanks for the heads up on that! :)


14 Charul @ Tadka Masala October 9, 2012 at 11:42 am

That pumpkin seed dressing is amazing.
First time here, loved your blog and pics. :)


15 Tina October 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I’m so glad you confessed to not loving kale chips; I thought I was the only one! Actually, 2 of my family members were pretty underwhelmed as well.
Thanks so much for adding the photo to the recipes. I’m in awe of you and how creative you are. In my imagination, you are in the kitchen about 12 hours a day creating, tasting, and the dreaded clean-up.


16 Lee at Veggie Quest October 9, 2012 at 3:29 pm

That looks amazing! I haven’t made a massaged kale salad since I (mostly) jettisoned olive oil from my recipes; I figured using an oil was a prerequisite for kale massage. So, glad to know kale can be massaged with a whole-foods dressing! Will definitely be trying this one.

Also, for people who don’t want to get their hands dirty, baby kale is always an option (usually comes in tubs). It can simply be tossed with dressing, as it’s already very tender.


17 heidi kokborg October 10, 2012 at 1:35 am

Mmmm… It looks so delicious! And I love sweet potatoes so this sala is a must-try for me!


18 Michelle@HappyHeart October 10, 2012 at 6:31 am

Definitely pinning this one! Sweet potatoes and kale…where could you go wrong! Beautiful pics btw!


19 Valerie October 10, 2012 at 10:38 am

I just came across your blog this weekend and subscribed. This recipe looked so appealing that I went ahead and made it last night, and it was super delicious! Thank you!


20 veganamericanprincess October 10, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Great post! The recipe looks great (can’t wait to try that pumpkin seed dressing) and your little jokes about massaging were funny! I usually don’t go for these type of kale recipes, but I will give this one a try!


21 Sarah October 12, 2012 at 8:40 am

Would using regular balsamic instead of white affect the flavor a lot? Would a wee bit of apple cider vinegar(or some other type) mixed with regular balsamic approximate the flavor of white balsamic? Thanks!


22 Susan Voisin October 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

I would use straight apple cider vinegar rather than regular balsamic just because the dark balsamic will make the dressing muddy looking. Try using a little less than the recipe calls for and add more to taste.


23 Mjere October 16, 2012 at 10:57 am

Hi Susan! I plan to make for my friend’s birthday this evening… Do you think the salad would hold up well enough if made 8 hours beforehand, or should it be served immediately?

Thanks, Mjere


24 Susan Voisin October 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

Just keep it refrigerated and I think it will keep just fine.


25 Angela W October 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I Love this recipe! The flavors and textures are great togethrr. I think I will be eating more kale now. You are a riot, too! I think I like your sense of humor as much as your amazing recies!


26 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie October 17, 2012 at 9:14 am

This looks delish, I can’t wait to give this one a try. I love these kinds of recipes because you can easily adjust things based on what you have on hand!


27 misscruciferous November 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I got my family to try kale with this dish and it’s definitely a keeper. Thank you for another stellar recipe.


28 Mike December 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm

The photo on the printable recipe page is just what I was hoping for! Is it possible to add that on all of them?


29 Susan Voisin December 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I’d love to, but that would be a lot of work! I’ll be adding them to all the new recipes, and any time I edit an old recipe I’ll add a photo.


30 Karen August 30, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Made this for supper tonight. Use blanched and chopped kale, just can’t handle the bitterness of raw. The dressing was wonderful and really liked the combination of flavors.


31 anne desjardins November 6, 2013 at 8:01 am

I really laughed my heart’s content when I read this; first, because I feel the same way about kale: to me it’s an acquired taste to say the least! Second, because the image of massage therapists furiously rubbing the kale leaves was hilarious! This recipe looks great and I can’t wait to try it for lunch. Thanks again for this fantastic website…


32 mackemom December 15, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Didn’t have white balsamic so used rice vinegar , I didn’t even know there WAS white balsamic! Looks good–actually doubled the salad dressing recipe since I had such a Huge jalapeño! Looks great–chilling the salad for later. Healthy! 😀


33 Texas Ann March 28, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Made this for lunch today. Followed recipe exactly. It was great. Even my husband who does not like kale loved the salad. The dressing would be great on any salad. Really love your site. Thanks,


34 Sara April 27, 2014 at 4:35 am

I just made a massaged kale salad today for the first time. I was scared to eat it as I hate the taste of plain kale. It came out great. I didn’t massage it as long as you say but I did cut up the kale very finely so I think that helped a lot.


35 Garland August 26, 2014 at 8:39 pm


Love the website and all the fantastic recipes. Well done. I want to sign up for the recipe box. Sorry must be a bit thick because I can’t seem to find where to do it from the instructions (sure it is me, sorry!!). Any extra info would be good.
Warm Regards


36 Garland August 26, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Hi again
Think I have worked it out. Thanks.
Garland Tasmania Australia


37 Sarah Downs December 28, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Holy crap! This is so good! The sweet potatoes go really well with the dressing. Thank you!


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