This savory vegan kale salad features a creamy sunflower seed dressing and a rainbow of colorful veggies. It's great for lunches and makes a flavorful and healthy option for potlucks and cookouts. Add your favorite cooked bean and a grain to transform it into an entree kale salad!
Made without nuts, oil, refined sugar, or gluten and ready in 30 minutes.
It's surprisingly tricky to find kale salad recipes that don't include dairy or heaps of oil. But this simple kale salad fits the bill!
You'll love the garlicky dressing that happens to be oil-free, vegan, and made with affordable sunflower seeds. So it's allergy-friendly AND budget-friendly.
I've been eating mountains of this kale salad, and each bite is just as exciting as the first. I love the savory flavors the creamy dressing brings and that the salad is full of raw vegetables, color and texture.
Aside from a bit of chopping, this recipe is very easy to prepare, and you can even turn it into a full meal by adding chickpeas or tofu and your favorite grain.
- kale - look for a large bunch of curly green kale; you want one that weighs around ¾ to 1 pound. Otherwise, select two small bunches.
- creamy dressing - I created this Creamy Sunflower Seed Dressing specifically for this kale salad recipe, but feel free to experiment with other vegan dressings. Depending on the dressing, you may need as much as 1 ½ cups.
- lemon juice - the dressing contains lemon juice, but it's nice to add a bit more acidity when assembling the salad.
- raw veggies - I opted for red onion, carrot, yellow pepper, cucumber, and a variety of cherry and grape tomatoes. Use whatever you like or is in season. Other tasty options are zucchini, jicama, and radishes.
- salt and pepper
See recipe card below for quantities and full recipe.
Preparing this kale salad is simple and only takes about 25 minutes, including making the dressing.
- First, head over to this post to make the dressing. TIP! I recommend adding an additional clove of garlic to the dressing because you want it to be EXTRA flavorful for this kale salad.
- Next, wash the kale leaves and pat dry. Remove the thick stems, cut into bite-size pieces and place half of the kale in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt, drizzle about ⅓ cup of dressing over the kale, and begin to squish, squeeze, and massage the dressing into the kale. Transfer that kale to a different bowl, and do the same thing with the other half of the kale. After massaging the dressing into the kale, its total volume should be reduced by about half.
- Wash and chop/slice the other vegetables. Toss them with the kale, and add more dressing, to taste, about ½ to ¾ cup. Season with additional salt, lemon, and black pepper.
- Cover and refrigerate the kale salad until ready to serve. Garnish with roasted sunflower seeds before serving.
Tips for Massaging Kale
The thought of massaging kale may seem fussy and complicated at first, but worry not!
I like to think of it more like "squeezing" or "squishing" the leaves with my hands, as opposed to "massaging" each and every leaf, which sounds very tedious. When you approach it that way it makes things so much easier.
So if you've never made kale salad before, don't be put off by this step. Just get in there with your hands, and you'll see it's easy and only takes a few minutes!
Adding a generous pinch of sea salt and plenty of dressing helps, too. Once the kale has reduced in volume by almost half, taste one or two pieces. If it feels softened and easy to chew, you're good to go.
Entree salad - add previously baked and chilled tofu or tempeh, chickpeas or other cooked bean, and a grain (or pseudo-grain) like farro or quinoa for a satisfying and healthy full meal. Orzo or other small pasta is also great.
Dried or fresh fruit - I opted to keep this recipe 100% savory, but fruit is a lovely addition to kale salad. Try chopped apple or sliced peaches or pear. Dried cranberries, raisins, apricots or goji berries are also nice. If the dried fruit is hard, soak in water for a few minutes to soften. Then drain and toss with the other ingredients.
Spicy - we also enjoy this dressing with extra red pepper flakes AND red pepper flakes sprinkled directly in the kale salad. A squeeze of sriracha or other chile sauce is good, too. Have fun with it!
Kale salad is best enjoyed the day it's made, allowing a few hours for the flavors to mingle.
Serve kale salad cool but not ice cold. This actually comes in handy if you're preparing the salad in advance to carry to a party or backyard cookout.
If garnishing with roasted sunflower seeds, add these just before serving.
A high-speed blender will come in handy for making the creamy dressing. But if you don't have one, that post offers tips, including soaking the seeds before blending.
You'll also need a vegetable peeler and a good chef's knife to prepare the other veggies. Other than that, no special equipment is necessary to whip up a gorgeous kale salad.
Store leftover kale salad in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. These ingredients don't hold up well to freezing.
You might also like these oil-free recipes:
Vegan Creamy Kale Salad (Oil-Free, Nut-Free)
- 1 batch Creamy Sunflower Seed Dressing - tap for recipe; you'll have some dressing leftover.
- 1 large bunch curly kale - approx. ¾ to 1 pound with stems.
- ½ large red onion, thinly sliced - for milder flavor, soak in water while preparing other ingredients, then drain and pat dry.
- ½ large English cucumber, sliced into half moons
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped or cut into matchsticks
- 1 large yellow or orange bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 8 to 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- lemon juice, to taste
- salt and pepper
- roasted sunflower seeds, optional
- First, tap this link to make the creamy dressing. TIP: I recommend adding an additional clove of garlic to the dressing because you want it to be EXTRA flavorful for kale salad. You may also want to increase the miso slightly. You can taste and decide while blending the dressing.
- Next, wash the kale leaves and pat dry. Remove the thick stems, cut into bite-size pieces, and place half of the kale in a large bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, then drizzle about ⅓ cup of dressing over the kale. Use your hands to squish, squeeze, and massage the dressing into the kale. Transfer that kale to a new bowl, and massage the other half of the kale in the same way. After massaging the kale, its total volume should be reduced by about half.
- Toss the other vegetables with the kale, and add more dressing, to taste, about ½ to ¾ cup. Season with a generous squeeze of lemon juice plus salt and black pepper to taste.
- Cover and refrigerate the kale salad until ready to serve. Garnish with roasted sunflower seeds, and serve cool.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.