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Of all the salads we've tried, this is the best kale salad. It's loaded with crispy bacon, toasted pecans, sweet tomatoes, creamy avocado, and Boursin cheese. There are also some caramelized onions in here, which take it over the top. You will LOVE it!
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We call this THE BEST kale salad, which might sound a little boastful but it's the truth. We eat a big salad with nearly every dinner, and of all the kale salads we've eaten, this one is our favorite.
The first time we made this it was a ‘throw everything that's in the fridge into the salad bowl' kinda dinner. It rocked our world. Even the kale skeptic said that it was the best salad he's ever had.
It has basically every flavor and texture there is so it's impossible not to love. There's creamy avocado, salty bacon, crunchy toasted pecans, bitter chewy kale, sweet dressing and caramelized onions, and tart tomatoes. Our favorite part is how the avocado coats everything in an almost cheese-like creaminess. And then there are the sweet, delicious caramelized onions. And the crispy, salty bacon. It's hard to choose a favorite!
More seriously though it is how every bite seems to have a bit of everything. Every good thing in each mouthful. ♥♥♥
What makes this the best kale salad recipe
- It's fresh and satisfying
- Loaded with tons of flavor from the sweet caramelized onions, salty bacon, creamy cheese, and crunchy pecans.
- It's a healthy side dish that is packed with nutrition.
- Full of colorful veggies.
- Dressed in a zippy homemade dressing.
- It's an easy and delicious kale salad to make all year round!
- Kale – we use curly kale, but other varieties work well, too. Make sure to wash it well and remove the hard inner stem.
- Onion – Most of the time we use a large yellow onion. Red onion or white onion also work well.
- Bacon – regular cut bacon cooked nice and crispy.
- Boursin cheese – goat cheese makes a nice substitute.
- Pecans – we like toasted for the nuttiest flavor. Walnuts or almonds make a nice substitute.
- Carrots, avocado, and cherry tomatoes.
How to make kale salad
This kale salad recipe involves a few steps but each of them is very easy.
- Make the dressing. This is as easy as whisking the ingredients in a bowl.
- Cook the bacon in a pan until it's nice and crispy. Then, set it aside and crumble it when it is cool to the touch.
- Saute the onions in some of the bacon fat until they are golden and caramelized.
- Now put it all together! Put all the ingredients into a big salad bowl, pour the dressing over the top, and mix it up. We like it best after it sits for about 5 minutes as the kale softens just a little.
The full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.
Making the dressing
It's easy to make this zesty salad dressing. The best way to make it is to whisk the vinegar, honey, mustard, shallot, and garlic in a bowl. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. This will emulsify the dressing and make it a little creamy.
If that sounds like too much work (and sometimes it is!), you can simply add the dressing ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and give it a good shake. It won't be quite as creamy, but it will taste just as good.
Variations to try
One of the great things about this kale salad recipe is that it is really versatile. Here are a few ways that you can make it your own:
- Add some dried fruit. Dried cranberries taste especially good.
- Use toasted almonds or toasted walnuts. Or splurge and use candied hazelnuts!
- Add some grated parmesan cheese.
- Use maple syrup instead of honey in the dressing for an autumn flair.
- Try adding a splash of fresh lemon juice for an extra bright dressing.
How to prepare kale
Kale is one of our favorite greens as it's hearty enough to prep ahead so it's always ready to go. Here's how to do it:
- Remove the leaves from the tough inner stem. Save the kale stems to try our sauteed kale stems recipe!
- Put the kale in a bowl and cover it with cold water. Swish it around a few times and then drain the water. You may need to do this a few times depending on how much dirt is hiding in the kale.
- Once the kale is clean, spin it dry using a salad spinner.
One of the best things about kale salad is that it stores well. Unlike green salad which starts to wilt as soon as it's dressed, kale softens but still holds its structure. It's a great salad to make for meal prep.
If you have any leftover kale salad, store it in an airtight container in your fridge for up to three days.
Frequently asked questions
Can you eat kale raw in salad?
Yes! Kale is healthy and delicious eaten raw in a salad.
Does kale need to be massaged for salad?
Massaging kale involves pouring a little oil or salad dressing over the kale and using your hands to massage the kale so that it softens. While you can massage kale, we find it's much easier to simply toss the salad and let the dressing sit on the kale for 5 minutes before eating it. The kale will be just as soft and easy to eat and you don't have to mess around with massaging kale.
How do you get the bitterness out of kale salad?
Kale is naturally slightly bitter. That's why we find that the best kale salad dressings always have an element of sweetness as it mellows out the bitterness. Another great dressing to try is what we call our best kale salad dressing.
Favorite kale salad recipes
- Coconut Sesame Kale Salad
- Waldorf Kale Salad
- Kale Tahini Salad
- Bacon Kale Caesar Salad
- Baby Kale Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or sub apple cider vinegar)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 small shallot (very finely minced)
- 1 small garlic clove (very finely minced)
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- A pinch of sea salt and pepper
- ¾ cup toasted pecans
- 4 strips of bacon
- 1 large onion (thinly sliced)
- 4 packed cups curly kale (washed and torn into bite-sized pieces)
- 2 tablespoons Boursin cheese (can sub goat cheese)
- 1 medium carrot (grated)
- 1 ripe avocado (chopped)
- 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
- In a medium-sized bowl whisk the vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, shallot, and garlic. Whisk in the oil in a slow and steady stream. Whisking the oil in slowly will help it to emulsify and become creamy. Season the dressing lightly with a pinch of salt and pepper.3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 small shallot, 1 small garlic clove, ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, A pinch of sea salt and pepper
- Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and place them in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bacon for 7-8 minutes, or until it is crispy but not burnt. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan.4 strips of bacon
- Add the thinly sliced onions to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes, or until they are quite soft and light brown.1 large onion
- Add the kale, Boursin cheese, pecans, crispy bacon, caramelized onions, carrot, avocado, and cherry tomatoes to a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and serve immediately.4 packed cups curly kale, 2 tablespoons Boursin cheese, 1 medium carrot, 1 ripe avocado, 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, ¾ cup toasted pecans
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.
For more inspiration, check out all of our salad recipes!