Kale Avocado Salad is packed with incredible flavor and amazing textures. Rainbow kale is topped with crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado slices, roasted sunflower seeds, crunchy croutons, and tangy Parmesan cheese. This salad is tossed in a vibrant avocado-lemon dressing.
Kale Avocado Salad
Typically store-bought lettuce begins to wilt after around four to six days, so as we’ve tried to limit our grocery shopping trips, I decided to stock up on kale instead. Kale has a much longer shelf life than spinach or mixed greens, and I’ve been able to get creative with how I use it. We’ve made this kale couscous salad a few times with whatever veggie remnants I had lurking in the fridge and kale and quinoa salad is on the menu plan this week.
While I love the fruit-filled kale salad recipes I’ve shared on this site, I was craving a garden style type salad to make alongside these stuffed shells the other night — one with plenty of veggies and a way to use up some ripe avocados. So that is where this kale avocado salad comes in. It’s packed with veggies and coated in a creamy avocado-lemon dressing. We made it almost every night last week and I’m pleased to announce I’ve finally won over even the littlest one to kale, thanks to this recipe!
Preparing the kale
If you’re not a huge kale fan, let me take a minute to say that I never was, either! For me, it takes just the right accompanying salad ingredients, the perfect dressing, and a secret method for preparing the kale.
So what is the secret method? Massaging the kale. Strange? Yes, a little. Effective? Absolutely. Here’s how we do it:
- Start by removing the thick stems and then very thinly slice (ribbon) the kale. I think the smaller the pieces or shreds of kale, the better it tastes.
- Once it’s all chopped, throw it in a colander (or for a quicker preparation time, use the base of a salad spinner!) and give it a quick rinse.
- Next, sprinkle some fine sea salt on top and, using your hands, rub and massage the salt into the kale.
- Massage the kale for about a minute or until it turns a deep green color and then give it another quick rinse.
- Allow the kale to dry completely before adding it to the salad (a salad spinner speeds that process quite a bit). If the kale is wet, the dressing won’t adhere as well.
- Rubbing the leaves with salt creates friction that breaks down the tough fibers and mellows out the flavor. It’s not an old wives’ tale; there’s real science to it! Read a bit more about it in this article.
This salad dressing is a mash up of recipes from here and here. It’s tangy, creamy, sweet, and the perfect companion to the kale. The lemon juice and zest adds a beautiful freshness and vibrancy, the Dijon mustard adds tang and thickness, and the avocado makes the dressing luxuriously thick and creamy.
The best part? We just throw everything into a blender and let it whirl. I like to chill the dressing at least 20 minutes before adding it to the salad, but it can be made several hours in advance.
Because of the avocado in it, I wouldn’t recommend making the dressing more than 6 hours in advance. Avocados turn brown when exposed to air, and nobody wants a browned salad dressing.
Making your own croutons is ridiculously easy, but honestly, store-bought ones work great here too. (We’ve tried and loved both.)
Most homemade croutons are a little more involved with olive oil and/or butter and seasonings added to the bread, but to keep this Kale Avocado Salad super simple, I just tore apart day-old rolls and toasted the pieces in the oven. These “croutons” don’t get too much easier than that.
I typically use crusty day-old rolls or bread (like sourdough or ciabatta), but any bread or roll will work. The softer or fresher the bread is, the most time it’ll likely need in the oven to toast.
Serve this Kale Avocado Salad as a main dish
This salad is surprisingly filling and can easily pass as a main dish with a little protein added in. Here are some of our favorite additions:
- Chicken: Any leftover cooked chicken works fine; I’m partial to leftover grilled chicken from this chicken marinade recipe.
- Hard boiled eggs: I use this deviled egg recipe as a guide to cooking hard boiled eggs; once cooked, chop them up and add them in.
- Grains: Cook up quinoa, barley, farro, or even some lentils and, once cooled, toss them in the salad for a protein boost.
- Swap out the greens: Even though this is a kale salad, you can swap out the kale for baby spinach or romaine lettuce.
- Try a different dressing: Not a fan of avocado? I’d recommend a Caesar salad-type dressing instead. If you’re looking to grab a store bought dressing, I do like Marzetti’s® Caesar Salad Dressing (not sponsored).
Kale avocado salad tips
- I recommend using roasted salted sunflower seeds; the saltiness of these seeds adds the perfect seasoning to this salad.
- Grate Parmesan with a microplane; I like grating the cheese finely over the salad using a microplane. Super-finely shredded Parmesan integrates into the salad (and every bite) better.
- Chill kale and dressing; If you have the time, chill the dressing and the washed (and dried) kale for 20-30 minutes before making the rest of the salad.
- Salad storage: Because of the avocado, croutons, and sunflower seeds, this salad doesn’t sit well once dressed (avocado will brown, croutons and seeds will get soggy). This Kale Avocado Salad is best enjoyed the same day it is made so I’d recommend halving the recipe if you don’t need this much.
- The dressing can be blended and kept in the refrigerator up to 6 hours in advance. I like to store it in the blender jar with the lid and then give it one more blitz before pouring it over the salad.
- The kale can be prepared 5 to 6 hours in advance and so can all the veggies; store kale and veggies together, covered in the fridge. I wouldn’t recommend cutting the avocado in advance as it will brown.
- Grate the cheese, bake the croutons, and measure out the sunflower seeds up to a day in advance; just store these all separately.
- Toss everything together just before eating.
More healthy salads
- Quinoa Salad with a lemon vinaigrette
- Pesto Chicken Salad served on croissants
- Apple Salad with an apple cider vinaigrette
- Olive Garden Salad with an Italian-inspired dressing
- Panzanella Salad with a balsamic vinaigrette
Kale Avocado Salad is packed with incredible flavor and amazing textures. Fresh kale is topped with crisp cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado slices, roasted sunflower seeds, crunchy croutons, and tangy Parmesan cheese. This salad is tossed in a vibrant avocado-lemon dressing.
- 2-2.5 cups day-old crusty bread or rolls or store-bought croutons
- 8 ounces (6 cups; loosely measured) kale
- 1 and 1/4 cups halved cherry tomatoes (~1/2 pint)
- 1 and 1/2 cups sliced cucumbers (3 Persian or 1 English cucumber(s))
- 1 large avocado, divided
- 1/3 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (I like to grate with a microplane)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (I recommend Best Foods/Hellmanns)
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic (~1 large or 2 small cloves)
- 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 large lemon (1 teaspoon zest, 2-3 tablespoons juice)
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Salt, pepper, & water
CROUTONS: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Tear apart crusty rolls or bread into small 1-inch pieces. Spread in an even layer on a sheet pan and bake for 8-12 minutes or until toasted. Remove and let cool. Alternatively use store-bought croutons.
KALE: Start by removing the thick stems and then very thinly slice (ribbon) or chop the kale (the smaller the shreds of kale, the better). Once it's all chopped, put it in a colander (or the base of a salad spinner) and give it a quick rinse. Sprinkle some fine sea salt on top (about 1/2 to 1 full teaspoon) and, using your hands, rub and massage the salt into the kale. Massage the kale for about a minute and then give it another quick rinse. Allow the kale to dry completely before using in the salad. If you have a salad spinner, spin until it is thoroughly dried.
DRESSING: In a blender jar, combine 1/2 of a large, ripe avocado (about 1/2 cup), 1/4 cup mayo, 1/2 tablespoon garlic (I thinly slice garlic cloves to get this measurement), 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard, the zest and juice of a lemon (1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; add an extra tablespoon for a more lemony dressing), and 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Pour in 1/2 cup water. Blend until completely smooth; taste the dressing, and adjust to personal preference adding more lemon/salt/pepper as needed. (The salad is quite salty with the Parmesan cheese, so start with less salt in the dressing). Place the kale and the dressing in the fridge to chill while preparing the rest of the salad.
VEGGIES: Halve the cucumbers and then slice thinly to get half moons. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Thinly slice or chop the remaining avocado half. Add all the veggies on top of the kale. Pour dressing over and toss until combined. Add 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, and croutons on top. Toss once more and serve.
Note: Because of the avocado, croutons, and sunflower seeds, this salad doesn't sit well once dressed (avocado will brown, croutons and seeds will get soggy). Avocado Kale Salad is best enjoyed the same day it is made.