Massaged Kale Salad is a terrific way to enjoy this healthy, flavorful green! An easy manual technique will make you a kale fan. Or grab some baby kale and save yourself a step!

Before the days of baby greens, putting kale in a salad could give your jaw a workout. But a simple trick makes this Kale Salad with Cranberries a winner! 

Kale salad with cranberries, tomatoes and sunflower seeds in a large white serving bowl.

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • It’s a yummy way to introduce kale to your family.
  • The frilly leaves make a gorgeous salad!
  • The kale salad dressing is simple and the citrus brings brightness to the greens.
  • Kale is packed full of nutrition, but since baby kale is so tender, your family won’t know they’re eating a high-fiber, vitamin-packed salad!

Ingredient Notes:

Overhead view of labeled kale salad ingredients on a sheetpan.
  • Baby Kale – You may use regular kale, but will need to chop and massage so it’s not too tough.
  • Lemon – Always use fresh lemon juice, never bottled. The taste is superior.
  • Honey – The sweetness balances the tart lemon juice nicely.
  • Grape Tomatoes – May use cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes. The original recipe called for mangoes, so those will also work well.
  • Salted Sunflower Seeds – May substitute slivered almonds, pine nuts, or other nuts.
  • Dried Cranberries – Adds a nice contrasting texture and sweetness. May use dried tart cherries or even raisins instead.
Small white bowl filled with kale salad with a red handled fork.

Recipe Tips:

  • If you need to massage your kale, note that even a wee paper cut will create a strong stinging sensation from the lemon juice.
  • PRO-Tip: To avoid the extra step of massaging, purchase baby kale that is already tender.
  • Dip a kale leaf in your salad dressing before mixing. You may need to adjust with more lemon juice, more honey, and more salt or pepper. Start with the smallest amount if a range is given, taste, and tweak as needed.
  • PRO-Tip: Gently warm your sunflower seeds in a skillet to bring out their essential oils and enhance their flavor. 
  • Add or swap out ingredients like cucumbers, dried cherries, and almonds….the recipe is meant to be adjusted to your palate. Mangos and pepitas were used in the original recipe so those are tasty options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Kale?

Kale is a member of the cabbage family, considered “nonheading” since it doesn’t grow in a head like traditional cabbage. It has a mild, cabbage-like flavor.

How Do You Store Kale?

Regular Kale should be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Its flavor gets stronger as it ages. Baby kale has a longer shelf life and will stay fresh for over a week.

What Are the Health Benefits of Kale?

Kale is high in Vitamin A and C, folic acid, calcium, iron, and fiber. Note that kale is also high in Vitamin K which can interfere with some anticoagulants like Coumadin. 

How Else Can Kale Be Used?

Kale can be used as a spinach substitute in most recipes. If using regular kale, wash it well and remove the center stalk and large ribs.

Why is Kale Massaged?

Baby kale is very tender, but ordinary kale can be tough and bitter. Gently massaging the kale with your hands for about 2 minutes with some olive oil and fresh lemon juice will break down the fibers, making the kale tender. This process also aids in removing some of the bitterness. Since baby kale is inherently tender, it does not require massaging.

Overhead view of kale salad in a white bowl with red handled serving utensils.

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Overhead view of a small salad bowl filled with kale salad with a red handle fork.

Massaged Kale Salad

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 4 servings

A massaged kale salad with cherry tomatoes and sunflower seeds


  • 10 ounces baby kale or regular kale with stems and ribs removed*
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2-3 tablespoons salted sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (Crasins)


  1. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the lemon juice with the honey and black pepper to taste. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to allow for emulsification.
  2. Drizzle the kale with the dressing and toss. Add tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries, toss again and serve.
  3. If using regular kale*, massage with half the lemon juice and some of the olive oil for about 2 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients.


*Massaging is optional when using baby kale.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 444Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 2038mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 7gSugar: 22gProtein: 11g occasionally offers nutritional information for recipes contained on this site. This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased can change the nutritional information in any given recipe. Also, many recipes on recommend toppings, which may or may not be listed as optional and nutritional information for these added toppings is not listed. Other factors may change the nutritional information such as when the salt amount is listed “to taste,” it is not calculated into the recipe as the amount will vary. Also, different online calculators can provide different results. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information obtained is accurate.


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