How to Make Massaged Kale Salad

How to make massaged kale salad

What was the hardest part of your week last week?

While you ponder that, let me share mine: having to watch as a teacher took kale away from a preschooler and made him cry. (Yep, ladies and gentleman, apparently I am so good at getting kids to love kale that they cry when it is taken away.)

Last week I was making my famous kale smoothie for kids with a group of preschoolers. One of the boys was so excited about getting to try the smoothie that he started eating one of the raw kale leaves that had been passed around the classroom for the kids to touch and explore. After taking a bite of the kale he liked it so much that he continued to gnaw his way through most of the leaf. (I was quite impressed!)

Of course, a child snacking on a germ-y piece of kale caught the attention of one of the teachers who promptly took it away from him. Sure enough, crying ensued. Which actually seems pretty fair because if someone tried to take my kale away, I would probably cry too.

Luckily, the nice thing about being an adult is that you can eat as much raw kale as you want. Especially if you massage it and turn it into a delicious salad. Just wash your hands first. :)

By now you might have heard of “massaging” kale and wondered what all the fuss was about. Massaging raw kale transforms it from a tough, somewhat bitter leaf into a sweet, delicate salad. And it only takes a few minutes!

Let me show you how!

(Psst: If you like this tutorial, be sure to sign up for my free weekly newsletter to get FREE weekly recipes, healthy living tips, and giveaways for health and wellness goodies sent to your inbox!)

How to make massaged kale salad
Massaging kale only requires a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand. I typically use a simple mix of a little salt and fresh lemon juice to help tenderize the leaves and some olive oil for flavor. The salt and acid in the lemon juice helps to break down the cell walls in the kale, softening it while making it sweeter.
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, get to work! De-stem the kale and tear it into bite-sized pieces.
Add the kale to a bowl along with the salt and squeeze of lemon juice.
When you massage the kale, think of the motion used to rub someone’s shoulders. (Hey, even kale needs some love.)  Get in that bowl and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
In the photo below, the kale on the left has been massaged for 1 minute and the kale on the right has been massaged for 5 minutes. You can see that the kale has decreased in size and the texture is softer after being massaged for 5 minutes.
How to make massaged kale salad

Test the kale as you go along. When the kale begins to taste sweet and you can see some kale juices (e.g. liquids extracted from the kale) accumulating at the bottom of the bowl, your kale is ready!

Add the olive oil, give it one more good massage, and it’s ready to eat!

raw kale vs massaged kale


How to Make Massaged Kale Salad
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4
  • 1 large bunch curly kale, de-stemmed and torn or chopped into pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Any desired toppings
  1. Add the kale to a medium mixing bowl along with the salt and lemon juice.
  2. "Massage" kale for five minutes, or until leaves are sweet and tender.
  3. Add the olive oil and give one more quick "massage."


And don’t forget to add any additional toppings as desired.  Some of my favorites are roasted nuts, fresh fruit, dried fruit, sprouted quinoahomemade croutonsroasted squash, or sprouts.

What are your favorite toppings for massaged kale salad? 

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  1. says

    Ha, ha, love that you made a kid cry…you meanie! Kidding, of course! :-) But I love that he was so into it. SO many kids don’t eat green things these days…so sad! Anyway, thanks so much for the tutorial. Ever so helpful! Thanks Sonnet!

  2. Sharon says

    Hi Sonnet!
    My grocery is starting to sell organic baby kale, which I found to be a little more manageable. But is the nutional value the same? I tried to google but didnt find much answers. :(

    • says

      Yep, should be about the same. The baby kale is usually not as tough so it might not even need to be massaged to be eaten raw. Hope that helps!

  3. Lisha says

    Great information here! I always wondered the best way to eat the kale like a salad. This looks like it could be it!

  4. says

    I found this story to be so cute! :) Little kids can be so funny sometimes. A few years ago I taught a class on wheatgrass to a group of young children and they all wanted to eat the grass. While there certainly weren’t any criers in the bunch, there sure were some pouty faces after I told them we were going to juice the grass. “Ewwwwwww.” Apparently eating grass is cool, but not so much drinking it. Haha.

  5. mimsie says

    Hi–just came across your blog. Today I bought my first kale ever because I plan to make your massaged kale salad for supper. Question–if unmassaged kale is tough and somewhat bitter, does that bitter taste come through with the kids’ smoothies you make? Would massaged kale taste better in these smoothies? I want to try the smoothie recipe too (leave out the salt when massaging it). Thanks for your advice!

  6. Joyce Cain says

    Awesome tutorial. I would like to include a link to it in a little blog I write for my massage therapy business. Wanted to make sure that was okay with you. :)

  7. says

    Thanks so much for this tutorial. When I googled “how to massage kale”, your link was one of the first that came up. I never knew how to do it before and I just tried your method – I made a kale salad with cut-up apples and grated romano cheese and the kale came out perfectly!

  8. Jay says

    I tried the massaged Kale salad for the first time today, and I’m in love!!!!!! I’m looking forward to purchasing a few bunches of kale for salad. Thanks for the tip!!! Delicious!!!

  9. says

    This post was so helpful! Your pictures really illustrate the difference between normal and non-massaged, and I love how you described massaging the kale. I have included it in my most recent post of my fall kale salad to give others more info on the benefits and how-to’s of massaging kale.

  10. Margaret says

    Thanks Sonnet i grow 4 different types of kale i know its healthy but i keep feeding it to the rabbit and chickens, i always found it too tough. now i am going to try it massaged !

  11. says

    I make a kale salad with the same simple ingredients. I don’t massage it but just mix everything together and let rest for 30 minutes to one hour. You get the same result: a soft and delicious kale salad.

  12. says

    Hi Sonnet, thank you so much for sharing your method of massaging kale. I made my kale salad yesterday using your method. I added some shredding carrots, Red Boat salt and fresh garlic. It was delicious!

    I live outside Seattle but work here and I wanted to let you know that I too, LOVE kettlebells!

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