Why Massage Kale
Wondering what does massaging kale do? Well, you are not alone. This 5-minute process is effortless and does wonders for this otherwise humble vegetable.
- Massaging kale for salad makes the vegetable more palatable by releasing its bitter compounds and—as a result—making the kale less bitter.
- This simple process breaks down the vegetable’s fibrous texture, making it more tender, easier to chew, and more digestible.
To prepare raw kale for massaging, you’ll need three simple ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, kale, and if desired, kosher salt (or sea salt). It is optional, but if you want, you can add in a squeeze of lemon juice as well.
In terms of oil, I used olive oil to soften my kale, but this simple recipe would work with avocado or coconut oil as well.
Best Kale Type for Massaging:
Out of all of the different types of kale, I find that the best kale for massaging to use in a salad recipe is curly kale. Not only because it is easier to find at grocery stores, but it also has more body than the other common kale types.
With that being said, Tuscan kale, also known as lacinato kale and dinosaur kale —has a gentler flavor and will also work for this recipe. The only other type of kale I do not recommend using is baby kale because it already has tender leaves, and as a result, it will not withstand the massaging process.
How to Prepare Raw Kale for Salad
Learn how to make kale soft and tender and prepare it as a base for the most delicious massaged kale salads in five easy steps:
- Wash the kale: Rinse the kale under cold running water to remove dirt and debris. Then, place the wet kale leaves on a clean kitchen towel, and use another towel (or paper towels) to dry them as much as possible. Alternatively, if you have one, you can use a salad spinner (affiliate link) to dry the kale.
- Chop the kale: You can use your hands or a sharp knife to cut kale. You can remove the leaves from their stems by running the stems through your closed fist. Or, you can slice the kale leaves away from their stems on a cutting board. Here is a beginner-friendly guide to cutting kale for using it in recipes.
- Add a drizzle of olive oil: Add the chopped kale to a large mixing bowl, and drizzle the leaves with olive oil. You may also add a little salt to your salad greens for added flavor.
- Massage the kale: Use your clean hands to massage the kale with olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Turn the small pieces frequently to make sure they soften evenly.
- Add to your favorite dishes: Once tenderized, your kale is ready to eat! Add your massaged raw kale to a salad or one of your other favorite recipes.
How to Use Kale in Salad
It is no secret that massaged kale is the perfect base for a green superfood-packed salad. Here are a few simple kale salad recipes to try:
- Brussels Sprout Kale Salad: Made with maple-roasted pecans, pomegranate arils, and a white wine vinaigrette, this easy kale salad makes a colorful and tasty addition to any dinner/holiday table.
- Kale Quinoa Salad: Two superfoods, quinoa and kale, in one big large salad bowl! Bright lemon, creamy avocado, and crunchy chickpeas make this easy recipe a meal-worthy weeknight meal.
- Kale Apple Slaw: Get the most out of your farmer’s markets with this simple recipe. It only takes 15 minutes to put together the sweet, tangy, and bold flavors of this veggie side dish.
- Zucchini Kale Recipe: Low-calorie, gluten-free, and delicious? This bright summer salad recipe has it all, complete with sweet zucchini noodles, walnuts, and vegan mayo dressing.
- Harvest Kale Salad: Nobody can resist the full-bodied flavor of this fall massaged kale salad. Sweet dried figs, tart apples, and earthy goat cheese combine for a kale salad recipe that’s to die for.
How to Store
Got leftovers or massaging kale as a part of your meal prep? Simply place freshly massaged kale in an airtight container in the fridge. It will stay fresh for 3-4 days.
And if you are new to storing kale, be sure to check out my guide on how to store fresh kale.
Massaged kale is kale that has been tenderized or softened through exposure to fat- or acid-based ingredients. Olive oil and vinegar are two examples of ingredients that help break down kale’s tough fibers and give it a softer texture.
Massaged kale will last 3-4 days when stored in a sealed container in the fridge.
Nope! Massaging kale and cooking kale have the same effect: breaking down the vegetable’s fibrous texture and tenderizing its leaves. Therefore, you only need to choose one process or the other before consuming this cruciferous vegetable.
Though cooking kale for salad is an option, you don’t need to cook it to use it in a recipe. Still, if you find the taste of kale bitter, simply give it a quick 2-3 minute massage to make it more soft, tender, and palatable to eat.
Yes! Massaging kale is a fantastic way to make kale less bitter. The massaging process helps kale release its bitter compounds, eliminating some of this vegetable’s bitter flavor.
No, there’s no need to rinse your massaged kale before adding it to your favorite recipes. Simply add the tenderized leaves to a salad bowl and top them with your favorite dressing once you’ve finished massaging them.
Other Helpful Kale Related Articles:
- Common Varieties of Kale
- How To Chop Kale
- Blanching Kale for Freezing
- How to Store Kale in the Fridge & Freezer
If you find this guide on How To Massage Kale or any one of our other How-To Guides on Foolproof Living helpful, please take a minute to leave a rating and a review. Doing so helps others who are planning to follow the processes outlined in this post.
How to Massage Kale
- 1 bunch curly kale
- 3 teaspoons olive oil
- kosher salt optional
- Wash and dry the kale: Rinse kale under cold running water until no dirt or debris is left. Place kale leaves on a clean kitchen towel. Using another towel (or paper towels), dry kale leaves as much as you can.*
- Chop the kale: Remove leaves from kale stems either with your hands or using a knife. Chop kale leaves into small bite size pieces. Save the kale stems for your next chicken or vegetable stock, or discard them.
- Add oil and salt: Transfer chopped kale into a large salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt if using.
- Massage the kale: Using clean hands, massage (gently rub) kale leaves for 2-3 minutes turning often to make sure all kale leaves are softened.
- Serve: Use in your favorite kale salads* or other recipes.
- *Alternatively, you can use a salad spinner to dry the kale leaves.
- *Want to massage kale without using any oil? Here are two other options to help you soften/tenderize kale for salads:
- Use an alternative fat: Try adding other “healthy fats” such as a ripe avocado, nut or seed butter, unsweetened tahini, or unsweetened peanut butter. I would usually use one small ripe avocado and 2 tablespoons of nut/butter per kale bunch.
- Add an acidic ingredient: Acid-based ingredients are fantastic substitutes when you want to prepare kale raw. Simply massage a tablespoon of vinegar (I suggest apple cider vinegar), fresh lemon juice, or citrus juice into your chopped kale.
- Storage: If you have leftovers or are massaging kale as a part of your meal prep, simply place it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will stay fresh for 3-4 days.
- Be aware that the raw kale leaves lose their volume as you massage them: Keep in mind that as you massage the kale leaves, they will become softer and lose their volume. When I am massaging kale for salads as a side dish, I use one bunch for 4 servings. If I am serving it as a meal by itself, then I would use 2 bunches of kale for 4 servings.