I know it’s January which means less baked goods and more soups and salads, am I right? Truth be told, I’m not a person that goes full on crazy in January eliminating everything in my diet. I do however like to reassess and reexamine how many vegetables and proteins I can get vs how many cookies I eat. This Kale Salad with Chicken and Tahini Dressing is SUCH a simple and beautiful way to incorporate healthy fats, lean protein and greens – which our bodies are DEFINITELY craving right now.
Sometimes I think that the term Winter Salad is an oxymoron – shouldn’t a salad be filled with fresh summer produce? But truth be told, winter salads are some of my favorite. Using winter fruits such as apples, persimmons, pomegranates, pears or citrus make for a wonderful fresh and hearty salad. Like this Kale and Quinoa Salad with Apples and Pomegranate.
I also love adding more protein such as beans, chicken and even protein from our tahini dressing. Our bodies definitely crave more when it’s cold outside. While in the summer, I may use some fresh arugula or spring greens for a salad, winter salads scream KALE! Kale is one of my favorite greens to use in salads for a few reasons – it’s packed with nutrients and antioxidants like beta-carotene and Vitamin C. Probably even more than the nutritional standpoint, I love that I can make a salad with kale and still enjoy it the next day. Most salads can’t hold up to dressing but kale definitely can. The leaves are thicker, more waxy and while they allow dressing to coat – they don’t get soggy quickly. It makes for a wonderful treat to dress a salad and enjoy the next day.
Tahini is such a staple in Levant/Arab cuisine. Many dishes like shawarmaor arnabeet (fried cauliflower) are topped with a drizzle of tarator – which is tahini, garlic, lemon, salt and water. A simple sauce that packs ultimate flavor. Tahini is also used in sweets – almost as a peanut butter or nut butter replacement, like in this tahini banana breador as a non-sticking agent like in these namoura bars. Can we just go ahead and call tahini the condiment of the year? It really is that good!
Tahini is simply ground up sesame seeds, which is a wonderful source of fat and richness to any dish. In this dish, we’re going to combine a classic combination – tahini, lemon, garlic, salt with a hint of sweetness to create a creamy, tangy and thick dressing that will coat our kale leaves beautifully.
Let’s find out what we’ll need to make this delightful winter salad!
Kale – My preference is using Lacinato Kale – sometimes called Dinosaur Kale or Tuscan Kale. It’s a much darker and more leaf like vs the common curly kale. It is absolutely your preference and definitely use whatever you have on hand. It’s best to use simply the leaves and remove the stem. But if you’re a little bit lazy like me, you’ll just pick up a bag of pre-washed, pre-cut from Trader Joe’s and call it a day – stems and all. I do still try and remove some of the larger ones when I massage the kale.
Carrots – Really for a pop of color I like to shred some carrots and add to the mix. Any extra veggies are a plus for a salad!
Chicken – I love to keep chicken in the fridge, bake up a batch (find a recipe here) and keep some on hand for a quick salad topper. This would also be wonderful with salmon. Or opt out completely and add white beans (cannellini are my favorite) for a meatless option. Heck, grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and call it a day!
Avocado – As if kale on its own isn’t a superfood – add in some avocado for the ultimate delight. I love the creamy texture of the avocado with the hearty kale leaves. And avocado really is slightly sweet which is nice in this savory salad.
Toasted pine nuts – We’re talking superfoods in this salad and to add even more protein, toss in some pine nuts for a little crunch and to boost that protein even higher. Add them in raw or toast lightly with some oil in a pan.
Parmesan – Parmesan cheese has a salty, bold flavor that holds up well with salads and will play well with the lemony tahini. You can swap out for manchego or even feta!
Tahini – The star of our dressing. Tahini is much like a nut butter – it’s creamy, thick and can be used sweet or savory. Tahini sauce is very common in Lebanese dishes, whether we are drizzling over falafal or cauliflower, the lemony, nutty sauce really brings dishes to life.
Lemon – Most of my salad consists of lemon juice, it’s the most used acid in my kitchen. It helps to brighten up any dish and for our dressing will balance the rich tahini and thin it out to make it the right consistency for our dressing.
Garlic – I’m a firm believer than TOUM should be in all your fridges, yes – the condiment that will CHANGE YOUR COOKING! Emulsified garlic sauce, add it to your cooking, marinade with it or in this case, toss it in to create our dressing. If you don’t have any toum on hand, a simple clove of garlic will do.
Seasonings – Other seasonings we’ll add to our dish include – salt, pepper and oregano
Massaging Your Kale
I may not give my husbands massages that often but you know what – I ALWAYS massage my kale!!! I know, you’re thinking “this lady is crazy”. But remember me talking about how tough and bold kale is? Which is great for our salad but it also needs a little TLC before we throw it in. Massaging the kale with a bit of olive oil really helps to soften the leaves and make them more digestible for us to eat. I’m definitely not a nutritionist but I know that if I don’t massage the leave, they are way tougher to consume. So take a few minutes – get your hands in there and rub those kale leaves!!!
Sometimes I wonder if it’s a little crazy to post a salad recipe, because to me, a salad is comprised of various items from your fridge. A little leafy green, a little protein, something crunchy, something creamy. But I also know I love to have new fresh ideas. Many folks don’t use tahini as often as I do in my kitchen so I hope this fresh recipe gives you some inspiration – even if you just make the dressing and try it on any of your favorite salad variations. My dear friend Nicole over at Kale Junkie just posted a different Kale Salad with Tahini Dressingthe other day – so much variety with similar ingredients, be sure to check it hers out!
As always, I love seeing your creations. Please leave a review or share your dish with me on social media #cosetteskitchen which lets me know what is working for you! You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. For more delicious recipes to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter!
1/2 cup tahini – I purchase mine from a local Middle Eastern store but you can find online
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt* – cut in half if using table salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup if you’d like to keep vegan
1/3 cup lemon juice (juice from about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup water (from tap or fridge)
2 cups chopped kale, stems removed if you can
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 avocado, diced
1/4 cup shredded carrots
2 tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/2 cup cooked chicken, diced
2 teaspoons toasted pine nuts
In a small bowl, crush or press your garlic clove if you’re not using toum.
Add your remaining dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Adjust your lemon and salt to taste.
Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks in sealed container.
On a sheet pan or large bowl, add your chopped kale and about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. With clean hands, begin to work the olive oil and rub the kale leaves within your hands to soften. Continue for 1-2 minutes until leaves are soften and glistening with the oil.
Pour about 1/4 cup of your dressing on the kale leaves to coat. I prefer dressing the leaves then assembling the remaining components of the salad and a final drizzle of dressing.
Mix dressing with kale leaves then plate onto platter or 2 plates.
Add your remaining ingredients and drizzle with additional dressing as desired.
To make dressing vegan, use maple syrup instead of honey
Options to substitute chicken to keep salad vegetarian/pesictarian: tofu, beans, salmon
All salad ingredients are versatile and can be adjusted to your preference. Add some pomegranate seeds or persimmon for a bit of sweetness or sub almonds for pine nuts.
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