Kale Salad with Lime Dressing

Kale Salad with Lime Dressing
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kale lime salad
A bright, light, lunch!

Kale is showing up in our CSA shares, and, while it keeps very well in the refrigerator, it won’t keep forever. Because of its keeping qualities, we tend to eat the kale right before the next CSA pickup. In fact, that’s exactly what happened this week. For lunch on our pickup day, we made up this salad, using a few things we had on hand.

Since it’s a last minute salad idea, it doesn’t really come from any other recipe, except the idea of making a lime vinaigrette — that is, replacing the vinegar with lime juice in a salad dressing. But, we did amp up the lime flavor by using the lime zest, a technique that you should keep in mind whenever you want to maximize a citrus’ flavor without adding huge amounts of liquid.

Kale Salad with Lime Dressing

Yield: 2 large or 4 small salads

Kale Salad with Lime Dressing


  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lime
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed
  • 3 small carrots, sliced into thin coins (optional)
  • 1 medium turnip or several radishes, sliced into thin disks (optional)
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese for garnish

Abbreviated Instructions

In a large bowl, mash salt and garlic to form a paste.

Zest about 1/2 the lime, then juice. Add zest and lime juice to garlic/salt mixture.

Add olive oil and black pepper, stir to combine.

Tear kale into bite-sized pieces and toss with dressing until coated. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Add carrots and radishes, if using, and toss. Serve topped with grated cheese.


Ingredient discussion:

Salads are all about freshness, so use fresh, crisp kale, a fresh lime (or lemon, if you prefer), and freshly grated cheese. When we made this, we didn’t want to be overwhelmed with the flavor of garlic, so we went very light on the amount; if you like garlic, feel free to increase the amount. For the kale, we used curly kale, but any kind would work. Since you’ll be using the zest, ideally you’d want to use an organic lime, but, failing that, wash your lime very well before using. As far as the carrots and turnips, we added those for color and interest. Use whatever you have, such as radishes, pepper rings, etc. Finally, since the oil is adding flavor to the salad, use extra-virgin olive oil, but make sure you research your brand, because many labeled as are extra-virgin are not.

Procedure in detail:

mashed garlic
Adding a bit of salt with the garlic makes it easy to mash into a paste.

Mash garlic. Put the garlic and salt in a bowl large enough for the salad, and mash into a paste using the back of a spoon. The salt, especially kosher salt with its larger crystals, will act like miniature knives to cut and grind the garlic into small pieces. You’ll have paste in a trice, and with a garlic paste, no one will be biting into a chuck of raw garlic.

juicing a lime
We removed about half the zest from the lime before juicing.

Zest and juice lime. You’ll only need the zest from about 1/2 the lime, so trim off the rind, leaving the bitter pith behind. A chef’s knife will work, or you might use a zester; we use a microplane grater that works nicely. Once you have the zest, juice the lime. You can use a reamer, or, if you don’t have a reamer, stab the lime flesh with a fork and squeeze out the juice with your hands, while working the fork around. Add both the lime juice and the zest to the garlic mixture and stir to combine.

lime dressing
A quick stir of the ingredients will finish up our simple lime dressing.

Add oil and pepper. Pour in the olive oil, add the pepper, and stir around to get everything evenly mixed. There’s no need to use a whisk to emulsify the mixture, as the oil and the lime juice should readily adhere to the curly kale.

Add kale. Tear the kale into bite-sized pieces and add to the dressing. Don’t worry about bruising the kale while you tear it. It’s a tough vegetable and will be able to stand up to a bit of crushing.

macerating kale
Letting the kale macerate in the lime dressing allows it to absorb some of the flavors, plus it tenderizes the kale somewhat, making it a bit easier to chew.

Toss and steep. Once you add the kale, toss everything to coat, then let the salad steep for 15 to 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. This steeping is to allow the lime juice to start tenderizing the kale. We did say that it’s a tough vegetable, so you might as well let the lime juice help break it down.

adding carrots
We added a couple of small carrots and a turnip for color and a variety of texture.

Add color. We added the carrot coins and turnip slices mainly for color. It’s nice to look at a salad and not have it be a sea of green. Feel free to change what you add for color, depending on what you have. Once added, toss to coat everything.

salad serving
The cheese pairs nicely with the lime dressing, adding a slight nutty taste.

Serve. Scoop into bowls and garnish with a bit of grated cheese.

One of us really liked the dressing, but the other thought it was a bit too tart. If you like tart, you should like this just as it is, but, if you find coating something with lime juice is too tart, feel free to add about a tablespoon of honey when you make the dressing. Or, if you’re not sure, you can always drizzle a bit of honey on top once you’ve tasted the salad. However you make the dressing, tart or a bit sweet, we think that you’ll like this way of using kale. Letting it steep in the dressing helps make the kale slightly more tender; plus, it seems to remove some of that raw cabbage-y taste for which cruciferous vegetables are known. Overall, we’ll give this four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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