I know that kale salads are, like, the ultimate dietitian cliché, but they’re clichéd for a reason: they’re packed with nutrients (fiber, vitamins AC, and K, but numerous B-vitamins like folate) and make a great vehicle for other healthy foods—or small amounts of in-moderation items you’re looking to enjoy in a balanced way. They’re also extremely forgiving in terms of prep and pack really well if you want to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

If 23-year-old me was able to figure this stuff out (remind me to tell you about the time I set popcorn on fire), you’ll be just fine. The key is to massage the kale in the dressing (with clean hands; in a non-creepy way) so it softens slightly. You’ll want to use a little bit of fat like olive oil or tahini or avocado plus some acid in the dressing you use to help break down the cell wall—this is what makes the kale chewable so you don’t feel like you’re eating rabbit food.

This recipe features my favorite miso-tahini dressing along with crunchy chickpeas and roasted squash to give it a fun mix of textures and flavors. Yes, I just called salad fun. Oh well, consider the source. I’m just saying, knowing I have a flavorful lunch to look forward to can brighten a mundane or stressful day.

Crispy Chickpea Kale Salad
Ingredients:

For Dressing-

  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (ground sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

For Salad-

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 ripe avocado, cubed
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon each cumin, paprika, and cinnamon
  • 1 large head kale, shredded
  • ¼ cup hemp hearts
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Toss squash cubes in 1 tablespoon oil and spread on a baking sheet. Roast 35-45 minutes, stirring a few times.
  3. Toss chickpeas and spices with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and place on another baking sheet. Roast about 20 minutes, shaking a few times to prevent sticking.
  4. With a whisk, combine miso paste, tahini, apple cider vinegar, water, and nutritional yeast. Add more water if desired to thin out.
  5. With clean hands, massage dressing into salad until kale begins to soften.
  6. Add hemp hearts and sundried tomatoes into salad. Add cooked squash, avocado, and chickpeas and toss well.

This recipe serves 2-4 people–or one person, for several days in a row. This salad is actually even better the next day, after the flavors have had a change to get acquainted. If desired, you can add an egg if you need a little animal protein in there.

What’s your favorite salad? 

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