This chopped kale salad pairs perfectly with the creamy tahini dressing. And earthy hazelnuts provide a satisfying crunch that turns a simple tahini kale salad into an instant crowd-pleaser.
The tahini dressing is super easy to make with simple ingredients – garlic, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and tahini paste. And the result is a lusciously creamy and flavourful salad dressing.
I also provide ample ingredient substitutes to make this kale salad dressing your own.
Kale salad with tahini dressing is a great accompaniment to any main meal. Or simply enjoy it as a light lunch or dinner salad base with some odds and ends from the fridge. And with its vegan and gluten-free credentials, it’s the perfect choice for everyone.
Why you’ll love this recipe
This tahini kale salad is a delicious and nutritious side dish to any main.
The combination of cruciferous vegetables, crunchy onions, toasted hazelnuts and creamy tahini dressing is a delightful pairing sure to convince even the biggest kale or Brussels sprouts haters.
If you’re not already convinced, here are more reasons to love this kale salad with tahini dressing:
- Easy to make: This kale tahini salad recipe is straightforward and easy to make. Plus, you don’t need any special equipment.
- Super adaptable: Swap the Brussels sprouts for more kale, exchange hazelnuts for other crunchy nuts or seeds, and add roasted vegetables, cooked grains or legumes for a satiating main meal.
- Flavourful dressing: The deliciously sweet and tangy tahini dressing balances the kale and Brussels sprouts.
- Naturally gluten-free and plant-based: This beautiful vegan kale salad hits all the spots. And it happens to be naturally gluten-free, plant-based and dairy-free.
Tahini kale salad ingredients & substitutions
This gorgeous green kale salad is a flavourful combination of creamy tahini dressing, earthy hazelnuts, and fresh veggies. The recipe requires uncomplicated ingredients that you can also easily substitute.
Tahini dressing for kale salad
- Garlic: I like to grate fresh garlic with a Microplane for an ultra-smooth tahini dressing, but you can also finely mince the garlic. Or substitute the fresh garlic clove with half a teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Apple cider vinegar: You can swap it for white wine vinegar or rice vinegar for a milder flavour. Or add some fresh lemon juice for a lemon tahini dressing.
- Maple syrup: I adore the subtle smoky sweetness maple syrup adds to the savoury dressing. But you can use honey, agave nectar, or any other liquid sweetener. Or try hot honey for a spicy twist.
- Dijon mustard: It adds some extra tang and creaminess. If you don’t have Dijon mustard, substitute it with yellow or whole-grain mustard, or try another Dijon mustard alternative. Just check the ingredients label to ensure that the product is gluten-free and dairy-free should you require it. And if you’re not a mustard fan, substitute it with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Tahini paste: This is where this dressing gets its ultra-creamy texture and nutty flavour. Use a good quality tahini paste for the best results. If you don’t have tahini, substitute it with nut butter (like almond or almond cashew or peanut butter for a nutty flavour. Or learn how to make tahini paste from sesame seeds using a food processor.
- Cold water: It thins the tahini paste to create a pourable smooth and creamy dressing. Use cold water and add it gradually to achieve the desired consistency. The dressing should be nice and thick to avoid a soggy salad.
- Sea salt: You can use another salt, like kosher salt. I also love to sprinkle the finished salad with Maldon salt flakes.
Chopped kale salad
- Kale: I use curly kale for this salad, but you can also use Lacinato kale (Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale). And if you’re worried about the kale salad being too bitter, leave the kale to soften in the olive oil and salt for at least an hour before adding the Brussels sprouts. Then rinse the leaves to get rid of bitter compounds. Dry well before adding the remaining ingredients.
- Brussels sprouts: If you’re not a Brussels sprouts fan, you can use any other cruciferous vegetable like shredded cabbage, finely chopped broccoli florets or more kale.
- Olive oil: I use extra virgin olive oil, but you can use your preferred salad oil, like avocado oil. Massaging the raw kale leaves with olive oil and salt softens them, making them more enjoyable to eat and easier to digest.
- Hazelnuts: The flavour of toasted hazelnuts is amazing with cruciferous vegetables like kale and Brussels sprouts. But you can use any toasted nut or seed – sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are both popular choices.
- Red onion: Red onion adds a mild onion flavour and a pop of colour. You can use finely sliced white onion or shallots. Or try sumac onions or pickled onions for an acidic boost. Leaving the sliced onion in cold water removes the eye-watering pungency of raw onions while keeping it crisp. But you can omit it altogether if you’re not a fan of raw onion.
How to make kale and tahini salad (step-by-step)
This kale salad with tahini dressing is super easy to make. If you’re looking for a simple yet flavourful vegan salad, this is the recipe for you!
Follow these five steps for the perfect kale salad:
- Step 1: Mellow the garlic
- Step 2: Massage the kale
- Step 3: Toast the hazelnuts
- Step 4: Finish the tahini dressing
- Step 5: Assemble the salad
Or jump straight to the recipe card if you’re not a kale salad newbie.
Step 1: Mellow the garlic in vinegar
Take a peeled garlic clove and grate it using a Microplane for an ultra-smooth tahini dressing. Alternatively, you can finely mince the garlic.
Add the grated garlic and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Allow the garlic to sit in the acidic vinegar for at least 10 minutes to mellow its pungent raw garlic flavour.
Step 2: Massage the kale
Grab a large bowl and add the kale and shredded Brussels sprouts along with one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Gently massage the kale with your hands for a minute or two – or until the kale leaves become tender and slightly wilted.
If you’re worried about the salad being too bitter, leave the kale to soften in the olive oil for at least an hour, then rinse the leaves to get rid of any bitter compounds before adding the remaining ingredients.
Step 3: Toast the hazelnuts
Heat a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add half a cup of blanched hazelnuts to toast for three minutes, shaking the pan now and then.
Transfer the toasted nuts to a cutting board and roughly chop the nuts.
Step 4: Finish the tahini dressing
Next, add a tablespoon of maple syrup, half a tablespoon of Dijon mustard (or lemon juice) and a quarter cup of tahini paste. Use a fork to mix the ingredients. The mixture will become thick and stodgy and may seize up – don’t worry about this.
Add cold water a little bit at a time until the dressing looks smooth and creamy. The dressing should have a thick consistency – almost like mayonnaise or sour cream. If the tahini dressing is too thin, you will have a soggy salad.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
Step 5: Assemble the salad
Drain the thinly sliced red onion and pat it dry. Then add it to the kale mix. Toss well to combine.
When you are ready to serve the kale salad, add the tahini dressing and mix until to coat the chopped kale leaves evenly in the creamy sauce.
Transfer it to a serving bowl and top the salad with toasted hazelnuts. Serve and enjoy!
Tahini kale salad serving suggestions
This kale salad with its creamy tahini dressing is a nutritious and flavourful side dish as is. But it’s also an excellent salad base for a wholesome main course.
If you make this salad as part of your meal prep, it is best to keep the toasted hazelnuts separate to keep them from softening. The tahini kale salad base keeps well stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
Serve it as a salad bowl: Build a nourishing salad bowl by combining the kale salad with warm quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, and avocado. Top it off with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds for some extra crunch.
Add a filling salad topper: Turn this kale salad into a complete meal by adding your favourite protein. Try it with grilled chicken breast, roasted salmon, pan-fried tofu or halloumi. Or add some crispy Israeli-style falafel for an easy falafel salad bowl.
Toss in roasted veggies: For added texture and flavour, toss in some cubes of roasted butternut squash, bell peppers, or sweet potato. Or use whatever roasted veggies you have left over from last night’s dinner.
Make it a wrap: Wrap the tahini kale salad in a tortilla or stuff it into pita pockets to create a delicious and portable meal. It’s perfect for a picnic or work lunch.
Add a sweet and savoury touch: Mix in a handful of dried cranberries for sweetness. Then sprinkle the salad with crumbled feta or shaved parmesan cheese. Use vegan cheese if you need to keep things plant-based.
More salad dressings for kale
The maple tahini dressing is delicious with this chopped kale salad. But you can also try any of these creamy salad dressings and sauces:
- Easy Hummus Dressing
- Green Tahini Sauce
- Avocado Green Goddess Dressing
- Easy Lemon Tahini Sauce
- Miso Tahini Dressing
Or use your favourite homemade salad dressing. But make your salad dressing extra thick to avoid sogginess.
Enjoy this delicious salad any time of the year, and share your own creative serving suggestions in the comments below!
For the tahini dressing:
- 1 small garlic clove, peeled and grated or finely minced
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or lemon juice
- ¼ cup tahini paste
- 2 tablespoons cold water, more or less as needed
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
For the kale salad:
- 8 oz curly kale* (about 1 medium bunch), stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
- 4 oz Brussels sprouts*, thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup blanched hazelnuts*
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced and placed in a bowl of cold water
- black pepper and salt flakes, to taste
- Start with the tahini dressing. Place the grated garlic and vinegar in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Set aside to let the garlic macerate in the acidic vinegar while you get on with the kale salad – for at least 10 minutes.
- Grab a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped kale and shredded Brussels sprouts and massage it with a tablespoon of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Keep at it for a minute or two – or until the kale leaves become tender and slightly wilted. Set aside.
- Heat a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the blanched hazelnuts to toast for 3 minutes – or until toasted and fragrant – shaking the pan now and then. Transfer the toasted nuts to a cutting board, and let them cool for a moment before roughly chopping them.
- Add the maple syrup and Dijon mustard (or lemon juice) to the garlic and vinegar mixture, and mix well. Then add the tahini paste and stir. The mixture will become thick and may seize completely – don't worry about this. Gradually add cold water until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Look for a consistency like a thick mayonnaise. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt – I add half a teaspoon.
- Drain the sliced red onion and pat dry. Add it to the kale mix and toss well to combine.
- When you’re ready to serve the salad, toss it with the tahini dressing until the kale leaves are well-coated. Top the salad with the chopped, toasted hazelnuts. And finish with a generous grind of black pepper and Maldon salt flakes to taste.
- I use curly kale for this salad, but you can also use Lacinato kale (Tuscan kale or dinosaur kale).
- If you don’t have the patience to finely slice or shred Brussels sprouts, substitute them with more kale or try another cruciferous vegetable like shredded cabbage.
- I adore toasted hazelnuts with cruciferous vegetables. But you can use any toasted nut or seed – sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are both popular choices.
- You can make the tahini dressing a few days in advance and massage the kale up to 24 hours ahead of time. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days, the salad lasts surprisingly well, but the hazelnuts will lose their crunch. So, if you’re making this tahini kale salad as part of meal prep, it’s best to keep the hazelnuts separate.