kale-and-quinoa-salad-with-ricotta-salata Recipes

kale and quinoa salad with ricotta salata

It’s not my best quality, but I have a hard time talking about kale or quinoa with a straight face. When an ingredient is everywhere, when it is treated as if it were the answer to all food questions — what might feed us dinner/a kid be tricked into eating in muffins/be juiced for longevity/and possibly even save the earth — I can’t help but want to rebel against it and both of these ingredients, these darlings of the farm-to-table circuit with their ubiquity on nearly every restaurant menu in lower Manhattan and upper Brooklyn, make easy targets. I know, I know, I should grow up and stuff.

we need more photos of food as it looks directly from the fridge
really well-toasted almonds

Fortunately, I took what should be clear from the preceding paragraph was probably an overdue mini-vacation this past weekend, someplace warm and sunny, someplace that involved flip-flops. Do you mind if we take a brief but gratuitous mid-article daydream break?

vacationall iever wantedvacationall iever needed

Right, so where were we… Besides, you knew where this is going — the joke is on me, it always is. It was really just a matter of time before I fell for a salad at a local restaurant that contained both kale and quinoa and it was so good, it became an obsession. I had to have it everyday and this quickly became expensive and so I made it at home. Everyone needs a good lunch salad (well, except maybe those people on the beach last week in string bikinis eating cheeseburgers and fries?). A good lunch salad, as my friend Tracy recently put more eloquently, is like a reset button. It also means that if you end up working late, losing momentum and having a slice of pizza for dinner, all hopes of nutritional balance for the day were not washed down the drain with it. True story: You only need to eat like a grown-up during one meal of a day to pass yourself off as one. (Fine, I just made this rule up, but I say we run run with it.)

quinoaquinoa, cherries, almonds, kale, dill, lemon

I miss the salad bar salads I’d get every day (applying a strong dose of cognitive dissonance to what they probably cost over the course of each month) when I had an office job. The beauty of salad bars is that you can put sixteen ingredients on a salad without actually having to keep sixteen ingredients fresh and chopped at-the-ready at home, which is good because that would just never happen. This salad, with just a few ingredients, manages to hit all of the notes a good salad should — leafy greens, bulk from quinoa, a little sweet-tartness from the dried cherries, crunch and flavor from the deeply toasted almonds, salty cheese and a little extra fragrance from lemon zest and dill — without requiring you keep a veritable salad bar at home. Just about everything can be prepped a few days out and tossed together as needed.

kale quinoa salad with ricotta salata

One year ago: Chocolate-Hazelnut Macaroon Torte (I’m making a gigantic version of this for my FIL’s birthday this weekend. Wish me luck!)
Two years ago: Raspberry Coconut Macaroon
Three years ago: Whole Wheat Goldfish Crackers
Four years ago: Spaghette Cacio e Pepe
Five years ago: Toasted Coconut Shortbread
Six years ago: Escarole and Orzo Soup with Meatballs
Seven years ago: Baked Tomato Sauce

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Ricotta Salata
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and The Smith

When I first had this salad at The Smith, I couldn’t figure out why it was so familiar and I’m really not proud of the fact that I’d had it three times before I remembered: my cookbook! Right, that old thing. In the book, I tried to teach myself, a kale resistor, to be a kale lover and I did so by taking it back to the 1990s, when restaurants discovered that if you add dried fruit, toasted nuts, a crumbly salty cheese and a honey-and-dijon vinaigrette to any previously unappetizing pile of salad greens, it will taste delicious. Here, the dried fruit is dried cherries (but The Smith uses dried cranberries), the toasted nuts are almonds, the honey-Dijon is barely sweet and uses coarse Dijon as well. From The Smith I learned to add a little snippet of dill, a touch of grated lemon zest and cooked, cooled quinoa to make the salad that I’m literally counting down the minutes to lunch so that I can have it again.

Yield: 2 to 3 quite large meal salads or 4 to 5 side salads; salad will wilt a bit and seem smaller the longer it sits with the dressing

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
8 ounces Black Kale, also known as Cavolo Nero, or Lacinato, Dinosaur, or Tuscan Kale
1/2 cup slivered almonds, very well toasted and cooled
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped a bit
2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
2 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled or finely grated
Few gratings of fresh lemon zest

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon coarse Dijon mustard
Just shy of 1 teaspoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse quinoa well in a small colander. This is essential to remove bitterness. Place quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer with a couple pinches of salt. Simmer at a very low temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain any un-absorbed liquid from cooked quinoa. Spread quinoa on a plate to cool quickly.

Wash your kale and dry it well. Then, with a knife, remove the rib from each stalk, leaving long strips of kale leaves. Stack the leaves in small batches, roll them tightly the long way, and cut the roll crosswise into thin ribbons. Add the kale ribbons to a large salad bowl. Add remaining salad ingredients to kale and toss to mix.

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small dish, and pour the dressing over the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then dig in.

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196 comments on kale and quinoa salad with ricotta salata

  1. LaLa

    This looks divine, and perfect for dinner tomorrow night after an arduous workweek. Did I miss the quantity on the quinoa? Thanks!

  2. betty

    Hi Deb! Let me run get some kale and I’ll whip this up immediately thereafter. Always need a new salad recipe. Thanks!

  3. Marcia

    Blue sea, Mountains, plane flying low over obvious islands .. Jealousy.. Penance salad of kale? I think I will be looking for Mangoes today. ..and maybe a booking a vacation tomorrow .

    1. deb

      Quinoa — I used white quinoa, because the restaurant did. But you can use anything you’ve got. Red looks especially pretty in pale salads, not sure what it would be like here.

      Swapping ingredients — This salad, like most, is very flexible. You can use other greens for kale; dried cranberries or raisins for cherries, feta or another goat cheese for ricotta salata, other nuts… You only need to make it so that you will like it.

  4. Jillian L

    I like the ‘seems’ smaller, need to remember that when I make this and swear it was only 2 (very filling) lunches! Do you have any idea of what to substitute for dijon mustard (in this dressing, and really, just a good substitute in general)? My husband hates the stuff, I’ve tried just using yellow mustard with extra vinegar, but if you have any idea, I would love suggestions! And this post has reminded me it’s time to go back to your cookbook and re-explore it!

    1. deb

      Jillian — Thanks. You can skip the dijon, but then also skip the honey and add the vinegar to taste. A vinaigrette doesn’t need dijon to work, just oil and vinegar.

      Cassie — I so love that Redhead salad with the egg on top of the crouton that basically tastes deep-fried in butter with crispy capers… also, everything else on the menu.

  5. I’m not a huge Kale lover either, but I was swayed when I had the Redhead’s kale salad. All the same things, fruit, nuts (walnuts) and cheese – you just can’t go wrong. Those East Village restaurants certainly know their healthy salads!

  6. At first I was disappointed to see a kale salad because I was SURE that it would be tossed with a lemon dressing. Glad to see that I was wrong and I shouldn’t have dismissed a Deb recipe just from the title! I am sensitive to sour/bitter tastes, and kale salads are always so overdressed with lemon, in my opinion. I always make it at home (especially in soups and as chips), but I have yet to find a recipe that strays away from the lemony kale trap. I will definitely give this a try. Thanks!

  7. Shira

    This looks so delicious! I am wondering if there’s a way to make this dairy free? Anything nondairy I could use to add that same saltiness to the flavor of the salad?

  8. Your vacation pictures look gorgeous! I haven’t hopped on the kale bandwagon yet, but maybe after trying this salad, I’ll be closer to getting on board. I love your rule about only having to eat like a grown-up for one meal each day to pass yourself off as one – now that’s a rule I can follow!

  9. StephanieR

    If I were to make this on Sunday for a few lunches early in the week, would I be better off dressing the salad before putting it in the fridge, or storing the dressing separately to drizzle on the salad before serving?

  10. Vanessa

    I visited NY on work a couple months ago and had this salad at The Smith. I have been obsessing about it ever since and trying to figure out how to find the recipe (I had no idea where to start with re-creating the dressing). THANK YOU!!!

  11. Sari

    I’ve been trying to bring salads for lunch this week. This will definitely join my rotation. If the dressing is as good as your tahini/miso dressing (which I’m having right now on a kale salad!) then I won’t be able to get enough of it!

  12. Would it make you happy to learn about the great quinoa backlash that started in 2012? Reports from Peru started coming out that the farmers who grew the grain (I know, I know, it’s not actually a grain) were too poor to actually enjoy it at the rate it was being eaten up in the States, This was sending their whole economy into flux. Oy!

    Also, love the new grown-up rule. It actually reminds me of what our pediatrician said to us at Lilli’s 1st year appointment: Don’t think about what she had to eat in a day, look more to over a week. Which is good, seeing as how if she spends any time alone with her daddy she comes away smelling suspiciously like Nutella.

  13. berit

    Ugh I don’t get why you Americans are so obsessed with kale. It’s a winter staple in the north of my country (Germany) and I think it tastes too much like Brussel sprouts to be truely enjoyable. Then again, I’m pregnant :D

  14. I love that rule! And it sounds perfect for the days where I lovingly eat my vegan lunch that includes grains and seeds and vegetables and fruits…and then go home and eat a giant slice of pepperoni and sausage pizza with a beer for dinner!
    Grown up meals once a day. Got it :)

  15. Jessica

    Hi Deb! This comment is just a note to say, THANK YOU. Thank you for taking time to answer questions from your readers. I don’t know many blog authors who take the time to do that. I will be making this salad soon!

  16. Jess

    I have everything to make this, going to sub this pretty dry goat feta I have already for the ricotta salata. Needed a nudge to get through the overstock of kale in my fridge! Sounds great!

  17. Leslie

    Deb–what’s the trick for rinsing quinoa in the colander before cooking it (and draining it after cooking)? When I do it, the quinoa always sticks to my metal colander and I end up losing half of it to the mess! It dissuades me from making quinoa and most of the time I just end up not rinsing before using. Is there a magical colander I’m not using? Thanks!

  18. Edamommy

    Deb, you’re a culinary superhero who sometimes saves my day. I’m making a kale tahini caesar salad with garlic croutons for dinner (and black bean brownies for dessert) tonight but was trying to figure out if it would be hearty enough alone for my 5yo. Yes, I could slide a fried egg on top, but then I saw this recipe and love the idea of throwing in some quinoa, feta and toasted almonds to add the heft and protein of a proper entree. Not sure why I didn’t think of that! I will definitely try your whole recipe sometime, but for tonight, you’ve given me the inspiration I needed. Thanks!

  19. I used to be a kale resistor too until I discovered kale chips, because who doesn’t like something salty and crunchy, even when it is green? I make a similar quinoa and kale salad roasted kale, butternut squash, and balsamic vinegar. I love dill, lemons, and cheese so I might just have to shake mine up a little bit with these ingredients!

  20. Kelly

    I cannot even begin to tell you how incredibly thrilled I am that you have posted this recipe. I had the Kale salad from the Smith a couple months ago and have been trying and failing to recreate it ever since. The kale salad from your cookbook has been my go-to, and this combination of your salad with the Smith salad…well, dreams do come true. Seriously – it’s as if you read my mind!

  21. Mary B.

    My daughter and I are just smitten (ha ha) with your kale salad with pecorino and walnuts; it’s almost always in the frig here. This sounds like a very interesting variation on our favorite salad – I look forward to making it soon!

  22. I was just trying to think of something to make with all of the kale i bought the other day – mix it with quinoa, of course. Fantastic. Thanks for the inspiration :-),

  23. yum. This is my favorite sort of salad to keep at the ready so I eat this instead of the rest of the haagen daz bars for lunch when I’m starving and don’t want to cook. Can’t wait to try your dressing. I have always loved kale and quinoa but didn’t want to because they were so “hip” but couldn’t help myself…I guess that is some version of the same resistance you had, expect I feel first then resisted? Anyway, hope all is well and welcome home!

    1. deb

      kelly — I was going to share this in January, because it seems like a very January salad, and had I, I wouldn’t have included the dill and lemon zest. It took me eating this, like, 10 times (seriously) to catch it and I’m glad I did. It’s one of those je-ne-sais-quoi things that I think make restaurant versions of things taste more interesting; I wouldn’t have naturally considered adding them.

      Leslie — I agree, that part is really annoying and I haven’t figured it all out yet. Two ideas: A finer mesh stainer will catch less. I am currently using this one, it really only holds a cup of most things, but it’s working okay for small batches of rinsing/draining and single cans of beans. Also, I’ve never been a rice-rinser but I’m intrigued by this and wonder if it would fit smaller grains. Also, I do find that the more water that you tap out, the looser the grains are in the colander, and the better they come out.

      Molly — I did read about it and it was just another reason that I didn’t bother getting into it. Also, it’s hardly farm-to-table; it’s mostly grown in Bolivia. Farro and the like can be grown locally at least.

      MK — It is by weight. Most bundles I get clock in at about 8 to 10 ounces.

      Shira — You could try capers.

      Diane — Also, lemon juice can discolor green vegetables!

  24. Ugh, I rebelled against the kale/quinoa train for so long, but I love, love, love, this salad – – and the grown up rule. Glad I’m not the only one out there that believes greens for lunch forgives lasagne at dinner.

    Just had to pipe up and say that I made something almost exactly like this the other night, BUT instead of kale used shaved Brussels sprouts (!!!) And I thought they were only good with bacon. I wouldn’t worry too much about the hipster factor, kale’s almost to the point of being ‘so yesterday’ which just means more for us.

  25. I’ve been a big kale-and-quinoa salad fan for awhile. Love the combo, love the added dried fruit in the salad (I usually use cranberries). And dill! Thank you! Dill is one of my favorite herbs to throw into soups and salads. If my husband had his way, it would just salt, pepper, and hot sauce as far as seasoning goes.
    Love the inclusion of ricotta salata! I like goat cheese in salads, but now I’m going to try that, too.

  26. Lee C

    My niece and I had this salad at The Smith last month. I became completely obsessed with it & have recreated it at home. Got everything right except the honey in the dressing! I squeeze lemon on the kale before adding the quinoa. And, I couldn’t find a good tasting ricotta salata, so I subbed either feta or parm curls. One of the best salads I’ve had in a long time – really yummy!

  27. Bri

    I cannot wait to make this. I’m currently loving kale salads and have been for quite some time so this new one sounds awesome. Thanks, Deb. PS. I hope you enjoyed your vacation while us East Coasters got more snow :) Jealous!

  28. Miriam

    When I told my husband tonight that we were eating a kale and quinoa salad for dinner, he had a very doubtful look on his face. AND THEN we sat down to dinner and he completely demolished this salad! I served only this for dinner with a scoop of tuna on the side and we really didn’t need anything else! I am officially in love with this combination.

  29. Meg

    Yum! We have also been eating Tracy’s Reset Button Salad. I really like your kale caesar too. Generally I totally despise kale, but these recipes are slowly changing my mind!

  30. Teresa

    I have been making the kale salad from your cookbook uite a bit because it’s one of the few that both my husband and I both enjoy. But I have been using baby kale (you can buy that now, pre-washed in those plastic clamshells) and if, like us, you are not a big fan of the bitterness of kale it’s much, much better!

  31. Kathryn

    The Kitchn recommended using a French press to rinse quinoa (could also be used for rice). I’ve tried it once, and it worked all right with my old dinky French press (which has absolutely no other use in this household). In terms of clean-up convenience, though, I think it’s far, far easier to clean a French press than to try to clean a colander. And it was pretty easy to use the French press then to measure out water and get out the remaining grains.

  32. Erika

    So here’s my pet peeve – quinoa is almost always, always overcooked. Heard a chef once explain that most people cook quinoa wrong. After rinsing, it should be cooked for about 7-8 minutes and then promptly drained of water. Waiting for it to absorb – as you do with rice – makes quinoa mushy and unpalatable. Once you try it this way once, you won’t go back. Promise.

  33. I’m not in love with kale but with your enthusiasm, I think I’ll try this salad soon! I really want to love kale for its (overhyped?) health stardom but I get frustrated every time I buy it.

  34. Lisa M.

    Looks great. My best grocery store only has one type of kale, no ricotta salata, and the only way I’ll get dried cherries out here is to wait until summer, buy fresh and get out the dehydrator. So I’m hoping plain old curly kale will work with dried cranberries. But what should I do about the cheese? I can get feta or goat cheese. Would either of those be a good substitute?

    I hate ruining good ingredients with bad substitutions!

  35. Cay

    Come on, fess up…where? Those pictures are so dreamy and enticing from still freezing NYC that my mind needs to have a place to grasp onto. Do you mind sharing the location? Where did you stay?

  36. Dahlink

    At last. A rule we can all follow!

    Some of the photos look like St. Lucia to me (pitons, anyone?), but others make me wonder if you have a different secret island.

  37. Jenn

    You can buy pre-rinsed quinoa! The brand I’ve found at Publix here in Miami is Ancient Harvest. I love skipping as many steps as possible–especially for lunch salads (which is also what I mainly use quinoa for, usually involving chickpeas). PS My latest veggie obsession? Sauteed radishes. Ever tried it? I’m not sure if I’m just weird, but yum yum!

    1. deb

      Lisa — Yes and yes.

      Vacation — Yes, we were in St. Lucia, nestled between those Pitons. We stayed at the Sugar Beach resort; it was very pretty, not sure I’d wholeheartedly recommend it. (But, of course, this isn’t a travel blog; I’m sure you can read more thorough reviews elsewhere.)

  38. Jason D

    I was skeptical, but something about the almonds-cheese-cherries triad called to me and I made this last night. I have concluded that I could eat this every day and be happy.

  39. Michele H.

    Please know that my husband has the same reaction to the word “chipotle”…there’s no point in telling him that it’s smoked jalapeno and a little of that actually sounds yummy. No, it’s just trendy, etc…I wait until he’s out of the kitchen before I add it to a dish, and then there’s no mounting of the soapbox for a half an hour.

  40. For someone who is such a skeptic, you have the best kale recipes! I’m excited to try this one for sure :)

    As for quinoa, I’ve not run into a bitterness problem, but cooking in chicken or vegetable broth usually works for me.

    @Lisa, her other kale salad recipe calls for goat cheese, which should work here. I’ve successfully made her other, similar kale salad recipe with dried cranberries, goat cheese, and curly kale with excellent results. Just massage the kale extra-well and let sit for a few minutes! (Idaho resident here — I feel your pain about trying to find good ingredients).

  41. beth mclennan

    Kale, quinoa, yeah yeah yeah. Where did you go???? It looks so nice. I am so tired of winter, and I live in Chicago and *like* cold weather.

  42. The Smith is my absolute fav restaurant in NYC — it may or may not be coincidence that I both live and work near two different locations …

    I love this salad, but rarely order it (I usually get distracted by their burger and fries), so I can’t wait to make it at home!

  43. Joy

    Just wanted to say that this salad looks amazing and I’m planning to make it for lunch today. Also, love, love, love The Smith!! Everything I’ve had there is wonderful !

  44. Janet

    Thanks Deb, for the years of wonderful recipes. I feel like you are my culinary soul-mate-we share so much the same taste in food and cooking. Quinoa has a naturally occurring bitter tasting coating (probably an evolutionary self defense to keep birds from eating it, as it is in fact, a seed as previously noted). Most boxed quinoa is pre-rinsed, but the bulk stuff is not always, so I usually rinse it all anyway. I use a fine mesh sieve to rinse/drain in one step. If the water running off the quinoa looks especially foamy or cloudy, it may not be pre-rinsed and probably would benefit from swishing it around in a bowl of cool tap water to remove the bitter coating before draining in the sieve. Change the water in the bowl a few times while agitating the quinoa with your fingers, until the water is mostly clear, then drain.

  45. Tammy

    I love kale but, even with much rinsing, don’t like quinoa. I suspect that I just don’t like it and the problem isn’t with rinsing. Could I sub in another grain that I do like, such as barley? Or something else small like cous cous or orzo?

  46. Liz S.

    Love, love, love the vacation photo “captions”! (Love that song, too.) And yes, I am just a slight bit jealous…

  47. Gayle

    Hi Deb! Hate Kale, but love the rest of the ingredients so much that I am going to trust your judgement and try this salad… wish me luck!

  48. I have similar knee jerk reactions against health food trends, but I also posted a recipe for Kale and Quinoa recently! Your salad sounds like a perfect packed lunch. I will give it a try!

  49. What a beautiful salad! I’ve always had a hard time eating kale myself — unless I put it in a blender with about a zillion tropical fruits and some coconut oil — so I’m trying to figure out how to, you know, like it a little more. I love quinoa, so that shouldn’t be a problem, and the fact that the kale is cooked will definitely remove the problem of it having to COOK FOR SO LONG WHY before it gets tender. Instead, let the dressing tenderize! I love this recipe and will try soon.

  50. That’s so weird! Two weeks ago I was in NYC with my daughter (we visit about once every other year from Maine) and she was starving for lunch. We just happen to be walking by The Smith and it looked good to both of us. I ordered this salad and ate every last bite. I’m glad they were inspired by you to put it on the menu!

  51. Salads are definitely one of my favorite things. This recipe is so different from any I have seen before. It looks delicious! I’m excited to try it and add it to my collection.

  52. I have just finished eating this wonderful salad. WOW,WOW,WOW. The marriage of all of the ingredients yields a heavenly flavor. This one is definitely going in my box of special recipes. I bought the Tuscan kale at Trader Joe’s in a bag, already cut and because I could not get my hands on Ricotta Salata, I used crumbled Feta in its place. Healthy and totally outstanding. Another winner, Deb ! Thank you.

  53. Julianne

    I can’t wait to make this! I’ve been looking for more lunch salads. I love that you mentioned Tracy’s reset button salad – I’ve been obsessed with it and have eaten it for lunch for weeks on end.

  54. Kayla

    Just made this and have to say it was fantastic!! A very flexible salad- I used feta that I soaked in cold water for an hour first as one substitute, and then I used a packet of pre-cooked quinoa, bulgar, and chickpeas (from Sainsbury’s) which was pretty much exactly 1.5 cups, as a second. Oh yeah, and I used cranberries instead of cherries. And you know what? The salad was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!! Thanks for sharing it!

  55. swisskris

    THIS IS FAB! Make it stat! I used feta like others, because I could not find ricotta salata and did the quinoa as Deb suggested. I did half cherries half cranberries. Yum! Love the grated lemon and the dill, they really make it so don’t skimp on them!

  56. Meryl

    Deb ,
    Your friend from America’s Test Kitchen here – if you massage the kale with a little olive oil it will not wilt as much.

    Love this salad!!

    Meryl M

  57. elembee123

    Something I’ve found much easier than a colander for rinsing quinoa is a wide-mouth mason jar with a mesh screen held on with the screw-on metal ring. The one I use is actually for growing sprouts. (I think you can find it on Amazon.)

    I put the quinoa in a dry jar, put the mesh in the ring and screw that on snugly, then fill the jar almost full with water. Holding the solid metal canning lid (with the rubber seal) over the top of the mesh, I shake the quinoa/water vigorously (holding it over the sink as there will be a bit of water leakage) then remove the metal lid and tip it upside down to drain through the mesh. Repeat until the water stays clear. (It will be cloudy the first couple times.)

    It really is much easier than it sounds and there is virtually no waste or mess as whatever quinoa doesn’t dump out of the jar can be rinsed out with a bit of water.

    This salad sounds delicious! Can’t wait to try it!

  58. Kelly

    I saw this and immediately wanted to make it! So so good!

    My grocery store didn’t have Riccotta Salata, so I used some crumbled goat cheese instead, really good. I also added some lemon juice to the dressing and it realy helped bring out the dill!

    I love this recipe (and your book/website) because there are so many recipes I can make that are delicious and inexpensive!

  59. Linda

    tried it–curly kale and feta subbed in because, i, too, live in the middle of nowhere. it was delicious. second day? also delicious. lunch is going to be pretty special!

  60. Melanie

    Just made this tonight–absolutely delicious!!Used Trader Joe’s chopped Black kale, and queso fresco (because that was the similar cheese I had). Tasted great. Definitely recommend this recipe. Particularly if one is trying to head towards a plant based diet.

  61. I will try this tomorrow! I felt the same way about both ingredients until someone else made them for me and I had to grudgingly admit that they were good. Superhero powers? Probably not, but a tasty and filling lunch, yes ma’am!

  62. Alex

    Hi Deb! This salad looks great! I was wondering if you could offer a substitute for the mustard in the dressing. My husband has dietary restrictions and I’m trying to get him healthier, this salad would be perfect except for the mustard. I love mustard but my husband can’t eat it. Is there anything you could recommend? Thanks so much!
    P.S. I’m so jealous of your vacation pictures!!! Amazing!!!

  63. Monique

    Thank you for this and all your postings. You feel like a good friend in the kitchen. I made this with Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro–I hoard these little bags, and found this a more-than-worthy use. It helped to marinate the warm cooked farro in the some of the dressing. And I added your slow roasted tomatoes to the mix.
    A moral cloak for the basque shrimp in garlic oil that we mopped up with bread!

  64. Maureen

    Made this yesterday and it put me back on kale…..I found I didn’t even really need the dressing. This will be a new weekly lunch staple for me, esp. when my CSA starts up again!

  65. Ven

    I was sold on this salad until we got to the dill. Dill and I just aren’t friends. Would it be criminal to omit it? Is there another herb that could be subbed in?

  66. This looks so delicious. I wasn’t expecting the dried cherries–but I can see it adding balance to the salad.

    Do different types of kale taste very different from each other? I haven’t thought about it much, but I noticed that you specified.

    1. deb

      Rosa — The type of kale I suggested is thinner and more lettuce-like (though still thicker than lettuce). It doesn’t need to be massaged or wilted at all before eating. I prefer it for salads. They don’t taste terribly different, though the thinner one seems a bit more mild to me.

      Marty — See my response to Rosa, too. The “must massage” kale is the heavier stuff, aka curly kale. I recommend the lighter stuff here. It still holds up well in salads. If you usually use the curly stuff in salads, I think it’s still fine, but massaging will make it more tender. I think it will hold up overnight with the curly kale, but of course will wilt a bit with the dressing on. You can always add the dressing right before you eat it (we do).

      Even in Australia — See my above two responses. It might be the kale they’re using, or that they just massage it more (if it’s curly kale; no need to with the variety suggested here).

  67. Naomi

    I just got back from a trip to NYC where I had the most amazing kale salad at The National. After experiencing Restaurant Week, I could definitely use a healthy meal like this one! Can’t wait to try it out!

  68. Oh… and Deb, what’s the deal on keeping a kale salad overnight for “leftovers the next day”? I seem to notice that kale “massaged with oil” goes limp. Most of the “big voices” on food seem to tell you that you “must massage” but I will make this salad for my friends on Tuesday, but not be available to eat it myself until mid-morning on Wednesday. Any chance it will still be good? Or will I need to reserve some without dressing and “massage” the dressing into my salad then?

  69. I have enjoyed coming by the last little while…your blondies were a hit, btw. This salad looks yummy. I hear you on the over-used ingredients…it’s like going to Hawaii for a honeymoon…you don’t want to because everyone does, and then, you find out WHY! :) The reason for leaving a comment today? My niece and her husband were in St. Lucia at the very same time as you…interesting! SO beautiful. Welcome home.

  70. ModNomad

    This isn’t a comment on this recipe, which is lovely as always, but rather on the now-missing “One Year Ago”-type links at the end of the post previews. I loved those, and they helped me discover so many wonderful things I likely would never have come upon via manual browsing through the archives. Can you share why you got rid of that feature?

  71. Naomi

    It’s me again! (#113) I just made the salad and it was delicious! As usual…I adapted it based on what I had lying around the house. I used dried cranberries instead of cherries, a shallot instead of scallions, and feta instead of ricotta. I accidentally used 2 TBSP of dill instead of 2 TSP, but I think that made me love it even more!
    My only issue was with the quinoa. I prepped it according to this recipe, but got impatient when the water was taking forever to evaporate. After simmering for 20 minutes, I pulled it off the stove and strained the water. The result was a mix of chewy and overcooked quinoa, but was tasty nonetheless. I eventually realized that when I’ve made quinoa in the past, I’ve always used a 1:2 ratio of quinoa:water. That way, all the water evaporates in under 20 minutes and there’s no straining necessary. Live and learn! Can’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

  72. Hello,

    I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve made your green bean and tomato salad. Was very good, but this salad is OUTSTANDING!!! I pretty much doubled everything, except for the kale so my guy & I could both have lunches for the week. The dressing is amazing and the cherries (dried cherries from Trader Joes) and I used toasted sliced almonds (also Trader Joes)- all I can say is yum, yum yum! Made it last night and brought it for lunch today. Felt like I could actually make something. Thank you.

  73. Gayle S.

    to #110 Ven – I also am not fond of dill so I omitted it, and the salad was delicious with all the other flavors going on.

  74. Dahlink

    To Marti #115–I prepared this salad on Sunday afternoon, and we had it with dinner Monday night. It does wilt a bit, but it’s still totally edible. Kale is a sturdy green and can take this treatment. I used baby kale and subbed in toasted hazelnuts and feta, by the way. I am also not a huge fan of dill, but found it worked in this recipe without overpowering the other flavors. Don’t omit the lemon zest!

  75. CynthiaLuc

    This salad is absolutely delicious. I made it for dinner for myself, (since my daughter wouldn’t touch it) and I finished the whole bowl. The next day I made another batch to take to work. I couldn’t find ricotta salata at Whole Foods (said they haven’t been able to get it for approximately 6 months) so I grated some fresh parmasean and it tasted great!

  76. Ruth

    Made this for dinner last night (using feta for the salty cheese) and it was just great – wonderful balance of flavors and textures. Also tasted great for lunch today since the kale holds up so well. Thanks Deb!

  77. Rebecca

    I made this tonight and really enjoyed it! I think the crunchy almonds were my favorite part, but the whole experience of flavors in my mouth was outstanding. And I felt so virtuous eating kale.

  78. I used to hate eating raw kale, so naturally I would try eating it in many different ways, to like it eventually. And this salad did it for me. Delicious!

  79. Quinn

    This looks wonderful. Do you have any ideas for a good soup to pair with this? I would love to make this for an upcoming dinner party. Thank you!

    1. deb

      Quinn — All of the soup recipes on the site are listed here. Not sure if you wanted to go heavy or light with soup; the cauliflower is my go-to for ease at dinner parties. The Balthazar wild mushroom soup is incredible. There are more creative options, too. Hope that helps.

  80. Kimberly

    This salad was a huge hit at a dinner party with multiple people eager for a final bite. Who would have thought kale salad would be in such high demand! Thanks for making it easier to eat well and healthfully.

  81. Janet

    Making this salad for the second time this week. Love it! Using a mesh strainer to rinse the quinoa is easier for me than using a colander. Thanks for such a great recipe!

  82. Rachel

    Hi Deb! I notice you don’t use a BooS block wood cutting board. Can you recommend the brand you do use? I have the wooden one but I don’t take good enough care of it (oiling, etc) so it tends to get cracked and stained. Would love to try something new that isn’t wood or plastic.

    1. deb

      Rachel — I use Epicurean boards. They’re wood blends. I love a good wooden cutting board but cannot deal with the way they absorb smells. (I have a very sensitive nose. And yes, I try everything — lemon and the like — I can still smell the old chopped stuff!) These are dishwasher safe and easy to stack and put away, also good for a kitchen with a single tiny counter where I don’t need the cutting board out all of the time.

  83. Amy

    This was absolutely delicious. Forgot to buy dried cherries so used some pomegranate molasses which is great in salad dressings. Also used a goat’s milk gouda for the cheese. Brought it to a friend’s for dinner and we wound up eating nearly the whole batch. And I made it the next day, too. So tasty!!! thank you!!

  84. Lisa

    The recipe looks wonderful, but what I really want to know is WHERE ARE THOSE VACATION PHOTOS FROM? I want to go there. Seriously. I just discovered your site, so maybe your regular viewers know. Can you tell me?

    My daughter is going to make your Clementine cake for her daughter’s firsts birthday, which is 4/1, and her name is … you guessed it: Clementine!

  85. Delicious! I made a giant batch (so big I had to mix it in my stock pot!) for the husband and I to have for lunch all last week and it was amazing! My co-worker had never had kale before, so I let her try it–and she brought it to lunch the next day. Thanks for another keeper!

  86. Wendy

    I made this salad, substituting feta and dried cranberries for the ricotta salata and dried cherries. It was okay the first night but so much better the second night after the salad and dressing had a chance to marinate together. I will definitely make this again but will make ahead and dress with the dressing several hours before eating. We had a small amount left for a third day and the kale still looked very fresh.

  87. Caitlin

    This was “jätte gott” as we say in Sweden – super yummie! We just had your salad For dinner (yes it’s dinner time here in Sweden right now) I was laughing at your Comment about an ingredient “everywhere”. I can only say, here n Sweden The kale trend is only taking off at this point. So, please more kale recipes!

  88. Lindsay

    This was delicious! My 5 and 7 year old gobbled it up and asked for more (!). I had it for lunch the next day and it was equally good, if not better. I too subbed cranberries and feta and they were great in it. Thanks for the awesome recipe :)

  89. Lyndsay

    I just made this for my healthy lunch club at work and it’s a hit! I added goat cheese and chicken–couldn’t find the ricotta. Didn’t matter! Still delish.

  90. Cincha

    Make this salad again today, but left out the quinoa–it just seems too fussy, even though I like it in this salad. The dried cherries and lemon are essential. I’m not sure why posters are piling onto kale–it’s been around forever, and if it’s enjoying a vogue, so what?! That’s like not liking a band merely because they are popular:)

  91. I just made this and, wow, I think it’s the best kale recipe I’ve ever tried. I substituted cherries for dates and added more lemon zest not to make it too sweet. I can’t forgive myself having it discovered so late! The kale’s season is almost over!

  92. Ha! I found myself with a leftover block of ricotta salata the other day (the result of Shopping-While-Hungry). I ended up tossing some pasta with pesto, blanched green beans, chunks of potatoes and crumbled ricotta salata.

  93. Zoe Royall

    Smitten Kitchen FTW! I am currently shoving this salad into my mouth. As always your unexpected flavor combinations are awesome. The dried cherries might bankrupt me, but I don’t have it in me to substitute. They are too perfect. You have single handedly made my day with this dose of “good for me and tastes great too”. Thanks, Deb!

  94. Margret

    I’ve made slight variations of this (e.g. No dill, no ricotta salata) to take to work for lunch. It packs up really well and having the morning to marinate in the dressing brings the flavors together. I put the almonds on last minute so they’re crunchy and just toasted slivered almonds in my toaster oven. For the quinoa, I’ve found it stores well in the fridge so I can make a larger batch and then portion out for lunch over a few days to save on the fussiness.

  95. Tara

    Again with the cast iron! Every time you post a picture of your cast iron I look as closely as I can at your pans. I know you don’t do product reviews or anything, but I would love love love if you could do a little cast iron seasoning/cleaning tutorial. There are so many opinions out there and I am struggling to find what is good/bad advice!

  96. Ivy

    Just made this salad last night on recommendation from my son. Constantly seeking “healthy(ier)” stuff. Loved it; only subbed feta for the ricotta. Lunch for today and tomorrow. Can’t go wrong.

  97. Melissalev

    Not sure it anyone mentioned this in the comments but I’d highly recommend a poached or fried egg on top of this salad. Delish!

  98. Tammy

    I made the salad with the curly kale and it was totally fine it’s cut in such tiny ribbons that it is great (no massage) very yummy salad thank you.

  99. Alyssa McQ

    So delicious. Thanks for introducing me to Lacinato kale– it was a perfect salad for the spring and can be easily made to accommodate dietary restrictions. I took it to a potluck dinner and everyone loved it. I made it again for dinner tonight, but I used brown rice instead of quinoa and it was still absolutely fabulous.

  100. Kimberly

    This has become a go to salad for me and I make it at least once a week!

    Now that hard boiled Easter eggs are upon us, I made a riff on the salad last night omitting the cheese and fruit and adding in a few chopped hard boiled eggs. It was perfect with the dill and Dijon flavors in the dressing.

  101. Kristen

    I just discovered this based on the link in today’s post. Wow! Delicious! It’s as if two super-healthy-tasting ingredients together negated the healthy taste. Which is a big positive in my book.

    I read upthread in the comments a question about rinsing quinoa. My daughter is allergic to the saponin so I always spin it in a blender full of cold water first. Then I dump it into a paper towel lined colander. After it’s drained, I pour/shake the damp paper towel into the pot. You lose a little bit, but I find it a lot easier than using a fine mesh strainer.

    Thanks again for the recipe! It was delicious :)

  102. meg

    How do I know if it’s the kind of kale I can eat raw?
    The kind I buy in the supermarket seems more curly and spiky and you have to cook it to eat it. I could not imagine eating that stuff raw!
    I just wrote a whole treatise and it disappeared before I could post. dang.
    Your site and pictures are so inspiring. My photo of chicken and tomatoes and shallots and herbs cooking did not live up.
    so sad.

    1. deb

      meg — Any kale can be eaten raw. People sometimes “massage” the rougher thicker stuff with olive oil to soften it if eating it raw, but it’s not absolutely necessary. You can Google for massaging kale if you’d like a tutorial.

  103. I made this on Monday and have eaten for lunch every day this week. It held up really well in the fridge (the cherries got a little undehydrated!). Very, very delicious.

  104. Liz

    I made this over the weekend, and it was great! I recently read something on Eatocracy on CNN.com about how we’ve been cooking quinoa wrong, and that the water to quinoa ratio should be closer to one to one. I tried that here, and it was foolproof. I boiled the water, added the quinoa, covered and simmered for 12 min, turned off heat and let it stand for 5 min, and it was ready. No draining, and the quinoa had more of a crunch than when I’ve cooked it for longer with more water.

  105. helen

    obviously you’re on to a winner, but i have to add, we love it here… i have made it 5 times, and always send the recipe home or share the link…. sometimes i find ricotta salata hard to find, so i have subbed trader joes mino mozzerella balls in seasoned olive oil, or their feta in brine….never fails, and i am at the point where i dont need to prop the laptop in the kitchen.
    i do double the dressing recipe becuase i find i lose some to the sides of the bowl. and its even better hte next day….everyhting stays crunchy

  106. Adrienne

    Man-oh-Man…this is my favorite new salad! Not only did my family love it, but I find it keeps me full for hours when I take it to work for lunch. I also agree with your post…I was literally counting down the minutes until lunch…so I could eat SALAD. Makes no sense but somehow it works! Thanks so much!!
    I subbed out goat cheese or feta for the ricotta salata, grated some leftover carrots and beets to add some color, and also used sunflower seeds when I ran out of almonds. All were great additions!

  107. Loved this! I did change it slightly by adding the kale before the quinoa was finished, putting the lid on the pot, and letting it steam slightly to soften it up. :)

  108. Esther

    Love your kale salad with pecorino and walnuts, so I’m trying this one too. How much of the scallion do you put in? Just white, or some green?

  109. Victoria

    Deb, I am new to quinoa, but the back of the package says that one should cover the pan when making it on the stove. Do you cover it here, or simmer it uncovered?

  110. Lynn

    Deb, this salad is a home run. I’ve made it about 10 times since I searched for something like this on your site about two months ago. I’ve taken it to folks with new babies, had it as a main dish to entertain guests, and eaten with our family – versatile and people love it. I always get a request for the recipe. I’ve found it to be super flexible – I prefer goat cheese, and have started using farro sometimes instead of the quinoa. This is spectacular from the fridge the next day, ideally with a gorgeous fried egg on top (as others have mentioned). This is awesome as a make-ahead dish in the morning while kids are at preschool. Fits all of my criteria, a total winner!

  111. Perfection. Used a good goat cheese (I’m lactose intolerant) and roasted the almonds whole and raw before I chopped them roughly…the skins seem to suit the robustness of the kale. Ate half of it before the quinoa was cool enough to add :) Bring on the guests, I am so ready!

  112. Erika

    This salad came out amazing! I’m really not into the whole kale quinoa fad and, as someone else had mentioned, every recipe out there seems to rely solely on a lemon dressing which I agree is too bitter.

    This is so nice and hearty that it doesn’t even really feel like eating a salad. I steamed the kale for just a few minutes to soften it up and get rid of some of that bitterness and it’s just perfection.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  113. Margy

    Just brought this over to my sister who is suffering from a massive case of poison ivy. Even though she insisted she wasn’t hungry, I still made it and brought it over for her and her 19 year old daughter. I dropped it off, they inhaled it immediately and my niece wanted to know where I got the recipe. I’ll make a cook out of her yet!

  114. Laura W

    Victoria–I always cover the pan, too. I have no scientific reason for it, but it’s always how I’ve done it, and it works!

  115. E

    I make this salad every Sunday and divide it into three containers for my Monday-Wednesday lunches. It is so good and I truly look forward to eating it. I add the still-warm quinoa to the kale and scallions (before adding the other things)–the heat softens the kale and tames the scallion bite. Thanks for this recipe–it is a home run for health, taste, and ease of preparation.

  116. I just made this for lunch (without the ricotta salata) and it is so incredibly good! I’m looking forward to eating it for lunch at work for the next five days! Thanks for sharing, Deb!

  117. Katie

    This recipe is life-changing! I am now on a mission to make more delicious salads like this! I used curly kale and soft ricotta cheese (because I didn’t read the ingredients properly!) and it was fabulous. Thank you!

  118. Derek Pajaczkowski

    This is so good so thank you so much for posting it. The combination of nuts, ricotta salata, dried berries (I used cranberries, too) combined with the quinoa and chiffonade of kale is just genius. Perfection.

  119. Made your recipe a couple of weeks ago for my lunch – it was so amazing and I am looking forward to trying more of your recipes! First time ever that I am having kale in a salad rather than cooked and I am completely sold!

  120. JP

    Changed it up a bit with red quinoa, a little red onion instead of scallions, and believe it or not, grated muenster. Sometimes you’ve got to use what you have on hand. Still, really a tasty salad, even makes a main dish on this warm CA night. You can’t go wrong with cheese, almonds and dried fruit! Thanks, Deb! Looking forward to seeing more of your writing even though typing with a new baby on your lap will likely be a bit challenging. ;) Again, best wishes to your family and particularly little A.H.

  121. Sarah Wenk

    I just made this today. So totally delicious. And I loved serving the side dish and salad together. Really wonderful recipe.

  122. Kamila

    Deb, this salad and your faro and butternut squash salad are on weekly rotations in my fridge and I could not be happier.

    Also, I’m currently making your cannoli pound cake and my kitchen smells like heaven. You are the best!


  123. Beki Spurrier

    I adore this salad and make it frequently… delicious and healthy and fresh! I was recently in a restaurant in Washington National Airport and had a salad that had red quinoa, beets, and pomegranate seeds, along with some other tasty ingredients (I don’t remember exactly) before I caught my flight. It was a delicious and healthy and fresh salad, too. I have been looking for something similar on line and haven’t come up with anything. Any ideas? I am seeing beets in salads everywhere these days. Love your site and your cookbook! Thanks.

  124. This is awesome, I’ve made it several times. Last time with Feta, it was great. This time added currants and apples. A fresh and healthy crowd pleaser!

  125. Natalie

    Deb. This salad is AMAZING.

    I make it every time I have to bring something to a party. I won a contest at work with this salad.

    It is delicious and hearty and healthy. Its sweet, salty, crunchy, and melts in your mouth. This salad is everything and I want to thank you for the recipe.


  126. Julia

    I made this today using feta instead of ricotta salata. It was very tasty and I would probably have raved about it if I hadn’t also just made the Smitten Kitchen kale salad with pecorino and walnuts, which is possibly my new favorite food. (Trying to eat the garden kale faster than the cabbage loopers can…)