Kale is by far one of our favorite salad toppers. From dietary fiber and tons of vitamins to carotenoids and other antioxidants kale has it all. We’re often asked about the benefits of “massaging” kale. If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering about the benefits too. The notion of massaging kale might seem a bit odd but once you’ve done it, you’ll never want to eat it any other way – especially if you’re not a fan of kale.
Massaging kale isn’t as difficult as it may sound. Here we’ve put together a super simple method for massaging kale with lots of visuals to guide you along the way. In about 10 minutes you’ll be ready to build your bowl with perfectly massaged kale.
THE BALANCING ACT
Just to be clear. Kale is nutritious whether it’s massaged or not. Among the top five suppliers of antioxidants, a single serving of raw kale houses a day’s worth of vitamin C. It also contains more vitamin K per serving than any other food in the world! Vitamin K is an important, yet often underrated, fat-soluble vitamin that helps prevent heart attacks and stroke by blocking calcium buildup in the arteries.
Not to mention, kale is packed full of fiber, which provides good bulk and helps you feel full for longer periods of time.
In addition to its superior nutritional profile, kale has a fresh, earthy flavor and crisp texture that can bring any salad to life. But it’s all about how you choose and use it. In raw form, kale tastes best when chopped or shredded, as you would do for a slaw. But even still the leaves of kale aren’t naturally tender – they are sometimes even coarse, which turns many people off. This is where massaging kale comes in.
Massaging kale softens and tenderizes the leaves, reduces their volume and even gives them a somewhat gentler flavor in much the same way that cooking them would. It’s one of the reasons kale salads taste so good at restaurants. When kale is massaged, you’ll swear it’s steamed. For our founder, Nina, massaging kale is a go to method for converting kale skeptics into kale enthusiasts.
Now, that we’ve told you a little bit about massaged kale, let’s talk about how to do it.
First Off, Which Type of Kale?
In case you didn’t already know, there are many different types of kale. Curly kale and lacinato kale are two of the most commonly sold at grocery stores and farmer’s markets. When you think of kale, curly kale is likely the first thing that comes to mind. Also known as “common kale” or “common curly kale” it has “curly,” textured, bright green-colored leaves and delivers a somewhat bitter, peppery flavor.
Lacinato kale, which goes by a whole lot of different names (“Tuscan kale,” “dinosaur kale,” and “Italian kale”), has a vibrant bluish green color and boasts a mild, slighter sweet flavor that’s notably more delicate than that of curly kale. There are also many different types of prepackaged baby kale leaves on the market. However, these leaves are already tender enough to eat with being massaged.
Here at That Salad Lady, most of our salad bowl recipes call for curly kale as it’s the least expensive and the easiest to come by – and that’s what we’re using here.
What You Need to Massage Kale
It doesn’t take much to give kale a rubdown. All you’ll need is a good quality cooking oil, a little kosher salt (sea salt works too) and your bare hands. Some suggest adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar too, but we think it’s a bit overkill. It’s more like an “either-or,” as acids alone will soften and tenderize kale in much the same way as massaging it would. You can, however, season your massaged kale with an acid before serving it.
We suggest using extra-virgin olive oil as it infuses amazing flavor and delivers added nutrition to the mix. Olive oil itself is very high in monounsaturated fats, which help the body better absorb many of the vitamins and antioxidants housed in kale. Avocado and grapeseed oils offer similar benefits so feel free to use either as an alternative to olive oil if you wish.
GET YOUR CHOP ON
Before a massage, it’s best to de-stem your kale and then chop up the leaves into small pieces. You can either de-stem the leaves by hand or use a sharp knife (ideally a chef’s knife).
You’ll need a knife to chop up the leaves too. You can use pre-packaged kale to cut down on prep time, but, depending on the size of the leaves, you may still need to chop them up a bit more.
After the kale is all chopped up, give it a nice, thorough rinse in warm water, massaging all the chopped leaves well as you rinse them. From here, drain the kale in a colander and then rinse it again in cold water. You can then drain it once more using the same colander or a salad spinner if you have one.
Once you’ve drained all the excess water, transfer the kale to a large bowl and coat the leaves with a drizzle of olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt, and then toss and massage them by hand. You can wear disposable food prep gloves if you wish, but using your hands is much more efficient. Plus, the combination of the salt and the natural warmth of your hands really help draws out the moisture in the leaves.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how long the massage should last. Perhaps a 50-minute Swedish massage session? Hardly not!
That Salad Lady suggests an average of 3-5 minutes – but feel free to give or take a minute here or there.
As you carry out the massage, you’ll feel the kale leaves start to break down, soften and shrink in size almost immediately. Once they’ve reached your desired texture simply stop. Be sure not to over massage! It’s very easy to do. The goal is to tenderize the kale not weaken it. Give it a taste test every minute or so to ensure it’s to your liking. When your kale is fluffy yet still somewhat firm, feathery but not too flimsy, it’s perfectly massaged.
The Versatility of Massaged Kale
Massaged kale not only makes the perfect base for salad bowl recipes, but it also makes a great complementary side dish. Just sprinkle on some of your favorite vinegar or squeeze in a little lemon juice and you’ve got yourself a delicious “no-cook” side. In an airtight container, massaged kale will keep in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.
SHOW US YOUR WORK
That Salad Lady wants to see all your great work. If you enjoy your massaged kale, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.