I’m not the first person to make a kale salad, add superfoods like quinoa, carrots, nuts, and blueberries, and feel vindicated for the caloric ambush of cheeseburger and fries eaten the night before.
Hey, life’s pleasures are all about balance, am I right?
This superfood salad is a riff on one of my very favorite kale salads with quinoa. It’s my healthful choice (when I’m feeling virtuous) from Sammy’s Bistro, our usual post-ski lunch spot in Park City, UT. This particular raw kale salad, served vegetarian or protein-style topped with quick and easy baked garlic shrimp (or sliced chicken breast or a fried egg), is a far cry from those kale salads served with big chunks of chalky, bitter, and tough good-for-you greens.
Because it’s sliced thinly and tenderized with this flavorful lemony dressing, the kale in this salad melds perfectly with the nutty-flavored, protein-packed quinoa with sweet bursts of blueberry in every health-forward bite.
What’s In This Raw Kale and Quinoa Salad
Like the flavors in this salad, one of the best things about it is the Ingredient list is simple, sweet, and long-lasting so it’s always at the ready.
Here’s what’s in this kale and quinoa salad:
- Kale. I like lacinato or dinosaur kale for its smooth leaf rather than frilly texture.
- Quinoa. The perfect vegetarian protein, use white, red, black, or a combination of all three.
- Blueberries. One of the best natural sources for fighting heart disease and lower cholesterol.
- Carrot. A good source of beta carotene and more fiber.
- Almonds. I use sliced almonds but pistachios, walnuts, or pecans would work too.
- Lemon vinaigrette. Made with olive oil and sweetened with honey, you’ll feel good about this drizzle.
- Baked garlic shrimp. A low-fat, high protein source of omega 3 fatty acids for heart health, and good general nutrition.
How to Prepare Raw Kale
The sturdy bulk and crunch of raw kale are just a few of the traits that set it apart from other greens, where its vitamins and fiber can deliver an actual feeling of fullness after eating. This isn’t your average delicate spring green!
Some recipes call for massaging kale with olive oil and lemon juice to help break down fibers and make more tender. While it’s a good idea and helpful for many salad recipes, I skip that step in this salad. Instead, thinly slivering the leaves does the job for me.
Separate the stems from the leaves. Tough and woody, kale stems are distracting in kale salads. To trim, run a knife down each side of the the core of each leaf to remove the stem, and discard.
Thinly slice the raw kale. What makes this salad so exceptional is the texture. By cutting it into thin slices, the kale blend with the quinoa and background ingredients in each bite, instead of taking over.
First cut, then rinse and spin. Instead of rinsing the kale leaves first, rinse them of any extra debris after slivering the kale. This way, it’s more manageable to fit into a salad spinner without the rigid stalks.
Pat and towel dry. After a turn in the salad spinner, lay out the sliced kale in an even layer on a kitchen towel, pat dry, and give a few minutes to air dry.
How to Make This Kale Quinoa Salad
Served as a side dish at the summer potluck, or as a quick and easy meal-prepped lunch, this salad takes mere minutes to pull together, and if you want, most of it can be done ahead of time.
First, cook the quinoa. Contrary to most methods of cooking quinoa like rice, I cook my quinoa like pasta where it comes out perfectly tender and delicious every time. Get all my tips, tricks and recipe for perfectly cooked quinoa here. Drain and cool while prepping the rest of the salad.
Prep the kale. See my tips above then add it to a large salad bowl or individual platters.
Shred the carrot. To get perfectly thin curlicues of vegetables, one of my favorite tools in the kitchen is this 3 piece peeler set I give with nearly every wedding present. It makes longer wisps easy to make.
How to Make the Vinaigrette
With a healthy dose of lemon, this punchy vinaigrette stands up strong to kale’s tough guy attitude. To make, add all the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk, or, add to a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid and shake like a polaroid picture.
Use a combination of two acids to round out the flavor. In this dressing, I use lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, however, other types of white vinegar like champagne vinegar or rice vinegar are amazing too.
Here’s what’s in the dressing:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh lemon juice
- Apple cider vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Taste and season. Add more honey for sweetness or salt and pepper for flavor to fit your palette.
Dress the Kale and Quinoa First
Moving every bit flavor from the vinaigrette to the kale and quinoa makes this salad doubly delicious. So the dressing will absorb and flavor, dress the kale and quinoa combo before adding the other ingredients.
The acids in the dressing massage the kale in their own liquid way, and infuse tang into the neutral tasting quinoa.
Add the Flavor Bursts
Savory and sweet is where this salads love languages meet. To the bowl of quinoa and kale, add the rest of the ingredients and toss to mix, adding more salad dressing to taste.
Instead of blueberries, try another sweet bite like raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cherries or dried cranberries.
Instead of almonds, try another nut like pistachios, pecans, walnuts, or pine nuts.
Add Shrimp for Protein
This salad is awesome all on its vegetarian own, but if you’d like an extra boost of seafood protein, it is so good topped with easy, sheet pan baked garlic shrimp.
A few things about these shrimp:
- Shrimp are handy to pull from the freezer, thaw and cook up quick.
- Instead of butter, they’re tossed in heart-healthy, garlic and herb infused olive oil before cooking.
- For a little crunch, the shrimp are sprinkled with crushed bread crumbs that become golden and crisp.
For even more convenience, top with cooked shrimp picked up from the supermarket seafood counter.
Other Salad Protein Toppers to Try
Craving a different protein option instead of shrimp? Try grilled Greek chicken, or always juicy baked chicken breast, grilled salmon, or toss a handful of garbanzo beans on this salad for a vegetarian protein punch.
More Kale Salad Recipe Ideas
- Kale Caesar Pasta Salad
- Kale Salad With Cranberries, Apple and Cheddar Cheese
- Chopped Mexican Kale Salad
- Quinoa and Kale Protein Power Salad
- Kale Salad With Butternut Squash, Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Kale and Quinoa Salad with Shrimp
- 1 cup quinoa
- 8 ounces kale , about 4 cups trimmed, stems removed, and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey , plus more more to taste
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup blueberries
- ½ cup shredded carrot
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- 12 cooked shrimp , such as baked garlic shrimp
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under cold water. Add 3 cups water to a medium saucepan with the quinoa and kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Cook until al dente and the centers become transparent, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 12 minutes. Drain, fluff with a fork, and return the quinoa to the pot, cover with a kitchen towel and a lid and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Spread on a baking sheet and cool.
- Meanwhile, cut out the stems from the kale leaves and slice finely into strips. Rinse the kale, then spin dry in a salad spinner and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Transfer to a large bowl with the cooled quinoa.
- In a small bowl or a jar with a fitted lid, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, kosher salt, and black pepper. Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of the dressing over the kale and quinoa. Toss to coat, and let sit for a few minutes so that the kale softens and the quinoa absorbs the dressing.
- Add the blueberries, shredded carrot, and almonds to the salad and top with cooked garlic shrimp. Add more dressing and salt and pepper if desired. Refrigerate the leftover salad dressing for up to 2 weeks.
More Healthy Salad Recipes
- Strawberry Spinach Salad With Chicken and Avocado
- Tuscan Tuna and White Bean Salad
- Thai Quinoa Salad
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
- Citrus Shrimp and Avocado Salad
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