Date-Nut Kale Salad

Kale Really needs to Relax


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Well Fed Weeknights: Complete Paleo Meals in 45 Minutes or Less

Well Fed Weeknights

By Melissa Joulwan

Published 2016

  • About

Have you ever massaged your kale? I didn’t understand why kale salads were so popular until I learned the massaging trick. Now it all makes sense. Bitter and tough but loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, kale has a well-deserved reputation as a numero uno leafy green. When you break down its defenses with a little salt and a lot of tough love, it surrenders, becoming less bitter, more flavorful, and able to stand up to dressings for days. This salad has a sweet-and-sour balance—thanks to the lemon, maple, and dates—with a nutty crunch of slivered almonds that complements the acerbic kale leaves.

Total time: 35–40 minutes
Hands-off time: 15 minutes



  • 2 bunches kale (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup (omit for Whole30)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 medjool dates
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4–6 ounces each)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup water


  • meat hammer


Massage the kale

Remove the tough ribs from the leaves and chop the kale into slivers or bite-sized pieces. Place the leaves in a very large bowl and add a pinch of salt. Toss the leaves to distribute the salt and start massaging. Grab handfuls of kale, rubbing them against each other and squeezing. It’s similar to kneading dough, and the harder you are on the kale, the more tender it will be later. The best way to know if you’ve massaged it enough is to take a little bite: if it’s still leathery or bitter, it needs more of a rubdown.

Make the dressing

Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a small bowl. Peel and crush the garlic clove and add it to the lemon juice, then whisk in the maple syrup, salt, and red pepper flakes. While you continue to whisk, drizzle in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the kale and mix with your hands to coat the leaves. Transfer the bowl to the fridge to marinate while you cook the chicken.

Cook the chicken

Pound the chicken to ½-inch thickness between two pieces of plastic wrap with the smooth side of the meat hammer, then season with the salt and pepper. Warm the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook undisturbed until brown on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over, add ½ cup water, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pan and continue to cook until the inside of the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate to cool a bit.

Finish the salad

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and reheat it over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and toast until golden, about 2 minutes. Keep an eye on them; they can burn quickly! Set aside to cool. Pit and chop the dates. Add the almonds and dates to the kale and toss to combine. Shred the chicken with two forks.

To serve

Divide the kale among individual serving plates and top with chicken.