Date-Nut Kale Salad

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. It holds up in the fridge for 3-4 days so you can make a big batch so lunch and dinner is sorted.

Date-Nut Kale Salad

Serves 2–4 | 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

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 8 medjool dates

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4–6 ounces each)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup water


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 1/2-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 1/2 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.

You Know How You Could Do That?

Replace dates with raisins or dried apricots; replace almonds with chopped pecans or cashews; replace maple syrup with honey; replace lemon juice with orange juice. So, putting that all together, here’s another delicious flavor combo: apricots, pecans, honey, and orange juice. Or dates, cashews, honey, and lemon. You’re welcome. (And if you grow weary of this dish as a salad, you can toss it in a sauté pan and cook until it’s caramelized and heated through—it’s a whole new meal!)

Cookup Tips

Cook the chicken and make the kale salad in advance; the kale will maintain a pleasing texture for 2–3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Print this recipe
Curry Chicken-Salad Salad

In the years since I started eating paleo, I’ve learned that paleo-friendly food that’s worth eating can be found in some surprising places. For example,...

Read More
Paleo Cobb Salad

In each issue of Paleo Magazine, I  share the history of a traditional recipe and adapt it to fit into a healthier paleo lifestyle. In this...

Read More