Lacinato Kale Caesar Salad
Today we are sharing our very best Kale Caesar Salad made with Lacinato Kale (also known as Tuscan Kale or Dinosaur Kale.) It is made with a simple egg-free dressing and tossed with homemade croutons and grated cheese! This recipe is ready in only 15 minutes and is a great accompaniment to a variety of meals!
Why We Love This Recipe
Kale is a powerhouse of nutrition and a great green to add to your diet. Dressing it up as a Caesar salad is a great entry into the many ways of enjoying this superfood.
This blend of Kale, Lemon, Garlic, Anchovies and Cheese is a big bold flavor combination and packs a punch! It is a great salad to top with your favorite protein like chicken: like Crispy Skin Chicken in the cooler months or Garlic Herb Marinated Chicken during grilling season.
You can also serve it as a side with classics like Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese or Chicken Cacciatore served over noodles. For a 30 minute meal make Linguine with Puttanesca Sauce to serve with this Roman inspired kale salad!
It is simple to prepare, and only requires a handful of ingredients. We’ve used some of our favorite tricks to make it more palatable including massaging the kale before adding the dressing like we do for our Massaged Kale Salad.
We also dialed in the ratios of the ingredients for the dressing to fine tune it for Kale. You see, kale is more strongly flavored and slightly more bitter than Romaine, the green of classic Caesar salad. Therefore, the dressing for kale Caesar needs to be a bit more biting to stand up to the bolder kale taste.
Lacinato kale, sometimes call Tuscan kale or Dinosaur kale is a flat leafed variety of kale with bumpy savoyed texture. It has thick, pithy stems that are too tough to include in the salad, and will need to be removed.
You can substitute another variety of kale such as Red Russian or Curly kale, but weigh out 13 to 14 ounces to make sure the recipe ratios are similar.
No Caesar salad would be complete without garlic, but a little goes a long way with raw garlic. (Note: we love using roasted garlic in Caesar too, and you can use a lot more because it has a mellowed flavor, but that’s another recipe all together!)
We recommend using freshly chopped garlic (not garlic powder or jarred chopped garlic) and following the below instructions for making the garlic paste. The paste will give the dressing overall garlic flavor with only one small clove. Plus there wont be any big surprising chunks of raw garlic mixed into the salad!
We know not everyone loves anchovies, but when mixed into Caesar dressing, they imbue it with its classic mildly funky, salty and umami taste and flavor.
A little bit goes a long way. (You only need two filets for this recipe.) If you don’t eat anchovies you can omit them, but you’ll likely want to add a touch of extra salt to taste.
Classic Caesar salad gets its acidity from lemon juice. Sour counter-balances bitter. On its own this salad dressing would seem too tart, but when paired with the bitterness of the kale, it balances out beautifully.
The dressing for this recipe today is adapted from our Egg Free Caesar Dressing. We added the Dijon for three main reasons;
- It is a classic addition to Caesar dressing.
- It helps to emulsify the dressing (even without egg.) It has naturally occurring lecithin in it which helps the lemon juice and olive oil stay bonded together (temporarily).
- It is strongly flavored, and as we said, this dressing needs to be such that it can temper the bitterness of the kale.
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese
We love the slightly stronger and saltier taste of Pecorino Romano in our Kale Caesar. It is an aged, hard, salty Italian cheese made with sheep’s milk. It hails from the region in which Rome is included.
Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano), which is from cow’s milk and from Northern Italy, is always a great option if you can’t find the former. It is a little more mild, nutty and a little less salty by comparison and more commonly sold in the US.
Look for it in the deli section of your supermarket in plastic 1 and 2 cup containers. For the best flavor (and value per ounce) buy the Romano or Parmigiano in chunks and grate your own with the small holes on a box grater.
If you have two kinds of olive oil in your cabinet, use your everyday cooking olive oil in this recipe.
The bold garlic, lemon, anchovies and cheese will overpower any of the subtle olfactory notes in a more nuanced high end olive oil. Save that fancy olive oil for drizzling over Minestrone just before serving or adding to shaved zucchini salad.
Homemade croutons are super easy to make. Make sure to let them cool completely before adding them to the salad.
If you are in a hurry, buying store bought croutons is fine too. You will need two cups for this salad.
How To Make Lacinato Kale Caesar
Step 1: Chop the garlic. Sprinkle it with the coarse kosher salt and then mash with the side of a chef’s knife to form a paste.
Step 2: Scrape the garlic paste into a food processor. You can also use a blender, mini-prep or immersion blender. Add anchovies, ¼ cup oil, ¼ cup cheese, lemon juice, Dijon and pepper and puree until it is relatively smooth and pale yellow.
Step 3: Remove the ribs from the center of the kale leaves. Tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. (You can also chop it too.) Wash it and spin it dry.
Step 4: Drizzle two teaspoons of olive oil over the kale and massage it until it is bright shiny green. After a minute of working it in the bowl it will lose its powdery blueish tint and become less fluffy in the bowl.
Step 5: Toss the kale with the dressing and some additional cheese until it is nicely coated.
Step 6: Add in the croutons, and season with additional salt and pepper and more cheese if desired. Toss well to combine.
FAQs and Expert Tips
Lacinato (pronounced la-suh-NA-tow) is a variety of kale that has historically been grown in Tuscany, Italy where it is called “Cavolo Nero” or Black Cabbage. It is more tender, less fluffy and has a less coarse texture than popular common curly kale. Find it in the produce section of large supermarkets and farmers’ markets from spring to fall.
The croutons can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container until ready to enjoy. Dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before tossing with the salad. The kale can be torn, washed and dried and stored in a resealable bag for 3 days. Toss just before serving.
Sure! Use our creamy Caesar dressing that we use in our Napa Cabbage Caesar salad recipe instead of this one. It is one of our favorites!
More Kale Recipes To Try
This recipe for Lacinato Kale Chips is a great healthy snack to make with the kids or to enjoy on Whole30 or Keto diets. This recipe for Garlic Kale Chips takes basic kale chips and kicks it up a notch! Bonus, both recipes are vegan too!
This Sauteed Kale with Cider Vinegar is a basic way to enjoy it cooked.
Our Savory Galette uses a blend of kale and beet greens and it is paired with feta, currants and pine nuts!
This Balsamic Kale with cranberries is another way to enjoy sauteed kale with a bit of pizzaz!
This Kale Bread with Feta is a super savory and tasty snack to try baking.
Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter for healthy recipes delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~KatiePrint
This easy Kale Caesar salad made with Lacinato kale (sometimes called Tuscan kale or Dinosaur kale) is an easy 15 minute way to enjoy raw kale and is a great side salad to enjoy with a variety of meals.
1 small clove garlic
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 anchovies, chopped
¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 bunches lacinato kale,13- 14 ounces (about 12 cups chopped)
2 cups croutons, either homemade or purchased
- Peel and mince garlic clove. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt over the garlic and mash with the side of a chef’s knife to form a smooth paste. Scrape garlic paste into a food processor or blender. Add anchovies, ¼ cup oil, ¼ cup cheese, lemon juice, Dijon and pepper and puree until smooth and pale yellow, about 30 seconds.
- Remove and discard thick ribs and stems of kale and tear or chop into bite-size pieces. Wash and spin dry in a salad spinner.
- Place kale in a large bowl and drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Using clean hands massage until the leaves are softened and dark green, about 1 minute.
- Pour the dressing and some of the remaining cheese over the kale and toss to coat.
- Add croutons and cheese and toss to combine. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if desired. Divide among 4 plates to serve.
Make Ahead: Croutons can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container until ready to enjoy. Dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before tossing with the salad.
- Serving Size: 2 1/3 cups
- Calories: 233
- Sugar: 0
- Fat: 16 g
- Saturated Fat: 3 g
- Carbohydrates: 20 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 6 g