By now you either own an “I heart kale” t-shirt or you wont touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole. We get it, not everyone loves this nutrient dense green, but I happen to be of the former group. I usually love the stuff.
Now that being said, there are plenty of kale salads I have eaten that definitely don’t make me want to sing, or even take a second forkful. We’ve all been there: tough, fibrous leaves, a tasteless dressing, and a jaw that is sore from chewing all those raw vegetables.
Pass on that plate, please.
But when kale is treated right, it becomes irresistible. Kale requires a good bit of attention, but give it a few moments of your time and we can make a mouth watering dish. Kale needs to be softened, and it favors a thick and creamy dressing that will really stick to all the curly twists and turns of the leaves. The best kale salads have few other raw vegetables (we have enough to chew here with just the kale) and add in other textural components like nuts and seeds.
This kale salad really brings the flavor. The dressing is a bold mix of tangy Caesar goodness and a dose of hot spice. You can regulate the heat level by adding more or less of the cayenne and paprika. You can even omit them if you’d like.
After the luscious dressing gets tossed with the kale, we top the whole thing with these crispy nut cluster croutons. The croutons are grain-free and made entirely from nuts and seeds. They are crisp and crunchy but somehow light and melt in your mouth at the same time. These have become a staple in my house, and I am willing to bet they make their way into yours as well.
There are a few things to know before you get started:
Tip #1: Give it some love.
We talked about it before, kale is tough. It needs a little massage to loosen up. Not even kidding. Don’t skip the step in the directions where you massage half the dressing into the kale and let it sit. It is the difference between a delectable dish or a chewing marathon.
Tip #2: Raw is right.
The cashews form the base of the dressing recipe. For this dressing to turn out silky smooth and ridiculously creamy there are a few cashew guidelines. When you are at the store, purchase raw cashews. They will be marked raw on either the bin or the packaging. Raw cashews are unfrosted and are lighter in color. Pro tip: You can use either whole raw cashews or cashew pieces in this recipe, both work and the pieces are usually cheaper.
Tip #3: Get in a good soak.
Now that you have the perfect cashews, be sure to soak them in water overnight. This softens the nuts and makes for a creamy dressing. If you skip the soaking process, your dressing will be gritty and course. To soak them properly, place the cashews in a lidded container (I usually use a mason jar) and cover the with filtered water. Shut the lid and place in the fridge to soak overnight. Remove and rinse before using.
For the croutons:
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal plus 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- For the dressing:
- 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mellow white miso
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika
- 10 oz. bag of kale, or about one bunch, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil and coat with a light layer of nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the flaxseed meal and the warm water and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until thickened.
3. Add the walnuts, hemp seeds, and chia seeds into a food processor fitted with the S blade attachment. Pulse a few times until the mixture resembles course crumbs.
4. Add in the flaxseed meal and water mixture, salt, thyme, garlic powder, pepper, and olive oil. Pulse until a dough forms. Spicy Kale Caesar Salad
5. Using a heaping teaspoon, drop the dough onto the baking sheet. Make sure the croutons are not touching. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.
6. While the croutons are baking, add the cashews, vinegar, miso, mustard, and water to a food processor or blender. Process or blend until smooth. Add in the remaining dressing ingredients and process until combined.
7. Add the kale to a large bowl. Add in 1/2 of the dressing and massage it into the kale to soften the greens. Let sit for 10 minutes. Once softened, add in additional dressing if desired. Serve topped with croutons.