Here’s a kale and quinoa salad that’s packed with nourishing ingredients, yet it has enough flavor and eye appeal to be a crowd-pleasing party or potluck dish. With black beans, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds as a trio of protein ingredients, larger portions of this salad can easily be served as a main dish.
Complete the meal: As a main dish, serve this salad with simple vegan quesadillas. Or even easier, your favorite salsa and good-quality tortilla chips. As a side-by-side dish, make it part of a soup-and-salad meal. It’s lovely as a companion with a pureed soup like Carrot-Ginger Soup.
About massaged kale: It’s important to take this easy step so that the kale has a pleasant mouth feel. There’s not much to this process; simply rub a small amount of olive oil (or another salad dressing, if using) onto your palms and massage chopped kale leaves for 45 to 60 seconds, until they turn bright green and soften. For more detail on the process and other tips, see How to Massage Kale (and a Few Delicious Kale Salad Ideas).
A few notes about kale
Though the crazed devotion to kale seems to have peaked, it’s still a vegetable that deserves a regular place in your rotation. Here are a few things to know:
- Kale is in the family of cruciferous vegetables, along with broccoli and cauliflower. It comes in several varieties, the most common of which are the curly green, lacinato (also called dinosaur kale), and Russian.
- Lacinato kale has long, narrow leaves that are a handsome forest green, sometimes blue-green. Russian Kale is also curly, with red-tipped leaves and a slightly less sweet flavor than its monochromatic counterpart.
- The mild, slightly sweet flavor of the curly variety is the most widely adaptable to all manner of preparations (including smoothies!), but lacinato and Russian kale are totally worth using if you happen to spot them.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa (see note)
- 8 to 10 ounces kale, curly or lacinato
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups cooked fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
- 15- to 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, or more, to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for garnish
- Combine the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, then lower the heat, cover (with the cover ajar), and simmer gently until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Allow the cooked quinoa to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, cut the kale into ribbons or bite-sized pieces and give it a good rinse, then dry it thoroughly. You can let it air-dry on a clean kitchen towel; blot between layers of paper towel; or use a salad spinner.
- Transfer the kale to a serving bowl. Rub a small amount of the olive oil onto your palms and massage the kale leaves for 45 to 60 seconds, until they turn bright green and soften. Really get in there and don’t be afraid to use some muscle! The leaves won’t fall apart.
- Add the cooled quinoa to the serving bowl with the kale along with the remaining ingredients (including the remaining olive oil) Stir well, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, and serve.
Any shade of quinoa works in this salad, though red or tricolor makes a nice visual statement.
If you like this main-dish kale salad, you might also enjoy …
Here are lots more easy vegan salads & sides.