This baby kale salad is perfect for entertaining or as a side salad on busy weeknights. It’s quick and easy to throw together. The sweet balsamic vinaigrette has just the right balance of sweet, tangy, and savory flavors. Enjoy this vegan, refined sugar-free balsamic kale salad as a first course or turn it into a full meal by adding some extra protein and carbs.
Ingredients in this baby kale salad
This kale salad is simple yet satisfying and has a nice crunch from the walnuts. You can either use raw walnuts or toasted walnuts. Or if you’re not a fan of walnuts or need to avoid them, you can substitute pecans, slivered almonds, pine nuts, pistachios or any other nut you prefer. Or if you need to keep this salad entirely nut free then you can substitute pumpkin seeds or these savory spiced sunflower seeds.
The refined sugar-free balsamic vinaigrette is sweetened with date paste. Date paste is easy to make and is a nutrient-dense alternative to white sugar. It’s made by soaking dates in boiling water and then blending them up. See my date paste recipe for exact instructions. Alternatively you can substitute maple syrup instead of date paste if you prefer.
The savory component of the sweet balsamic vinaigrette comes from fresh chives, which give the salad dressing a subtle, oniony flavor without overpowering the other flavors in this recipe. If you don’t have any fresh chives you can substitute a teaspoon of finely chopped onion or garlic. Or two teaspoons of dried chives works too.
I love the flavor and tenderness of baby kale, but you can substitute any type of regular raw kale you prefer such as curly kale. Just give it a quick massage first to tenderize the leaves, then chop it up. Baby spinach, arugula, or any other type of salad greens are good alternatives too.
Balsamic vinegar works well in the vinaigrette but you can substitute other types of vinegar such as apple cider vinegar or red or wine vinegar if you like.
I like using extra virgin olive oil in the dressing but other neutral oils will work too. Avocado oil is a good alternative.
How to make it
This balsamic kale salad is quick and easy to prepare. Start by adding the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, chopped chives, date paste (or maple syrup), salt, and pepper to a large bowl, then use a whisk to mix well.
Add the baby kale and walnuts, then toss to evenly coat with the dressing. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to three hours before serving.
Make it a meal
You can easily turn this kale walnut salad into a complete meal by adding some more protein and carbs. Add some cooked tofu, roasted sweet potato chunks, lentils, or chickpeas to make it a main course.
Another way to transform this baby kale salad into a hearty meal is to add a grain such as quinoa. Just prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions, then add 1 cup of cooked quinoa per person before tossing with the dressing.
Preparing this in advance
You can prepare the dressing up to three days in advance, but once you’ve tossed the baby kale and walnuts with the dressing, it’s best to serve it within a few hours, otherwise the greens will wilt.
More vegan salad recipes
- For another tasty salad idea, try this avocado goddess dressing tossed with some fresh greens.
- This refreshing vegan watermelon salad is made with chopped watermelon, cucumber, and olives.
- This easy maple vinaigrette salad dressing has a complex sweetness from the maple syrup which pairs well with all types of greens.
- This vegan almond butter dressing tastes just like ranch.
Baby Kale Salad with Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Mixing bowl
- 6 cups baby kale
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or substitute any other nut or seed)
- 6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons date paste (or substitute maple syrup)
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Add the date paste, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and chives to a large bowl.
- Use a whisk to mix well.
- Add the baby kale and walnuts, then toss to coat evenly.
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to three hours.
- You can use either raw or toasted walnuts in this balsamic kale salad recipe.
- For a nut-free version of this salad, swap the walnuts for sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
- Turn this baby kale salad into a complete meal by adding some roasted sweet potatoes, lentils, tofu, chickpeas, or quinoa.