Tuscan Kale Salad w/ Pecorino

tuscan kale salad with pecorino

Kale and I have enjoyed a sultry love affair for over a year now. We've definitely moved past the puppy dog phase and we're currently treading in the I leave a toothbrush in his medicine cabinet territory. Yes, I'm talking about KALE.  Lately I've been looking for something new to "spice up" our relationship. I've seen this salad on a few of my favorite food blogs and I thought it might lead us back to the non-stop PDA phase. It worked! Suddenly I'm absolutely infatuated with kale again and all it took was this simple salad!

tuscan kale salad

Close your eyes and you might think you're eating a Caesar salad. Open your eyes and look at that dark leafy green pile of healthy kale sitting on your plate! Crazy, huh? You'll notice how creamy/sharp the Pecorino is and that lemony red pepper dressing sure is tangy AND spicy, right?  I find that the texture of the kale shreds pairs so well with bits of the crunchy country bread crumbs, don't you? Now that I know how easy it is to make this, I'm totally going on a Raw Tuscan Kale Salad bender. Think Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas but sub the alcohol with Kale. Watch me.

And we're off!

Ingredient Party!! You're invited.


Toast bread. Cut it up.

country bread

Throw it into a mini food processor. BREADCRUMBS. Go easy on the motor. It might smoke.

making bread crumbs

Mortar. Pestle. I rarely use this thing. Bust yours out! I forgot how fun they can be! Hello garlic & salt SMASH.


Grate the Pecorino. A micro-plane is awesome sauce for this task!


Add oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper to that garlic paste. Oh look! There's the breadcrumbs!


Add the cheese to the dressing. Stir!

with the cheese added

Remove the stalks from the Kale. Shred it up with a knife. Ribbons, strands, what have you...

cut up that kale

Pour the dressing on top.

pour the dressing on

Mix thoroughly! Really get in there with your hands. Wait a good 5 minutes.

mix. let sit.

Now plate! Add the breadcrumbs and some extra cheese for good measure.

tuscan kale salad

A heaping bowl of kale salad will do a body good.

tuscan kale salad

Kale, pass it on!

Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino

Makes 2 generous servings

(recipe slightly adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark)

  • 1 bunch Tuscan Kale (aka black or lacinato)
  • 1 thin slice country bread or 1/4 c. good, homemade coarse bread crumbs (leave in some thick bits!)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus a pinch
  • 1/4 c. finely grated Pecorino cheese, plus additional for garnish
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the bottom two inches off the kale stems and discard. Slice the kale into 3/4-inch ribbons. You should have 4-5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl.

Toast bread on both sides and tear it into small pieces. Grind in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.

Using a mortar and pestle or a heavy knife, pound or mince the garlic and 1/4 tsp. salt into a paste. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 c. cheese, 3 Tbsp. oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper and whisk to combine.

Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well to combine thoroughly. Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with the bread crumbs & additional cheese.

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  • August 3, 2011

    I've been thinking about kale salads recently and this looks super delicious! I am so making this.

  • August 3, 2011

    oh my goodness gracious that looks fantastic! I will have to purchase those ingredients next time im out on a groccery run (I even have a rare-ly used mortar and pestle, yay!)

  • August 3, 2011

    I am soo going to try this!!

  • August 3, 2011

    massaging that kale always tires my hands. but it's hard work well worth it.

  • August 3, 2011

    I love (cooked) kale! I have to try this!

  • Meghan
    August 3, 2011

    I just picked up a package of baby kale at the market. Super cute!

  • August 3, 2011

    Tuscan Kale Salad looks so good! Yum...I'm resisting the urge to make a bunch of bad jokes about kale love here. Just not going to do it, though I want to.

    • August 3, 2011

      please don't hold back! i need a good laugh today!

  • August 3, 2011

    Yummy, that looks gorgeous. I'm craving it for breakfast, and I don't care if that is wrong. :)

  • August 3, 2011

    I'm the total opposite! I'm interested in trying kale, but haven't yet. There are so many yummy looking recipes for kale on the web too, and I just haven't made it. This looks convincing though. I think I'll grab some kale on my next grocery shop!

  • August 3, 2011

    I hope it isn't awkward when you see my toothbrush next to yours in kale's cabinet.

    • August 3, 2011

      We have an open relationship...just as long as I get enough attention ;)

  • Cute post, Tracy. :) I've been on a total salad bender myself. Nicoise of sorts. Really I just can't get over the dressing: capers, garlic, dijon, lemon, white wine vinegar, and just a touch of honey to balance. So fantastically pungent!

    I adore kale too, but I've never tried one of these massaged kale salads, even though I've always meant to. I think I'm ready to take the plunge! Love the toasted crust breadcrumb topping. Looks amazing.

  • August 3, 2011

    i was just at a friend's house last night for dinner and the topic of conversation turned to kale... she freezes it and puts it in her berry smoothies, i put it in lasagna, soup-with homemade chicken stock, sausage and cannellini beans and now i will put this on the kale rotation. kale has enough love for ALL the ladies.

  • This salad looks so good. I love all things kale. And everything else is just awesome. Yum!

  • August 3, 2011

    I make this recipe often, but I never massage it. That's a little too close for comfort for even me. I toss and stuff into my maw.

  • I do hope kale is meeting you halfway in your efforts to spice things up? Ha ha ha. This looks amazing! Be careful you don't have too much of a good thing though ..

    • August 3, 2011

      haha!! He's totally a giver ;) I wish he would just pay for my meals though. Is that too much to ask??

  • August 3, 2011

    Oh HELL yes. I have been having a torrid affair with kale since discovering Kim Severson's version earlier this year. My latest fav is tearing the toast into chunks and adding some diced avocado along with big ol' flakes of pecorino romano. Toasted almonds, too, if you're feeling extra feisty. Try it. You won't regret it, I promise.

  • August 4, 2011

    omg, I love this recipe. it seems to pack so much flavor and so much health at the same time. gorgeous combinations, love it! :) Petra

  • Roslyn
    August 4, 2011

    We just made this (with regular kale- that's all we had) and it's delicious!!! We're having it with this tilapia: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/broiled-tilapia-parmesan/detail.aspx.

  • I have yet to try kale, but this sounds like the perfect introductory recipe. Pinning it now!

  • August 4, 2011

    I've been in an LTR with kale for a while and I would happily marry him...think my husband would mind?

    Made your salad tonight with farmer's market kale—looooved it. There's a restaurant here in LA (Elf Cafe) that serves another raw kale salad that we've been riffing on for the past month: kale, chermoula, harissa, avocado and feta. Try it, you'll like it!

  • August 6, 2011

    I'm scared to eat kale raw. But this sounds so good that it's high time to give it a go. Do you think subbing for swiss chard would work? I have a lot of that in my garden right now.

  • August 8, 2011

    We love kale and I will definitely be trying this. Looks wonderful~

  • August 8, 2011

    This looks delicious! I bet the pecorino breadcrumb topping would be tasty on so many things like roasted broccoli.

  • August 13, 2011

    tracy, i've started to keep the kale spines in.. for extra "body" and it's so tasty. not everyone likes them, but we love them in our house! love this salad. lived on it practically all winter. kale is HOTTT!

  • September 14, 2011

    Thanks for publishing this great recipe! My husband and I are obsessed with it and consider it a healthy faux-Caesar salad. My new trick is that I just toast the bread (2 slices for us)and then cut it up with a knife into squares. This creates some crumbs and lots of big chunks (which I prefer anyway)...and most importantly it doesn't dirty the annoying food processor. That thing is the worst to clean.

    • September 14, 2011

      Love it!!! I had a grilled kale Caesar once. Changed my life!!!

  • November 22, 2011

    I love Kale and tend to just eat it via my smoothies. I will give this a try for lunch.

  • January 2, 2012

    love it! :D

  • June 25, 2012

    This just looks so delish! Those croutons gurl!

  • Sarah
    July 8, 2012

    OMG - This was delicious! I sautéed/wilted the kale first. I've been looking forward to this salad for a week and it did not disappoint.

  • Lisa Bennett
    November 24, 2012

    Hi! I made this salad last night and it was divine! I used a bag of pre washed baby kale which made the preparation even easier! I'll be making it again! Thanks for the recipe!

  • Molly
    November 28, 2012

    My regular store only ever has curly. And parmasan instead of pecorino.
    But this salad made me so happy.

  • March 31, 2013

    I made this tonight (with baby tuscan kale) and we had with with prime rib - it was a very steakhouse experience but I felt better because of the kale!

    So delicious - the dressing tastes like a caesar dressing my sister used to make which I never got the recipe for. I spent the whole meal yelling out "Kale Caesar!" (like Hail Caesar!) because I'm ridiculous!

  • July 8, 2013

    Always been afraid of kale salad since I had one that was bitter, but this salad has changed all that! It's the perfect reset button post-road trip and the start to a change to healthier eating! Love it :)

  • Amelia
    October 24, 2013

    I just made this recipe, but also served it up with roasted butternut squash inspired by your Squash and Arugula salad recipe. Threw in a few cubes of prosciutto while roasting and it was AMAZING together! The salty parmesan and sour lemon kale mixed with the sweet roasted squash and a kick of chili - so so good.

    Thank you so much for the inspiration and tasty recipes. And excellent photography and anecdotes, you're a big inspiration for my meals!

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