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Curly Kale Salad with the Best Homemade Dressing

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Today I’d like to share a super delicious winter salad recipe. A combination of curly kale, grapefruit and sweet potatoes seasoned with a tasty homemade orange and tahini dressing is seriously so good that just writing about it makes me hungry.

curly kale salad with homemade dressing

Full of delicious, fresh and healthy ingredients and drizzled with the best possible dressing, this easy kale salad recipe is a must-try! 

Keep on reading to find out how to make this delicious and simple dish, along with easy tips on how to soften the kale to make it perfect for salad.

curly kale salad with homemade dressing

Ingredients for the curly kale salad with orange and tahini dressing

1. Vegetables and fruits

  • Curly kale – my favourite for salads! It is so delicious when eaten raw, has no bitterness and is really easy to soften and prepare for salads. You can use other kale if you cannot find the curly variety. Fun fact – in Croatia, many farmers refer to curly kale as collard green rather than kale. Although all three are actually different cultivars, the collard connection does make sense if you consider its mild flavour and leathery texture.
  • Grapefruit – the perfect seasonal ingredient that will bring a real dash of freshness to the salad. I used the red variety because it is sweeter and milder, but if you like the bitterness of the grapefruit, you can use the yellow variety too. In case you are more keen on sweet citruses than bitter ones, I recommend swapping the grapefruit with blood oranges.
  • Sweet potatoes – I like to use the orange variety for this recipe; their creamy texture and sweet flavour go really well with the rest of the ingredients. They also tend to caramelise a bit in the oven, which makes this salad even more delicious.
  • Sprouts – another ingredient that will make this salad taste super fresh. I used garlic sprouts, but you can use any fresh sprouts that you can find. If you’d like to learn how to grow your own sprouts at home, check out this article about sprouts in which I shared a super easy method of sprouting almost any seeds.

2. Ingredients for the orange and tahini dressing

  • Orange (freshly squeezed juice and some zest)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Himalayan salt
  • Fresh ginger
  • Ground black pepper
  • Tahini – I love to make my own from raw unhulled sesame seeds, in a similar way as described in this homemade nut butter recipe (it is actually even easier with sesame seeds because you can heat them on a pan instead of in the oven)
  • Hulled hemp seeds (hemp hearts)
curly kale salad with homemade dressing

How to soften the kale for salads

Raw kale can be chewy, so I like to massage it a bit in order to make it tender and perfect for salads. Massaging kale leaves will break down the hard, fibrous texture of the kale, making it so much easier to chew and really enjoyable to eat raw.

curly kale
I got this locally-grown curly kale at the farmers’ market. There are slightly different types of curly kale, but all of them will work great. The heads that I got were really cute and small, and I used one per portion. If you get bigger leaves, a couple of leaves per person will be enough (or adjust the amount according to your needs).

To prep your kale for the salad, you will need:

  • Kale leaves – washed, dried and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • Olive oil or other cold-pressed vegetable oil 
  • Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar can be used instead of oil or with oil. My personal preference is to use only one of those things (I usually pick lemon juice or vinegar because I’m not that keen on vegetable oils).
  • Salt – completely optional, but it helps a bit with achieving a softer texture. I would only recommend using salt if you won’t be using it in a salad dressing. In any case, be careful with the amount so as not to make the salad too salty.
chopped curly kale
When I’m using curly kale in salads, I normally remove the stalks and use only the thin, softer part of the leaf. The stalks are also okay for eating raw, but they can be a bit chewy and I prefer to save them for a soup or a veggie broth.

In order to soften the kale for a salad, you will need to add some oil or lemon juice to it and massage it with your hands for a minute or two, until it is noticeably softer. No need to overdo it – it still needs to taste fresh. You can try a piece to check if it is soft enough for your taste.

Fresh curly kale leaves – chopped into bite-size pieces. Raw kale has a hard, leathery texture. If you don’t mind the chewiness, you can eat it just like that (I sometimes do, because I love the crisp!). But if you want it to be tender and easy to chew, follow the next step.
Drizzle some olive oil or lemon juice and massage the kale with your hands for a minute or so. This will make the kale leaves significantly softer.
curly kale
Massaged kale leaves are much more tender and take up less volume. They look almost as if they were shortly steamed. Now they are perfect for making all kinds of tasty salads.

As for the amount of oil, lemon juice or vinegar – I like to drizzle just enough to cover the leaves so that it’s easy to massage them. A tablespoon per big bowl of kale (2 portions) should be enough.

Another cool way to prep the kale with a minimum amount of oil is to keep the kale leaves dry and oil only your hands with some olive oil. Then massage the kale with oily hands until you get the desired effect.

curly kale salad with homemade dressing

Tips for baking sweet potatoes for the salad

My favourite way to bake sweet potatoes is definitely the one described in this easy oven-baked sweet potato recipe. They are slow-baked in the skin, which makes them super creamy and tender. 

After baking, I let them cool down and then peel and cut them for the salad. 

In case you prefer your sweet potatoes more roasted and caramelised, you can first chop them into cubes and then bake them. I normally do it at 180 °C for about twenty minutes or until they get tender on the inside and caramelised on the outside.

This can be done without any oil, or with a teaspoon of oil rubbed into sweet potato cubes for the perfect caramelised effect. Too much oil is not only unnecessary but can actually make the sweet potatoes turn out watery or mushy instead of crunchy and caramelised on the outside.

Making the orange and tahini dressing

To make the dressing, you will need to blend all of the ingredients into a really smooth mixture. I like using a high-speed blender to make it super silky, but any blender will do because all of the ingredients are naturally soft and easy to blend.

curly kale salad with homemade dressing
Yield: 2 portions

Curly Kale Salad with Orange and Tahini Dressing

Curly Kale Salad with Orange and Tahini Dressing

This curly kale salad is full of delicious, fresh and healthy ingredients, and seasoned with a super tasty homemade orange and tahini dressing. It can be the perfect winter lunch or a side-dish.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 4 large curly kale leaves
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 grapefruit or another orange
  • 1 handful fresh sprouts of choice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 pinches Himalayan salt
  • a piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 3 tbsp hulled hemp seeds


  1. Bake the sweet potato in the oven (i recommend this way), peel it and cut it into slices. 
  2. Curly kale is excellent to eat raw, so I don't cook or steam it for salads. I do, however, like to soften it a bit by “massaging” it. This is how you do it: rinse the kale leaves, pat them dry and chop them into bite-size pieces.
  3. Put the chopped kale leaves into a bowl, and drizzle with some olive oil or lemon juice.
  4. Massage the kale leaves with your hands for about a minute - until they become softer and less chewy. Now they are ready to be used in salads.
  5. Peel the grapefruit and chop it. 
  6. To make the dressing, mix tahini, hemp seeds, ginger, salt, pepper, vinegar, some orange zest and the juice of one orange. 
  7. Blend it well to get a smooth dip (if needed, add some water while blending to thin it out).
  8. Mix the chopped kale, sprouts, grapefruit and sweet potato and pour the dressing over it.


Massaging kale to soften it is not absolutely necessary, especially if you are using young curly kale leaves. I sometimes eat them just like that because I like the crunchy and chewy feeling. It depends on your preference.

Still, if I’m making this salad for someone who is not used to eating raw kale, I will definitely prepare it as described above to make it softer and tastier.

If you like your sweet potatoes more roasted and caramelised, you can first cut them into small cubes and then bake them at 180 °C for about twenty minutes or until soft. 

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