Genius Kale Salad Recipe

There is a special kale salad recipe in the Food52 Genius Recipes cookbook. A single kale salad that ran the gauntlet, beating out all others, for a slice of limelight.

Genius Kale Salad

There is a special kale salad in the in the Food52 Genius Recipes cookbook. A single kale salad that ran the gauntlet, beating out all others, for a slice of limelight in the book. Which is saying something. There is no shortage of kale salad inspiration out there, and I knew this one must be pretty special to make the cut.
Genius Kale Salad
The whole premise related to the genius recipe series is highlighting recipes that aren't just great - they need to be more than that. They need to change, or surprise, or shift the way you think about a recipe - or cooking in general. Kristen Miglore selected 100 recipes for the book, and this was the kale salad - special it is! The details! It is from Northern Spy Food Co. Shredded kale is tossed with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, and accented with rough-cut almonds, roasted squash (or, this time of year, asparagus), strong chunks of good cheddar cheese, and whispy shavings of Pecorino. I made it with the last delicata squash in my arsenal, and a second time with roasted asparagus. It's kale salad well punctuated. Meaning, there you are enjoying a fork full of lacinato kale, and along comes an exclamation of cheddar, or all-caps CRUNCH of almond. It's really nice, and to my palette it's the well-accented simplicity that makes this version stand out.

Genius Kale Salad


If you give it a go, I'll encourage deliberate chopping and slicing. Thoughtful, intentional prep is one of the things that takes this salad from good to great. You want the kale stemmed, and sliced into ribbons not too thick, not too thin. Good cheddar is assertive, so you want crumbles that function as good accents on the fork - too big is overwhelming, but you also don't want to go too small. The book has beautiful photography accompanying each recipe by James Ransom, and they are illustrative as well as enticing. Meaning, you're able to see the intended result, and can take cues from not only the recipes, but the visuals as well.

Genius Kale Salad

You can prep this a day or two ahead of time. I might wait until you're relatively close to eating to toss it with the lemon juice and olive oil, but aside from that it's incredibly simple. And I recommend doing a double recipe while you're at it. The leftovers were brilliant, wilted for a flash in a hot pan, and then tossed with fresh pasta for a quick one-pan dinner.

More Kale Salads

More Recipes with Kale

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Genius Kale Salad

4.34 from 9 votes

Kristen notes that Northern Spy trades out the kabocha for fresh apricots, kohlrabi, or patty pan squash. She goes for slices of apple or persimmon, and I loved the roasted asparagus version.

  • 1/2 cup / 70g peeled, cubed kabocha butternut, or other winter squash (or chopped asparagus)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch kale (lacinato or dinosaur kale), ribs removed, leaves finely sliced, about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1/4 cup / 35 g almonds, cut roughly in half
  • 1/4 cup / 35 g crumbled or finely chopped good, aged cheddar
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Pecorino or any other hard cheese, for shaving
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F / 220C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the squash cubes (or, in this case, asparagus) in just enough oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Spread on the baking sheet, leaving space between each piece. Roast in the oven until tender and caramelized, 30-40 minutes, tossing with a spatula every 10 to 15 minutes. Toast the almonds on a baking sheet in the same oven until they start to smell nutty, tossing once, about 10 minutes. Let cool.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with the almonds, cheddar and squash (or asparagus), Season to taste with lemon juice and olive oil (using about 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the salad between two places or shallow bowls. Garnish with shaved Pecorino cheese and serve.
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
45 mins
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This was the first recipe that I made from Genius Recipes. So good! It is now in my regular rotation.

Andrea Smith

I wonder if you could cube sweet potatoes for this or if they would be too soft? I really love sweet potatoes and kale.

Pagan in AK


    Heidi Swanson

This is a fabulously easy recipe and so delicious! I passed it on to my other “kale” fans! Thanks for the recipe!

Sandy from Maine

Thank you, it’s delicious!

Patricia Vandenberg

Heidi I see you’re a fan of salads and here is one of my favorite, simplest ever salad dressings that specially goes well with leafy salads , a couple of big teaspoons of chunky peanut butter , Thai sweet chill sauce , a tiny pinch of sea salt and one crushed garlic. Thin this out to a smooth pouring consistency mixed with 1-2 teaspoons of warm water. Please do try it. Perhaps you will love it as much as i do.


Looks tremendous. And a nice reminder that dinner doesn’t have to be complicated!
I second Deborah’s remark that the revamp of your site looks wonderful and it’s really just a fine tune of what you had before. I love it! Candadian fan since 2009 🙂


Mmm all the right flavours here, and the salad i stunning! What a lovely recipe book 🙂 xx

Jules @ WolfItDown

Genius indeed!

Jennifer @ Delicious Everyday

This looks fantastic. I’m going to have to put this cookbook on my list now! Any cookbook with a killer kale salad recipe is A-okay in my world 🙂

Hannah Siegmund @ ThisVeganWhimsy

Fantastic recipe! I made this for dinner tonight and will finish it for lunch tomorrow. Thank you for sharing! Still great despite the fact that it is unseasonably warm right now on the East Coast.


I got my cookbook right before we left on vacation. Once we get back I’ll definitely try it — it sounds and looks delicious. It will be the first recipe I make. Thank you for the tip.

Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

I love pretty much any kind of kale salad. And chopping up the kale and letting is bask in the lemon juice helps it “cook” a bit so it has a great bite. Beautiful dish!

Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth

Great timing! My garden is overflowing with kale so I made this for my boyfriend and 11 year old son – both self-proclaimed kale-haters and everyone cleaned their plates 😀 all the extra stuff really takes the bitter edge off the raw kale and the kitchen smells like toasted almonds! Thanks so much!


I’m crazy for Kale – thanks for sharing!

Annie Falk

Love that you dedicated a whole paragraph to intentional prepping. It’s the small things like this that transform a dish. This salad looks phenomenal.

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

Hi Heidi, thanks for another kale recipe, we eat it once or twice every week, so I’m always on the lookout for different ways to prepare it. Right at the beggining of the recipe someone suggests apple? Would it be instead of the squash?


Lucky me, Northern Spy the restaurant with the most genius kale salad is literally at my doorstep here on e 12th Street in NYC, and now I can make it at home too. Win, win!


Thank you for dinner tonight, Heidi! This gives me a chance to say how much I appreciate the way you have organized your site all along and did not change it with the updated look. Including by ingredient is a terrific feature.

HS: Thanks Deborah! It should be much easier to browse/read on tablets and phones now. Work in progress 😉


I planned to make a kale salad tonight and would love to make a version of this – my son is dairy free and i’m trying to decide on subbing the cheese with either yeast or soy cheese, any thoughts?
Thanks for all your wonderful recipes


This sounds delicious and seasonal….And I appreciate your tip about taking care with the slicing and chopping. I feel like you were addressing me–that’s my weak point 🙂 Most kale salad recipes call for massaging the kale with lemon and salt (or something) before tossing it with ingredients, to tenderize it. I want to make the salad more easily chewable for a client with cerebral palsy, or anyone, actually. So maybe I would add that step?


This. Is. Perfection. My mouth beggeth.

bev @ bevcooks

I’m really like the winter squash/kale combination out there. Kale is the hot thing in food these days I’ve noticed. Actually, I like it. Now I’m on the hunt for some good aged cheddar, not easy to find in the U.S. but I live really close to the Canadian border where cheese (and donuts) are just awesome.

HS: Hi Tom! If you can find a great aged gouda – that’s a nice substitution as well.

Tom ~ Raise Your Garden

1 bunch kale (laminate or dinosaur kale), ribs removed, leaves FINALLY sliced, about 2 1/2 cups
I’d just like to point out the typo you made. Don’t publish this comment 🙂


Heidi, I have had this salad saved in one my Food 52 collections for ages – I really do need to make it. Your photo of it looks fantastic. Think I might need this book too……


I haven’t seen this cookbook yet, but am keen as to find it now. I like the pile of asparagus in your salad – sometimes I forget you don’t have to minimse the “extras”. It doesn’t have to be all about the kale …
Thanks 🙂

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic

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