Kale with Tahini Lemon Dressing is a vegan side dish loaded with creamy yet vibrant flavors. Serve this as an accompaniment to your proteins for a complete meal. It also serves well on its own as a salad.
I developed this recipe years ago when we moved from Alexandria, VA, to Fort Hood, TX. The whole foods grocery store I used to shop at had this amazing kale with tahini dressing on their salad bar that I was addicted to. We left, and, as with most everything else, Fort Hood not only didn’t have a whole foods anything, the closest one, in Austin, didn’t have it either. You know my mission for this site is to make your favorite recipes accessible at home. But that mission doesn’t stop with you. It includes making my favorite recipes available to me too. You just benefit at the same time. This is why I deserve some kind of award or something.
What’s so great about Kale?
Kale is a nutrient-packed vegetable, so it’s considered a superfood. It contains twice as much iron as beef. It’s an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6, C, and K, and calcium. Kale is a low-calorie and low-carb food, as well.
The not-so-great thing about kale is that it does muck up your thyroid. Because kale goitrogens, which can enlarge your thyroid. That matters for people like me who have a history of thyroid disease. Of course, I’m not an endocrinologist, so be sure to check in with yours on whether this recipe is safe for you to enjoy.
What is Tahini?
Tahini is a vegan Middle Eastern condiment made from toasted sesame seeds. So, if you have ever eaten peanut butter, it’s the same premise, tahini is just unsweetened. Tahini is the main ingredient in hummus, baba ghanoush, and, now, this kale with tahini lemon dressing.
Tahini recipes can vary from sweet to savory. I lean towards savory whenever I’m developing recipes, but baking tahini into cookies, brownies, and cakes, is totally a thing. A delicious thing at that.
Tahini, once opened, can be stored in the fridge. Because it’s a natural product and often lacks stabilizers, it separates. To fix that, just stir it back together and get to measuring.
What do I need to make this Kale with Tahini Lemon Dressing?
This kale with tahini lemon dressing requires kale- shocker!- tahini, nutritional yeast flakes, cilantro, tamari, garlic, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice. You can season to taste with salt and pepper if you want to. I find that the tamari and nutritional yeast flakes add enough flavor to compensate for the two, though.
These ingredients are vegan and gluten-free, which makes this a vegan recipe. If you don’t have a dietary concern, you can replace the tamari with soy sauce.
You also need a blender because you want to create a smooth dressing. It can be a regular blender or an immersion blender. Everything else happens in a mixing bowl, which I’m sure you’ve got.
What is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast flakes are another type of seasoning, though I hesitate to call it that. It’s more like a topping-type-of-thing. But it’s mainly used to add a cheesy or nutty flavor to foods, especially vegan or vegetarian foods where adding dairy isn’t possible. Nutritional yeast flakes are a great source of B12 vitamins and have a high protein content, making them a great nutrition booster for those observing vegan diets. Nutritional yeast flakes are also gluten-free, soy-free, and sugar-free. ALL the frees, this ingredient is.
Nutritional yeast is the same yeast used to leaven your sandwich bread. The biggest difference between this and brewer’s or baker’s yeast is that it’s dead, so it won’t leaven anything it’s added to. And it’s not dead in a bad way. Instead, it’s been pasteurized or heated to kill the live organisms.
The nutritional yeast adds a creaminess to an otherwise fluid tahini lemon dressing in this recipe. It also adds a more nutty flavor along with the tahini.
How far ahead can I make the Tahini Lemon Dressing?
You won’t believe how simple this recipe is to make.
Throw the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, nutritional yeast flakes, tamari, apple cider vinegar, and garlic into a blender. Blend on medium speed for 1 minute to emulsify the olive oil and liquids. You can also pop everything into a quart-size mason jar and use an immersion blender to whip this up.
The result will be a thick, creamy sauce.
You can totally make this tahini lemon dressing a week ahead. Simply store it in a sealed container in the fridge. The tahini and the nutritional yeast flakes will naturally separate from the lighter lemon juice, vinegar, and tamari. So don’t forget to give it a vigorous shake to reconstitute it before using it.
Can I use the Tahini Lemon Dressing on something besides Kale?
Yes! In fact, I implore you to do so.
You totally need to try it as a marinade. This tahini lemon dressing makes a bomb marinade for chicken, fish, and shellfish. It also makes a fantastic drizzle for roasted vegetables or a stir-in for mashed potatoes or turnips.
How do I prep the Kale for this recipe?
No matter what kind of kale you buy- bagged, whole leaves, or ripped right out of the ground- you need to prep it. Yes, even the pre-cut, “triple-washed” kale leaves need some TLC. Check out the stems I plucked from my bag of “trimmed” kale. Because this kale was trimmed by a machine, it will have some really large stems. Sort through your bag to pluck out any loose stem or tear off any stems that are bigger in diameter than a pencil eraser. They’re too tough to enjoy raw.
If you pluck your kale from your garden or buy them in whole leaves, tear away the stem. Once you do that, use a knife to cut the kale leaves into 1 1/2-2 inch pieces. After the leaves are cut down, rinse them three or four times in cold water to remove as much grit and dirt as possible. I wash even the stuff in the bags. I have trust issues. Dry the leaves on a paper towel or in a salad spinner. The more wet the leaves are, the less likely the dressing will adhere to them.
Add the fresh cilantro to your bowl of clean kale. I love adding cilantro to this recipe because it adds a bunch of floral flavor to the kale. You can omit the cilantro or replace it with basil, Thai basil, or fresh oregano leaves.
What does massaging Kale leaves do?
Pour the tahini lemon dressing onto the kale and cilantro in the bowl. I always add the entire batch of dressing, but you can add half or less, depending on how dressed you like your salads. Once you add the dressing, massage the dressing into the kale leaves for 30 seconds. All this means is: grab a handful and rub the leaves between your fingers.
Massaging kale helps break up the fibrous leaves and allows the tahini lemon dressing to penetrate them. This is beneficial for tenderizing the normally tough leaves, which can be hard to chew when served raw. If you’re okay with kale’s natural texture, you can skip this step.
How far ahead can I dress the Kale?
I recommend dressing the kale salad at least 15 minutes before you plan to serve it. This allows your kale to soak in as much of the tahini lemon dressing as possible. Don’t dress the kale too far ahead, though, because the longer it sits, the more wilted the leaves will grow.
So, if you plan to have leftovers (or you want leftovers), waiting until the last acceptable minute is best.
How do I serve this Kale with Tahini Lemon Dressing?
I serve this kale with tahini simply. A sprinkle of some toasted sesame seeds, and that’s that. That fancy lemon spiral in the picture is just there to woo you. I normally don’t add that.
This is such a simple dish. It doesn’t require anything else but a quick toss before you serve it.
How do you store leftover Kale with Tahini Lemon Dressing?
Transfer leftover kale salad to a storage container and keep it in the fridge for 1 day. After that, the kale wilts too much and lacks texture. I recommend enjoying it the same day.
What are some other dishes to serve this with?
This kale with tahini lemon dressing makes a great side dish for grilled, roasted, or baked proteins. Obviously, it ceases to be vegan or vegetarian once you add them, but it’s great if you don’t have any dietary restrictions.
Guava BBQ Air Fryer Chicken Wings
Pinchos (Puerto Rican Grilled Pork Skewers)
Coffee-Rubbed Smoked Beef Brisket
You can also top it with marinated tofu, grilled shrimp or chicken, or your favorite cheeses. You know, make it into a salad.
Give this Kale with Tahini Lemon Dressing recipe a go. Serve it as a side dish for tonight’s dinner or this weekend’s lunch. Don’t forget to pin it to your sides board for easy finding, and be sure to share it with your friends and family.
Kale with Tahini Lemon Dressingat Sense & Edibility
For the Tahini Lemon Dressing
- 1/2 cup (30 grams) nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup (128 grams) tahini
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) tamari (or soy sauce for non gluten-free diets)
- 1 large lemon juiced (about 1/4 cup or 60 milliliters)
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
For the Kale Salad
- 1 pound (455 grams) trimmed kale leaves rinsed and dried thoroughly
- 1/2 cup (1 bunch) cilantro roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Prepare the Tahini Lemon Dressing
- Add the nutritional yeast flakes, apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, tahini, tamari, lemon juice, and garlic to a blender. Blend the contents on medium speed for 1 minute to emulsify the olive oil and other liquids. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed and blend until the dressing is thick and creamy.
- You can prepare the Tahini Lemon Dressing up to 1 week ahead and store it in a jar in the fridge or use it right away.
Dress and Massage the Kale
- Add the rinsed and dried kale leaves to a large mixing bowl with the fresh cilantro leaves.Pour the tahini lemon dressing onto the kale and cilantro in the bowl.
- Grab a handfuls of the dressed kale leaves and rub them between your fingers to massage the dressing into the kale leaves for 30 seconds. Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate the kale salad for 20 minutes to allow the leaves to soak in the tahini lemon dressing.
- Just before serving the kale salad, use salad forks to give the green a quick toss.Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the kale salad and serve.
Swaps and Substitutions:
- You can make the tahini lemon dressing in a quart-size mason jar and use an immersion blender to blend it if you don't have a blender.
- The tahini lemon dressing makes a great marinade for chicken, fish, and shellfish, a fantastic drizzle for roasted vegetables, or a stir-in for mashed potatoes or turnips.
- To prep whole kale leaves:
- Tear away the stem and use a knife to cut the kale leaves into 1 1/2-2 inch pieces.
- After the leaves are cut, rinse them 3 or 4 times in cold water to remove as much grit and dirt as possible
- You can omit the cilantro or replace it with basil, Thai basil, or fresh oregano leaves.
- You can add all, half, or less of the tahini lemon dressing to the kale leaves, depending on how dressed you like your salads.
Tips and Techniques:
- Make this tahini lemon dressing a week ahead and store it in a sealed container in the fridge. Give it a vigorous shake to reconstitute it before using it.
- Dry the kale leaves on a paper towel or in a salad spinner. The more wet the leaves are, the less likely the dressing will adhere to them.
- Massaging the kale helps break up the fibrous leaves, tenderizing them and allowing the tahini lemon dressing to penetrate them. If you're okay with kale's natural texture, you can skip this step.
- Dress the kale salad at least 15 minutes before you plan to serve it to allow the kale to soak in as much of the tahini lemon dressing as possible.
- Avoid dressing the kale too far ahead of serving because, as it sits, the more wilted the leaves will grow.
- You can top the kale salad with marinated tofu, grilled shrimp or chicken, or your favorite cheeses to create a hearty salad.
- Transfer leftover kale salad to a storage container and keep it in the fridge for 1 day. It's best enjoyed the day it is prepared.
It is so simple and DElicious!
It is. We love it, Yara.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS RECIPE! I moved away from my Whole Foods as well and the kale salad was something I ate weekly. I’ve tried some other recipes that didn’t quite get it right – but this one is spot on! I added a bit more water and have been putting this on all kinds of salad. I’m a kale lover anyway, but this makes a bowl of it disappear in record time, which is not a bad thing!
You’re welcome, Jessie! Glad you’re here.
This kale is the perfect healthy side dish. I love the addition of the step of running the tahini lemon dressing onto the leaves.
It is a guilt-free pleasure, Sharon.
We made this last night. It was DELICIOUS! Such a great flavor combination – with the brightness from the citrus; smokiness from the tamari and nuttiness of the tahini. Thanks for such a fantastic recipe.
You’re welcome, Nija. You mentioned all the reasons why we love it too!