This Kale Quinoa Salad recipe with Red Grapes, Walnuts and Lemon Honey Dressing is a delicious way to enjoy these popular superfoods! This healthy vegan salad keeps for several days in the refrigerator so it's perfect for meal prep and lunches for a busy week. Don't miss my great tip for tenderizing kale!
Why This Recipe is a Keeper!
We love having a ready-made salad in our refrigerator for a quick grab-and-go lunch or side dish. This Kale and Quinoa Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing is perfect for both!
This kale quinoa salad recipe is:
- Easy to make!
- Jam-packed with nutrients from the kale, quinoa, grapes and walnuts.
- Full of lively flavor from the lemon and honey dressing.
- Versatile! Add feta or goat cheese for another layer of flavor or change out the grapes for blueberries, strawberries or dates.
Let's make it!
How to Make a Kale and Quinoa Salad Recipe with Lemon Honey Dressing:
Here’s everything you’ll need to make this kale quinoa salad recipe along with how to prep. See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.
- Kale: I used regular green (curly) kale because it's so widely available. If you want a softer variety of kale, use red (also known as Red Russian) or Lacinato kale (also known as Tuscan or dinosaur kale). You can also use baby kale but it will wilt quickly because it's so thin and tender. If you do use baby kale, assemble the salad just prior to eating.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is one of the world's healthiest foods (superfood) according to Healthline. It's an ancient South American grain, however, technically it's not a grain at all but a seed. It's gluten-free and packed with plant-based protein. Although there are a few thousand different varieties of quinoa, white quinoa is the most common and readily available which is what I used. Quinoa has a bitter coating known as saponin which must be rinsed off prior to cooking it. Some brands such as Ancient Harvest are pre-rinsed.
- Lemon Juice: There's no substitute for fresh lemon juice! The bottled juice is from a concentrate and just won't taste the same.
- Red Grapes: Be sure to use seedless red grapes or you'll need to remove the seeds for everyone's dental safety.
- Walnuts: If you're not a walnut fan, use pecans or almonds. Use chickpeas, sunflower seeds or pepitas in the event of a nut allergy.
- Gather and prep all the ingredients.
- Cook the quinoa: I don't follow the directions on the package of quinoa which generally instructs you to use a 2:1 water-to-quinoa ratio. Whenever I've done that, I end up with soupy quinoa. The method I’ve found that works best is:
- Use less water. For 1 ½ cups uncooked quinoa as called for in the quinoa kale salad, I used 2 ½ cups water.
- Leave the cover off while it’s simmering because you can watch it.
- After about 12 to 13 minutes when much of the water has been absorbed or cooked out and the “germ” begins to appear, take it off the heat, cover it and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Quinoa is cooked when the germ has been fully released and it’s fluffy and tender.
- Cool the quinoa to room temperature before combining the salad.
- Prep the kale: While the quinoa is cooking and cooling, prep and "massage" the kale.
- Place the kale in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.
- Then with your hands, massage the kale. Massaging the kale helps to soften and break down its fibrous nature. Simply drizzle with a little olive oil and add some salt and black pepper. Grab a handful of kale in each hand and rub the kale leaves with your fingers for several minutes until they start to wilt. You want to massage the leaves to the point where they wilt and soften, but are still crispy. The kale will also reduce in size.
- Make the dressing: Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing: Lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic and salt and black pepper to taste.
- Combine the salad ingredients: Massaged kale, cooked and cooled quinoa, red onion, red grapes and walnuts. Toast the walnuts first if desired.
- Drizzle the dressing over the kale and quinoa salad and stir to combine. That's it!
- To cool quinoa quickly, place a rimmed sheet pan in your freezer for 30 minutes or so to get it nice and cold. When the quinoa is fully cooked and fluffy, pour it onto the chilled sheet pan and spread it out. The temperature of the quinoa will come down quickly and will be ready to add to the salad in about 20 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Because kale tends to be tough and fibrous, massaging the kale softens and tenderizes it, making it more palatable. It's an easy process. Simply add a small amount of olive oil or lemon juice to a bowl of kale then rub it with both hands and give it a good rubdown for several minutes. The kale will wilt slightly, soften and reduce in size, however, it should still be crispy and retain some texture.
Absolutely! This kale quinoa salad will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Make sure the grapes you're using are super fresh!
Yes, it's totally fine and will help to soften the kale even more. An acidic dressing such as this lemon dressing will soften the kale without massaging if you let it sit on the kale for a half hour or more before eating. However, massaging the kale ahead of time will make it taste better.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to five days.
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Kale Quinoa Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing
- 2 ½ cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil - divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups uncooked quinoa - rinsed
- 1 bunch kale - stems removed and thinly sliced
- 1 bunch red grapes - approximately ¾ pound, halved
- ½ small red onion - finely chopped (approximately ½ cup)
- ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts - toasted if desired plus a few more to sprinkle over salad
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice - plus more as needed
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil - plus more as needed
- 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey - or to taste
- 4 small cloves garlic - or 2 large, minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste.
- Add the uncooked quinoa and bring it back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered until the "germ" begins to appear and much of the water has been absorbed or cooked out, approximately 12-13 minutes. Cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Fluff and cool.
- Combine kale, remaining olive oil and a pinch of salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Gently massage the kale to soften and wilt it slightly.
- Add cooled quinoa, grapes, red onion and walnuts and toss to combine.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over salad and mix well. Adjust acidity and balance with additional lemon juice if desired.
- To serve: Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with additional coarsely chopped walnuts.
These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you're using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.
I made this today and absolutely love it! I didn’t have Dijon mustard, so I substituted with whole grain mustard (mashed). I also added chopped Greek feta.
Hi, Kelly, Thanks so very much and so happy you enjoyed! Feta is an excellent addition. Thanks again so much!
I love the flavors in this, sort of like a Waldorf but so much healthier!
Thanks so much, Kristina! Glad you enjoyed!