Recipe: 5-Ingredient Kale Caesar Salad

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(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

A classic Caesar salad hits all the right notes, with its crisp greens, crunchy croutons, shards of shaved Parmesan, and a smooth, peppery dressing. And although it’s typically reserved for dinner out, there’s no reason you can’t make the crowd-pleaser on a busy Monday night.

In fact, by simplifying the recipe and swapping romaine for hearty leaves of kale, our version is designed to last all week in the fridge, so it’s also a great option for meal preppers.

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(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

Why It’s Worth It to Make Your Own Croutons

Homemade croutons are a little luxury that take virtually no time. Tear about 1/4 of a country-style loaf into bite-sized pieces. You can use a serrated knife if you like uniform cubes, but the jagged edges of torn croutons get especially crispy, adding crunchy texture to the salad. Bake the croutons in the oven while you prep the kale and dressing.

Skip the Whisk, and Opt for a Blender

A classic Caesar dressing is creamy, peppery, and lemony, with a bit of briny funk (a good thing, in my book!), thanks to a few anchovies and a raw egg emulsion. To make this weekday- and meal prep-friendly, we made a Parmesan-based dressing that has the same kale-coating creamy texture without the fish or raw egg. Trust us — what this dressing lacks in authenticity, it gains in widespread appeal.

Whisking won’t cut it when the goal is a luxuriously thick dressing, so use a blender to combine the lemon zest and juice, Parmesan, Dijon, and pepper before drizzling in the oil. The Dijon aids in emulsification, eliminating the need for a yolk while flavoring the dressing with a mellow briny bite.

5-Ingredient Kale Caesar Is a Make-Ahead Miracle

Lacinato (or dinosaur) kale is better for raw salads than the tougher and more fibrous curly kale. Rub the torn kale pieces with your fingers until the leaves relax and release a grassy aroma. Toss with enough dressing to coat the leaves, reserving the rest in the fridge. The dressed kale keeps well in the fridge for up to three days and, in fact, gets even better as it sits because the dressing tenderizes the leaves without leaving them soggy (as so often happens with other dressed greens). Just before serving, toss with a spoonful of reserved dressing and the homemade croutons.

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5-Ingredient Kale Caesar Salad

Serves4

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces

    country-style bread (about 1/4 of a loaf), torn into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)

  • 1/4 cup

    plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 1 tablespoon

    freshly grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)

  • 1/4 cup

    freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

  • 2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup), plus extra for shaving and serving

  • 1 tablespoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 large bunch

    lacinato or flat-leaf kale (about 12 ounces), stems removed and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

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Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.

  2. Place the bread on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and toss to combine. Spread into an even layer. Bake, tossing halfway through, until browned and crisp, about 12 minutes total. Meanwhile, make the dressing.

  3. Place the lemon zest, juice, grated Parmesan, Dijon, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth, about 20 seconds. With the motor running, remove the inner cap on the lid and slowly pour in the remaining 1/4 cup oil. After adding all of the oil, continue to blend until creamy and emulsified, about 30 seconds more.

  4. Place the kale in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the leaves until they feel less stiff and smell fresh and grassy, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing and the croutons and toss until well-coated. Taste and add more dressing as needed. Transfer to serving bowls and top with shaved Parmesan.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The croutons can be made 1 week in advance and stored at room temperature in an airtight container. The dressing can be made 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Let the dressing come back to room temperature before using.

Storage: Refrigerate the dressed salad without croutons in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Toss with croutons and additional dressing before serving. Refrigerate leftover dressing in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Kale Recipes To Try Next

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(Image credit: The Kitchn)
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