It’s a completely different world out there for plant-based options since I was a student. You don’t even need to be an accomplished cook to eat well, whatever your dietary considerations. No matter the situation, there’s never been a better time to learn how to cook. Feed yourself, win over dates, and impress family all with this one essential skill. It’s time well spent.–Hannah Kaminsky


Extra dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 to 7 days.

A blue bowl filled with kale, pecans, green apple, and cilantro on a wooden table. A serving spoon, jar of pecans, and bowl of dressing sit next to it.

Cilantro Kale Salad

5 from 1 vote
Herbaceous cilantro vinaigrette is the ideal verdant varnish for tender leaves of kale. Crisp, tart green apple, and crunchy toasted pecans provide a satisfying textural contrast, making for a simple, well-balanced side salad.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories333 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


For the cilantro vinaigrette

  • 1 (2 oz) bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 (2 oz) bunch scallions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the kale salad

  • 1 (8 oz) bunch lacinato kale, bottom of stems trimmed and discarded, thinly sliced into ribbons
  • 1 (5 oz) green apple, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • Red pepper flakes


Make the cilantro vinaigrette

  • In a blender or food processor, combine vinaigrette ingredients and purée until smooth. Pause to scrape down the sides of the container, if needed to keep everything incorporated.

Make the kale salad

  • In a large bowl, combine kale and apple. Add about one-third of the dressing, toss to coat. Add more dressing, to taste, and toss until thoroughly coated.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: If you prefer your kale salads to be more tender, use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale, then let sit for 15 minutes to allow the kale to soften.

  • Top with pecans and red pepper flakes, to taste.
The Student Vegan Cookbook

Adapted From

The Student Vegan Cookbook

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 333 kcalCarbohydrates: 3 gProtein: 1 gFat: 36 gSaturated Fat: 5 gMonounsaturated Fat: 25 gSodium: 334 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Hannah Kaminsky. Photo © 2021 Hannah Kaminsky. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

When I see kale salad it always grabs my attention, I love kale salads! I also love cilantro so the added bonus of cilantro dressing made this a must-try recipe. The flavors of the earthy kale, sweet crisp apple, and bitter crunch of the pecans combine beautifully with the cilantro vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is bright and zesty and is so easy to put together and the good amount of cilantro shines through. I’ll definitely be making this cilantro kale salad again and again.

We ate the salad as a light dinner and it was perfect for two people. It would be great to add pan-seared chicken breast to make it more substantial. It could serve 4 as a starter salad.

A nice kale salad with apple and pecans—been there and done that? Wait till you try THIS cilantro kale salad. It’s everything but ordinary, thanks to the super flavorful cilantro vinaigrette. The dressing is beautifully emulsified to a creamy consistency, only to be captured in the nooks of the lacinato kale leaves. That means you get to enjoy the garlic-y peppery goodness in every bite, instead of finding it pooled at the bottom of the bowl.

I thought the use of grapefruit juice in the dressing was intriguing (I wouldn’t have thought of it on my own), and found its mild acidity lovely. It’s in the background and doesn’t butt its head against the tartness of the green apple (mine was Granny Smith). The sweet pecans are another great choice here. I tend to grab walnuts for topping salads, but they are bitter in spots and may not have been a good match with the bitter green.

My lacinato kale was sliced into 1/4 inch wide ribbons, which were perfect for me. But if you prefer a less bulky texture, I suggest you slice them thinner and even take a few extra minutes to remove the stems.

What to do with the leftover vinaigrette? I snuck it into a grilled cheese sandwich and also used it to flavor an open-face egg salad sandwich, and both attempts yielded great results. I think it would also be a fantastic dipping sauce for shrimp (I served the salad with just some bread, but I kept thinking I should have grilled some!)

This cilantro kale salad was refreshing and delicious! If you’re a lover of cilantro like we are then this is the salad for you. We’re not the biggest fans of kale, however, this has changed our minds about kale and the fact that maybe I’ve been using the wrong type in my salads.

This was such a bright, flavourful salad, and the best part, the leftovers the next day were not soggy. I served this alongside a toasted coriander seed/coffee-rubbed grilled hanger steak with a pear and Cognac chutney.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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