I’m not crazy about kale. This might be my most controversial unpopular opinion given the meteoric rise in popularity its seen over the years. When it comes to dark leafy greens, kale is hard to beat; it can be eaten raw or cooked, comes in a variety of colors and shapes, offers a potential array of vitamins and minerals, and is readily available at a reasonable price, even if you splurge on organic. That’s an incredible claim to fame for a vegetable previously used only as decoration in deli cases.
Despite all that, kale is never the first type of greenery I’ll reach for in the produce section, or the second, or even the third. I don’t outright dislike it, but I feel like so many other options just suit particular dishes better. Arugula gives me the peppery bitterness I crave in a salad. Collard greens melt into tender ribbons in stews and braises. Spinach is better for adding green color to baked goods since it has a fairly neutral flavor. Boston or Bibb lettuce are ideal on burgers or sandwiches for a juicy crunch. Given such a wealth of choices, kale tends to fall towards the bottom of my list.
Obviously, I’m not an arbiter of taste. Kale remains king on menus across the US, from fast food to five-star, low brow to high end. I can’t fully understand it but don’t begrudge kale’s success one bit. If anything, that repeated exposure has proven its value in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. Case in point: The Fire Kale Salad from Daily Juice.
It lingered in my memory long after my first visit to Austin despite being a rushed grab-and-go meal at the time. Prepacked in a plastic clam shell, it fit the bill for something fresh and healthy after days of indulging, as one does while traveling. While I quietly wished it was made with romaine or mesclun or just about anything else, I forgot about the kale entirely after one bite.
This kale was tender but still held up to the creamy cashew dressing, standing firm where other weaker greens would have wilted into a watery lump. The whole thing glows red from a final dusting of paprika on top so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. The warm heat from blended jalapeños is apparent up front, growing stronger and brighter over time. Crisp cucumbers provide a cooling foil, a refreshing relief right when it’s needed most. That added layer of crunchy texture harmonizes beautifully with the handful of toasted cashews tumbling between the frilly leaves. Such a simple combination simply works.
Normally, I’d rattle off a list of alternate greens to swap in, but kale is really the one for the job here. You could go with purple kale instead of plain green, but that’s about it. Everything that usually disqualifies it from my other recipes is exactly what makes it perfect in this one. Whether you love it or hate it, this kale salad is straight fire.
Fire Kale Salad
Inspired by Daily Juice in Austin, Texas, this is the kale recipe that can win over haters. Coated in a creamy cashew dressing that brings the heat, crisp cucumbers provide a refreshing bite for balance. It's topped of with toasted cashews and a generous sprinkle of paprika for a satisfying, warm finish.
Creamy Jalapeño Dressing:
- 3/4 Cup Raw Cashews
- 3/4 Cup Water
- 1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro, Roughly Chopped
- 3 Tablespoons Coconut Vinegar or Rice Vinegar
- 1 Jalapeño, Seeded and Roughly Chopped
- 1 Clove Garlic
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Salad and Assembly:
- 1 Bunch Curly Kale, Stemmed and Chopped
- 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Persian Cucumbers, Halved and Sliced
- 1/2 Cup Toasted Cashews, Roughly Chopped
- Smoked Paprika, to Taste
- To prepare the dressing, place the cashews, 3/4 cup water, cilantro, vinegar, jalapeño, garlic, pepper, salt, and cayenne in a high-speed blender. Puree for 2 - 3 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the canister with your spatula as needed, until completely smooth. Add in more water very slowly, if needed, to reach your desired consistency. Set aside.
- Turning your attention to the kale, place it in a large bowl and drizzle in the lemon juice and olive oil. Use your hands to masage the leaves, breaking them down a bit so that they're bright green and tender.
- Add the cucumbers and pour in the dressing. Toss thoroughly to coat and distribute all the ingredients.
- Transfer to a large serving bowl and top generously with smoked paprika. Add the cashews on top right before serving.
This salad will keep well in the fridge. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. For best results, reserve the cashews in a separate container until ready to eat.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 350Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 410mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 9g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.
6 thoughts on “Straight Fire”
I’m with you! I love my veggies, and don’t outright hate kale, but it’s at the bottom of my greens list. Tony does outright hate it, haha. Nevertheless, I have had a few darn good kale salads, and this one looks like a contender!
When I go out with one of my girlfriends to eat, if there is a kale salad in the menu…that is what she orders. I’m going to pass on this recipe to her and know that she will love it.
Love Kale eaten both ways raw in salads or cooked…
Looks delicious Hannah. 💙
Yeah, kale’s not at the top of my list either but this looks and sounds pretty good. I do love arugula.
The salad looks great. I really don’t love kale. I don’t care if it’s a superfood. So is every vegetable and fruit, in my book. I’d prefer to reach for the spinach.
Not my favourite leaf but definitely when its done right it will bring joy to my heart. One specific one for me is Kale Chips, for some reason, I am loving it. Your recipe is nothing different, with all of that bold flavours, I think this would be good too