This warm kale salad is made easily in the frying pan, with the fillings of your choice and a delicious and easy balsamic dressing! This is a simple, flexible meal or side dish which crams in so much healthy goodness. Naturally vegetarian and gluten free, but can easily be made vegan or low carb if you wish.

Introducing this Sauteed Kale Salad…

A kale salad for the peeps who don’t like raw kale. Like meeee!

Maybe one day I’ll learn to enjoy the raw kale, and get myself elbows deep in massaging kale leaves, but for now I simply embrace the warm salad concept. It’s a nice easy process, just you and your frying pan preparing the warm fillings, adding them to a bowl with the cold fillings, adding dressing, tossing and serving. No stress here.

So when is something a warm salad instead of just… a bunch of cooked food in a bowl? 🤔 There’s no hard and fast rules, but for me this is distinctly salad-esque. There’s a vinaigrette dressing, there’s a mix of warm and cold ingredients, and the leaves are still very crisp and leafy. You definitely feel like you’re eating salad. It’s just warm.

Ingredient Notes

This is a very flexible recipe that can take whatever you’ve got. I could have kept going foreeeeever with all the ingredients I wanted to try in this salad! This is where I landed, but yours could be different.

Each ingredient is prepared separately and then added together at the end, and the key to this salad tasting amazing is that each component is cooked in a way that it would be tasty on its own. Like adding garlic and balsamic to the mushrooms, and seasoning the chickpeas. This is how you achieve something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

  • Kale: I’ve used curly kale which is light and leafy but you could use lacinato (cavolo nero) if you prefer. We saute the leaves with a little lime juice and salt for flavor.
  • Chickpeas: For protein and crunch! These are lightly fried with some smoked paprika.
  • Mushrooms: Any mushrooms are fine here, mine are chestnut but baby portobellos are great too. We saute them in butter, with garlic and a little extra drizzle of balsamic vinegar, to give them great flavor.
  • Peppers: Mine are mini peppers but bell or any sweet peppers will do nicely too! These are given a quick stir fry just to char them while leaving them a little crunchy.
  • Cherry tomatoes: These are left raw, and add lovely sweetness and juiciness to the dish.
  • Cheese: I’ve used pecorino here. You want a salty hard cheese that doesn’t melt too quickly so parmesan style cheeses, pecorino and manchego all work well. They can be added to the warm salad without starting to sweat or melt. Crumbled feta and harder goat cheeses would be great too.
  • The easy dressing is made from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard and maple syrup (you could use honey) and it’s perfect in this dish – it adds a delicious sweet tang and brings moisture to the salad without overpowering anything.

Other ideas:

  • Green (spring) onions or minced red onions would be a great addition.
  • Some toasted pine nuts or walnuts would be excellent, especially if you’re leaving out the cheese.
  • Fried eggplant / aubergine cubes.
  • Cubed avocado.
  • Crumbled boiled eggs.
  • Fried halloumi, paneer or tofu.

Serving Suggestions

This is a pretty filling salad on account of the cheese, chickpeas and dressing providing protein and fats. I feel like it can be a light dinner all on it’s own but for variety’s sake you may wish to add additional protein or some bread.

You can make it very low in carbs by eliminating the chickpeas, and perhaps increasing the fats to make it more satisfying (adding avocado, fried halloumi or eggs perhaps).

As a side dish, it’s great to balance out something heavy or creamy like a pasta bake or gnocchi adding lots of fresh flavor and nutrition to the table.

Meal Planning & Leftovers

I wouldn’t advise making this ahead of time, it needs to be served fresh, but you can certainly prep ahead and then it’s very easy to put together when it’s dinner time.

If you have leftovers, go ahead and save them in the fridge and you can eat them cold. I didn’t expect much from the leftovers, but they were surprisingly not terrible. As long as the kale is only sauteed fairly lightly, it holds up just fine and doesn’t turn slimy as long as you eat it within a day or so.

Sauteed Kale Salad

This warm kale salad is made easily in the frying pan, with the fillings of your choice and a delicious and easy balsamic dressing! This is a simple, flexible meal or side dish which crams in so much healthy goodness. Naturally vegetarian and gluten free, but can easily be made vegan or low carb if you wish.
5 from 2 ratings


  • olive oil, for cooking
  • 14 oz (400 g) canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 mini peppers (or 1 larger pepper), sliced
  • 8 oz (250 g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cups (200 g) kale, chopped
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • ½ cup (50 g) pecorino or parmesan cheese*, shaved or grated


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1.5 tsp maple syrup
  • 0.5 tsp mustard


  • Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified. Set aside.
    2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1.5 tsp maple syrup, 0.5 tsp mustard
  • Add the cherry tomatoes to a large salad bowl.
    10 cherry tomatoes
  • In a large frying pan, heat a little olive oil and add the chickpeas. Allow them to sit, without stirring, for a couple of minutes until they are browning on the underside. At that point, add the smoked paprika, salt and pepper and mix them in the pan, cooking for an additional minute or two. When they're done, add them to the salad bowl with the tomatoes.
    14 oz canned chickpeas, 1 tsp smoked paprika, olive oil
  • In the same frying pan (no need to wipe it down) add the peppers and cook over a high heat until the skins are slightly charred, then add those to the salad bowl too.
    4 mini peppers (or 1 larger pepper)
  • Return the pan to the heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the mushrooms, garlic, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to the pan and saute until the mushrooms have reduced and the liquid is all evaporated from the pan. Add those to the salad bowl.
    8 oz mushrooms, 1 tbsp salted butter, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Finally, give the pan a little wipe clean and return to the heat. Add a little olive oil and then saute the kale. Add the kale, lots of salt and pepper and the juice of the lemon to the pan, stirring as it cooks, until it's bright green and soft but not completely wilted or cooked down. You may need to do this in two batches. Once it's done, add it to the bowl and immediately add the dressing and cheese.
    3 cups kale, 1 lemon or lime, 1/2 cup pecorino or parmesan cheese*
  • Toss to combine all of the ingredients and serve.


*Parmesan isn’t generally suitable for vegetarians due to the animal rennet, but I use a vegetarian approved pecorino or an Italian hard cheese in the style of parmesan that uses microbial rennet. You can use any salty hard cheese that doesn’t melt too easily here- manchego or feta are other good choices.
Calories: 344kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 21mg, Sodium: 492mg, Potassium: 686mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 5739IU, Vitamin C: 83mg, Calcium: 315mg, Iron: 3mg