This tahini kale salad with crispy chickpeas, creamy dressing, crunchy almonds, and pomegranate seeds can be a side dish or a meal on its own.
We’re getting into that part of the year when cold, lighter meals are preferable to warm, heavy ones, and this tahini kale salad – that’s full of fun add-ins – definitely fits the bill. Whereas in colder months I’d classify salad as a side dish, right now I’ll happily take crunchy, fresh greens as my main event.
What’s In This Salad
This vegan salad (inspired by Deliciously Ella) consists of juicy kale leaves massaged with creamy tahini dressing, spiced crispy chickpeas, crunchy toasted almonds, and bright pops of fresh pomegranate. It has all the flavors and textures you could want in a complete meal, as well as all the macronutrients. (Chickpeas and almonds are both packed with protein, while tahini – i.e. sesame seed paste – is a great source of healthy fats.)
How to Make This Tahini Kale Salad
First, cook the chickpeas. Start by draining and rinsing a can of chickpeas, and patting them as dry as possible; the drier your chickpeas, the crispier they can become. Then, get them in a skillet with EVOO and spices, and cook them over medium-low heat until they’re golden brown and crispy all over, about 12 minutes.
While the chickpeas cook, make the dressing by whisking together tahini, lemon juice, EVOO, fresh garlic, and some water. (Be patient when incorporating water into tahini. To start, you need to add enough water to emulsify the oil-water mixture. If you add too little, the tahini will seize up; if you add too much, the two will separate and become goopy.) The final tahini dressing should be creamy, tangy, and just slightly thinner than ranch dressing.
Next, give your kale a massage. If you want to eat kale raw (here or in any other recipe), this step is a must. Massaging kale with salt and acid – or an acidic dressing like this tahini one – softens the leaves, brings out their juiciness, reduces their bitterness, and makes the greens easier to chew and digest.
Place some of the kale in a large bowl and drizzle on some of the dressing. Massage the greens by squeezing them with your hands until they’re wilted and slightly brighter in color. (It’s a messy process, but so worth it!) Gradually add in more kale and dressing, and continue massaging until you’ve incorporated all the greens.
Lastly, toss the kale with the crispy chickpeas, toasted almonds, and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Kale: I recommend using curly kale in salads because it’s softer and has a milder flavor. I prefer lacinato (a.k.a. cavolo nero) sautéed or added to soups, pastas, etc.
- Almonds: I love the crunchy texture of slivered almonds in this salad. You can also use sliced almonds – or any other nuts, like walnuts, pistachios, or pecans (or sunflower/pumpkin seeds.) Whichever nuts/seeds you use, make sure they’re roasted (instructions in the recipe card below). Roasted nuts/seeds have way more flavor and crunch than raw ones.
- Pomegranate: I like buying the whole pomegranate and seeding it myself (instructions below). Pre-packaged pomegranate seeds are so overpriced and usually not fresh. If you can’t find pomegranate, substitute with dried cranberries.
- Tahini: Tahini is a sesame seed paste that’s widely used in middle eastern cooking. You can find it in most supermarkets today, either alongside the nut butters or in the international foods aisle. Be sure to read the ingredient label when purchasing tahini – the only ingredient should be sesame seeds.
- Other Additions… Tart apple, avocado, or cubed roasted sweet potatoes would be great in this tahini kale salad.
How to Seed a Pomegranate
There are a bunch of hacks for getting seeds out of this gorgeous fruit. My favorite way is to do it in a large bowl of water, which keeps your kitchen counter from looking like a blood spatter scene from Dexter.
First, cut an X through the top of the pomegranate (through the stem) and cut about halfway down. Using your hands, separate the pomegranate into 4 wedges. Working with one piece at a time, submerge it into a large bowl of water and gently pry the seeds off with your fingers, keeping the wedge submerged the whole time. At the end, the white membranes will float to the top. Drain off the membranes and water, and all you’re left with are clean seeds!
How to Make This Salad In Advance
While you can prep all the elements in advance, they should be kept separate until you’re ready to serve the salad. The tahini dressing can be made up to 4 days ahead and kept in an airtight container in the fridge. The crispy chickpeas can be cooked ahead, too, but they’ll lose their crispness in the fridge. Massage the kale and assemble the salad right before serving.
More favorite summer recipes…
- Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Avocado and White Beans
- Vegan Sushi Rolls with Crispy Tofu
- Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Seared Tofu
- Tomato-Peach Salad with Sautéed Corn and Basil
This tahini kale salad with crispy chickpeas and pomegranate seeds can be a side dish or a meal on its own. (Inspired by Deliciously Ella)
For the Salad
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas (or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted (see note below)
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils (a.k.a. seeds)
- 1 small bunch curly kale, stemmed and torn into bite-size bits
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
For the Tahini Dressing
- 1/2 cup well-stirred tahini
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Start by cooking the chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse thoroughly under running water. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel or a few layers of paper towels, and pat as dry as possible (it’s OK if some chickpeas get squished in the process).
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chickpeas with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, red pepper (if using), 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Toast until the chickpeas are crispy and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, tossing occasionally.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup tahini, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 crushed garlic clove, and 1/4 teaspoon salt with 3 tablespoons water. Whisk until smooth. Then add 3 more tablespoons of water and whisk until the dressing is smooth and pourable (should be slightly thinner than ranch dressing).
- Place about half of the kale in a very large bowl. Drizzle on about half of the dressing and massage the kale for 1 to 2 minutes by squeezing it with your hands until it is soft, juicy, and bright in color. Gradually massage in the remaining kale and dressing, until all of the kale is wilted and saucy. Toss in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. At this point, taste the greens and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Add about two-thirds of the chickpeas, almonds, and pomegranate, and toss to combine.
- To serve, transfer the salad to a platter and garnish with the remaining chickpeas, almonds, and pomegranate. Serve immediately.
- To toast raw slivered/sliced almonds or any seeds: cook them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until golden and fragrant, tossing frequently, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 425
Keywords: massaged, kale, salad, vegan, tahini, chickpeas