Esalen Kale Salad 15 Comments

Jan 23, 2010

Want to know how to make kale sexy and jaw-droppingly tasty? A dark leafy green, kale is packed with nutrients but not the easiest to make exciting. Most recipes ask you to boil or sauté the kale until it gives in, turning the tough leafs and stems into softer but often over-cooked mash. But, it doesn’t have to be prepared that way.

Let me introduce you to a raw kale salad that will change every way you think about kale from Esalen a legendary workshop and retreat center in Big Sur, California. In addition to having stunning hot tubs set above the Pacific Coast, Esalen has their own gardens and the food there is nothing short of amazing.

This kale salad was my favorite dish on their menu—and featured in the Esalen Cookbook.

The simple kale salad dressing features three key ingredients: tamari soy sauce, lemon juice and olive oil. This dressing marinates the kale and breaks down the tough and slightly bitter vegetable. Like lemon juice in ceviche the dressing transforms the kale almost like cooking while maintaining the crunchy integrity of the leaves. Toasted sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds give the salad additional texture and crunch, while only taking fifteen minutes to prepare.

P.S. Sesame seeds are actually a spice, when toasted they give off a buttery, and nutty flavor.

Esalen Kale Salad (Image 2)
Esalen Kale Salad (Image 3)


cup Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari soy sauce
cup lemon juice
cup flax seed oil or extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium red onion
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 pound fresh kale
½ cup sunflower sprouts
½ cup alfalfa sprouts
1 avocado diced



Prep Time

35 minutes


Combine the Bragg or soy sauce and lemon juice in a blender or whisk in a bowl. Slowly dribble in the oil as the blender turns or as you whisk vigorously. Slice the onion into half moons and marinate in the dressing as you prepare the rest of the salad.

Toast the seeds in a heavy bottomed pan (cast-iron is the best) over medium heat until seeds are just golden and fragrant. Toast each seed type separately as their size requires varying roasting times. Cool to room temperature.

De stem the kale. Slice kale leaves into ¼ inch ribbons (very important!)

Toss the seeds, spouts, and kale with the onions, and as much dressing as necessary to lightly but completely dress the kale. Thoroughly massage the kale with your hands.


Esalen Cookbook.

Filed Under

Salads and Vegetarian Recipes

Spices Used

Sesame Seed

Other Ingredients Used



Wow! This salad is amazing. I had no idea raw kale could be so delicious!

—Emily, over 4 years ago

Love how made something as healthy as kale come to life with a few simple ingredients.

—Ravit, over 4 years ago

Can I just say- I'm ADDICTED to this salad! Thanks for putting it up! I tried it last night for the first time and can't wait to go get more kale today.

Modifications: I didn't add most of the seeds for calorie reasons. I only added the toasted sesame and it tasted delish. I also didn't have red onion so I used shallots.

—Kathleen, over 4 years ago

Delicious dressing! We tried it with a mix of greens- kale, chard, mustard, collards- and I think sticking with good ole kale is best. Be sure not to mix on the nuts if you plan to store the leftovers at all.

—Jeff, over 4 years ago

Just served this for a dinner party to rave reviews. I think I'll add a little sweetness to it next time though to balance the salt - possibly some agave?

—Sara, over 4 years ago

My local health food store has a variation of this salad...and this recipe is darn close. I've also discovered a recipe that sautes the red onion in sesame oil for just a few minutes. For those of you that think raw kale is too much, it helps wilt the kale a bit and i don't think it compromises the nutrition greatly.

—Shannon, over 4 years ago

YUM! I made this recipe before at my friend's using her Esalen cookbook, and was so happy to find it online today! Thanks for posting... time for dinner :)

Holly, over 3 years ago

It sounds delicious. However, will the sauce neutralise the oxalit acid which may challenge thyroid?
I wonder adding some seaweed will solve this problem.

—Aysegul Onat, over 3 years ago

wow! a total of 1 cup dressing to serve 8 people! and 1 pound of kale?, 3/4 cups seed,for a salad? I think your ratios are off...

—cecil, over 3 years ago

I'm so happy I found this recipe! I still dream about the Kale salad I ate at Esalen a couple years was sooo bomb!

—jasmine, over 3 years ago

Cecil, the measurements are right. Remember the kale you're preparing will be de-stemmed, so you're just julienning the leaves.
Variation: I wanted to balance with a softer texture and sweeter flavor. I added craisens and chopped fresh figs. Guests at the potluck couldn't guess the dressing. But had thirds!

—H, over 3 years ago

Wonderful! We've made a few adjustments: roasted sesame oil instead of the evoo; a few handfuls of arugla in place of the two types of sprouts; no avocado. Awesome!

—Bob & Chris, over 2 years ago

I like to toss the sliced kale with the Bragg Liquid Aminos and nuke it in the microwave for 1 minute before combining with the rest of the ingredients. -- And, our local health-grocery (based in Santa Cruz) calls its version without avocado or sprouts their Coastal Kale Salad. It flies off their chilled shelf.

—Shauna , over 2 years ago

It was absolutely delicious!

—Sophie, over 2 years ago

I used tender organic baby kale and Bragg's Liquid Aminos - the salad was absolutely amazing!

—Beatrix, over 2 years ago

Add a Comment

: (optional)
:View information about this field