Are you looking for an easy keto kale salad with avocado, chicken, and lemon dressing recipe? This one is the absolute best! Plus, it ticks all the boxes:
- Quick and simple
- Requires little to no cooking
- Low carb and keto-friendly
- Insanely delicious
This massaged kale salad is tender and savory, bursting with flavorful avocado, chicken, and lemon dressing vinaigrette made with Dijon mustard and black pepper. Red onion adds a beautiful pop of color, and sesame seed kernels deliver a satisfying crunch. The result is an unbeatable flavor combination that's sure to please even the pickiest of palates.
Of course, the salad is great for keto too. All of the ingredients are whole foods and low in carbohydrates, with no sugar or starchy fillers in the dressing. Kale and avocado are both nutritional powerhouses, providing plenty of micronutrients and electrolytes necessary for a healthy keto diet. An easy keto-friendly dish that's filled with superfoods and tastes amazing – what's not to love?
- Chicken breast
- Red onion
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Dijon mustard
- Lemon juice
- Sea salt
- White wine vinegar
- Sunflower seed kernels
Kale: the recipe uses raw Lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale, Tuscan kale, or cavolo nero. This kale is a bit more tender than the curly varieties, making it an excellent option for raw kale salads. Still, it does require massaging to make the leaves tender without cooking. Massaging also makes the leaves less bitter. There are different kale varieties to choose from, which can be interchanged based on personal preference and what's available in your area. Just make sure that you use raw kale instead of frozen options to ensure the dish is fresh – save the frozen kale for cooked dishes or smoothies. Note that if you use baby kale, the leaves do not have to be massaged to tenderize, and it is optional.
Chicken breast: Any cooked chicken breast will suffice. This is an excellent opportunity to use chicken breast made during meal prep or time-saving rotisserie chicken. Sautéed or grilled chicken is fantastic in this recipe. Just give the meat time to cool or chill before using it in the salad.
Vinegar: White wine vinegar is used in the recipe, but that you can use cider, red wine, or balsamic vinegar to make the lemon dressing vinaigrette instead if you have it handy.
Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice is preferred, but bottled lemon juice is an acceptable substitute if necessary. Just read the label to make sure it aligns with your dietary needs.
👩🍳 How to Make
Prepare the kale
The first thing you want to do is prepare the kale. When making the salad, they typically use two bunches of kale which yields approximately 8 cups total once chopped.
Wash the kale leaves and dry thoroughly. Cut the thick, stocky stems out of each piece with a sharp knife. Or strip the stems out by pulling and tearing off the dark green leafy part with your hands. Discard the fibrous stems.
Chop or tear the leaves into strips or ribbons, and place them in a large bowl.
Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the kale, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and massage kale until it just starts to become wilted and tender, about 30 to 60 seconds, give or take. Do not over massage, or the leaves will become overworked and lose their salad texture – stop when it starts to wilt, not when it's completely wilted.
Set the bowl aside and prepare the other ingredients.
Chop the ingredients
Chop the cooked chicken breast into small, half-inch cubes. Add the chicken to the kale.
Dice or slice the red onion into small pieces. Add the onion to the bowl.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Carefully score the avocado flesh in a grid, horizontally (top to bottom) and vertically (crosswise), to create square chunks. Scoop out the avocado chunks with a spoon and transfer them to the kale salad.
Add the sunflower seed kernels to the salad bowl.
You can either toss the salad now or wait until after it has been dressed.
Preparing the lemon dressing vinaigrette
For the salad dressing, use a jar with a lid so you can shake the vinaigrette to mix it all together quickly. If you don't have a lidded jar or container, use a bowl and whisk instead.
Add extra virgin olive oil to the jar, then squeeze the juice of half a lemon in. If using bottled lemon juice, use two tablespoons.
Add in white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and sea salt. Mix the dressing by screwing the lid on tightly and giving it all a good shake.
Finally, pour the dressing over the prepared kale salad with avocado and chicken, toss together well, serve, and enjoy!
🗓️ Make-Ahead & Meal Prep Tips
If you plan to make this salad ahead of time, I suggest getting a few things ready but waiting to combine all of the elements until you're ready to serve. Store the ingredients and dressing separately to make it last longer.
For example, you can chop all of your vegetables and chicken ahead of time during your meal prep session. Except for avocado – don't cut that until just before serving.
Get the kale ready for its massage, but hold off on the massage until the day you serve to make it last longer. Pre-massaging is an option, but it will shorten the shelf-life – massaged kale will only last refrigerated for about three days.
The lemon dressing vinaigrette is an excellent make-ahead option, so be sure to include this during meal prep to save time at lunch or dinner. Just store refrigerated until ready to use, then shake well before dressing the salad.
🍽️ Recipe Adaptations
Swap the kale: Have another leafy green on hand? Not a fan of kale? Feel free to substitute another dark leafy green for the kale in this recipe. Spinach, romaine, or arugula would be fantastic swaps with the flavor profile, but feel free to get creative. Just remember to skip the massage step if using another green.
Sweeten it up: If you prefer sweet dressings, there's no reason you can't enjoy them on keto. Add a small amount of keto-friendly sweetener to the dressing before shaking and adjust to taste. Stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol are all popular options. Still, I prefer to use allulose in liquids because it dissolves completely and behaves similarly to sugar, making it a wonderful one-to-one substitute in recipes.
Get cheesy: feel free to add cheese to the salad. Parmesan is an excellent addition to the recipe, but something a little tangier, like goat cheese, would work as well.
Nuts and seeds: sunflower seed kernels at a nice bit of crunch, that you can use other nuts and seeds for salad toppings. Chopped walnuts, pinenuts, or almond slices would make excellent additions or substitutions for the sunflower seeds.
Dressing: If you're looking to try something other than a lemon vinaigrette, tahini dressing, yogurt dressing, or avocado dressing would pair well with the rest of the ingredients.
Protein: To add more protein, consider doubling the chicken breast quantity. You can also swap your protein using turkey or salmon fillets. Or add a little variety by combining more than one meat – bacon crumbles would be divine with the chicken and avocado kale salad.
Vegetarian: The plant-based crowd can still enjoy kale salad on keto. Consider using grilled or baked tofu cut into cubes to replace the chicken (super-firm is lowest in carbs). Chopped hard-boiled eggs would also make a good meatless option.
Keto kale salad with avocado is best served immediately after preparation. Cut avocado doesn't store well or last long in the fridge. The recipe can be scaled up or down in the interactive recipe card below so you can make what you need.
However, there are a few workarounds if you are planning for leftovers. Instead of tossing the avocado with the salad, you can keep the avocado separate and garnish individual servings. Additionally, if you store the dressing separately on the side and dress only during meal times, the salad will last longer.
The massaged kale salad stored without avocado or dressing will last up to three days refrigerated in an airtight container.
The salad dressing will last up to two weeks refrigerated in an airtight container.
🥗 Nutrition Information
With kale and avocado as star ingredients, it's no surprise this dish is healthy and nutritious. But the other ingredients in the recipe provide nutritional benefits as well!
Kale is praised as a superfood, high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Not only is it loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, it is a rich source of calcium and manganese. Kale is also a low-oxalate leafy green, which allows the body to absorb calcium more readily.
Avocado and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) provide an excellent source of healthy fats and contain many antioxidants, which may have anti-inflammatory effects. These fats are known to benefit heart health and help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your food. Avocado is also a fantastic source of potassium (super essential to fight keto flu!).
Chicken is a high-quality source of protein, lemon juice boosts vitamin C, and the sunflower seed kernels offer a wide range of micronutrients.
The recipe prepared as written provides high amounts of monounsaturated fats, B vitamins, folate, vitamins A, C, E, and K, calcium, magnesium, and selenium. It's incredible how big an upgrade your nutrition can get with something as simple as a salad!
The calories and macronutrients (macros) for each serving are provided in the nutrition label found in the interactive recipe card below. Net carbs for each 2-cup serving of the keto kale salad are only 3g.
Massaging kale is super easy!
First, remove the thick stems from each leaf. Tear or cut the kale into thin strips or small pieces and place them into a bowl.
Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the leaves and add a pinch of salt. Use your hands to squeeze and rub the leaves together, distributing the olive oil and salt.
Do this until the kale becomes tender and begins to wilt, but don't overdo it, or the leaves may become mushy instead of soft.
For Lacinato kale, massaging for about 30 to 40 seconds is adequate, though curly varieties may require one to two minutes.
Yes, massaged kale is less bitter.
When you massage kale with oil and salt, this allows the vegetable to absorb and infuse those flavors, in addition to breaking down the rigid, fibrous cell walls in the leaves.
This process makes it easier to chew and digest while also enhancing the flavor.
Yes, kale is a non-starchy vegetable high in fiber and low in net carbs, making it an acceptable keto-friendly option for salads and other dishes.
In 100 g of raw kale, there are 4.42 g total carbs and 4.1 g fiber, yielding a net carb count of only 0.32 g.
In 1 cup of kale, total carbs are 0.91 g and fiber 0.85, for a net carb total of just 0.06 g. Since the carbohydrates are mostly from fiber, they do not directly impact ketosis and can be excluded from the total carb count on keto.
The carbs in kale salad will depend on the types of ingredients used, including toppings and dressings.
While kale is extremely low in carbs on its own, dressings with sugar or starch ingredients could contribute to a high carb count. Keep carbs down by using low-carb ingredients and high-fiber, non-starchy vegetables.
For this keto kale salad, there are 8 g total carbs with 5 g coming from fiber for a net carb total of 3 g per 2-cup serving.
Best salad dressings for keto are the ones that are low in sugar and free of starchy ingredients and fillers that contribute to the total carb count.
Homemade salad dressings tend to be better options for keto, as you can choose what goes in (usually an oil or fat with herbs and spices) and what stays out (sugar, flour, etc.).
Oil-based vinaigrettes, like the lemon dressing in this recipe, are great options. Creamy salad dressings suitable for keto may use mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, sour cream, or blended avocado for the base.
Kale is low in calories and packed with nutrients, making it a popular dietary option for weight loss goals.
It's also high in fiber, which supports appetite regulation and gut health – two critical factors of the weight loss equation.
Kale salad can be good for weight loss purposes when paired with mindful eating and portion control.
- 8 cups kale raw (~2 bunches)
- ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 chicken breast cooked, chopped into ½-inch cubes
- ¼ red onion medium, diced
- 1 avocado cut into square pieces
- ¼ cup sunflower seed kernels
Prepare the Kale Salad
- Wash and dry kale leaves. Cut or strip out thick stems from each leaf and discard. Chop or tear the green leafy part of kale into strips or ribbons, about ½-inch thick, and place in large bowl.
- Add a small amount of olive oil and salt to the kale. Massage the oil and salt into the leaves by rubbing and squeezing together until they start to become tender and wilt, about 30 to 60 seconds. Take care not to over-massage the kale to prevent loss of texture.
- Add chopped chicken, diced red onion, avocado pieces, and sunflower seed kernels to the bowl. Toss the salad to evenly distribute the ingredients throughout.
Prepare the Lemon Dressing Vinaigrette
- Add remaining olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and sea salt to a container or jar with tightly fitted lid.
- Secure the lid and shake well until the ingredients have combined, about 20-30 seconds.
- Pour the dressing over the prepared kale salad and toss before serving.
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Hi, I'm Tasha–nutritionist, recipe developer, and multi-published cookbook author.