The most amazing Chicken Kale Salad

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A pile of crispy seasoned chickpeas, juicy bursts of roasted tomatoes, tender strands of chicken and the most amazing creamy tahini dressing tossed with ribbons of kale. Introducing – my Chicken Kale Salad. Now THIS is a kale salad I crave!

Bowl of Chicken Kale salad

A chicken kale salad to crave

This is a fully loaded kale salad that was intentionally designed to be satisfying to have as a meal. It has great texture – crunch from chickpeas, (soft) chewiness of the kale leaves, juicy pops from the tomato. Great variety of flavours – creamy tahini, fresh kale, salty seasoned chickpeas, tender chicken and the freshness of tomato that bursts in your mouth. It’s incredibly filling. And the high delicious factor goes without saying!

But really, the absolute star here is the tahini dressing which is so creamy, it’s hard to believe there’s not a drop of mayonnaise or any type of dairy in it. And it really doesn’t. It’s just the natural richness from tahini, enriched with olive oil, balanced with the fresh tang of lemon and a good hit of savouriness from parmesan.

You could actually skip all the add-ins and just make this salad with kale and that creamy tahini dressing, and it would still be scoff-worthy. But I really hope you try this recipe in its entirety too, because it’s something else!

The best dressing for kale sale - Creamy Parmesan Tahini Dressing
Serving Chicken Kale salad

Ingredients in this chicken kale salad

I’m not going to lie – the ingredients list is longer than 95% of the recipes on my website. Because there’s a number of components to this salad. But it’s worth it! And we’re just making a salad here. It’s perfectly straight forward. 🙂

The kale (& onion)

First up, the kale!

Chicken Kale salad ingredients

Tuscan kale – This is the first recipe I’m sharing using tuscan kale, ordinarily I use the more common curly kale. Also known as also known as cavolo nero, black or lacinato kale, the leaves are shaped like silverbeet/chard and not as bushy/curly as regular kale (curly kale) so it’s more suitable to cut into slaw-like strips like I do in this recipe. The leaf is also softer than curly kale.

If using regular curly kale (which you totally can), don’t try to cut it into strips (it gets all crumbly). Just chop or tear into small bite size pieces.

Onion – Just a quarter of a red onion which we sliced very finely so it flops throughout the salad. I like the freshness if adds into this salad.

creamy tahini dressing INGREDIENTS

Chicken Kale salad ingredients
  • Tahini – This is plain pureed sesame and it’s the star player here, providing richness and creaminess in the dressing so it clings to every bit of the kale (and everything else it touches). Be sure to get hulled tahini which is the more common variety here in Australia (pale beige colour) not hulled tahini (darker in colour and bitter). Tahini is typically found in the health food aisle in grocery stores, else alongside spreads.

  • Extra virgin olive oil – The oil in this dressing, rather than using just tahini which makes the dressing too thick.

  • Parmesan – For a good hit of savoury flavour. It’s best to grate your own but even pre-grated is fine because we blitz it smooth. Alternative – Anchovies. Oh yes! Use as many as you dare to add flavour and salt without the sauce tasting fishy.

  • Lemon – The tang in this dressing, to balance out the richness of the tahini and olive oil. Fresher than vinegar, though you can substituted with apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar.

  • Garlic – Just one clove, else the raw garlic flavour is a little too full on (blitzing really brings out the flavour of raw garlic!).

  • Water to thin the sauce to a toss-able consistency. Don’t worry, it doesn’t dilute the dressing flavour, there’s loads of flavour in the dressing!

burst roast tomatoes

Named as such because they burst in your mouth! Literally just cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes, as I seem to use more often these days) roasted in a little oil, salt and pepper until they are a little wrinkled which means in the inside is beautifully soft.

Chicken Kale salad ingredients

THE CHICKEN

To keep things easy, I just use a store bought roast chicken and shred it myself. If you poach and shred your own, toss the chicken in a pinch of salt and pepper before using in this recipe (because store bought chicken is brined so the flesh has salt).

Chicken Kale salad ingredients

crispy seasoned chickpeas

And last but certainly not least, the crispy chickpeas! I’m using my go-to spice mix for chickpeas here, recently featured in the Spicy maple roast carrots recipe. It adds great crunch into this salad and nice little salty seasoned pops, as well as adding a starch to fill the meal out. And it’s a “good starch” too, that will keep you feeling fuller for longer. 🙂

Chicken Kale salad ingredients

How to make this chicken kale salad

While there are a few components to this salad, there’s a nice workflow to it:

  1. Get those bursty tomatoes and crispy chickpeas in the oven (30 minutes)

  2. While they are baking, chop and “marinate” the kale leaves to soften them (20 minutes)

  3. Make the dressing, shred the chicken and slice the onion.

  4. Assemble and eat!

1. Burst roast tomatoes & crispy chickpeas

How to make Chicken Kale salad
  1. Bake together – Toss the tomatoes in oil, salt and pepper. Then drain the chickpeas and put them, still wet, onto a separate tray. We’re going to oven dry them before tossing in the seasonings (less effort and more effective to get them crispy than towel or air drying!). Bake both for 12 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and wrinkly, by which time the chickpeas will be thoroughly dried.

  2. Toss the chickpeas in a little oil which will make the spice mix stick, then pop them back in the oven for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the chickpeas are crispy (you’ll know, they clatter).

  3. Burst tomatoes – Let them cool on the tray until you’re ready to use them. Don’t handle them, they are delicate and prone to, well, bursting!

  4. Crispy chickpeas – Once the chickpeas are ready, just set them aside to cool slightly before using. Nobody wants a third degree mouth burn from hot little crispy balls of chickpeas!

2. STRIPPING KALE LEAVES

Because the stem of kale leaves are quite tough and fibrous, I remove the leafy part from the stem. I just rip it off – quick, easy, effective!

How to strip kale leaves
  1. Separate the leaves then work one leaf at a time.

  2. Grab the stem and then grab the leafy part with your other hand and pull it up the stem which will rip the leafy part cleanly off the stem. Don’t worry about crushing the kale leaves, they are hardy and can take it. In fact, we crush them deliberately to soften them!

  3. Said leafy part. 🙂

  4. Stem – Discard or throw into your next batch of vegetable stock.

3. Making the kale salad

  1. Soften kale – Kale is a little chewy when eaten raw. So I like to soften it before using in salads. To do this, just massage / scrunch the chopped kale with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Not much is needed – a little goes a long way, you will be surprised! About 10 seconds of enthusiastic scrunching is all that’s needed to disperse the oil onto each bit of kale. Then set it aside for 20 minutes which will soften the kale leaves. In fact, the kale can keep like this overnight, it won’t go soggy like other leafy greens.

    If you don’t mind the chew, feel free to skip this step!

  2. Blitz dressing – Use a stick blender to blitz the dressing until smooth. A stick blender works best. If you use a blender, you’ll need to really scrape the sides / blades well. For a food processor, you’d have to use a small one. To make it by hand, finely grate the garlic using a microplane or fine grater and mix very well until smooth. You will have some little parmesan lumps but the dressing will still be tasty.

  1. Toss the kale with about two thirds of the dressing (we drizzle the rest on at the end). No need to be exact here, just eye ball it.

  2. Add ins – Add the chicken, red onion and cherry tomatoes then toss again just to disperse them.

  1. Crispy chickpeas next! Just pile them on.

  2. Finish by drizzling with the remaining dressing and a big shower of freshly grated parmesan. Then DIG IN!

Chicken Kale salad ready to eat

I forgot the egg 🙂

As I was writing up this post, I realised I forgot to include the soft boiled egg in the recipe video. It is an optional extra and something I added as a last minute addition to dial up the good-for-you substantial-ness of this salad even more.

But it doesn’t need it.

In fact, as I said in the opening, it doesn’t need all the extras. You could skip the chicken, the chickpeas, the onion and tomatoes, and just make a giant bowl of kale tossed in this dressing and it will be a great kale salad side dish.

But if you want to make a statement meal-worthy salad, I urge you to go all in, at least once, to experience the greatness of this kale salad! And I hope you become obsessed with it as I have. 🙂 – Nagi x

PS Great one for making ahead up to 2 days. Even the “marinated kale” keeps perfectly and won’t go limp like regular leafy greens once they come into contact with oil.


Watch how to make it

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Bowl of Chicken Kale salad

The most amazing Chicken Kale Salad

Servings3

Tap or hover to scale

Recipe video above. WORTH MAKING – don’t let the length of the ingredients deter you!! This may be the most delicious kale salad you will ever have in your life. Big call I stand by! Filling and interesting, good for you and that creamy tahini sauce totally makes it, thanks to the parmesan. Crunchy seasoned chickpeas add starchy bulk, flavour pops and texture, the cherry tomatoes add juicy bursts and the chicken provides protein. Oh yeah, and there’s kale in it too! 🙂 Powerhouse greens!

Ingredientes

CRISPY SEASONED CHICKPEAS

CREAMY PARMESAN TAHINI DRESSING

Instructions

SHORTFORM RECIPE:

  • Oven – Roast tomatoes 12 min at 200°C/425°F (180°C fan). Roast plain chickpeas 10 min, toss with oil & seasonings, roast 20 min until crispy (same temp).

  • Salad – Massage kale, leave 20 min. Blitz dressing. Toss kale, chicken, tomatoes, onion with half. Pile on chickpeas, drizzle with remaining dressing, shower with parmesan. EAT!

FULL RECIPE:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/425°F (180°C fan).

  • Roast tomatoes – Toss the tomatoes with the oil, salt and pepper on a small tray. Roast 12 minutes, then cool on the tray.

  • Crispy chickpeas – Drain the chickpeas then spread on a tray (still wet). Bake 10 minutes (same time as tomatoes). Push the oven dried chickpeas to one side of the tray. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the chickpea spices, salt and pepper. Toss well using a rubber spatula, then return to the oven for a further 20 – 25 minutes until they’re crispy (They should clatter! Note 3).

  • Soften kale – Rub/scrunch the kale with the oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Put the kale in a large bowl then drizzle with the oil and add the salt and pepper. Set aside for 20 minutes (softens leaves).

  • Tahini dressing – Put the ingredients in a jug just large enough to fit the head of a stick blender. Blitz until smooth, using extra water if needed to loosen into a thick but pourable consistency (see video).

  • Toss – Pour half the dressing over the kale and toss. Add onion, chicken and most of the tomatoes (save a few for decoration). Toss again.

  • Serve – Transfer into a serving bowl or individual bowls. Top with remaining tomatoes, all the chickpeas and eggs if using. Drizzle with remaining sauce then sprinkle with extra parmesan. DIG IN. SWOON!

Recipe Notes:

* You could totally just make this with the kale and tahini dressing if you’re just in need of a tasty kale side salad. Everything else are add-ins that makes this into a satisfying, interesting meal-size-salad!
1. Tuscan kale – also known as cavolo nero, black or lacinato kale. Shaped like silverbeet/chard and not as bushy/curly as regular kale (curly kale) so it’s more suitable to cut into slaw-like strips. The leaf is also softer than curly kale. If using regular curly kale, don’t try to cut into strips (it gets all crumbly), just chop or tear into small bite size pieces.
Removing the leaf off the stem – Grab and rip it off! Quick ‘n easy, watch the video 🙂
2. Tahini – Mix well if the oil is separated. If it’s set like cement, microwave to warm (it will loosen) then use a stick blender. Hulled is lighter (standard tahini). Unhulled tahini is darker and more bitter (harder to find), I don’t use this.
3. Roasted chickpeas should be crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside. The initial 10 minute dry roasting will make these oven chickpeas crispier than the usual technique of air or towel drying then roasting, but the fact is they will never be as crispy as deep frying (but our hips thank us) and they don’t stay crispy for longer than 2 hours UNLESS you roast them for 45 minutes until they are rock hard all the way through (like rock hard pellets. No thanks!)

Life of Dozer

In exciting news – the RTM sign reveal! Yes, a giant life-size Dozer sticker on the front of RTM.

Nagi Dozer RTM signage

It is actually quite worrying what a thrill I got to slap a giant Dozer sticker on the RTM window. 😂

And in other news, Dozer was visiting RTM for a shoot day with a professional photographer (Rob Palmer). It’s been bothering me that I still don’t have an RTM website (one of the reasons I haven’t started a volunteer program and public donations yet) and really great photos to provide to media and for other uses. So we had a big shoot day yesterday to capture great photos of the team at work, and what we do. 🙂

And I’m explaining all of that so I can share that sadly, Dozer was restricted to the office area for hygiene and food safety reasons. You’d think he’d realise he can barge past that stool and bolt into the kitchen to get to the 480 meals we were making that day, but he’s too good a boy for that! Instead, he just stood there and barked all day. 😂

Dozer at RTM

OFFICIAL PROGRESS REPORT – And on a serious note, his rehab post surgery is continuing though I feel like over the past week noticeable progress stalled somewhat. I’m hoping he hasn’t peaked yet and has more improvements to come.

Also, I think he picked up a stomach bug or go gastro on the weekend so he hasn’t been himself this week with some pretty serious bouts of nausea and hyper salivating. I’m a little worried because vomiting / regurgitation poses a lung infection risk for him because of his medical condition which is serious, scary and can be deadly. He’s been to the vet and has another visit scheduled for tomorrow. Fingers crossed he gets over it soon so we can re-commence his strength training!

Back at the vet for his latest problem – maybe gastro?

He did, however, get out to the beach again on the weekend (Bayview in the Northern Beaches of Sydney where I lived until a year ago). It takes me 40 minutes to drive there and it’s worth every minute because honestly, I can’t tell you how happy it makes him. His personality completely changes, he perks up and has more energy. I think it’s great for his muscle rehab so I’m going to keep taking him!

Woah, that was a much longer Dozer update than expected! I’ll sign off here and hope to bring more happy news with the next recipe! – Nagi x

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