Chopped Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (with an easy Meyer lemon substitute)

By Ann Fulton

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Hearty greens, protein-rich edamame and chickpeas, and a handful of other ingredients combine with a light but flavor-packed vinaigrette for a wholesome salad that’s great for meal prep. A well-rounded, plant-based meal as is, a protein topper like salmon or chicken will provide extra staying power. 


We often think of salads as warm weather fare, but a hearty salad can truly satisfy any time of year. 

On a recent frosty day, I prepared a bowlful of this favorite kale salad several hours before mealtime. Short on refrigerator space, I found a nice little spot in our garage to keep it cool.

Upon retrieving the bowl a few hours later, I noticed that the leaves looked a little crispy. Apparently, it was colder than I thought. The kale had frozen!

Undaunted, I stuck the bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds and all was well. Leftovers the next day were no worse for the wear. (That said, I don’t actually recommend freezing this salad!)

This particular recipe is a remake of a restaurant salad that tasted so good, I recreated it at home a few days later…and have since made it again and again and again.  

The combination of flavors and textures is delightfully satisfying, and the Meyer lemon vinaigrette offers a pleasing balance of sweet and tart. Topping this salad with a protein of choice – salmon is my personal favorite – creates a complete meal that’s as hearty as it is healthy.

A hardy, cold-tolerant green, kale provides a welcome fresh veggie option throughout the winter months. For those who consider raw kale to be a little tough, follow the two-minute “massage” step included in the recipe.

For an easy, cooked side dish and a worthy alternative to a tossed salad, I frequently sauté an onion – perhaps with some garlic and mushrooms too – and then toss in a big bunch of chopped kale and cook until just wilted.  

A fresh grating of Parmesan cheese or a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar is an optional finishing touch. It’s easy, loaded with nutrients, and complements almost any protein.

But back to the salad…

Meyer lemon adds a special something to the vinaigrette, which comes together quickly with a short list of otherwise basic ingredients.

For those who may not be familiar, a Meyer lemon is native to China and thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or common orange. Meyer lemons are sweeter and thinner-skinned than regular lemons, but they can be hard to find.

The growing season for Meyer lemons stretches from November to April, although the height of their season is in the heart of winter. 

To enjoy recipes that call for Meyer lemons when they cannot be found, however, I have an easy fix. Simply mix equal parts regular lemon juice with freshly squeezed orange juice. Tangerine or clementine juice is my favorite, but any sweet orange will do. This readily available combination provides a close approximation to the appealing flavor afforded by the harder-to-find fruit.

The following recipe is delicious as written yet flexible too. If I don’t have the specified edamame on hand, I sometimes toss in the whole can of beans instead of the prescribed one cup. 

We also enjoy a mix of dried cranberries and golden raisins. Their sweetness pairs perfectly with the slightly bitter greens and citrusy vinaigrette. Dried cherries or chopped dried apricots offer worthy alternatives. 

Similarly, chopped apples, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), avocado, and cannellini beans are all well-suited additions or substitutions to this salad. A few handfuls of coleslaw mix provide a quick alternative to the shredded carrots and cabbage.

Hearty greens and protein-rich edamame and chickpeas form the base of this flavor-packed, plant-based salad that's great for meal prep.

Hearty greens and protein-rich edamame and chickpeas form the base of this flavor-packed, plant-based salad that’s great for meal prep. For additional staying power, top the salad with with a protein of choice. Grilled or roasted chicken, pan seared or broiled salmon – even canned salmon – are personal favorites.   Leftover salad will keep for four to five days in the fridge and is great for lunch. 

I’d love to know if you try this recipe. Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @fountainavenuekitchen on Instagram and Facebook. Your feedback is always appreciated.

Chopped Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (with an easy Meyer lemon substitute)
Top this salad with a piece of broiled salmon or grilled chicken for a hearty and healthy main dish. Because kale is sturdier than most lettuces, this salad may be prepped in advance and stored in the refrigerator for several hours before serving. "Massaging" the kale, as described below, is especially well suited to curly kale, which is widely available but tends to be more fibrous than Dinosaur or Tuscan kale. This technique softens the leaves and ensures that the whole salad is well seasoned.

Yield: 4 entree servings or 8 side dish servings
For the salad:
  • 1 large bunch kale (8-10 ounces or about 10 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup shelled frozen edamame, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and well drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot and/or red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or Spiced Pecans*
  • Optional: 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) crumbled feta cheese
For the vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or 1-1/2 tablespoons *each* fresh lemon juice and clementine, tangerine, or orange juice)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Meyer lemon juice (or mix of juices), and sugar in a small bowl. Alternatively, you may add the ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well. Set aside. (The dressing can be made in advance and refrigerated for at least one week.)
  2. Strip the kale leaves from the stems and chop the leaves into small pieces. Discard the stems. If the leaves are wet from washing, pat them dry, and place in a large bowl. (Wet leaves can make the vinaigrette watery, thereby diluting the flavor.) Sprinkle with the salt, and massage the leaves with your fingers for about 2 minutes. The leaves will soften and become a darker green.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, and then drizzle with enough dressing to coat the kale leaves when tossed. Season the salad with freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of salt.
  4. Storage: The salad will keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.

*For optimal crunch, add the nuts just prior to serving.

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  1. Beverley

    I can’t stop eating this salad, it’s so delicious and fresh. I was never a a fan of kale but now I am, so thank you xoxo

    1. Ann Post author

      That’s awesome, Beverley! The timing of your comment is so funny, as I just returned from the grocery store where I stumbled upon Meyer lemons and decided to make a fresh batch myself! Raising my fork to you! ❤️

  2. Cara

    I don’t usually buy kale but I had to try this recipe after seeing the colorful picture. The flavors and textures were amazing and you can actually see the kale softening and changing colors as you massage. Will definitely make again!

    1. Ann

      That’s great, Cara. I have been making this often recently and love the leftovers for a quick lunch. Thanks for the comment!