This easy lemon salad dressing is the best dressing for kale salad. It’s creamy, tangy and vibrant enough to stand up to sturdy kale leaves. Although this kale salad dressing recipe is perfect for curly and lacinato varieties, you can also use it on spinach or other lettuce salads.
Kale is my go-to green for salads because it’s loaded with fiber and dense in nutrients like vitamins A, B6, K, folate, manganese, and carotenoids. Best of all, the fibrous leaves fill you up and keep you satiated longer with fewer calories than a bologna sandwich lunch.
I try to mix kale into my diet at least four times weekly, and I love using this kale salad dressing on raw lacinato kale leaves. It’s thick, tangy, creamy and lush, clinging just enough to the greens to boost flavor and keep it interesting.
Try this kale salad dressing recipe when you’re stumped on what to serve with those sturdy, vitamin-rich leaves.
Table of Contents
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- This lemon salad dressing is quick and easy to make.
- It’s tangy and bright, thanks to fresh lemon zest and juice.
- This dressing makes kale salads or any leafy green taste good.
- Refrigerating the dressing overnight makes it thicker and creamier.
- It keeps well for up to a week or more in the refrigerator.
- It’s good on all types of salads.
- No need to break out the blender; just a whisk will do.
- Garlic – adds a sharp flavor to the dressing.
- Dijon Mustard – this mustard is made with white wine and is softer than yellow mustard with a more refined flavor.
- Mayonnaise (we like Duke’s or Hellman’s).
- Fresh Lemon Juice (don’t use that plastic squeeze container).
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – it doesn’t need to be a fancy finishing oil.
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (freshly grated is best).
- Kosher Salt we prefer Diamond Crystal, but you can use Morton’s.
- Black Pepper – freshly ground is best.
Though it’s not all that common, the mayonnaise in this dressing recipe adds creaminess and stabilizes the mayo dressing for salad or other uses.
- Combine minced garlic, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, lemon zest and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Drizzle the olive oil into the mayonnaise mixture in a slow, steady stream while constantly whisking. The kale salad dressing will emulsify as you continue to whisk.
- Once the dressing is thick and creamy, with no streaks of olive oil visible, stir in the kosher salt, black pepper and parmesan cheese and whisk to combine.
That’s it! It’s super easy and makes the best kale salad dressing you’ve ever had.
You can use the lemon salad dressing immediately on tender kale leaves or refrigerate it for several hours or even overnight if you prefer a thicker sauce.
- For a bit of sweetness, add one tablespoon of honey.
- If you don’t have lemon, swap it for white wine vinegar. Avoid using apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar in the kale salad dressing recipe. The flavors won’t work well together.
- Add fresh herbs like tarragon or dill to the dressing. Avoid fresh basil as it browns too quickly.
- If you like a spicy kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper or several shakes of your favorite hot sauce.
- You can transfer the dressing to a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid or other airtight container.
- Refrigerate kale salad dressing until you’re ready to use it.
- If the lemon salad dressing separates in the refrigerator, shake it in the jar or whisk it until it emulsifies again.
This makes about 1 cup of creamy dressing, which should be plenty to dress several kale salads. Each serving is two tablespoons.
The texture and flavor of this dressing pair well with more than just curly kale salads or dinosaur kale. It’s creamy enough to act as a sauce or dip too. Get creative with it.
Ways to use dressing (on more than just salads)
- Dip vegetables and crudité into the kale salad dressing for an easy snack or appetizer.
- Drizzle the lemon dressing over baked, poached or grilled fish for a lively sauce.
- Dress steamed broccoli or asparagus with a spoonful or two of the lively lemon salad dressing and top with crunchy buttered breadcrumbs for an outstanding side dish.
- Add a little kale salad dressing to shaved raw brussels sprouts with dried cranberries and chopped toasted pecans for a slaw to serve with grilled and barbecued favorites.
It’s okay to let kale sit in the dressing for several hours or even overnight. Kale has sturdy leaves, which will hold up to salad dressing longer than typical lettuce.
You can dress a massaged kale salad at the last minute or up to half an hour before serving. But if it’s longer, don’t worry; the sturdiness of the kale leaves will last in the refrigerator for up to several hours or even overnight.
For Lacinato or baby kale salads that don’t need massaging, let them rest in the dressing for 15-30 minutes. It will help soften and tenderize the leaves without making them soggy.
A good salad dressing should have good fats like olive oil, acids like vinegar, lemon or lime juice and various seasonings and flavorings. Typically vinaigrettes provide that, but this dressing has less than 200 calories per serving and is low in carbohydrates, saturated fats and cholesterol. Just don’t overdress your greens.
Kale salad recipes you’ll love:
- Farro Pomegranate Kale Salad
- Crunchy Cabbage and Kale Salad
- Pearl Barley and Kale Salad
- Mediterranean Chicken Kale Quinoa Salad
- Chickpea Tuna Salad with Quinoa and Kale
- Mandarin Quinoa and Kale Bowl
- Tangy Italian Black Rice Salad
More creamy salad dressings you’ll love:
- Creamy Anchovy Vinaigrette
- Easy Caesar Dressing
- Buttermilk Dressing
- Creamy Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing
- Green Goddess Salad Dressing
- Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
- Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing
- Homemade Russian Dressing
- Creamy Garlic Dressing
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Kale Salad Dressing
- microplane zester
- cheese grater
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ cup mayonnaise we like Duke’s
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest avoid the white pith
- 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper.
- Finely mince the garlic and transfer to a small bowl. Add the dijon mustard and mayonnaise.
- Zest half of a lemon (that’s about 1/2 teaspoon of zest) and transfer to the bowl. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add 3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed juice to the bowl. Whisk well to combine.
- Add the olive oil in a steady stream while whisking until the oil has been emulsified into the dressing. Add the kosher salt, black pepper and parmesan cheese. Whisk again to combine.
- Transfer the kale salad dressing to a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
- For each salad add 2 tablespoons of dressing and toss well to coat the greens.
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