~ This Tuscan Kale Salad with Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette is loaded with nutritious goodies and so, so much great Tuscan-inspired flavor and texture in every bite! Incredibly delicious … you won’t even notice how healthy it is. Seriously! A perfect light lunch, or dinner side! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Includes Make-Ahead Steps • Vegetarian (see note) •
* (Our little disclaimer …) We partnered with Flatout for this sponsored post, as part of their #FlatoutIsMyCanvas campaign, but all opinions are entirely our own. Thanks for supporting brands that support Two Healthy Kitchens and our mission of healthy eating! *
Wanna take a salad recipe from good to great?
You’ve gotta think about textures. My rule of thumb? Always make sure you have a balanced combination of chewy, creamy and crunchy – so you never get a boring bite.
In fact, “crunchy” turned out to be the magical missing link for this Tuscan-inspired kale salad! I didn’t realize it at first, but it all seems so obvious now …
Back story: I’ve actually been making this Tuscan Kale Salad recipe for a while here at home, and just hadn’t gotten around to posting it for you. Good thing I hadn’t, though – because after I discovered the perfect crunchy component, it’s even better now than it ever was (which is saying a lot!).
I mean, from day one when I first created this salad, I was in love. Just look at everything it’s got going on …
- our nutritional superhero, kale …
- plus tangy feta and salty parmesan
- rich and chewy sun-dried tomatoes and cheerfully fresh grape tomatoes
- creamy cannellini beans
- spicy red onion
- fresh basil
- silky roasted red peppers …
- all draped in a simple balsamic dressing kissed with just a little sweet honey
What more could this salad possibly need, right?!?! That’s what I thought, too.
But then, one day … Salad Epiphany! (Yes .. I’m that much of a foodie nerd. I can actually be struck with moments of salad epiphany. I make no apologies.)
So anyway … that epiphany moment … it happened as I was innocently staring at all those pre-packaged salad blends every grocery store now stocks in the produce section. And then … I saw it. It! The game-changer that would take this salad to new heights. I spotted a salad mix that proudly proclaimed that it included flatbread croutons.
Right! So brilliant!
But croutons can add wonderful crunch, too. It’s just such a bummer that they’re often totally empty-calories. Plus, normal croutons would be way too huge for a chopped salad like this one.
But flatbread croutons!?! Oh yeah – I knew just what to do!
Hello there, nutritious Flatouts! Instead of wrapping yourself around grab-and-go breakfast burritos, or our uber-popular Chicken Parmesan Wraps … today you’re going to be reincarnated as croutons! Croutons with fiber and protein and CRUNCH!
An irresistible crunch that takes a good salad straight to great!
So how does all this happen? Easy!
How to Make Flatbread Croutons
Grab yourself a nutrition-packed Light Italian Herb Flatout (remember they freeze beautifully, so it’s easy to stockpile some for all your salad epiphany moments).
Using a sharp knife or (even easier!) a pizza wheel, cut your Flatout into approximately 1/2″ squares.
Then, all you have to do is toast ’em up in a skillet.
Just like when I’m toasting nuts, I prefer the stovetop method here – no need to wait around while the oven preheats. And mmmmmm … they start to smell so good as they get all golden and toasty! You can really smell the Italian spices baked into the Flatout!
Set your croutons aside and let ’em cool while you throw the rest of the salad together. So simple!
You can even make these a few days ahead and store them in a zipper baggy. They actually get crispier as they cool, and they keep well if tightly sealed in a plastic bag.
Let’s Talk Kale
On to the kale – a healthy blank canvas for all these wonderful flavors and textures!
But, we’ve got another little “Salad Epiphany” here, too. Again, it’s all about getting the right texture – kale that’s not too fibrous and chewy, but still has some spunk to stand up to all the other ingredients you’re tossing in here.
Although the word “Tuscan” is in the title of this recipe, it’s not because I typically use Tuscan kale to make it. As you’ve no doubt surmised by now, it’s actually because of all the Tuscan-inspired flavors jam-crammed into this yummy salad. But, if you like Tuscan kale and can find it at your store, you’re welcome to give that a go in this recipe for a totally full-on Tuscan experience!
For simplicity, though, I like to grab a bag of pre-washed, pre-chopped green curly kale, since that’s commonly available in most grocery stores. Also, choosing the bagged, pre-chopped kale cuts down some on the time of removing all the stems and so forth.
But, still, at least with the pre-bagged kale brands that I find at my local stores, I do a little additional prep to get the kale just how I like it for this salad.
First, as you can see above, I remove any remaining hard, fibrous stems, since there are usually more stems still in the pre-chopped kale bags than I prefer to have in my salads. (Psssst … hate food waste like I do? Check out the ingenious Kale Stem Pesto recipe we feature in our post on reducing food waste … and put your kale stems to deliciously good use!)
Next, I chop the kale leaves even smaller. See on the left, below, how the kale came out of the bag in relatively big (not-bite-sized) pieces? That’s not what we’re going for in this salad. You want kale that looks more like our confetti bits on the right, which have had another quick chop.
And that’s the second epiphany today … kale salad that has great texture without any massaging! Want to avoid the overly chewy kale situation (that often makes people think they don’t like kale salads)? Just that quick extra chop into little confetti bits will ensure that the texture’s perfect … and you won’t have to waste time worrying about whether you need to massage kale (because if anyone is getting a massage around here, it’s gonna be me!).
A Lighter Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Next, let’s talk about salad dressing for just a moment. Because, besides great textures, we’re also going to need a great dressing, of course. And we’ve got one! One that’s delicious and also lighter than lots of other vinaigrette recipes out there.
Lightening up your vinaigrettes is easy, if you’re willing to
break bend the rules a little! We almost never adhere to the traditional proportions for vinaigrettes, which generally use a much larger proportion of oil to vinegar than we like to here at THK.
Cutting back the oil slashes fat (albeit, “good” fat), which also significantly cuts calories. And, you really just don’t need that much oil to make a delicious dressing!
The Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette for this salad is a fantastic example!
With bold balsamic flavor and just a little mellowness from the honey, you won’t miss the extra oil at all!
And, you can whisk it together several days in advance, stashing it in the fridge and quickly re-whisking it right before adding it to the salad.
Gotta love make-ahead steps …
More Make-Ahead Steps for Our Tuscan Kale Salad
As we mentioned above, you can make the flatbread croutons and the Honey-Balsamic Dressing ahead of time. But, there are plenty of other make-ahead options for busy cooks, too!
For starters, you can make this salad a few hours or even a day before serving. But, if you want to get even further ahead, you can pre-chop most of the various veggies and ingredients, storing them separately for a day or two in the fridge before finishing the recipe. Then, you can just toss the salad together and add the dressing a little closer to serving time. Ready when you are!
Oh – but I definitely recommend adding the flatbread croutons at the very, very last moment, and letting them lay on top (rather than stirring them into the salad), since they rapidly lose their wonderful crunch once they meet up with the vinaigrette dressing.
Mmmmmmm … there’s just so much to love about this Tuscan Kale Salad!
It’s so simple, yet so jam-crammed with vibrant flavors and great nutrition … and, of course, great textures, with that wonderful flatbread crunch! (Thank goodness for Salad Epiphanies!)
- 1 Light Italian Herb Flatout flatbread
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 cups finely chopped kale (we use green curly kale – see note)
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans (preferably organic or reduced-sodium), rinsed and drained
- 3/4 cup chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/2 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (preferably oil-packed, drained)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup reduced-fat, crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (from about 1/4 of a medium onion)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
For the Flatbread Croutons:
Place flatbread on cutting board or work surface and, using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut it into 1/2-inch squares.
Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Spread the flatbread squares out evenly in the preheated skillet. Toast the flatbread squares until they're a little golden-brown, crispy, and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove toasted flatbread squares from skillet and allow to cool completely (they'll become crispier as they cool). Set aside (or to make these ahead, once cooled, store in a zipper bag until serving).
For the Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, honey, salt, and pepper until combined. Set aside (or to make this ahead, cover and refrigerate until dressing the salad, re-whisking again as needed).
For the Kale Salad:
In a large bowl, combine kale, cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, feta, parmesan, red onion, and red peppers. Toss thoroughly but gently.
Add the dressing and toss again to distribute the dressing evenly.
If serving the salad immediately, sprinkle flatbread croutons on top. However, the salad can be refrigerated for up to a day (the kale will continue to soften if you've already added the dressing) – wait to sprinkle the croutons on top until just before serving so they stay crispy.
Parmesan and Feta Cheeses: To make this kale salad recipe truly vegetarian, be sure to select a parmesan cheese made with non-traditional enzyme alternatives from microbes or fermentation, rather than the traditional rennet. In addition, be sure that your feta, which is often made with vegetable rennet, specifically lists that as an ingredient, rather than just listing "rennet," which may be animal-produced.
Kale: As noted in the post, I usually grab pre-chopped, bagged curly green kale. Even though a lot of the larger parts of the tough stems have been removed from the bagged, pre-chopped kale and the leaves are somewhat chopped, for this salad, I still remove any remaining sections of stem and further chop the kale into confetti bits. Refer to the photos in the post as examples. Also, to make this an even more "Tuscan" salad, you can substitute Tuscan kale if it's available.
Make-Ahead Tips: This salad can be served immediately, or refrigerated for a few hours, up to a day ahead. In addition, most of the salad's components can be prepped even further in advance. As noted above, you can make the flatbread croutons ahead of time and, once cooled, store them in a zipper bag until serving. You can also make the vinaigrette ahead, then cover it and refrigerate until needed (you will probably need to re-whisk it again before adding it to the salad). Lastly, most all of the salad ingredients and veggies can be chopped a day or two in advance of assembling the salad. (In general, however, I recommend not chopping the basil until assembling your salad, so it's fresher.)