How to Master the True Food Kitchen Kale Salad From a Previous Employee

I don’t like kale. It’s annoyingly bitter and not at all fun to eat…unless you’re at True Food Kitchen. The issue? A single kale salad with no added protein costs over $9…YIKES!

As a previous server for over two years, I lived off of the after-close kale salad extras. As soon as that tub of leafy greens made its way to the expo line, every server, Kale-lover or not, dropped their brooms and scurried in search of their Tupperware containers to scoop up as much kale salad as would fit.

So much so that the True Food Kitchen Kale Salad became a staple dish in many of our refrigerators.

We’d share recipes: Eggs with kale salad, avocado toast topped with kale salad, stir-fry with kale salad, the leftover kale salad dressing on top of popcorn as the perfect post-shift snack while watching Desperate Housewives (that combination I owe to my roommate Bianca, also a previous True Food server).

Kale is one of the most nutritionally-dense vegetables. We were taking in more than our Daily Value (DV) of vitamins since just a single cup of kale offers 1,327% of the recommended DV of vitamin K, 192% of vitamin A, and 88% of vitamin C.

The issue? Bianca and I were quitting. No more free kale salad for either of us, but we couldn’t stand to live without it. So we spent our last few months at the job learning the secrets to replicating this perfect salad, and we did so quite easily with little money.

Our findings? Don’t exactly listen to Dr. Andrew Weil, the health expert behind True Food Kitchen’s dishes.

Trust me, this isn’t quite it.

Many of our True Food Kitchen kale-salad frequenters would ask us for “the real recipe” since they explained having a lot of trouble replicating the salad at home, despite following Dr. Weil’s instructions.

Essentially, the recipe is equal parts extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, a shit ton of fresh garlic, plus a pinch of salt. While this is basically what Dr. Weil describes, the key is all in the mixing process.

Our kale dressing doesn’t have a whole lot of separation which allows for perfectly coated kale instead of a half oil, half lemon coat which is essentially what you’ll get if you follow that video. So here’s how to actually do it. For all of you exact-measurers, you can follow this recipe:

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True Food Kitchen Kale Salad Dressing: 

The juice of two lemons
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 freshly mashed cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes (or spicier if you prefer)
A couple pinches of salt

While True Food Kitchen uses a special high-speed mixer for their dressing, using a blender or food processor works almost as well. First, begin with the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Next, blend in the garlic, pepper flakes, and touch of salt.

Once that all looks about evenly mixed, very slowly dribble in the extra virgin olive oil. This strategy is truly the key to a great dressing.

Then dress around 10 cups of thinly sliced Italian black kale with the midribs removed in a container. Shake the container to thoroughly coat the kale, and then let it sit in your refrigerator for about an hour or so.

Dr. Weil recommends five minutes, but that’s not the process we follow at our restaurant. A longer amount of time allows the lemon juice and chili flakes to break down the bitterness of the kale, which is why it actually tastes good.

Then top your salad with some bread crumbs and Parmesan (True Food uses Grana Padano, a Spanish Parmesan with a lighter flavor, but you can use regular parm and it’ll taste just fine).

So there you have it!

As affirmed by previous True Food Kitchen employees, this recipe really works and we’ll have cheap kale salad in our refrigerators for many years to come.

So listen to us and don’t pay the $9… they’re ripping you off.

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