It’s probably hard to believe that salad could ever be considered a “comfort food” of any kind, but this is exactly the kind of food I make when I’m craving healthy + comfort food. It makes a fantastic summer picnic food because unlike with traditional dairy, this cream-based salad won’t go off in the hot summer sun.
Have you tried kale and couldn’t get over its strong taste? This salad might change all that for you! It can be a bit of an acquired taste for some, true, which is why I adore this buttery and luscious cream-based yet dairy-free dressing on it.
The secret to this buttery and luscious cream-based yet dairy-free dressing? Why cashews of course! Cashews are the perfect vegetarian and vegan substitute for dairy of all kinds and they can be dressed up to be sweet or savoury, depending on your desires and tastebud demands.
Like most nuts, cashews are a good source of many minerals, including magnesium and phosphorus. They are cholesterol-free and a great source of plant-based protein. They can also help keep your blood pressure in balance since they contain arginine, an amino acid that helps to naturally relax blood vessels.
On the other hand, cashews are one of the common nut allergies. If you need to substitute, try sunflower seeds. I haven’t tried this but it could work… you may need to play with the nut-to-water ratio to get a smooth consistency.
This thick, creamy, lemony dressing is the perfect partner for the hearty kale greens and the salad itself is studded with rich walnuts, crunchy hemp seeds, the spicy bite of diced red onion, floral and herbaceous cilantro and sea salt, oh yes, the salt is so important—all in, you have my idea of a sexy, yet family- and picnic-friendly salad.
I add a bit of olive oil for extra richness and healthy fats. In fact, to absorb the highly coveted, fat-soluble vitamin K that kale is famous for, you NEED a bit of fat. Fat-soluble vitamins need fat for better and best absorption. As an easy way to remember the fat-soluble vitamins, which are A, D, E, and K, I always think of: All Dogs Eat Kale.
You’re welcome to leave out the olive oil; it’s not essential—but your tastebuds will think the world of you for it.
Here’s the recipe for your picnicking pleasure:
Creamy Kale, Hemp & Walnut Salad (dairy-free, vegan)
For the salad:
- 1 medium bunch of green or red kale choose organic, this was about 6.5 cups, loosely packed, for me
- 1 cup diced red onion
- ½ cup walnuts coarsely chopped
- ¾ cup hemp seeds
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 to 1 ¾ tsp sea salt I love a salty kale salad so I usually add the full amount
For the dressing:
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ½ cup water
Start by making the dressing:
First, soak the cashews for at least three hours, then drain.
Add the drained cashews to a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix (preferred) or high-quality food processor. Add the lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and water. Blend on low speed, increasing to high, and blend until the ingredients are combined and the cashews are perfectly smooth.
If the mixture is still a bit grainy, add 1-2 Tbsp of water at a time, blending each time, until the dressing is thick and creamy. Set the dressing aside.
Then, make the salad:
Remove the thick ribs from the kale leaves and then do one of two things: 1) using a sharp knife, chop, chop, chop the kale into small pieces. Or 2) If you’re tired (or lazy like me), put the kale into your food processor in batches (not too full) and pulse 8-10 times or until the kale is just broken down into small pieces. Stop before it turns into mush! Even though I’m not always tired or lazy, this is pretty much how I make my kale salad every time. I love a good kitchen hack!
Add the chopped kale to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently to combine.
Pour ½ to ¾ of the delicious dressing (depending on how creamy you like it) over the kale salad and toss gently to combine and cover the kale and other salad ingredients.
Leftover dressing is delicious for dipping vegetables, tucked into pasta a la alfredo, as a sandwich spread... the options are endless and endlessly delicious.
Now tell me, what’s your favourite way to eat kale?
Life is a plate… Eat up!