Tropical Kale Salad

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The Story

I'm so excited to be introducing you to a totally over-the-top and fun kale salad. Believe it or not, this is one I make with astonishing frequency! It's loaded with tropical fruit and crunchy macadamia nuts, and is just about the happiest salad around.

This salad originated many years ago. We stay on the most magical organic farm on Kaua'i, Hawaii, every winter and this salad is a go-to meal for us there. The farm we visit grows the most phenomenal kale, which you all know is my greatest love! Plus they have gorgeous tropical fruit, and we always manage to pick up some additional fruit at the farmers markets or at road-side stands.

This salad is infinitely customizable; every time I make it, it ends up a bit different. You can use whatever tropical fruit you love most. Keep it simple with one or two kinds, or go all-out with everything you can find. The photos here show a version with papaya, mango, guava, star fruit, passionfruit, AND kumquats (all grown within about two miles of where we stay on Kaua'i). Epic!

Tropical Kale Salad on a serving platter

Sweet & Savory

The key to making this salad work is to massage the kale in an acidic, zesty dressing in order to cut the sweetness of the fruit. Lime juice + cumin + sea salt is the winning combination; the brightness of the lime wakes up all the other flavors, while the cumin provides a savory backdrop. Massaging the kale is critical for breaking down its tough texture and helping it absorb all that wonderful flavor.

The other secret?? Macadamia nuts! They add the most wonderful buttery crunch, great protein, and healthy fats to make this salad feel meal-worthy. Plus, given that they're grown in the tropics, they're the perfect pairing for all this beautiful fruit!

If you'd like to take this salad in a more savory direction, go for it! I've occasionally added a pinch of cayenne to the dressing, which is unexpected and fresh. Or add some savory toppings, as I've suggested below!

Tropical Kale Salad with flowers

Serving Suggestions

You can easily turn this salad into a meal, and we frequently do. I like to serve it on a bed of quinoa and add a big dollop of black bean hummus or my No-Cook Rainbow Black Bean Salad on top, since both go so well with lime juice. I also sometimes make it with purple sweet potatoes (or ideally taro, but that's hard to find!), avocado, grilled tofu, plantain chips, and/or roasted plantains. Anything inspired by the tropics is a great fit!

The other time this salad really excels?? Brunch! With all that beautiful fruit, it's a perfect side dish to any summery brunch menu. I love having a salad at brunch since it really helps to lighten things up and provide some freshness to balance the more classic, decadent brunch fare. If you want to stay on-theme, this salad would be a blast alongside this super-crunchy Coconut MacNut Granola and my favorite Nourishing Macadamia Orange Banana Bread. Maybe these Mexican Coffee Waffles too. Oh and obviously this Pineapple Express cocktail, which unites pineapple juice, coffee rum, and spiced rum. Now that sounds like a serious tropical brunch party!

Kale, mango, guava, starfruit, passionfruit, kumquats, and macadamia nuts

Let's Talk Ingredients

Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.

  • Kale. Of course! I like to use curly green or lacinato for this salad. Use a really big bunch or two smaller bunches.
  • Avocado oil. I've also done this salad with macadamia oil and it's phenomenal if you can find it.
  • Lime
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tropical fruit. The more the merrier! I suggest using at least several of your favorites for a great diversity in color and texture.
  • Roasted salted macadamia nuts

Colorful Tropical Kale Salad

Closing Thoughts

If you've never tried fruit on a salad, I hope you'll give this one a try. Fruit adds such wonderful freshness and juiciness to a salad, and is just so darn colorful and fun. You can leave this salad on the sweeter side for a brunch, or add your favorite savory toppings for dinner.

Regardless of how you enjoy this one, I'm sure it will bring you some joy! This is such a go-to for us while we're on Kaua'i. I love that it's different each time I make it based on what fruits we harvested that day. It's a very nostalgic recipe for us and instantaneously makes me think of our magical island paradise. I hope you'll love this as much as we do!

A colorful brunch salad

Share It!

It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.

Suggested Pairings

Planter's Punch

Tropical Guacamole

Kaua'i Hummus

Furikake Cauliflower

Tropical Pineapple Tostadas

Tropical Kale Salad

Kale salad goes on a tropical vacation! This colorful, whimsical salad is perfect for anything from a brunch party to a light summer meal and is infinitely customizable with your favorite tropical fruits. Doesn't this salad just make you happy??

Author:
Lee

Ingredients

  • Large bunch of kale
  • Dash of avocado oil
  • Juice of a lime
  • Big pinch of cumin
  • Generous salt and pepper
  • Several pieces of your favorite tropical fruits
  • Big handful of roasted salted macadamia nuts

Instructions

  1. Prepare the kale by stripping the leaves off the stems, cutting the leaves into thin ribbons, and washing it well.
  2. Put the kale in a big mixing bowl with the avocado oil, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper. Give it a very vigorous massage and let it sit while you work on the other ingredients; toss it a few times to make sure it all comes into contact with the lime juice, which will help it tenderize.
  3. Prepare the tropical fruits by peeling, removing seeds, and slicing as needed.
  4. Transfer the massaged kale to a large serving platter, then add the tropical fruits on top.
  5. Garnish with macadamia nuts.

Leave a Comment

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you make this recipe? Did you make substitutions? How did you serve it? Any helpful tips? Please share your thoughts, since these insights are really useful to both me and to other readers.

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Sara Tercero
June 2, 2022
I saved this one to make on a hot day! I love the sound of the zesty lime, pungent cumin and sweet fruits! Yum!