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Spicy Kale Salad

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Spicy Kale Salad combines a variety of colorful veggies, protein-rich quinoa, black beans, salty cotija cheese, spicy pickled onions, and creamy chipotle dressing. This spicy salad is a Tex-Mex lover’s dream and makes excellent meal prep too!

An oblong plate of spicy kale salad with wooden spoons.

Southwestern Salad

Y’all can probably tell how much I adore kale and quinoa salads. Add some spicy southwestern ingredients and we’ve got the perfect salad.

This is a mash-up recipe combining two of my favorites – Mexican Street Corn Kale Salad and Mexican Quinoa Salad with Avocado Crema. PLUS we’re adding sweet potatoes and pickled onions. Can it get any better?

Want to include meat? Great, try adding Grilled Chicken Skewers or Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon.

Why This Recipe Works:

  • HEALTHY – This salad is full of healthy ingredients with plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The avocado provides healthy fats as well.
  • FILLING – We love adding quinoa and beans for protein. This salad fills you up and can easily serve as a main dish salad.
  • FULL OF TEX-MEX FLAVORS – The flavor in this delicious kale salad is SO good! You will be pleased and it will be difficult to find the perfect bite!
  • GREAT MEAL PREP – All of the ingredients hold up well in the refrigerator for several days. Avoid using leafy greens (other than kale) because they won’t hold up that well.
  • CUSTOMIZABLE – There are many different ways to make this loaded kale salad your own with a combo of Whole Foods. Make it your new favorite salad!.
Overhead view of a spicy kale salad with a jar of dressing and a jar of spicy pickled onions.

Southwestern Kale Salad Ingredients:

There are lots of ingredients in this delicious salad but you can customize it to your preference.

  • Raw Kale – Kale is a nutrient-rich leafy green vegetable often used in salads and cooking due to its high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. We prefer using curly kale in salads. Make sure you massage the kale leaves to make them less bitter.
  • Peppers – You’ll use colorful red bell peppers and a large jalapeno pepper. If you take the seeds and rind out of the jalapeno, you can minimize the spice level.
  • Ripe Avocado – Wait to add the avocado until serving.
  • Cotija Cheese – If you can’t find cotija cheese, you can use feta.
  • Black Beans – Rinse and drain a can of black beans. Garbanzo beans are an excellent substitution as well.
  • Quinoa – Quinoa is a SUPER food. It’s a seed (prepared as a grain) that is high in protein and loaded with vitamins and minerals. It’s also high in fiber, naturally gluten-free (if you are watching that), and low on the glycemic index. If you don’t like quinoa, use brown rice in its place.
  • Fresh Corn – You’ll need 2-4 ears of corn for this recipe. You could also use canned corn as a shortcut.
  • Sweet Potato – Adds sweetness to a spicy recipe.
  • Spicy Pickled Onions – The condiment we’ve been adding to nearly everything these days.
  • Chipotle Ranch Dressing – A creamy dressing that has a spicy profile. Leave out some of the chipotle seeds to make this milder in flavor.
The ingredients for the spicy kale salad.

How to Make a Spicy Kale Salad Recipe:

Step 1
Make the chipotle dressing. Add the dressing ingredients to a food processor – the Greek yogurt, light mayo, cilantro, chipotle peppers, fresh lime juice, and seasonings. Pulse and add cold water to thin.

Step 2
Prep kale. Rinse kale (we use a salad spinner) and tear into bite-sized pieces. Add kale to a large bowl and add a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Use your clean hands to massage the kale until soft and vibrant green.

Step 3
Cook quinoa. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. We use the Instant Pot as our preferred cooking method. Combine two parts quinoa to three parts chicken broth (or water). Cook on high pressure for one minute and then do a natural release.


Step 4
Grill corn. Add a drizzle of avocado oil to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook corn until slightly charred.

NOTE: When grilling the corn (inside or outside on a grill), it’s not necessary to cook for too long. We want crunchy kernels, not overcooked kernels!

Step 5
Roast sweet potatoes. Peel and cube the sweet potato and add a little olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Then roast on a baking sheet in a preheated 425-degree oven until fork-tender.

Step 6
Prep veggies. Slice/dice the bell peppers and jalapeno. Rinse and drain the black beans. Slice the avocado and crumble the cotija cheese.

OPTIONAL STEP: Make Spicy Pickled Onions. We love adding this condiment to so many things. If you don’t want to include these tangy onions, add some thinly sliced red onion to the salad.

Overhead view of pickled red onions with jalapeno in a jar of brine.

Step 7
Assemble salad. Use a large serving plate and layer the ingredients. The colors are SO beautiful!

Step 8
Serve. Serve spicy kale salad with chipotle dressing.

NOTE: This salad is delicious with a simple lime dressing too. Just combine olive oil, fresh lime juice and zest, a pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper.

Recipe FAQs:

How do you make kale taste better?

To fully enjoy kale, it’s necessary to remove the stems and use your hands to massage the kale. As you work the kale, you’ll see it become tender and turn a bright green. The result is a more tender and less bitter kale.

What is a good substitute for cotija cheese?

A good substitute for cotija is feta cheese as both are salty and crumbly. Either is a perfect way to add flavor to any salad.

A serving of the kale salad with a spoon of dressing.

xoxo ~Sue

A bowl of spicy kale salad with a dollop of chipotle dressing.

Spicy Kale Salad Recipe

Spicy Kale Salad combines a variety of colorful veggies, protein-rich quinoa, black beans, salty cotija cheese, spicy pickled onions, and creamy chipotle dressing. This spicy salad is a Tex-Mex lover's dream and makes excellent meal prep too!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 397kcal
Author: Sue Ringsdorf

Ingredients

  • 6 cups kale – torn and massaged
  • 4 cups cooked quinoa
  • 15 oz. black beans – rinsed and drained
  • 1 large sweet potato – peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups corn – grilled (preferred) or canned
  • 1 cup bell pepper (any color) – sliced
  • 1 large jalapeno – diced (with or without seeds)
  • 1/2 cup cotija cheese – crumbled
  • 1 large avocado – chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onions – or try pickled onions!

For the dressing:

  • 10 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup light mayo
  • 1/3 cup cilantro – packed
  • 2 Tablespoons chipotle peppers (in adobe sauce) – seeds optional
  • 1 large lime – freshly squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
  • cold water – to think dressing

Instructions

  • Make the chipotle dressing. Add the dressing ingredients to a food processor – the Greek yogurt, light mayo, cilantro, chipotle peppers, fresh lime juice, and seasonings. Pulse and add cold water to thin.
  • Prep kale. Rinse kale (we use a salad spinner) and tear into bite-sized pieces. Add kale to a large bowl and add a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Use your clean hands to massage the kale until soft and vibrant green.
  • Cook quinoa. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. We use the Instant Pot as our preferred cooking method. Combine two parts quinoa to three parts chicken broth (or water). Cook on high pressure for one minute and then do a natural release.
  • Grill corn. Add a drizzle of avocado oil to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook corn until slightly charred.
    NOTE: When grilling the corn (inside or outside on a grill), it’s not necessary to cook for too long. We want crunchy kernels, not overcooked kernels!
  • Roast sweet potatoes. Peel and cube the sweet potato and add a little olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Then roast on a baking sheet in a preheated 425-degree oven until fork-tender.
  • Prep veggies. Slice/dice the bell peppers and jalapeno. Rinse and drain the black beans. Slice the avocado and crumble the cotija cheese.
  • OPTIONAL STEP: Make Spicy Pickled Onions. We love adding this condiment to so many things. If you don’t want to include these tangy onions, add some thinly sliced red onion to the salad.
  • Assemble salad. Use a large serving plate and layer the ingredients. The colors are SO beautiful!
  • Serve. Serve spicy kale salad with chipotle dressing.

Notes

NOTE: This salad is delicious with a simple lime dressing too. Just combine olive oil, fresh lime juice and zest, a pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper.
There are many different ways to make this loaded kale salad your own with a combo of Whole Foods. Make it your new favorite salad!

Nutrition

Calories: 397kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 258mg | Potassium: 1008mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 12017IU | Vitamin C: 82mg | Calcium: 269mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @Suebeehomemaker or tag #suebeehomemaker!

One Comment

  1. Highly recommend this salad and take advantage of the optional step #7.

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