This kale caesar salad, made with a Greek yogurt caesar dressing, is such a delicious way to eat your greens. This healthy caesar salad recipe features massaged kale (not too chewy!) and a lightened up dressing with all the flavor of the classic version. Add your protein of choice to make this a complete meal.
I’m a creature of habit when it comes to serving a side salad with dinner. There’s always lettuce, dried fruit, and nuts/seeds, and usually it’s green leaf lettuce, reduced-sugar dried cranberries, and walnuts or sunflower seeds. Then I add in whatever fresh vegetables (or fruits!) we have hanging around and need to be used up.
Grab a salad dressing from the fridge and you’re all good. Easy as that.
Lately though I’ve been alllll about a kale caesar salad. Typically traditional caesar salad isn’t exactly thought of something on the healthier side, but this version packs in the leafy greens with a lighter dressing that doesn’t taste “lightened up” at all.
It’s a little more work than haphazardly throwing together the contents of your produce drawer, but oh is it worth it!
Greek yogurt caesar dressing
This whole kale caesar salad shebang starts with the dressing. Besides acting as, well, salad dressing, it’s used in massaging the kale (more on that later). So you want to start with prepping the dressing first.
But let’s get one thing out of the way: this healthy Greek yogurt caesar dressing recipe uses some cheats and features an omission or two when compared to real deal caesar dressing.
For starters: there’s no raw egg here. Or any egg at all, actually.
Instead, Greek yogurt forms the base of the dressing to bring the creaminess. Some versions that shy away from egg use mayonnaise, but one cup of mayonnaise really ups the fat and calorie levels. Using plain Greek yogurt is a much lighter option, and with all of the flavors going on here, you can’t even taste the yogurt tang.
We’re also cheating on the anchovy front. The unique, briny flavor that adds a special something to caesar salad dressing comes from anchovy paste here. Super easy. That’s the brownish/grayish paste you see in the above photos.
I’ve experimented with adding different amounts of anchovy paste to this dressing and landed on two-and-a-half teaspoons being the sweet spot. It doesn’t add much of a fishy flavor (if you’re worried about that).
I’ve found several brands of anchovy paste stocked in the canned fish aisle of the grocery store. A tube will last you for several batches of this healthy caesar salad dressing, and can stay in the fridge for a long while. I think the tubes I’ve bought are between $2-3.
Now that we’ve gone through a run down of what makes this caesar salad dressing a little bit different than traditional versions, it’s as simple to make as whisking together everything and refrigerating until ready to use. It should stay for several days, but see if it needs an extra splash of milk whisked in because it thickens up a bit as it hangs out in the fridge.
If you are looking for a make ahead element here, I strongly recommend making the dressing by itself, and not combining it with the greens ahead of time.
While the kale is hardy and won’t become too mushy like a leftover lettuce salad would, preparing everything fresh just prior to eating is worth it in my opinion. Not mixing up the salad too long ahead of time is especially important if you’re incorporating lettuce into the greens blend.
Now if you were making a regular caesar salad with lettuce, you’d be all ready to toss the dressing and greens with Parmesan and croutons and dig in. Since raw kale is tougher, it needs an extra step to cut down on the chewiness. We have to massage it.
Why do you massage kale?
It sounds weird, but massaging kale means rubbing a little bit of oil or liquid into the kale leaves with your hands to break it down and soften the leaves for easier chewing. In this case we’re using some of the caesar dressing for this purpose.
You don’t have to add much, just one-quarter cup or so. Massage it into the kale for a few minutes, and you’ll notice it shrinks up some. The above picture is a before/after of a couple of minutes of massaging, but I kept it going for a little more.
Psst: olive oil and balsamic vinegar are used to massage kale in this marinated caprese salad, which continues to be one of our favorite kale salad recipes!
Another time-saving tip is to buy a package of cut up kale greens instead of slicing and dicing yourself. Just keep an eye out for errant pieces of the center kale rib, as I’ve found some of those in there before.
While you can definitely serve this kale caesar salad with 100% kale as the greens (I have on several occasions), we really prefer adding in lettuce to spice up the texture.
The amount doesn’t have to be precise. Just whatever works for you! The kale caesar salad in the below picture features about half massaged kale and half green leaf lettuce. I know romaine is the standard, but I can’t quit green leaf.
No matter which greens you add, you’ll want to toss this caesar salad with grated Parmesan cheese and croutons. While they sell caesar croutons, I’m still partial to homemade. You can see how easy it is in my how to make croutons post!
More Greek yogurt recipes
I’ve been all about subbing in plain Greek yogurt for mayonnaise or sour cream lately in order to keep the nutrition in check. Let’s say you bought a big 24-32 ounce tub of Greek yogurt for this recipe. Here are other recipes you might be interested in to use it up.
This cilantro lime ranch dressing uses homemade (no-MSG, controlled salt) ranch seasoning for a bold salad dressing recipe. Bonus: the Greek yogurt tang complements the tang from buttermilk powder really nicely.
Healthy buffalo chicken dip! I don’t throw these words around lightly, but this football fan MVP, comfort food star doesn’t taste healthy at all. This is definitely for the spice lovers.
I’m still not over how fancy this creamy celery soup tastes given how basic the ingredients are. There’s no cream involved for a healthy and ultra satisfying soup recipe. Can you guess what’s used instead? 😉
- The recipe as written below features a 50-50 mix of kale and lettuce. You don’t have to use lettuce at all, or you can mix in however much you want.
- You can mix up the Greek yogurt caesar dressing ahead of time, just whisk in a little extra milk prior to serving if it thickens too much.
- While the dressing can be made ahead, I recommend dressing the salad just prior to serving, especially if incorporating lettuce into the greens. The kale won’t really get mushy, but it’s better freshly made.
Greek Yogurt Kale Caesar Salad
Greek Yogurt Caesar Dressing:
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
- 3/4 tsp dry mustard powder
- Big pinch salt and pepper, or to taste
- 3 tbsp milk, any variety
Kale Caesar Salad:
- 8 oz kale greens, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 8 oz lettuce, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded (or to taste)
- 2 cups croutons, or to taste
For the Greek Yogurt Caesar Dressing:
- Add Greek yogurt, Parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil, anchovy paste, Worcestershire, garlic, dry mustard, salt, and pepper to a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Pour in milk and whisk until smooth, adding more milk a teaspoon at a time if you'd like a thinner consistency. Refrigerate if not preparing the salad right away.
For the Kale Caesar Salad:
- Remove the center rib from the kale leaves and roughly chop the kale into bite-sized pieces. Add 4 oz of kale (about half of it) to a large mixing bowl.
- Pour 1/4 cup of the dressing over top of the kale and massage with your hands for 3-4 minutes. Really work the dressing into the kale leaves to soften them up.
- Once the kale is massaged, add 4 oz of chopped lettuce and toss to combine.
- Pour in 1/2 cup of the dressing, 2 tbsp of grated Parmesan, and a cup of croutons and toss to combine, then serve.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.
Dressing recipe loosely based on this mayo version from epicurious.