If you’ve spent much time in Austin over the past couple of years, chances are you’ve enjoyed at least one morning on the Swedish Hill’s sunny patio—preferably, devouring a flaky croissant, sipping a perfect matcha latté, or tucking into a piece of toasted sourdough piled high with smoked salmon and cucumbers. It’s just the sort of all-day café that I love for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (did I mention their Roberta’s pizza with Fresno chili and hot honey?) and the vibes are every bit as good as the food. As much as I love the sweets and copious amounts of coffee, for me, there’s a standout menu item that might come as a surprise. The Clarksville Crunch Salad (named after the neighborhood where the restaurant resides) is truly the best kale salad I’ve ever experienced, with cauliflower, a tahini dressing, and a satisfying blend of almonds and crunchy rice taking this salad over the top. It’s just one of the many reasons why I included Swedish Hill in my guide to the best restaurants in Austin.
Since I’m in California for the summer, I’m really missing my weekly Clarksville Crunch Salad fix, so I begged my friends at Swedish Hill to spill the recipe so I could get my fix at home. Below I’ve broken down the secrets to exactly what makes the best kale salad so good—it’s simple, but each component plays a key part. The good news? The at-home version is every bit as good as the one I love at Swedish Hill. Now, if only I could recreate that Snickerdoodle Cookie I like to finish it off with! I’ll work on that next.
Scroll on for the best kale salad recipe you’ll want to make again and again—and the next-level tahini dressing you’ll want to eat with a spoon.
How to massage the kale
If you haven’t started massaging kale, it’s time to get on it. It really is the secret to the best kale salad, as it makes the kale tender, slightly sweet, and not at all difficult to chew. Here’s how to do it:
- Place your chopped kale in a large bowl, and drizzle with a touch of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of salt.
- Use your hands to vigorously massage the kale for about a minute. Yes, really get in there. The goal is to break down the fibers and make them more easily digestible. It also has the added benefit of making the kale more flavorful and way more enjoyable.
- You’ll know the kale is ready to go when the leaves look shiny and it’s reduced a bit in volume.
I showed this technique in action on my Instagram right here.
Next, make the crispies.
This salad is all about that crunch (hence the name), and IMHO it’s what takes this kale salad to the next level. I love how this salad uses a combination of flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, everything bagel seasoning, and sliced almonds to give multilayered texture and flavor to this salad. Pro tip: double the batch and keep it in a mason jar in the freezer, and you’ll be prepared to add instant chef vibes to any salad.
The best kale salad dressing is made with tahini.
Truth! When it comes to kale salads, dressing is everything. And at least here in the US, tahini is an underutilized flavor power player—if you haven’t used it, you must. So, what exactly is tahini? It’s a Middle Eastern condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame seeds. You’ve probably had it in hummus or baba ghanoush, and it makes an excellent salad dressing star, thanks to its nutty, complex flavor and creaminess.
In Swedish Hill’s dressing, the tahini is combined with olive oil, honey, dijon, lemon juice, and lime zest for a sweet, sour, citrusy, nutty combination that’s downright addictive, and really brings out kale’s sweeter side. I shake mine up in a mason jar and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Now that you’ve got the secrets to the best kale salad, scroll on for the recipe that Swedish Hill so kindly shared with us—be sure to stop by on your next trip to Austin, and in the meantime, you’ll want to make this kale salad recipe again and again.