Zucchini and kale salad with tahini dressing includes green beans, sun-dried tomatoes, red chilis, and mint for a healthy vegan salad with satisfying flavors and textures.
why you should (and can) embrace kale
By now, we’ve probably heard about the wonders of kale. What’s not to love? It’s generally low in cost and readily available in many places in the world, it’s absolutely brimming with nutrients, and it stands up to dressings with zeal.
But many folks stop short when it comes to adding kale to salads because they find it too chewy and tough.
That's what we're going to conquer today. And it's as simple as a massage. Who doesn't soften and relax after a good massage?
So, let’s get straight to it and put together a 30-minute (or less) power salad.
Kale – Curly kale is the most common. But when kale is in season, you may discover several varieties and colors beyond deep green. Don't be bashful. Grab a rainbow of kale, including yellow-green, white, red, or purple, with either flat or ruffled leaves.
Zucchini – Who isn’t looking for new ways to use zucchini (courgette)? If you’ve ever grown it, you know why when it’s in season, it’s in abundance. There’s nothing fancy when it comes to our prep for zucchini. Wash it thoroughly, cut off the ends, and slice it into discs.
Green beans – When zucchini is in season, likely, so are green beans. So, I’ve made this salad by sauteing the green beans with the zucchini, but my recommendation is to steam them for 2 minutes, then add them to the salad. Steaming ensures that the beans will be evenly tender yet remain crisp to the tooth.
Sundried tomatoes – I used dehydrated sundried tomatoes, the kind not packed in oil. I've not been successful in finding sun-dried or semi-dried tomatoes in jars that are swimming in oil. If this is your only option, be sure to rinse away as much oil as possible. The other option, make your own. It's super easy, but you’ll need extra time. Check out my recipe for semi-dried tomatoes, so you can plan accordingly.
Red chili – A fresh red chili or red jalapeno brightens up the salad with just a pinch of spiciness. For less heat, cut the chili in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and core, then thinly sliced it.
Fresh mint – Trust me, chopped or sliced mint leaves complement this salad. I did a chiffonade by stacking the leaves, rolling them then cutting them into strips. Kind of pretty, but you can also just tear them or roughly chop them.
Lemon – The juice of 1 lemon will give you enough to rehydrate the tomatoes and make the dressing. If you use prepared lemon juice, plan on 3 tablespoons for the salad dressing and 3 tablespoons for the tomatoes.
Tahini – Tahini, sesame seed paste, brings flavor and binds all the dressing ingredients. Tahini is readily available and it's super-easy to make your own tahini. Once sesame seeds are ground, they produce natural oil, and that's what relaxes the kale. Think massage and essential oils. You'll relax in minutes!
Orange juice – Grab a medium orange, cut it in half, and juice it. The sweetness of the orange makes this dressing. If you happen to have orange juice, plan to use 6-8 tablespoons.
Maple syrup – This is what I used to sweeten the dressing. You can also use date paste or another liquid sweetener.
Garlic – The dressing gets the garlic. I used 2 pressed cloves; however, if you aren't as keen on garlicky flavor, go for just 1. You can also substitute garlic powder. Use ½ a teaspoon and then taste the dressing and add if you want more flavor.
- If you are using rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, begin by placing them in a bowl and adding 2 – 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. If not, set them aside to use later in the process.
- Remove the ribs from the kale and then shred it or cut it into bite-sized pieces and place it in a bowl. Then make the dressing. It's a mix up so grab your whisk. If you want the dressing thinner, add more of either juice or a bit of water.
- Now, let’s relax the kale. Add half the dressing to the bowl of kale. Then use your hands to knead the salad dressing into the kale. Once you've got it well-covered, set the bowl aside.
steam the beans
I know I've not made enough fuss about the green beans, but they deserve your attention. After you get them trimmed and have snapped them in two for smaller bites, rev up your steamer. The best way to steam veggies, it to get the water simmering before you add the veggies.
This method goes for any veggies you steam. Always start the water first. This ensures that the vegetables cook evenly, top to bottom. In the case of the green beans, you want to steam them for about 2-3 minutes until they turn bright green, are slightly tender, cut still snappy to the tooth. How do you test them? Taste them!
When you steam vegetables for salad, it’s super-important that you get them out of the steamer immediately once they are done. Otherwise, they will keep cooking. Rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process. We don’t want limp beans. Not us!
saute the zucchini
Just as you should always start the water for steaming, you should consistently heat the skillet before sauteing anything. This is particularly important because we won't be using oil. Vegetables will melt into a cold pan as they heat up. This is how sticking occurs. Avoid this.
My second tip for no-oil sauteing zucchini is to keep it moving. Stir it around until it starts to get soft, brown, and a bit translucent. You can add a pinch of salt and a few twists of black pepper if you like. Then add the sundried tomatoes and the red chili.
Once the zucchini is on point, grab that bowl of kale, that's your salad bowl. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, chili, green beans, and kale (which should already be in the bowl).
The final touch is the mint. Nope, I didn’t forget about it. But first, add the rest of the dressing. The beauty of using kale is that you can dress it, and it will stand up. In fact, it will even be delicious the next day.
There is no reason to peel zucchini. The peelings contain the bulk of fiber and healthy nutrients. Be sure to thoroughly wash the skin and give it a light scrub if it feels waxy or gritty.
Zucchini and courgette are different names for the exact same vegetable. The term courgette is the French word for the same long green summer squash. Beyond France, courgette is used in the UK and countries where they speak British English as a second language.
Sun-dried tomatoes give salads a savory, umami flavor. If you need a substitute, the best options are cherry or grape tomatoes. The flavor won't be exactly the same, but you will still get a tomato taste and color.
more kale recipes
zucchini and kale salad with tahini dressing
Zucchini and kale salad with tahini dressing, green beans, sun-dried tomatoes, red chilis, and mint for a healthy vegan salad with satisfying flavors and textures.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Salads
- Method: saute
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
For the Salad
- 12 - 18 sundried tomatoes (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 lemons (6 tablespoons of lemon juice)
- 4 cups of shredded or torn kale leaves (6 large kale leaves)
- 2 zucchinis washed and sliced into thin circles
- 2 cups of green beans, trimmed and snapped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 fresh red chili or red jalapeno, sliced thin (remove the seeds and core for less spiciness)
- ¼ cup mint leaves rinsed and torn or chopped
For the Dressing
- 3 tablespoons of tahini
- 1 orange, juiced (6-8 tablespoons)
- ½ teaspoon maple syrup, date paste, or another liquid sweetener
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- Rehydrate the sundried tomatoes. Place them in a bowl and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice so that the tomatoes begin to rehydrate.
- Carefully wash the kale leaves. Use a sharp knife to remove the rib through the middle of each leaf. Then stack the leaves and shred them or chop or tear them into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a medium salad bowl.
- Make the dressing. Combine the tahini, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of orange juice, and ½ a teaspoon of maple syrup. Adjust the consistency by adding more orange juice. Mix in the garlic. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
- Massage the kale. Add half the dressing to the kale. Using your hands, massage the kale until it is well-covered. Set the bowl aside.
- Steam the green beans. Place a steamer basket in a pan with a few inches of water, cover it, and heat the water until it simmers. Place the beans in the steamer, return the lid, and steam the beans for 2-3 minutes until they turn bright green. Don't overcook the beans. You want them tender but crisp. When they are done, immediately remove them from the steamer and rinse them with cold water. This will stop the cooking process.
- Cook the zucchini. Heat a large skillet, add the zucchini slices and sauté them until they brown and become slightly translucent. Add the tomatoes with the lemon juice and red chili. Sauté for another minute, stirring constantly.
- Finish the salad. Transfer the zucchini to the bowl of kale and add the green beans. Mix everything well. Stir in the remaining dressing and add the chopped mint.
- Sundried tomatoes can be found dehydrated in packages or in jars packed in oil or water. Rinse away as much of the oil as possible if necessary. You can also use semi-dried tomatoes or, in a pinch, fresh cherry or grape tomatoes.
- Kale stands up well to dressing, so this salad can be made ahead of time. If you have leftover salad, keep it in the fridge in an airtight container. The salad stays fresh for 2 days after assembling.
Keywords: zucchini, kale, tahini salad dressing, green beans, sundried tomatoes