BIG Kale Pasta Salad

$7.88 recipe / $1.31 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.89 from 18 votes
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I probably wouldn’t survive the summer if it wasn’t for big cold “meal salads” like this Big Kale Pasta Salad. It’s cold, filling, has tons of flavors and textures to keep me interested, and it’s just super easy to pull together. Oh, and it holds up REALLY well in the fridge, too. So yeah, it pretty much wins the “perfect summer meal” prize. :)

Overhead view of a serving bowl full of kale pasta salad with toast in the side.

What’s in the BIG Kale Pasta Salad?

I combined a few of my favorite things for this BIG kale pasta salad. I used my favorite homemade balsamic vinaigrette to massage the kale and make it a little more tender, then added some chickpeas for extra bulk, grape tomatoes for freshness, red onion for a savory note, and a little Parmesan for more umami. This one is hitting all the bases!

Dressing Options

If you’re not into balsamic dressing or you just don’t want to make your own, any store-bought vinaigrette-style dressing will be great with this salad. Italian dressing, Caesar dressing, or tomato basil vinaigrette would also be good.

What Else Can I Add?

As with most salads, this Big Kale Pasta Salad is extremely flexible. Here are some other great ingredient options that you could add in place of or in addition to what I used:

  • Grilled chicken
  • Kidney beans
  • Feta
  • Pickled red onions
  • Crispy chickpeas
  • Olives
  • Shredded carrot
  • Toasted pita
  • Baked salmon
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Diced mozzarella
  • Cured meat (salami, pepperoni, etc.)

How Long Does it Last?

This salad will stay good in the fridge for about 4-5 days. Kale holds up beautifully to dressing and pasta salads in general also hold up very well. If you plan to meal prep the salad, I do suggest that you reserve the rest of the dressing after massaging the kale to add to the salad just before serving (to prevent the salad from drying out as it’s refrigerated).

A bowl of kale pasta salad next to the serving dish.
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BIG Kale Pasta Salad

4.89 from 18 votes
This Big Kale Pasta Salad is the perfect fast and filling summer lunch, packed with flavors, textures, and colors. Great for meal prep!
Overhead view of the serving bowl full of kale pasta salad.
Servings 6 2 cups each
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 30 minutes


Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup olive oil ($0.85)
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar ($0.42)
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise ($0.15)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard ($0.09)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)


  • 8 oz. penne pasta ($0.67)
  • 8 oz. chopped kale* ($1.50)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes ($2.00)
  • 1/2 red onion ($0.22)
  • 1 15oz. can chickpeas ($1.09)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan ($0.72)


  • Make the vinaigrette first. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mayonnaise, Dijon, minced garlic, basil, salt, and pepper in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Set the dressing aside.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and boil until tender (7-8 minutes). Drain the pasta in a colander and allow it to cool.
  • Add the kale to a large bowl. Drizzle ⅓ of the prepared balsamic dressing over the kale and then use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale. Massage the kale for 3-5 minutes, or until it has wilted to half its volume.
  • Slice the grape tomatoes in half, thinly slice the red onion, and rinse and drain the chickpeas.
  • Add the drained and cooled pasta to the bowl with the kale, along with the tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, and Parmesan.
  • Pour the rest of the dressing over top, then stir the salad until everything is evenly combined and coated in dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


*If not using pre-chopped kale, simply remove the stems and tear or chop the kale into small pieces. Rinse and drain the kale well before using it in the salad.


Serving: 2cupsCalories: 355kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 10gFat: 19gSodium: 316mgFiber: 4g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Close up side view of a bowl full of big kale pasta salad.

How to Make A BIG Kale Pasta Salad – Step by Step Photos

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette in a bowl with a whisk.

Make the dressing first. Whisk together ⅓ cup olive oil, 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbsp mayonnaise, ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 clove of minced garlic, ½ tsp dried basil, ¼ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Set the dressing aside.

cooked penne in a colander.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add ½ lb. of pasta (any short shape). Boil until tender and then drain in a colander.

Bag of pre-chopped kale.

Meanwhile, begin to prepare the kale. I use this pre-chopped kale because it’s super convenient and also inexpensive. If you are using a bunch of kale instead of pre-chopped, simply remove the stems and chop the kale into 1-2 inch pieces. I used half of this one-pound bag for my salad.

Chopped kale in a bowl.

Before massaging the kale, it has a lot of volume and entirely fills my big salad bowl.

Massaged kale in the bowl, less volume.

Add about ⅓ of the prepared dressing to the kale and then use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale. The kale will get softer and lose volume as it is massaged. Set the kale aside.

sliced red onion in a bowl of ice water.

Slice ½ of a red onion. If red onion is a bit too strong for you, you can soak it briefly in ice water to take the sharp edge off.

Sliced grape tomatoes

Slice one pint of grape tomatoes in half.

Ingredients for salad in the bowl with dressing being poured over top.

Add the drained and cooled pasta, tomatoes, sliced onions, one drained 15oz. can of chickpeas, and ½ cup grated Parmesan to the bowl with the kale. Pour the remaining dressing over top.

sald and pepper added to tossed salad.

Stir everything together, then season the salad to taste with salt and pepper.

Finished kale pasta salad.

Enjoy the salad immediately or refrigerate for later!

Overhead view of the serving bowl full of kale pasta salad.
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  1. Had this salad with shredded rotisserie chicken and it was excellent!! For just two people, this is a VERY generous portion, but I think this will hold up nicely in the fridge for a day or so, so that takes care of lunch! xoxo

  2. This salad is DIVINE! Paired with pan fried salmon… absolutely delicious. Perfect lunch pick me up! We swapped chickpeas for white beans and upped the kale.

  3. SO GOOD and so easy to adapt with whatever you have hanging out in your fridge that needs to get used up.

  4. I made this for a ladies night and it was a huge hit! I even had to make a second batch halfway through the night cause we ran out. The dressing is awesome, I used an immersion blender to bring it together. Massaging the kale made it perfect. It was my first time using that technique. Great recipe! It will now be in my rotation.
    Thank you!

  5. I’m in love with this pasta salad recipe! I did do a few changes to suit my taste but I highly recommend this dish!

  6. So good!! Dressing is delicious. I copied another commenter’s method and let my kale sit in the dressing while I chopped veggies and cooked the pasta. The end result was 10/10.

  7. Another Budget Bytes keeper! We had this tonight with rosemary bread from the Lidl bakery. I used baby kale, so instead of massaging it, I just dressed it and let it sit while I cooked the pasta, prepped the other veg, and made soft-boiled eggs (also using the BB method, of course!) so the dressing wilted the baby kale just slightly. Delicious!!

  8. This was pretty good. The highlight was the vinaigrette. I’ve actually prepared a small bottle of it for other meals. The salad its self was fine, but didn’t really cohesively come together. I think one or two more salad ingredients could help, maybe cucumbers or olives? Also, I think a bowtie pasta would make the textures a little more even. We had hard time getting all the ingredients into a single bite. This recipe has definitely inspired me to start adding pasta to salads and experimenting with this formula for weekly meal prep. In the end, it was a good lunch for my partner and me, and I’m looking forward to enjoying more of this dressing!

  9. My dressing was still super dark brown, not light like yours. Wondering if I did something wrong??

    1. It’s hard to say as I wasn’t there for the cook, but my guess is the measurements were off or you left out an ingredient. Did you add the mayo? XOXO -Monti

  10. This is so delicious! I had to make 2 batches in one week because my husband loved it as much. He usually hates kale, so that’s saying something!