Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing

$3.93 recipe / $0.98 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 9 votes
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Oh how I love my dark leafy greens! When I saw that lacinato kale was on sale at Whole Foods again this week, I had to indulge. I used the “sale kale” (haha) to whip up this super simple, but flavorful Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing. The chickpeas bring tons of flavorful spices to the party, while the creamy buttermilk dressing helps keep things grounded.

Overhead view of a Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas in a white bowl on a black background

What is Lacinato Kale?

Lacinato kale, also known as “dino kale,”  is a variety of kale with dark, glossy green leaves. This type of kale has become my favorite because the somewhat flat leaves are much easier to work with (IMHO) and a bit more tender than curly kale, which makes it perfect for raw salads. 

Can I Substitute the Buttermilk?

I highly suggest using real buttermilk rather than a buttermilk substitute (like milk plus vinegar or lemon juice) because it has a unique flavor that really makes the dressing. If you’re hesitant to buy a quart of buttermilk just for one recipe, check out my tutorial on how to freeze buttermilk so that the rest won’t go to waste and you’ll always have some on hand for buttermilk biscuits, pancakes, or whatever recipe you want to take up a notch.

How Long Does This Kale Salad Last?

As long as you leave the salad undressed, it should stay good for about four days in your refrigerator. The chickpeas may soften just slightly as it refrigerates, but they’ll still be amazingly delicious!

Close up of a forkful of Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing with the bowl in the background.
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Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing

5 from 9 votes
This kale salad is spiked with cajun spiced chickpeas, a tangy homemade buttermilk dressing, slivers of red onion, and a light dusting of Parmesan cheese.
Servings 4
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 5 minutes
Total 25 minutes



  • 1/2 cup buttermilk ($0.30)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise ($0.37)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice ($0.07)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (plus more to taste) ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.03)
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano ($0.03)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper ($0.03)



  • 1 bunch lacinato kale (about 1/2 lb.) ($1.50)
  • 1/4 red onion ($0.20)
  • 1.5 Tbsp grated Parmesan ($0.20)


  • Prepare the dressing first, so the flavors have time to blend. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk dressing ingredients (buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, oregano, and about 10-15 cranks of a pepper mill). Taste the dressing and add more salt if desired. Refrigerate the dressing until ready to use.
  • Drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse with cool water. Add the olive oil to a non-stick skillet and place over a medium flame. Add the drained chickpeas along with the salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cayenne, thyme, and another 10-15 cranks of a pepper mill. Sauté the chickpeas and spices for about five minutes, or until the chickpeas are slightly toasted. Remove from the heat.
  • Remove the stems from the kale, then slice the kale leaves into thin strips (see step by step photos below for more detail). Rinse the kale with cool water and allow the excess water to drain away. Thinly slice the red onion.
  • To build the salad, place the washed kale in a large bowl (or four serving bowls), add the spiced chickpeas, a few slices of red onion, and a light dusting of Parmesan (about 1 tsp per serving). Finally, taste the buttermilk dressing after it has had time to refrigerate and adjust the salt if needed. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and then serve.

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*Feel free to use a store bought premixed Cajun seasoning blend (about 1/2 Tbsp). Just check to see if it contains salt or not. If not, add salt as needed.


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 341.23kcalCarbohydrates: 27.68gProtein: 9.83gFat: 22.53gSodium: 1042.65mgFiber: 8.1g
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Overhead view of a Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing in a white bowl on a black surface.

Step by Step Photos

Okay, some how I forgot to take a photo of the dressing, but it wouldn’t have been much anyway, so I’ll just tell you what to do: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used light), 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp oregano, and about 10-15 cranks of a pepper mill. Taste and add more salt if desired (I think I added a pinch more, but not even 1/4 tsp). Refrigerate until ready to use to allow the flavors to blend. The taste will become more “smooth” with refrigeration.

Chickpeas in a colander

Drain a 15oz. can of chickpeas, then rinse with cool water. Let the excess water drain away.

Chickpeas in the skillet, coated with spices

Add the drained chickpeas to a non-stick skillet along with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp oregano, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/8 tsp thyme, and another 10-15 cranks of a pepper mill. Sauté the chickpeas and spices over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the chickpeas get a little toasted.

Cajun Spiced Chickpeas close up in the skillet

Here’s a close up of the chickpeas so you can see that they just have a little brown on the edges. You don’t want to cook them too long or they’ll get dry. After they’re cooked, just remove them from the heat.

Lacinato Kale with stems removed

Next it’s time to de-stem and clean the kale leaves (1 bunch, or about 1/2 lb.). You can remove the stems by sliding the point of a knife along each side of the stem, but that would take forever with 20-25 leaves. So, what I do is hold the base of the stem with my left hand and pinch with my right hand just above where I’m holding it with my left hand. Slide the pinching fingers down along the stem towards the tip of the leaf and it will pull the leafy green off of the tough stem. The stem will naturally break where it becomes tender. The leaves above had the stems remove with this pinch-slide technique. It’s fast and easy!

Lacinato kale sliced into strips

Then just stack the leaves and slice them into 1/2 inch wide strips.

Rinse Kale in colander

Finally, rinse the kale well to make sure there is no dirt, debris, or critters. 😳

Thinly sliced red onion

The only other thing you need is very thinly sliced red onion. The key is to make it paper thin!

Overhead view of a white bowl of Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing on a white background

Now just build the salads! Place some of the rinsed greens in a bowl, add some spiced chickpeas, a few pieces of sliced red onion, about a teaspoon of grated Parmesan (to each bowl), and a drizzle of the dressing. Since the dressing kind of mellows out while it refrigerates, it’s always a good idea to give it one last taste before adding it to the salad to see if you want to adjust any of the ingredients.

Close up of a fork about to dig into the Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing

Now make your mom proud and eat your greens. :)

Overhead view of Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing on a black background

Kale Salad with Cajun Spiced Chickpeas and Buttermilk Dressing. Cheap eats, GOOD eats.

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  1. I made it exactly as the recipe says, except I forgot the Parmesan. Then, at the last minute, I had some leftover rice, so I mixed that in, and added a little extra dressing to make it more of a “main dish.” My husband is not a kale fan, and at first, didn’t believe that it was kale. He said that it was the most delicious kale dish he’d ever eaten. I am a huge kale fan, and I thought it was fantastic. I’m going to double the dressing recipe next time, and serve it on everything.

  2. Very delicious salad with lots of enjoyable flavors and textures. More filling than I thought it would be too. I always have extra buttermilk on hand when bake something with it, so it was a perfect opportunity to keep it from going to waste! Thanks for another awesome and inexpensive recipe!

  3. I cooked the kale in the leftover seasoning in the cast iron and mixed it with the cooked chickpeas. Came out pretty good also

  4. Prepared this salad for my friend’s Mardi Gras party … Pretty much followed recipe… Used curly kale …. I always massage kale and chop small…. Used pampered chef mandolin to thinly slice the red onion… Lots of compliments and requests for recipe. Thanks!

  5. Yum! We served this tonight at a Mardi Gras dinner party, and it was a hit. The kale holds up well with the dressing. Thanks for sharing!

  6. AMAZING. I ate this for lunch and dinner yesterday. This buttermilk dressing is sooo good, and I am always looking for new ways to cook lacinato/dino kale!

  7. This was a great dinner for me. I am trying to eat more healthfully (is there anyone who isn’t?). I would definitely make this again and feed it to other people who like kale too. I agree with you about the lacinato kale versus the curly kale. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  8. One of my all time favorite salads..I ended up roasting the chickpeas in the oven this time to get them a little more crunchy, but this recipe is just spot on..hearty, healthy, DELICIOUS!!

  9. Hi Beth, love your recipes! I’m cooking for one and I’m not sure I’ll be able to use enough of the buttermilk and mayo to make it cost effective. Any recommendations for pre-made salad dressing that would go well with this?

  10. I LOVE this buttermilk dressing! I also can’t get enough of those toasted chickpeas. What a great meal, thanks Beth!

  11. I tried this with some romaine and it was amazing! The spices were delicious and the dressing made me want to (and maybe did) lick the plate. You could not have posted this recipe at a better time. The bank account is getting low but I had everything already in my kitchen or the community garden. Thank you!

  12. I made this tonight and loved it! Added some grilled chicken. The flavors melded together perfect and the spicy toasted chickpeas were nice and crunchy. We ate it as a main course.

    I added all of the dressing at once and tossed it which I wouldn’t recommend because it was heavily dressed, ended up adding extra kale and random lettuce.

    Will DEFINTELY make this again, please do more salad recipes!

  13. This salad looks great, I’ll definitely be copying the cajun spiced chickpeas!