It’s only the second week of June but it’s already a million degrees outside. I barely want to eat, let alone cook when it’s this hot outside, so I practically live off of big batch cold salads. This Kale White Bean and Pesto Salad is the perfect example of a refrigerator sturdy salad that can be changed up daily with a variety of add-ins to prevent burn-out. Or you know, eat it as-is and don’t put any more thought into it. Because there are beaches to see, sports games to attend, and summer fun to be had!
This Kale White Bean and Pesto Salad already has good bones. I can eat it as is and be perfectly happy. But when I do want to switch it up I can add things like a chopped hard boiled egg, some crumbled feta, leftover roasted vegetables, avocado, croutons or toasted pita triangles, or even leftover cooked quinoa. You can make each bowl unique.
If you’re not a kale fan, you can use chopped spinach in a pinch, but it won’t give this salad as much volume, or hold up as well in the refrigerator as kale. I’m almost more inclined to suggest using chopped parsley, which has a similar sturdiness to kale.
You can feel free to simply leave the chicken out, or add an extra can of white beans in its place. And while cannelini beans are the best for this salad due to their creamy, yet firm texture, I can see chickpeas also working well.
If you can’t find pesto for a good price in your area, my parsley pesto is a great homemade substitute to the convenience of store bought pesto. You can also swap it out for my tangy Tomato Basil Vinaigrette.
How to Store Leftovers
I try to design my recipes with as little leftovers as possible, but for this recipe I had leftover kale, tomatoes, and pesto. The tomatoes will be no problem because I like to snack on grape tomatoes, add them to my scrambled eggs, and many other things. When faced with large amounts of fresh kale, I like to sauté it down with a little garlic, salt, and pepper. It’s so good that I can eat it straight, and because it wilts so much when it’s cooked, one big bag of kale quickly becomes one serving. And for the leftover pesto, I’ll consult my archives.
Make Ahead Kale White Bean and Pesto Salad
- 6 cups kale, finely chopped ($1.50)
- 1 15oz. can cannellini beans ($0.69)
- 1 cooked chicken breast* ($2.00)
- 1 cup grape tomatoes ($1.00)
- 1/2 cup pesto ($1.44)
- 1 large lemon, cut into wedges ($0.43)
- Place the finely chopped kale in a large bowl. Rinse and drain the cannellini beans, slice the tomatoes in half, and then add them both to the bowl. Chop or shred the chicken, and add it to the bowl as well.
- Add the pesto to the bowl with the other salad ingredients, then toss until everything is lightly coated in pesto. Taste and add more pesto if desired (I used only 1/2 cup).
- Serve the salad immediately, or refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve each portion of the salad with a wedge of lemon and squeeze the fresh lemon juice over top just before eating.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
How to Make Kale and White Bean Pesto Salad – Step by Step Photos
Pre-chopped kale is one of the very few produce convenience items I buy. It’s usually about the same price as a kale bunch where I live, but all the hard work is already done for you, so why not?! I like this brand in particular because there are very few stems to pick out and it’s already chopped quite fine…
But I ended up chopping my kale even a bit more finely. I just took a handful or two at a time and ran my knife over it a few times until it was very small pieces like this. You’ll want about 6 loosely packed cups of finely chopped kale for this salad.
Place the kale in a large bowl. Rinse and drain one 15 oz. can of cannellini beans. Chop or shred one cooked chicken breast (mine is from a rotisserie chicken), and slice 1 cup grape tomatoes. Add the beans, chicken, and tomatoes to the bowl with the kale.
This is the type of basil pesto I’m using this time around, because it was the best price per ounce at the store (this is Kroger’s private label brand). I find that you can usually find pretty good deals on store brand pesto, whether it be 365 brand from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s brand, or any other store brand. You can usually find them near the pasta sauces.
Start by adding 1/2 cup pesto to the salad, then toss until everything is lightly coated.
You can add more pesto if you prefer, but I stuck with just the 1/2 cup.
And that’s it! I highly suggest serving the salad with a lemon wedge for an extra pop of bright flavor. Squeeze the lemon over top just before eating, and enjoy!
This salad is simple yet, so amazing. Please do yourself a favor and make it!
I made this for my lunches this week – also used rotisserie chicken and it was so easy to throw together. I can see this being a go-to for my meal preps, especially over the summer when it’s too hot to actually cook :) I added some shaved parmesan, and next time I’ll play around with adding some shallots or roasted carrots or something!
This was great! I didn’t have chicken on hand, so I cooked up some brown rice to make a complete protein with the beans. Worked seamlessly in this recipe! I also ended up using the whole jar of pesto – closer to 3/4 cup than 1/2 cup. Quick and delicious lunch!
Question: If I meal prep this and will be eaten over 3-4 days, should I add the pesto when making the salad? Or put the pesto in a side container to mix before eating?
For this one I like to add the pesto ahead of time because it helps tenderize the kale as it refrigerates. But if you like your kale more on the tough-fresh side, go ahead and pack the pesto separately. :)
This was so simple and oh so good. I couldn’t stop stealing bites after it was finished.
I went ahead and squeezed half a lemon into the salad with the pesto and added mozzarella cheese pearls because I had some I needed to use up.
Someone gifted me a bunch of basil that I made up some pesto with for the first time…but then I had no clue what to do with pesto. This turned out amazing and better than I expected!! I love kale salads. Switched out Great Northern Beans (couldn’t find cannellini) and skipped the chicken to make it easier… Added the last 1/4 of a box of cavatappi pasta to some of it for a larger dinner. A great way to use up a bunch of the pesto!
Love this!! Made this two weeks ago and already am planning on making it again for an outdoor concert this weekend. Already have a chicken-sausage dish so I’m leaving out the chicken this time, but will hard-boil some eggs to add. Also recommend adding couscous or another grain if you have it on hand. Beans + kale = should not taste this good!
Easy, and surprisingly tasty! I put chickpeas into mine as well and have been so happy with the result!
Good, filling, easy to throw together. It probably won’t be one of the recipes I crave, but it’s definitely one I’d reach for when I’m throwing a meal together.
I love this salad Beth! I’ve made it 3x since you posted it, playing around with the ingredients depending on what’s in the fridge. So easy, nutritious, yummy, good to make ahead…. thank you for your wonderful blog! I appreciate your recipes so much. :)
I am obsessed with this recipe! I never thought I would like a kale salad but the pesto is perfect for masking that strong kale flavour. Healthy, easy and TASTY!
Pesto as salad dressing! Genius! This was fantastic!