Treat yourself to a big bowl of this delicious Farro Kale Salad tonight! It's packed with healthy ingredients, easy to make, and has tons of flavor ... the perfect salad for dinner or lunch!
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I don't know about you, but I looove a big salad for lunch (and dinner, too). Something delicious and fresh, but that will still fill me up.
Like everyone else, I've been working with limited ingredients lately. So I've been throwing together all kinds of interesting meals ... some have worked great, and others I'm trying to forget (ha).
I've always loved a kale salad and farro is one of my fave grains, so I thought why not pair the two? The combination was a winner, and this warm Farro and Kale Salad had been on repeat ever since!
Here's what I love about this salad (and think you will, too):
- Minimal, easy to find ingredients
- Bright, fresh flavors
- Super versatile ... can be customized like crazy (more tips below)
- Tons of yummy veggies
- Hearty, yet healthy (you won't be hungry an hour later)
- Lasts for a few days in the fridge ... great for meal prep / lazy lunches
- And of course, tastes amazing!
Ready to try it for yourself? Then, keep on scrolling for all the details!
Cooking is tricky these days, especially when grocery shopping is so hit or miss. I've been able to find all of these ingredients regularly though ... plus, it's easy to customize this Farro Salad according to what you have on hand.
Here's what you'll need:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fresh Lemon
- Red Cabbage
- Feta Cheese
- Salt and Pepper (I recommend kosher salt.)
Pretty basic, right? And by the way, this salad is vegetarian, but you can make it vegan simply by skipping the feta. It's delicious both ways.
What is farro?
Farro is an ancient grain with roots dating back to Mesopotamia. It's a type of wheat, so it's not gluten free. These days, it's popular in Italian and Mediterranean cooking, and it's catching on here in the U.S., too!
Types of Farro
There are three varieties of farro: farro grande (spelt); farro piccolo (einkorn); and farro medio (emmer). Farro medio is most common in the U.S. However, most of the packages I've seen don't even mention the variety ... so avoid get too caught up on that!
What you do want to look out for is the type of farro: pearled, semi-pearled, or whole grain. Pearled is the most processed, which means it also cooks the fastest. Whole grain on the other hand, is the complete berry, and it takes the longest. Semi-pearled falls in the middle.
For this recipe, I recommend using pearled or semi-pearled farro (find it in the rice / grain aisle or purchase it online). If your package doesn't list the type, flip it over and look at the cooking directions. Pearled / semi-pearled should take around 15 to 25 minutes to cook (and won't require soaking). Any variety will work though, just keep in mind that whole grain will require soaking and may need to simmer longer (depending on how long it soaks).
What does it taste like?
Cooked farro has a tender, yet chewy texture and a mild, nutty flavor. It reminds me a bit of barley, although it's chewier. The mild flavor means that it works well in everything from soups to risottos to salads.
How do you know when farro is done cooking?
These best way to know when farro is done is by tasting it! The grains should looked plumped up (kinda similar to barley). And when you take a bite, it should be tender and pleasantly chewy. If it's not done, just keep simmering.
Depending on what variety you use, cooking times will vary:
- Pearled: 15-20 minutes
- Semi-Pearled: 25-30 minutes
- Whole Grain: 20-60 minutes, depending on soaking time
Is it good for you?
Farro is a whole grain that's packed with nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, protein, iron, and other minerals and good stuff (learn more). Nutrient-wise, it's on par with healthy quinoa and freekeh, making a great alternative to less nutritious rice.
Want to learn more? Here's an excellent article which has tons of info about farro, from origins to cooking tips.
You are going to love how versatile this Farro Kale Salad is. Because the ingredients are so basic, you can think of them more as a guide, rather than considering them set in stone ... although I do think it's perfect exactly as-is!
Here are some tips for customizing the recipe according to your tastes (or what's in your pantry):
- Veggies - This salad works with almost any vegetable, so feel free to sub other ingredients according to what's in season (winter, spring, summer, or fall). Check out my post on how to roast vegetables for cooking times and tips. You could also add raw veggies (like garden fresh tomatoes).
- Cabbage - I love the red cabbage in this recipe ... it adds so much color and crunch! But if you don't have any on hand, you can skip it.
- Grains - Can't find farro? Try using quinoa, brown rice, barley, or even freekeh in its place.
- Greens - Not a kale fan? Mix in your fave lettuce instead, like baby greens or arugula. Just keep in mind that lettuce won't hold up as well as hearty kale, and it doesn't need massaging like the kale does. If you think you'll have leftovers, store the greens separately (then serve the salad over them, instead of mixed together).
- Cheese - Feel free to add your fave cheese if you're not feeling the feta. I've made it with Parmesan cheese before, and it was so good. Crumbled goat cheese, blue cheese, or even sharp white cheddar would also be tasty.
- Nuts - I made this salad with walnuts. You can swap in other nuts like pecans (or even seeds), or skip them altogether if you have an allergy though.
How to Make Farro Kale Salad
Let's walk through this recipe. It's not difficult to prepare, but in order to keep things moving along, you'll work on multiple steps at one time.
Here's a quick overview:
- Chop / slice all the ingredients (cauliflower, nuts, kale, cabbage, and feta).
- Start roasting the cauliflower.
- Once the cauliflower is in the oven, prepare the farro.
- While the cauliflower and farro cook, toast the walnuts.
- Once the walnuts are done, massage the kale.
- Stir all the ingredients together.
Once you've prepped your ingredients, you'll toss the cauliflower with olive oil (plus, salt and pepper to taste), then roast it until browned and tender. Make sure to flip it about halfway through to ensure it cooks evenly.
While the cauliflower cooks, start on the farro. If you've never used farro before, you'll be happy to know that it's very easy to cook! For this recipe, you're going to cook it similar to pasta. I love this method, because it's practically foolproof.
Simply combine the farro with water and a little salt, then bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, then cover your pot and simmer until it's tender and chewy. If you're using pearled or semi-pearled farro, this should take about 15 to 25 minutes.
When it's finished cooking, drain it in a fine mesh strainer to remove any excess liquid. If your other ingredients are ready to go at this point, you can add the farro right to the salad. Other wise, transfer it back to the pot, then cover the pot so the farro stays warm.
Now that you've got the cauliflower and farro going, toast the nuts in a small skillet over medium heat. Nuts have a tendency to burn easily, so keep an eye on them as the pan warms up and shake it frequently. When they're lightly browned and toasted, transfer the walnuts to a small plate to cool as you work on the kale.
Place the sliced kale in your largest bowl, then drizzle it with the olive and sprinkle with salt. Then, stick your hands in there and massage the oil and salt into the kale for a couple minutes.
When you're done, the kale should be tender and reduced in volume (see pics above for a "before" and "after"). Tip: if you've never worked with kale before, check out the video in my massaged kale salad recipe to see exactly how I do this!
Stir in the lemon juice, then adjust the seasoning with extra salt, if desired. By now, your grains and cauliflower should be finished cooking, and you can stir everything together.
I like to add the warm kale and the sliced cabbage at the same. Once that's mixed together, you can gently fold in the cauliflower, feta, and nuts.
Give your Kale Farro Salad a taste. If it's missing something, add a little extra lemon juice, salt, or pepper.
And then it's time to eat! You can serve this Farro Salad with feta and roasted vegetables warm or cold, which makes it super versatile.
I like to make a batch for dinner, then eat the leftovers for lunch. It will last about three days in the fridge, making it perfect for meal prep, too.
However you serve it though, this is one salad you're sure to love!
What to Serve with Farro and Kale Salad
This hearty salad makes a great meal all on its own! However, it would be tasty paired with a bowl of soup (try my 15 Bean Soup or my Minestrone) or on the side of a sandwich (like this Broccoli Rabe and Provolone Grilled Cheese or these Deviled Egg Salad Sandwiches), too.
I also love the idea of serving this Farro Kale Salad at a picnic or potluck.
Loved this easy Farro Salad recipe? Try these other salads featuring whole grains and other healthy ingredients next!
- Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Vegetables
- Kale Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Freekeh Salad
- Lentil Brown Rice Salad
- Kale Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Freekeh
- Greek Quinoa Salad
- Superfood Salad with Citrus Dressing
- Watermelon Basil Quinoa Salad
Looking for more kale dishes? You can find all my Kale Recipes here.
Farro Kale Salad
- 2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 6 cups)
- 1 cup farro (pearled or semi-pearled)
- ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
- 1 large bunch kale, sliced (about 8 cups)
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ small head red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Place cauliflower on a large baking sheet and toss with 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Roast cauliflower for 15 minutes, then flip. Continue roasting for another 10 minutes, or until it's tender and browned on the edges.
- Once the cauliflower is in the oven, rinse the farro in a fine mesh strainer. Then combine it with 3 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low. Cover pot and and simmer until farro is tender, about 15 to 25 minutes. (See note below about cooking times.)
- Drain farro in a fine mesh strainer to remove any excess liquid.
- While the farro is cooking, place the walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook until toasted (lightly browned), shaking pan frequently and watching closely. Transfer to a small bowl / plate, then set aside until ready to use.
- Place kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Using your hands, massage kale for a couple minutes or until it's reduced in volume and is tender.
- Stir in the lemon juice, then season kale with additional salt, if needed.
- When the farro is finished cooking, mix it into the kale. Then gently fold in the cauliflower, feta, and walnuts. Season to taste with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper, if desired.
- Serve salad warm or store in the refrigerator for later. Enjoy!