It would be impossible for me to survive summer without big cold salads like this pasta salad with big kale. My favorite things about this dish are that it’s cold, filling, has lots of flavors and textures, and it’s super simple to make.

Besides that, I found that the recipe held up really well in the refrigerator, as well. That is pretty much why it wins the prize for the “perfect summer meal” pretty much every time.

Are you ready to learn about it? Let’s discover together now.

What Is in Pasta Salad with Kale?

To make this pasta salad, I combined some of my favorite things. For more umami, I added some shredded parmesan cheese, red onion, chickpeas, grape tomatoes, and a little balsamic vinaigrette to make the kale more tender. I think this one covers all the bases in a very impressive way.

Options for Dressing

In case you do not like balsamic dressing or you simply do not want to make your own, you can substitute any store-bought vinaigrette-style dressing for this salad if you do not care for balsamic dressing.

In addition to Italian dressing or Caesar dressing, tomato basil vinaigrette or Caesar dressing would also be good choices.

Can I Add Anything Else?

This pasta salad with big kale is a delicious salad that can be prepared in a variety of ways. It would be great if you could add any of the following ingredients in place of or in addition to what I used, so that you can improve the taste:

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

How Long is It Kept?

4-5 days in the fridge are enough time for this salad to stay fresh. It is very important to note that kale holds up very well to dressing, and pasta salads in general also hold up very well to dressing.

You may want to store some of the dressing on the side after massaging the kale so that it can be added to the salad just before serving if you are planning to meal prep the salad (to prevent the salad from becoming soggy after it has been refrigerated).

A bowl of kale pasta salad next to the serving dish.

Pasta Salad With Big Kale

I have created this simple and easy recipe for salad with big kale and pasta as a quick and easy summer lunch that is packed with flavors, textures, and colors. Preparing meals in advance has never been easier.

Author: Beth

Prep Time: 20 mins/ Cook Time: 10 mins/ Total : 30 mins

Servings: 6 (2 cups each))


Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette

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


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


  • First, make the vinaigrette. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, basil, salt, and pepper, and then whisk in the olive oil, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and mayonnaise. The dressing should be set aside for later use.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until tender (7-8 minutes). The pasta should be drained and cooled in a colander.
  • A large bowl should be filled with the kale. Using your hands, massage the balsamic dressing into the kale after you drizzle ⅓ tablespoons of the prepared dressing over it. The kale should be massaged for 3-5 minutes, or until it has wilted to half its size.
  • Grape tomatoes should be halved, red onions should be thinly sliced, and chickpeas should be rinsed and drained.
  • After the pasta has been drained and cooled, add tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, and Parmesan to the bowl of kale.
  • Continue stirring the salad until it is evenly coated with the remaining dressing then pour the remaining dressing over top. If you want more salt or pepper, add it after serving.


The stems can be removed from the kale and the leaves can be torn or chopped into small pieces if you are not using pre-chopped kale. Before using the kale in the salad, it should be rinsed well and drained.


Serving: 2 cups ・ Calories: 355 kcal ・ Carbohydrates: 37 g ・ Protein: 10 g ・ Fat: 19 g ・ Sodium: 316 mg ・ Fiber: 4 g

The nutritional values shown here are only estimates. Please see our nutrition disclaimer.

Close up side view of a bowl full of big kale pasta salad.

Step by Step Guide to Making a Pasta Salad With Big Kale

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette in a bowl with a whisk.

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

cooked penne in a colander.

½ pounds of pasta (any short shape) should be added to a pot of boiling water. You will need to boil until they are tender, then drain them in a colander.

Bag of pre-chopped kale.

As soon as the kale has been prepared, begin to cook it. My favorite reason to use pre-chopped kale is that it is so convenient and inexpensive.

The stems of the kale can be removed and chopped into 1-2 inch pieces if you are using a bunch instead of pre-chopped kale.

This one-pound bag of salad ingredients was used for half of it.

Chopped kale in a bowl.

It fills my large salad bowl completely before massaging the kale.

Massaged kale in the bowl, less volume.

Then use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale. Add approximately ⅓ tablespoons of the prepared dressing to the kale. Massage will soften and reduce the volume of the kale. Kale should be set aside.

sliced red onion in a bowl of ice water.

Chop half a purple onion. In order to soften red onion, you can briefly soak it in ice water if the sharp edges bother you.

Sliced grape tomatoes

One pint of grape tomatoes should be sliced in half.

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

The cooled pasta, tomatoes, sliced onions, 15 oz can of drained chickpeas, and 12 cups grated Parmesan should be added to the bowl with the kale after it has been drained and cooled. The remaining dressing should be poured over the top.

sald and pepper added to tossed salad.

Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste after mixing everything together.

Finished kale pasta salad.

Refrigerate the salad for later enjoyment or eat it immediately.

Overhead view of the serving bowl full of kale pasta salad.