Juanita Cafe owner Holly Smith’s deceptively simple salad recipe

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An impromptu dinner The party erupted when Holly Smith visited a friend in Bend a few years ago. She made a salad that she had experienced at home. The executive chef and owner of Cafe Juanita was learning about nutritional yeast — trying it in various recipes “just to have something in my pocket for vegans.”

The crowd that night was decidedly omnivorous. But “I watched everyone go crazy for this salad,” she recalls. Incorporating chunky avocado chunks and a dash of vinegar into the massaged kale and salsa creates a sort of sleight of hand dressing. But the real magic is in the universal appeal. Her 18-year-old son Oliver is a fan; Smith saw kale salad skeptics gobble this up per plate. She even serves it at Café Juanita on occasion, for plant-loving or dairy-averse diners. “I tell people, ‘this is a salad that happens to be vegan,'” Smith says.

Kale salad with charred green onions, peppers and avocado


(For four people in a generous salad)

  • Kale1 head
  • Mama Lil’s Pickled Peppers3–4 tbsp (or more), with a little oil from the jar
  • Green onion3 bunches
  • Lawyers2–3
  • nutritional yeast
  • Champagne or rice vinegarthe best quality you can afford
  • Kosher salt to taste


  1. Clean the kale. Remove all rough stems and inner leaf veins. Be thorough, you’ll get better texture, and the salad shouldn’t feel like you have to eat. Tear the cabbage into pieces and pat dry. Reserve in a bowl covered with a tea towel.
  2. Reserve four stalks of green onion. On a low grill or in a cast iron skillet, grill the rest until the surface is about 50% black and everything is cooked through.

  3. Let the onions cool. Finely chop them with Mama Lil’s peppers to create a relish-like salsa. Season lightly with kosher salt. Put aside.
  4. Chop the remaining four green onions into pieces a little less than a quarter inch long. You want them to show some presence against the kale. Put aside.
  5. Cut the avocados into large chunks. The exact quantity and size of your avocados may vary, but Smith errs on the plus side – it’s fat in the dish, and avocados are delicious.
  6. Add six generous tablespoons of your Mama Lil’s salsa with kale. Massage the leaves while mixing. Massage makes cabbage more tender; you can see and feel the leaves darken and become softer.
  7. Quickly add the avocado and a tablespoon of vinegar. The avocado will melt into the salad a bit to create a creamy dressing. Continue mixing all the ingredients until the salsa and avocado are evenly distributed. Smith likes to save a few pieces of avocado.
  8. Taste and adjust with additional vinegar or salsa if desired. Smith usually adds more vinegar. It should be an explosion of flavors and bring a bit of spiciness and acidity to every bite.
  9. Add raw green onions, mix and dress the salad. Top each salad generously with nutritional yeast just before serving.


Salsa can also top a bruschetta or crostini, on its own or with gooey sheep’s cheese.