Warm Kale and Caramelized Wild Mushroom Salad

Mushrooms are incredibly versatile. Here, we sauté them until deeply golden brown, then pair their savory flavor with hearty kale leaves and a nutty sherry vinegar dressing. It’s an easy vegetarian meal in a bowl.

Note: This article is from our series on Serious Eats. You can find this salad, and other great recipes there as well.

When you cook as a couple, you have to constantly deal with what each person does and doesn’t like to eat. One of us (Matt) loves mushrooms, though, admittedly, mostly fried up English-style for breakfast; the other (Emily) used to dislike them, finding them to be either chewy, slimy, rubbery, or otherwise unappetizing.

We eventually realized that the problem wasn’t with the mushrooms, it was how we’d been cooking them. We’d been treating mushrooms like most other vegetables, when we really should’ve been cooking them like meat. By searing mushrooms until deeply browned, you can bring out their earthy, meaty, umami-packed flavor, while their interiors remain tender and juicy. Now, we have no conflict—we both love mushrooms and work them into our meals all the time. Here, we toss them with baby kale and a flavorful sherry vinaigrette to make an easy, filling salad.

Warm Kale and Caramelized Wild Mushroom Salad

Browning the mushrooms creates a rich, earthy flavor that contrasts the peppery kale and zingy dressing.

The key here is to develop a really good crust on the mushrooms, just like you would with a steak. And one of the best ways to do that is to avoid crowding the pan—mushrooms are prone to dumping a lot of liquid, which is why they often wind up steaming themselves instead of searing. The less crowded the pan is, the less liquid they’ll dump, and the faster said liquid will evaporate, allowing the mushrooms to stop steaming and start searing. You don’t even have to move them around much—just let them sit and sizzle in the oil, stirring just enough to brown them on all sides. The whole process can easily take six or seven minutes, if not more.

The choice of mushrooms is entirely up to you—we almost always start with a basic cremini (sometimes sold as baby portobellos) and then add in whatever varieties pique our interest, from cultivated oyster and shiitake mushrooms to wild chanterelles and black trumpets. Incorporating more than one type of mushroom adds a wealth of nuanced flavor and texture to this dish—just keep in mind that if you use shiitakes, you’ll want to remove and discard their tough, woody stems.

After a nice, crisping sear, what you end up with are mushrooms that will satisfy both vegetarians and people who think bacon should be a food group. They’re salty and savory, crispy and juicy.

To finish the mushrooms, we add sliced shallots to the pan and cook them until softened and tender, then deglaze the pan with some sherry wine, reducing it until it’s nearly evaporated.

Warm Kale and Caramelized Wild Mushroom Salad

The heat of the mushrooms wilts and softens the kale slightly without needing to cook the greens. Hearty enough for a vegetarian lunch, it’s also a great side dish or first course.

Then, we toss the mushrooms and shallots with kale leaves and a dressing of rich, nutty sherry vinegar, mustard, a touch of honey, and olive oil. (If you don’t have sherry vinegar, a good red wine vinegar is a fine substitute.)

Today, one of us (Matt) is thrilled that the other (Emily) is fully on-board the mushroom train. Now, if only we could agree on Marmite and kidney beans…

Warm Kale and Caramelized Wild Mushroom Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Mushrooms are incredibly versatile. Here, we sauté them until deeply golden brown, then pair their savory flavor with hearty kale leaves and a nutty sherry vinegar dressing. It's an easy vegetarian meal in a bowl.
Serves: 4
  • ½ cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound (450g) assorted cultivated and/or wild mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, oyster, chanterelle, porcini, etc.), trimmed of woody stems and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup (60ml) dry sherry
  • 4 cups (5 ounces; 140g) baby kale (or use large kale, cut out and discard the rib and finely shred the leaves)
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) honey
  • 3 ounces (85g) fresh goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they've released all their liquid and are browned, about 10 minutes total, reducing heat if oil starts to smoke excessively. Lower heat to medium, and stir in butter and shallots. Cook, stirring often, until butter is melted and shallots soften and turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add sherry and cook until mostly evaporated. Remove from heat and keep warm.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil with the sherry vinegar, mustard, and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Alternatively, add dressing ingredients to a jar, cover, and shake until emulsified.
  3. In a large bowl, toss kale with just enough dressing to lightly coat. Add warm mushrooms and toss again. Add more dressing, as needed, to lightly coat all ingredients. Top with goat cheese, if using, and serve. Extra dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for another use.