Kale us crazy, but we aren’t over kale yet. By “not over,” we mean most of us are either disgusted and flabbergasted by the popularity of the bitter green or we’re still proud alumni of Kale University — and we’re blending kale smoothies, baking kale chips, and tossing kale salad. That brings us to the point: how to cook kale. Of course you can cook kale many different ways, but you almost always start the same way.
But first, if you’re unaware about why everyone has made such a big deal about this tough, leafy green, you’re in the minority. Sorry. (Not sorry.) The health benefits of kale are a large part of its appeal in the last decade. It’s low in calories, high in fiber, powerful antioxidants, protein, vitamins A and K, and minerals. It does so many things. It’s just great. Trust us.
And have you seen those pretty purple kale-looking cabbages planted outside or wondered what the difference is between dinosaur and curly kale? We can help. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Using Different Types of Kale.
Let’s get started.
- Prepare your kale: Rinse and dry your kale leaves either before or after preparing them, using paper towels or a salad spinner for drying. Always remove the hard stems running through each kale leaf. To do that, grip the thick end of the stem and place your index finger on one side and your middle finger on the other side to rip it out in a zipper-like method. Either tear your leaves into more bite-sized pieces or cut them according to the recipe (often ribbons are best). You can chop up the stems and cook them first, save them for stock, or trash them. Then try one of these cooking methods for your kale.
- Sautéed (and Braised): This is probably the most popular and one of the easiest ways to cook kale and other sturdy greens like collards, adult spinach, and mustard greens. Sauté the prepared greens in a frying pan with olive oil and your choice of aromatics (garlic, ginger, onions, shallots) plus salt and pepper, just until softened and still vivid green. You can always stick with sautéing only, but if you want more tenderness, add no more than a cup of stock or water and simmer about 10 minutes, or until quite tender and much of the liquid has evaporated. Eat.
- Raw: Dinosaur/lacinato/Tuscan kale is more tender than curly kale, so it’s better in raw salads. Either way, massaging the leaves with your fingers tenderizes the leaves as well. Rip or slice the leaves into ribbons and dress them right away. Unlike other salads, the longer you let the dressing soak into the leaves, the better. Also throw raw kale into your smoothies.
- Baked: Toss the kale leaves with oil, salt, and pepper. Lay out the pieces in a single layer, pretty much not touching, on a baking sheet. Bake at 350˚F for 25 minutes, turning the pieces over once halfway through. Eat the kale chips for a snack.
- Boiled: Add kale to soup broth, boiling for 10 minutes and then simmering until the rest of the soup’s ingredients are done. For a Dutch style of cooking kale, you can boil your kale pieces with potatoes until they’re soft. Drain and then mash together with butter, milk, salt, and pepper. Vinegar is optional. Smoked sausage is not.
- Steamed: Add the torn leaves to a steamer basket set in a pan filled with water and cover, steaming for five minutes. Season and serve. Besides eating kale raw, this is the healthiest way to prepare kale.
You can study up on kale in more ways than one. If you have snack cravings at 3 p.m. a lot and want to avoid empty calories, stock up on nutrient-dense Kale Chips: 7 Recipes for Crispy Snacking. For more variety, look at our 19 Healthy Recipes Made with Kale.
Here’s a little taste of what we’re talking about:
1. Basic Skillet Kale
Sauté your kale and add a bit of lemon and dried red pepper flakes for a bright, spicy taste. Get our Basic Skillet Kale recipe.
2. Salt and Pepper Kale Chips
Bake these leaves at 300˚F for about 15 minutes, turning over after 10 minutes. You might want to put parchment paper on the baking sheet first. Get our Salt and Pepper Kale Chips recipe.
3. Kale Apple Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing
Crunchy, sweet, tangy, and bit of bite from the red onion make this multifaceted salad a flavor bomb of awesomeness. Get our Kale Apple Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing recipe.