Recipe: Easy Skillet Kale with Lemon & Garlic

(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

While it may feel like kale has overstayed its welcome in the food scene, the hype over the leafy green is very much still alive. Whether that thrills you or makes you groan, knowing the right way to cook it is a total game-changer.

Mastering this method will convert kale-haters, yes, but it will also inspire kale fans who feared they’d never be able to get it right at home. The good news is that it couldn’t be easier to make awesome kale at home: You need just three ingredients and about five minutes.

How to Make the Best Sautéed Kale at Home

There aren’t any big secrets to making awesome kale — you just need a large skillet and some basic pantry ingredients. Lots of garlic is a must, plus a good amount of lemon juice, which adds brightness to the inherently earthy green. I also love to use a big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for a nice, spicy kick, but it’s more than OK to skip it if heat isn’t your thing. This recipe works with any variety of kale — be it the deep, dark Tuscan kind or frilled curly kind. You also don’t need any fancy tools to de-stem the kale: You simply pull the leaves from the stems with your own two hands.

I do have one little secret, though. Since kale is so fibrous, it can be difficult to cook down the leaves so that they’re tender and not chewy. Some recipes have you add water or broth to the skillet while you sauté the leaves, but it’s not actually necessary. Instead, after you’ve washed the leaves, leave them damp. The water that clings to the leaves will create steam when you toss them in the hot skillet. As the kale cooks, you’ll cover the skillet for a few minutes; that steam will help wilt and break down the kale perfectly.

(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)
69 Ratings

Easy Skillet Kale with Lemon & Garlic

Serves4 to 6


  • 2 large bunches

    kale, any variety (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, thinly sliced

  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • Juice of 1 small lemon



  1. Use your hands to pull the kale leaves from their stems. Coarsely chop the leaves. Rinse them, but do not dry.

  2. Heat the oil in large, wide, high-sided sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute (do not let the garlic brown).

  3. Add the kale a few handfuls at a time, stirring after each addition so that it starts to wilt, until all of the kale is added. Stir in the salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

(Image credit: Samantha Bolton)