Easy Sautéed Kale

updated Feb 5, 2024

A quick recipe for sautéed kale flavored with lots of lemon and garlic.

Serves4 to 6

Prep5 minutes

Cook6 minutes

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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. And knowing the right way to cook it is a total game-changer. (Don’t miss our in-depth kale guide to learn about the different types of kale and more! )

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 – kale, garlic, and lemon juice – and about five minutes.

And as for what to serve it with; well, the options are nearly endless. It’s a natural partner to saucy, cheesy lasagna, perfect topped with flaky baked salmon, and an easy side to pair with pork chops. Here’s how to cook kale in a skillet for a quick and easy side dish.

Key Ingredients in Sautéed Kale

There aren’t any big secrets to making awesome kale — you just need a large skillet and some basic pantry ingredients.

  • Kale: This recipe works with any variety of kale — be it the deep, dark Tuscan kind or frilled curly kind.
  • Garlic: Lots of garlic is a must (here’s how to peel it all). We like thinly sliced garlic for sautés because it’s easier and less messy than mincing.
  • Lemon: A good amount of lemon juice adds brightness to the inherently earthy green.
  • Red pepper flakes (optional): I also love to use a big pinch of crushed

    red pepper flakes

If You’re Making Sautéed Kale, a Few Tips

  • De-stem the kale. You don’t need any fancy tools to de-stem the kale (in fact, you can easily stem kale leaves with this common kitchen tool). The fastest way to prep kale is to simply pull the leaves from the stems with your own two hands.
  • Don’t pat dry. 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.

Easy Sautéed Kale

A quick recipe for sautéed kale flavored with lots of lemon and garlic.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 6 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 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. With 2 large bunches of kale, use your hands to pull the kale leaves from their stems. Coarsely chop the leaves. Rinse them, but do not dry.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large, wide, high-sided sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add 3 cloves thinly sliced garlic and a pinch 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 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the juice of 1 small lemon, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.