I Tried Massaging Kale in a Stand Mixer and Was Surprised by the Results

published Jul 13, 2021
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Credit: Maggie Hennessy

If you’ve ever made a raw kale salad, chances are you’ve come across a point in the recipe where you’re supposed to “massage” your greens. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s exactly what it sounds like: You rub kale in your hands until it becomes tender, creating a softer, less astringent texture and flavor.

I’ve never been big on massaging kale (mostly out of laziness, honestly). Usually I’ll dress chopped kale generously at least 30 minutes before eating, then let it hang out and soften in the oil, salt, and acid. The exception is when I’m rushing to eat or when I’m after a more delicate, silky texture in the kale, in which case I’ll rub the stemmed leaves vigorously between my hands for a few minutes with a little oil and salt to hasten the process of breaking down the cellulose structure.

Of course, this can be a pain when prepping kale salad for a crowd, so I was keen to try this Reddit hack in which you toss kale into a stand mixer and let the paddle attachment do the work. I decided to try this trick out and compare it to the traditional method to see if it was worth the extra dishes.

Credit: Maggie Hennessy

How to Massage Kale: By Hand and in the Stand Mixer

By hand: As I mentioned, massaging kale by hand is really straightforward. Simply remove the fibrous ribs, take bunches of kale in your hands, rub them together, and repeat. You’ll quickly notice a visible change; the leaves darken, wilt, and feel silkier between your fingers. This usually takes a few solid minutes of massaging to achieve. To facilitate and speed up the process, add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt before you start.

In a stand mixer: As you can see, the Reddit directions are — ahem — sparse. First, I tried simply tossing stemmed and torn leaves into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, but found that they jammed the paddle almost instantly. Running my knife through the kale to create 1- or 2-inch-thick ribbons helped. I also found that it’s best to start the mixer massage with no more than about half a cup of leaves.

I’d argue that it’s equally essential that you toss a little olive oil and salt into the mixer with the leaves, which lessens the initial friction. Once I got through the first few jams, I was able to cycle through small handfuls of kale two minutes at a time.  

Credit: Maggie Hennessy

My Honest Opinion of Massaging Kale in a Stand Mixer

If you’re preparing kale salad for a crowd, this will save you a bit of labor but not much time — especially since the mixer requires working in fairly small batches for success. Whatever the occasion, I’ll stick with my hands and maybe a bit of oil and salt for my next kale massage. After all, hands are our most essential cooking tool, right?

Plus, as a friend rightly confided when I first described this hack: “It would take a large amount of kale to entice me to wash my mixer.” After this little experiment, I completely agree.