5 Easy Ways to Cook Kale

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

You bought a bunch of kale with good intentions, but until now it’s done nothing but take up space in the fridge. Let’s put an end to that and get it on your table while it’s still good. Sure, you could turn it into a salad, but I believe kale is at its best when cooked. There are a bunch of ways to cook kale, but these are the five easiest methods I turn to again and again.

1. Sauté it.

Sautéing is the quickest and easiest way to cook up a bunch of kale, and it works well regardless of variety, whether it’s the deep, dark Tuscan kind or frilled curly kind. Like other leafy greens, kale will cook down quite a bit (although not as much as spinach), so start with a big skillet and more kale than if you were eating it raw. Any kind of cooking oil will get the job done, but our top picks are olive, coconut, and avocado oil. A squeeze of lemon at the end of cooking is a nice balance to the bitter greens. If you want to add a touch more flavor, go ahead and cook the kale with a clove or two of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

2. Braise it.

Braising starts off like simple sautéed kale, tossing the chopped leaves in a hot skillet with oil (or, better yet, bacon!). Then a cooking liquid, like broth or water, is added to the pan. After simmering in the liquid, the once-tough leaves become tender and the bitter bite mellows considerably.

Get a recipe: Braised Bacon and Kale

(Image credit: Elizabeth Stark)

3. Stir-fry it.

Kale also makes a really great addition to any stir-fry. This high-heat cooking method happens in just minutes on the stovetop, so the way you prep this tough leafy green is important. While any variety of kale can be stir-fried, Lacinto or Tuscan kale is preferable over heartier curly kale. As for the actual prep, be sure to remove the tough center rib and stem, and finely chop or shred the leaves to help them cook down a bit more.

4. Steam it.

Steaming works with any kind of vegetable, and that includes a leafy bunch of kale. It’s a basic, no-frills stovetop cooking method that relies on hot, moist air to tenderize the leaves and doesn’t impart any extra flavors. All you need is a pot, a steam basket, and a little bit of water. A simple side of steamed kale comes together in just about 10 minutes.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

5. Bake it into chips.

Yes, kale can also be a snack food! You can bake that bunch of kale into crispy, crunchy chips that will last for days. It works whether you have a little bit or a whole lot of kale, and all varieties are fair game. The keys to success and maximizing crispiness are removing the tough center rib and stem, which won’t crisp up very well, and making sure the leaves are totally dry. You’ll also want to keep the oven temperature on the low side (no higher than 300°F) to avoid burning.

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