How to Cook Kale (2 Ways!) – Jessica Gavin

Recipes for cooking curly kale

Learn how to cook kale in two different ways by steaming and sautéing. This leafy superfood cooks in less than 10 minutes for a quick and healthy side dish. Try each method to see how it gives a different flavor to hearty vegetables.

how to cook kale

Kale has been the helpless leafy green. That’s because most of us aren’t quite sure how to tame the natural bitterness and rough texture, until now!

Since kale has many benefits, this superfood has crept onto conventional restaurant menus, salads, pasta and can even be transformed into crispy kale chips. I’ll show you ways to reduce some of the harsh flavors and how to cook kale with ease. But first, let’s talk about preparation and cutting.

How to cut

kale cutting the stem of a kale leaf

cutting kale on a cabbage board with a chef's knife

In most cases for curly, red and Tuscan (


lacinate), there is a large fibrous stem running down the middle. The ends of the stem are wide and can be difficult to eat, but it is easy to remove. You can cut the stem in two ways.

The first is to place the flat leaf on a cutting board, then cut along the sides of the stem to remove the tender leaves. The second way is to fold the leaf in half, then cut the stem. Now raw kale can be cut into smaller pieces. For the methods of this recipe, they are all cut into sheets 1 inch in size.

How to cook


The stove can make kale quickly using two different cooking methods, steaming and sautéing. Each offers very different taste experiences. If you like a softer, more tender flavor, steam. If you want crispy edges and golden notes, give the vegetables a quick stir-fry.

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steaming kale on the stove Steaming

creates an extremely hot and humid environment to soften kale. When you cover and cook kale for about 3 to 5 minutes, you’ll notice that the superheated steam transforms the dark green into bright green leaves.

The leaves will also wilt significantly, losing about 40% of their volume. Keep this in mind for the number of servings you want to have. For example, 8 cups of chopped kale is reduced to about 5 cups.

Steamed kale is a slightly salted quick garnish topped with freshly cracked black pepper. I often throw them at a scrambled breakfast if there are leftovers from the night before.

Sautéed kale

cook sautéed kale in a metal skillet Kale

leaves are very robust, so they work well when mixed in hot oil in a large skillet or wok. I love kale prepared this way because the dry heat cooking method creates roasted flavors that you won’t achieve when steaming.

Be sure to add the kale to a skillet heated over medium heat with a little oil, then stir occasionally for a few minutes to begin the light browning of the leaves. It is important to season with salt and pepper after it begins to wilt, otherwise it will dry the moisture from the cut leaves and vaporize the kale instead of sautéing it.

Adding some

chopped garlic at the end of cooking, or garnishing with some freshly grated aged cheese makes for a delicious side dish


Selection and storage

When selecting kale, be sure to look for leaves that are vibrantly colored, won’t wilt, or begins to turn yellow. The stems should be crispy and intact. Wait to clean them until they are ready to use. They are stored well in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag for about a week.

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“massage kale leaves” />

Why it’s a good idea

to massage kale

Raw kale left alone doesn’t taste much, but once you start chewing, chopping or massaging the cruciferous vegetable, a chemical reaction begins to occur. When leaf cell membranes are physically ruptured, it causes pungent and bitter notes to rise from sulfur-containing compounds called isothiocyanates.

According to Cooks Illustrated, these compounds are formed when the enzyme myrosinase and sulfurous compounds called glucosinolates interact. Good news for kale salad fans, simply rinsing the chopped leaves after massaging helps remove some of the bitterness before taking a bite.

Recipes with kale

  • Sautéed kale with peppers and shallots
  • Braised
  • kale Kale chips View all

  • kale


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