Kale is everywhere these days — in the produce section of health food and big box stores, on the pages of foodie magazines and nutritional bulletins, and in all sorts of gardens.
But not everyone has jumped on the kale bandwagon. If you already enjoy kale but have run out of ideas for ways to eat it, or have been meaning to try kale but are not sure where to start, or even if you still need a little convincing, this article is for you.
13 Best Ways to Love Kale
1. Raw. Kale makes a great snack straight out of the garden. To make kale—or any vegetable, really—appeal to grazers, it helps to keep it accessible. Prepare kale ahead of time by cleaning, removing the tough stems, and cutting it into snack-size ribbons. Then store it in the refrigerator in a location that’s easy to reach in and grab a handful.
Raw kale also can be added to sandwiches instead of lettuce, used alone or with other greens in salads, and eaten in tacos and burritos.
2. Smoothies. Green smoothies are an excellent way for people who aren’t excited about vegetables to incorporate some leafy greens into their diets. Kale blends perfectly with many fruits such as peaches and oranges and berries for a tasty and healthful drink.
3. Chips. Pieces of mature kale leaves, some olive oil, a little salt, a hot oven, and shazam—a delicious, easy, inexpensive treat that even the kids will love!
4. Stir-fry. Kale leaves can be fried up with winter squashes or other vegetables, any kind of meat, or cashews, and served over rice or noodles.
5. Flash-cooked. Simple and fast, flash-cooking is a great way to enjoy kale. Just toss leaves into hot oil and seasonings in a heated pot until they soften to your liking. You can eat them as-is, or add soft cheese, tomatoes—either fresh or canned—or even a nut or seed butter such as tahini paste or peanut butter.
6. Braised or sautéed. Kale can be cooked by itself or with an infinite variety of add-ins.
To braise, start by heating up olive oil with anything from minced garlic to sliced onions to diced apples to sun-dried tomatoes to red pepper flakes. Add a pound or more of kale sliced into ribbons along with the braising liquid—chicken or vegetable stock, or cooking wine—cover, and simmer until tender.
Sauteeing is similar, but often involves more oil or butter and less liquid, and is cooked uncovered, usually in a wide shallow pan.
Cheese, sausage, ham, any kind of bean, other legumes such as lentils, short pasta, walnuts or pine nuts, flavored vinegar, lemon juice, hot peppers or chili sauce can be added to cooked kale.
7. Added to other dishes. When frying, sauteeing, or roasting other vegetables and meats—from potatoes to summer squash to green beans to ground beef and more—consider throwing in a few leaves of kale.
8. In soups of all kinds. Kale leaves are great in just about every kind of soup. Whether it’s beef, pork, chicken or vegetarian, in stock or tomatoes, with pasta or rice or potatoes, or pureed or left whole—you can’t go wrong by adding kale.
9. In purees. Kale can liven up mashed potatoes, mashed vegetable medleys, brown rice or risotto.
10. On pizza and in calzones. Pre-cook the kale leaves a little first with a little onion and garlic, drain well, and add to your favorite cheeses for a great topping or filling.
11. Gratin. Steamed or parboiled kale leaves, mixed with a cheese sauce and sprinkled with bread crumbs and baked—with or without other vegetables—is hard to go wrong.
12. Pesto. Most people expect pesto to be mostly from basil, but this flavorful paste can be made with just about any green, including kale.
13. And it’s a wrap! Choose kale leaves that are mature enough to resist tearing but still supple enough to roll, and use them in place of a bread wrap for anything from cold cuts to eggs and cheese to enchilada-type fillings.
But Why Bother?
In a word: superfood. Kale is good for you and has few calories, is widely available, and generally affordable. Among the many compelling reasons to eat kale, following are eight possible health benefits:
- It contains vitamin K for cardiovascular health.
- It contains luteins for healthy eyes.
- It has a relatively low number on the glycemic index (GI), which is simply a measure of how sugar is processed by the body. Lower GIs can help lower risk of blood sugar complications.
- It is said to help lower cholesterol.
- It contains folate, which is key for brain development.
- It has calcium, which is good for bones.
- It contains vitamins C and E, which can help keep skin and hair healthy.
- It can lower risk of chronic inflammation.
Kale is not a cure-all for every deficiency and malady. And not everyone can or should eat it. People taking blood-thinning medication need to be cautious about consuming foods containing vitamin K, and should consult a health care professional before eating kale. Additionally, some sources—but not all—say that kale can increase gout symptoms. Anyone with any doubt whatsoever about the way kale might affect their health should always check with their doctor first, and, of course, extreme overindulgence of any food is never a good idea.
But for those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to embrace hearty helpings of this delicious and versatile leafy green superfood, we can eat well and kale on.
How do you eat kale? Share your tips in the section below: