I know: you know all about kale.
If you’ve been to a Whole Foods recently, you probably already know that kale scores a perfect 1000 on Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Aggregate Nutrition Density Index (ANDI).
But here’s the real question: are you actually eating kale?
I suspect a lot of people who want to like kale, don’t: it’s not exactly the most approachable vegetable if you don’t know what to do with it. The first time I tried kale from the farmer’s market, I found it to be so tough that it was several months before I tried it again.
(Yes, that was even after I started eating a plant-based diet.)
With that in mind, I put together this list of 10 fun, easy, really tasty ways to eat more kale. So that next time you wear that Eat More Kale shirt , you won’t just be frontin’. (It’s okay, I understand that you’ve got to take off your NMA shirt to wash it once in a while.)
10 Ways to Love Kale
1. Massage it in a salad.
Kale salads are a staple for plant-based eaters, and these days you’re as likely to find them on salad bars as you are on upscale restaurant menus.
Kale stands up to big flavors and it is sturdy enough to survive a bit of mistreatment (e.g., being forgotten in the fridge for a few
There are really only two things you can do to mess up kale salad beyond repair: not removing the stems from the leaves, and not massaging the greens. Kale stems are unpleasant to eat raw and it’s easy to remove them.
And if you simply coat kale in dressing rather than massage it on, the dressing doesn’t get a chance to soak in and tenderize the kale, so the leaves stay quite tough. (And a lesser grievance is giant pieces of kale—no one can gracefully shove half a kale leaf in their mouth!) This formula-style recipe breaks down the simplest of treatments for kale.
Try this Classic Kale Salad from the No Meat Athlete Cookbook.
- 2 bunches kale, stemmed and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons GF vinegar or citrus juice, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (OF: omit)
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon dried herbs or spices such as thyme or ground cumin, optional
- 2 cups (220 g) shredded or chopped mixed crunchy vegetables, such as bell peppers, beets, carrots, and celery
- ¼ cup (40 g) finely chopped red onion, or 2 scallions (white and light green parts), sliced
- Black pepper
- ½ cup (70 g) seeds or chopped nuts
- ¼ cup (30 g) dried fruit
- Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle with the vinegar and oil, then add ½ teaspoonsalt and the herb(s), if using. Use your hands to massage the kale thoroughly, until it starts to darken in color and look slick.
- Add the mixed vegetables and onion and toss to combine. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight, until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, season with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste and sprinkle with the nuts and dried fruit. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Variation: For Rainbow Raw Salad, skip the kale and use a rainbow of other veggies instead:
- Beets, celery, carrots, and red cabbage with Lemon-Tahini Dressing
- Fennel and bell peppers with Creamy Avocado-Lime Dressing (this will only last 1 day in the fridge due to the avocado)
- Cauliflower and bell peppers with Lemon-Thyme Dressing
- Use the same technique to massage the vegetables to help them break down.
2. Make kale chips.
I’ll be the first to admit you won’t fool anyone if you put them in an Utz bag and try to pass them off as regular chips, but at least your body will thank you. Here are chef Julie Morris’ tips for making great kale chips.
3. Pair it with nuts.
I’ve actually started to enjoy the taste of kale, but after a while, sauteing it with garlic and squirting some lemon on it gets old. This recipe not only has you boil the kale for a few minutes to soften it up, it adds panfried walnuts to up the excitement factor. Walnuts, whoohoo! (I know that sounds like sarcasm but I’m actually excited.)
4. Try dinosaur kale.
It’s really called Lacinato kale, but a lot of people call it dinosaur kale. Why? I have no freaking clue. Maybe because it looks like dinosaur skin (maybe) looked?
Either way, I find Lacinato to have a better flavor and be more tender than regular kale, plus it’s less messy to chop. I like to add a little tamari to give it an Asian flair.
5. Throw it in the soup.
Kale works great in soups because the long simmering time softens it up and makes it work like any other green in a soup, only with a heavier nutritional punch.
6. Make it the green in “a grain, a green, and a bean.”
That’s my cool-because-it’s-alliterated-and-rhymes formula for a cheap, healthy, one-pot meal. (Others have since stolen the name, but that’s okay.) Kale is wonderful as the green; my favorite right now is to use brown rice as the grain, dinosaur kale as the green, and tempeh as the bean (I know, it’s a stretch), then top it all with a spicy almond or peanut sauce.
7. Put kale in a burger.
Oh no she didn’t! Yes she did: my pal Gena at Choosing Raw makes some fine burgers, and these millet, kale, and yam burgers might be the finest of all, at least nutritionally-speaking. Google “kale burger” and you’ll find a lot more possibilities, too.
8. Put it in a green smoothie.
I’m not going to lie — I like a smoothie as much as the next guy, but I can’t stomach the green smoothies that you see on just about every healthy eating blog in the universe. But if you like them (or if you just want to add some kale to your normal, appetizingly-colored smoothie), you can toss some kale in there and a high-speed blender will break down the kale for you. I make no guarantees about a regular blender, though.
9. Use kale as a burrito shell.
Again, dinosaur kale is a better choice than other varieties here — the leaves are flat, so they’ll do a better job of containing all that Mexican goodness without making a mess. And it doesn’t have to be a burrito; this works for any kind of wrap. Collard leaves, another 1000-pointer on the ANDI scale, are probably the more popular faux-tortilla since they’re larger and more tender than kale. But hey, this post is about kale.
10. Just saute it!
Keep it simple — I know I said it gets boring eventually, but a little olive oil, a clove or two of garlic, a few minutes in the pan and squirt of lemon juice or soy sauce at the end make for a terrific and fast side to just about any main dish. In our house, we prepare kale this way once or twice a week, more often than any of these other highfalutin methods.
If you like your kale softer, add some water and cover the pan for few minutes before adding the lemon juice or soy sauce.
Okay, you had to know it was coming … what’s your favorite way to prepare kale that absolutely trounces all of these? Leave it a comment (feel free to link to your own recipe if you’ve got a blog), and you’ll help make this post a great resource for potential kale-heads!