In this post, I’m going to show you how to eat kale in a way that’s delicious and nutrient-rich.
This preparation method is easy, delicious, and versatile. Using this way of preparing kale, I’ve won over people who weren’t fond of any vegetable, much less a dark leafy green! After trying this, I think you might love kale too.
Kale has been touted as an awesome superfood for years now, and for excellent reason.
So many people, though, still do not know how to eat kale in a way that makes their palates sing this hearty leaf’s praises.
There are a few different varieties of kale, including Lacinato, curly, purple, and red.
Please note for the purposes of this post, I’m referring only to the Lacinato (also known as Tuscan and Dinosaur kale) and curly varieties.
What Does Kale Taste Like?
Completely raw and undressed, kale has the taste and smell of a truly supergreen food.
Taste-wise, it reminds me of a milder wheatgrass. If you’ve never had wheatgrass, it has a very powerful green grass taste to it.
The first time I took a shot of wheatgrass juice, I almost gagged and felt like I was drowning in a pool of lawn clippings. But I kept taking the shots as often as I could, while grimacing and holding my nose. Why? Because I knew it was good for me.
And that’s what I see so many people still doing with kale. Grinning and bearing it with the sole purpose of getting it down.
Does Kale Have To Be A Chore To Eat?
It doesn’t have to be this way, I promise! And it’s so easy for it not to be this way. You can make it actually enjoyable all on your own. After you learn how, you may not ever want to eat restaurant kale again.
Most restaurants and professional food providers, including the ones I have worked for, have a lackluster approach to kale. Particularly lacinato-tuscan-dinosaur and curly kale.
Many of these establishments depend on kale’s popularity to carry it through any sort of bland and uninspired preparation. That’s why we get steamed kale and sauteed kale cooked until it’s a more nondescript dark color than a vibrant green, looking like an overworked wet rag on your plate.
What’s the Best Way To Eat Kale?
I know that this may come as a surprise to you, but treated the proper way, kale is amazing in an uncooked state.
If you’ve ever had a kale salad in which the leaves are cut too big and you felt like three weeks passed before you could properly chew through those tough leaves and finish your meal already, you haven’t had raw kale as good as it can be.
Kale prepared well requires no cooking. At its core, it needs s a balance of salt, acid, sweet, and fat. It needs a change in texture, so that it becomes a much less difficult bite. It requires being cut well, stems included. 🙂
Can You Eat Kale Stems?
In fact, you should – for their fiber-rich content!
I’ll show you how to incorporate them into your new delicious way of eating kale.
How Do I Make This Magical Kale?
If you’re new to the kitchen, this might be a small learning curve for you. Stick with it and don’t be intimidated by all the seasoning and knife-handling talk! Food is about taste and texture, so those two attributes will be our focus in working with kale to make it delicious.
The foremost complaint I’ve ever gotten about kale, even from diehard vegans who continued to eat it dutifully but somewhat joylessly, is that it is tough to eat. I completely agree. So the first thing I think about when preparing kale is texture. I create a foundation for good texture by cutting it well.
First, This —
To be completely transparent, my plan was to video or photograph my kale-cutting process for you, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on a fresh bunch of kale for weeks due to the lockdown.
We’ve been able to do all of our grocery shopping only at Trader Joe’s, which I love, but not for their produce section. Everything in their produce section comes in bags already sliced up!
Whenever we buy the pre-sliced kale, I slice it up even further because I don’t like thick chunks of kale leaves. But that’s a messy process that no one really needs to see, lol. So I’ve gathered up as many resources as I could find to help make my explanations clear.
Cutting Kale for Texture
I cut kale based on a technique called chiffonade. Sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, it’s completely attainable.
This knife technique is typically used for the small leaves of herbs like basil or mint so that they become a pretty garnish on a larger dish. The idea is to cut the leaves into thin strips so that the leaves have a fluffy, delicate lightness to them – like chiffon fabric* – when they are plated. [*Although chiffonade actually means “rags” in French.]
I used to have a kitchen manager who would flit about while we were in beast operation mode. During her rounds, she would come over to the kale station and declare, “PRETTY RIBBONS! I WANT PRETTY RIBBONS!”
Luckily, it’s not that serious for us here, so let’s have fun with this.
Chiffonade Kale to Tenderize It
Everyone on YouTube removes the stems from their kale, but I am a staunch believer in keeping them intact because of their rich fiber content! Plus, your slim cuts will render the stems small enough that they will barely be noticeable. And some people happen to like the extra crunch that small pieces of stem provide.
Do what works best for you!
If you have a duller knife or if you’re feeling a little shaky on your knife skills, remember to stack a maximum of three leaves before you roll and cut. You could even do one leaf at a time if you wanted, which really would give you some extra knife practice!
So, take a look at this 58-second video on how to chiffonade kale. Whether you unzip the stems like she does or keep them intact like I do, the cutting method is still the same.
How to Chiffonade with Stems Intact
This works pretty much the same way it does in the video. The only difference is that you’ll need to roll the leaves into a slim cigarette shape, since the stem will prevent us from rolling the leaves into cigar shape.
1) Select three large leaves from your bunch of kale and cut off the stem below the leaf. Wash the leaves. Keep the stem inside the leaf intact.
2) Stack the leaves on top of each other as neatly as possible and press flat a few times. Try to make the stack as flat and compressed as possible. This will be easier with Lacinato kale, more challenging with curly kale. Your stack of kale leaves should be laid out lengthwise on your cutting board, so that the stem is parallel to the edge of the table you’re using.
3) Because you have the stem intact, you’ll roll your stack of kale slightly differently than the chef in the video. Beginning with the leaf edge closest to you, roll the leaf parallel to the stem, as compactly as possible. Once it’s completely rolled, hold it firmly with your non-dominant hand while you take the knife in your dominant hand.
4) The hand holding the kale down should be clawed – as if you’re holding a baseball. No fingertips sticking out for the knife to catch!
5) Try to slice the kale no wider than 1/2-inch, but aim narrower if you can. The thinner the cut, the more tender the kale is!
—> If you need a little knife skill help, check out this quick and concise explanation from a chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu.
—> This excellent knife skill video is slightly longer at under 5 minutes, and gives more detail so you can cut with confidence!
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Choose Your Components
Now that you have tenderized your kale into a pile of pretty ribbons, it’s time to make them delicious.
First, you’ll tenderize your kale even further with a little salt and a little acid.
For the acid component, I like to use:
Any of your favorite acidic seasonings will work, including lemon or lime juice. I have even used plain white vinegar with success.
I love salts. There are so many different kinds! We’ll keep it simple here and stick to fine ground sea salt. Or you can try this Himalayan salt. If you use the Himalayan Salt, keep in mind that the grinds can be slightly larger than fine ground sea salt.
Put It All Together
1) Place your cut kale into a mixing bowl.
2) Base guideline for your three leaves’ worth of kale ribbons: 1/2 Tbsp of vinegar/juice and 1/2 tsp of salt. Go slowly and add a little at a time. You may have to use less or more than my suggested measurements, depending on your taste.
3) Drizzle your vinegar and sprinkle the salt all around the kale.
4) Use your hands to toss and distribute the salt and vinegar around the kale, making sure the kale at the bottom of the bowl is getting seasoned too.
Very Important Step – Massage the Kale!
When salt and vinegar seem distributed somewhat evenly, “massage” the kale by squeezing it. When you do this, you encourage the salt and acid to get into the kale’s cellular walls, which causes it to break down and become softer.
The kale will begin breaking down immediately when it’s dressed in salt and vinegar (or lemon/lime juice) then massaged! You won’t have to work hard or long to break it down. Just a few seconds is all it takes.
5) After your kale has been massaged, it should now be a smaller, more relaxed pile of greens. Taste and add more salt or acid if you’d like.
6) Mix in about 1 Tbsp of excellent olive oil. To get a dose of the nutrient powerhouse that is flax seed, try a good flaxseed oil. I always use olive oils and flaxseed oils as a finisher, so that they’re consumed raw. Learn more about the benefits of the awesome flax seed and check out this post!
7) If you’d like to add a sweet component, a drizzle of good organic maple syrup always works well for me.
Taste As You Go!
Always taste as you go.
This is how you develop a good sense of how to balance seasonings.
If it’s too salty, add a little more acid. If it tastes too acidic, add a little more salt and a pinch of sweet – like maple syrup. Try to get the balance right, though – so you’re not endlessly adding more seasoning! This takes a little bit of practice, but with repetition, you’ll nail it.
And there you have it. This is your base kale preparation. With this, you can do anything.
Dress It Up
This is pretty much the only way I make and eat kale. Occasionally I’ll toss some in a curry, but I prefer to try to benefit fully from kale’s nutrients by consuming it raw.
- Dried Cranberries and Sliced Almonds
- Nutritional Yeast, Capers, and Chopped Cashews
- Canned Chickpeas and Pumpkin Seeds
- Chopped Dates, Sliced Apples, Mandarin Orange Sections
- Quinoa, Avocado, and Lemon Zest
…with Hemp Seeds on everything if I have them!
The possibilities are endless. And fun!
The Best Way To Eat Kale
After you’ve prepared and eaten kale this way, it will be tough to go back to having it steamed or sauteed. Preparing it this way helps it maintain its vibrant fresh state.
The key is in how thinly it’s cut, and the affects that salt/acid/fat and maybe sweet (if you want to include it) have on its texture and taste. This way, it will never taste bland, overcooked, or just dead. And it won’t be a chore to eat, because it’s tenderized well and tastes good!
The many times I’ve prepared kale using this base method, customers/clients would ask me how I cooked it. They were surprised to hear that the kale never got near a flame!
It will take you no time at all to work this easy way of prepping kale into your diet.
Once you read through all of the instructions and try this yourself, you’ll see that it will take you all of 10 minutes, if that. The more you do it, the faster you’ll get. Making delicious kale will become second nature!
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some whole leaf kale.
When I do, I’ll update this post with more informative pics!
In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions about anything in this post.
What has your experience been with kale? Love or hate?
If you do give this a go, I’d love to hear about it!
Tell me in the comments!