How to Cook Kale (and Make It Taste Delicious)

The Taste of Home Test Kitchen walks you through how to cook kale you'll actually want to eat. It's surprisingly tasty!

Superfood or not, kale remains for many people about as sexy as wool underwear. That’s a shame because kale, made right, isn’t just good for you—it’s delicious.

If you haven’t yet found a way to love this leafy green, learn how to cook kale and you’ll find yourself working more of the stuff into your menus. Kale makes a cozy alternative to a lettuce salad on a cool day. Sauté up a batch of kale in place of broccoli. Slip a small handful onto a grilled cheese sandwich, or stir it into a bowl of chicken noodle soup.

How to Cook Kale Greens 3 Ways

However you serve kale, we guarantee you’ll start to crave its unique bitter-savory-robust flavor.

Method 1: Sear, then simmer

You’ll need:

Step 1: Prep
Rinse kale before using. Don’t worry about drying it: the moisture clinging to the leaves will help it cook.

Trim the leaves from the stem, which is bitter and tough. (Smaller stems near the leaf are fine.) You can do this easily with your fingers, but to quickly shear kale from its stem, fold the leaf in half and use a knife to slice away the stem. Voila!

Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

kale simmering in a large blue pot on a stove top as a person stirs it

Step 2: Sauté
In a Dutch oven, sauté kale leaves in oil until wilted. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

Step 3: Boil
Stir in the water or broth, salt and pepper flakes. The kale should be wet but not swimming. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until kale is tender.

Remove from the heat, toss with vinegar and serve warm.

Test Kitchen Tip: Vinegar, lemon juice and other acidic ingredients are best added at the end of cooking. Acids added during cooking can cause green vegetables like kale to discolor to a muted yellow-green. It’s still fine to eat, but the vivid green hue is more appetizing.

More Flavor Ideas for Cooked Kale

While classic kale is tasty, you may want to explore other flavor combinations:

  • Instead of pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar, finish the kale with golden raisins and toasted pine nuts. Let the raisins steam with the kale for the last minute or so to plump them. Then add salt, pine nuts and, if desired, a squeeze of lemon juice. This recipe draws from time-honored Jewish-Italian recipes.
  • For a Chinese-inspired variation, cook the kale in 1-1/2 teaspoons each canola oil and sesame oil. Finish the kale with soy sauce, sesame seeds and a splash of rice vinegar.
  • Channel Southern flavors by cooking the kale in bacon fat instead of oil. Add ½ cup sliced shallots or onion along with the kale. Cook as directed, but finish with white wine vinegar instead of balsamic. Toss with crumbled cooked bacon.

Method 2: Dare to go raw

You’ll need:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • Salad dressing of your choice

Step 1: Prep
Wash and destem the kale. Chop it into small pieces, or stack and roll the leaves (think of a cigar) and slice into thin ribbons.

person massaging kale that is within a glass bowl

Step 2: Massage!
Toss the kale into a large bowl and start rubbing. Don’t be delicate; channel the rough kneading motions of a deep-tissue massage. Adding a dash of salt here can help wilt the leaves quicker (though be careful if your hands are dry). After a few minutes, the leaves will darken and soften.

Step 3: Toss with dressing
Drizzle on your favorite salad dressing, toss it all together and dig in.

In a salad rut? Try one of our easy homemade dressing recipes. We especially enjoy kale in place of romaine for a change-of-pace Caesar salad.

Method 3: Over the coals

You’ll need:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • Salad dressing of your choice

Step 1: Rinse the leaves
Leave them whole, stem and all.

Step 2: Grill
Toss leaves onto hot grill for 15 to 30 seconds. Stack in a bowl and, when cool, pull away the stems. Tear up the leaves and enjoy with a drizzle of oil or as part of a salad.

Find more surprisingly good kale recipes:
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Kelsey Dimberg
A former senior digital editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Chicago. Since 2010, she’s followed a gluten-free diet, and especially enjoys the challenge of baking sourdough bread and pizza dough. As a contributing writer for Taste of Home, she covers a broad range of topics but with a special emphasis on gluten-free cooking and baking. Outside of her gluten-free experiments in the kitchen, Kelsey is also the author of the thriller novel “Girl in the Rearview Mirror.”
Christine Rukavena
Christine loves to read, curate, sample and develop new recipes as a senior book editor at Taste of Home. A CIA alumna with honors, she creates cookbooks and food-related content. A favorite part of the job is taste-testing dishes. Previous positions include pastry chef at a AAA Five Diamond property. Christine moonlights at a boutique wine shop, where she edits marketing pieces and samples wine far higher than her pay grade.