How to Cook Kale (and Make It Taste Delicious)

The Taste of Home Test Kitchen walks you through three easy techniques for cooking kale you'll actually want to eat. Believe it!

By Kelsey Mueller, Senior Digital Editor and Christine Rukavena, Food Editor

bowl of cooked kale resting on a wooden table with a spoon dug halfway into the food

Trendy or not, kale remains for many people about as sexy as wool underwear. And 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, let us help. Learn how to cook kale with our foolproof method, 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. Saute 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. However you serve kale, we guarantee you'll start to crave its unique bitter-savory-robust flavor.

And, even though most folks already know kale is a superfood, it's worth reiterating just how healthy it really is. Kale packs in tons of fiber, plus vitamins A, C and K, folate, potassium and calcium. It even provides protein and omega-3 fatty acids (which totally makes up for any cheese you grate on top...right?)

How to Cook (Delicious) Kale

Method 1: Sear, then simmer

You'll need:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • Olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup water, vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • Salt, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes or black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar of your choice: balsamic, red wine or other

Person pulling kale leaves carefully from the stem with their hands person holding down a large bunch of kale leaves as they cut them into strips with a knife

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: Saute

In a Dutch oven, saute 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 sure is more appetizing.

More Flavor Ideas

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

person holding a single kale leaf as they cut it into strips with a knife person holding down a large bunch of kale leaves as they cut them into strips with a knife

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.

Feeling inspired? Check out 50+ recipes for cooking winter vegetables—deliciously.