Easy and Delicious Kale Recipes

by sockii

There are lots of ways to enjoy this popular superfood. Here I'll share a few of my favorite kale recipes.

Kale used to be a relatively under-appreciated vegetable, something most people would only eat when smothered in heavy fatty sauces and cooked until it was almost unrecognizable as a "leafy green". Yet today it is now "hip" to into kale; it's praised as one of the greatest "superfoods" we can add to our diets because of its high density of nutrients and other health-boosting properties.

That said, getting folks to eat kale even though they might know it's good for them can be a bit of a challenge. It's bitter, cabbage-y taste can be off-putting to many. But there are lots of cool things you can do with kale to turn it into a delicious side dish or main meal - you just have to get creative with it!

Here I'll share some of my favorite recipes using kale that cover a variety of cuisines, from traditional Southern cooking to exotic Japanese flavors. These are all simple, quick and easy to make, and sure to appeal to the entire family.

All photos on this page are by the author, sockii, unless provided by Amazon.

Why Kale is the Ultimate in "Superfoods"

What makes kale so good for us? Well, we know we're supposed to eat more greens, especially dark green vegetables like kale. But even among the dark greens, kale stands out as being near the top of the pack for many reasons including:

  • High iron content - vegetarians are quick to point out that calorie-for-calorie, kale has more iron in it than beef.
  • High calcium content - again, it is touted as having more calcium per calorie than milk, and may be better absorbed in the body than a comparable serving of dairy (also great for those who are lactose-intolerant!)
  • High fiber content - something we could all use more of in our diets.
  • It's an anti-inflammatory agent - which could make kale beneficial in treating and preventing diseases such as arthritis and heart disease.
  • Vitamins and other beneficial nutrients - kale is very rich in carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, Vitamins A and C, healthy Omega fats and more.
  • Rich in organosulfurs - kale is a wonderful source for organosulfur compounds, which are reported to be useful in reducing the risk of many cancers, especially colon cancer.

Kale: Love It or Leave It?

I think kale is...

Japanese-Style Kale with Sesame Seeds

A Traditional Japanese Salad Recipe with an Untraditional Ingredient
Japanese-Style Kale with Sesame Seeds

This is a wonderful way to enjoy kale - and one that kids should enjoy too given its sweet-and-sour taste combination. Traditionally this technique and salad dressing is used for brussels sprouts, cauliflower or broccoli, but I've found it tastes just as good when used on kale. It's easy and quick, and a great side dish served with teriyaki-style chicken or fish, a grilled steak, or just served hot on a bed of recipe for a vegetarian meal.

1 large bunch of kale
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar

1. Wash kale, slice out ribs and hand-tear leaves into medium-sized pieces.

2. Place kale in a steamer basket, over water on the stove top. Steam kale until tender and a bright green color, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and cook until just golden brown - do not burn them! As soon as they are starting to brown remove from the heat and set aside, allowing the seeds and oil to cool.

4. Prepare a dressing by combining the soy sauce, sugar and a dash of salt in a large mixing bowl. When cool, mix in the sesame seeds and oil, then add the steamed kale.

5. Mix thoroughly to coat all the kale leaves with the dressing. This salad can either be served immediately for a hot dish, or allowed to cool and marinate in the refrigerator until the next day. Either way it is delicious!

Where this recipe inspiration came from

This little old cookbook is one of my most precious possessions - and where I got the inspiration for the recipe above (which included a similar salad preparation featuring either broccoli or brussels sprouts). First published in 1969 and long out of print, you can still often find used copies for sale on Amazon - and I would absolutely recommend that you do! I learned to love "eating my vegetables" as a child as my grandmother cooked many recipes from this book for me. 

It's a wonderful introduction to traditional, rural Japanese cuisine, very much unlike the fancy Japanese food you get in most restaurants today. For the most part the recipes are very simple and do not require unusual ingredients beyond soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, miso paste and nori seaweed - all items we can easily get in most supermarkets today.

Baby Kale and Arugula Salad

Go Italian with This Healthy, Tart Salad
Baby Kale and Arugula Salad

Baby kale is starting to appear in the produce sections of our supermarkets amidst the more common salad greens - and of course you can grow it yourself to enjoy. For those who want to go "raw" with kale, these baby greens are the way to go as they are more nutty and less bitter in flavor than fully mature kale leaves.

Even so, baby kale by itself can be a bit chewy and coarse as a salad green on its own. I find it best to mix it in with other baby greens, especially arugula, which has a nice peppery flavor that will bring balance to a raw salad.

For my Baby Kale and Arugula Salad, I combine a 50/50 mixture of both dark greens, thoroughly washed and dried. I then add in a handful of sliced sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil and very thinly sliced red onion. The dressing is simply extra virgin olive oil, high-quality balsamic vinegar (the real stuff, not a cheap imitation), and fresh ground salt and pepper to taste. Toss it all together in a bowl and then top it with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

This salad goes great as an accompaniment to almost any kind of Italian meal but is especially good with a hearty roast or meat dish - its crisp and clean flavors add a welcome light note to the meal.

Sauteed Kale with Bacon and Onions

Because Bacon Makes Everything Better!
Sauteed Kale with Bacon and Onions

All right, all right...I can hear the hard-core vegetarians out there screaming as I sully their favorite superfood with their arch nemesis, bacon. But most omnivores appreciate that there are few foods out there which don't taste better when we add a little bacon to them, and kale+bacon is a magic combination that's been popular for ages and a staple of Southern cooking.

I'll also mention that the only bacon - and pork in general - that I cook with today comes from my mother's own farm where she pasture-raises hogs that we have privately butchered for us. Pasture-raised pork is not only more humane and ethical but far more nutritious and healthy - even the pork fat, as it is rich in vitamins from the pigs spending their days in sunshine instead of a closed barn.

This is a simple recipe which takes very few ingredients - and almost no time at all to cook.

1 bunch kale, washed and torn
3 slices of bacon, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
Apple cider vinegar
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1. Cook bacon in a wok or heavy skillet until beginning to brown and crisp. 
2. Add onions and stir fry in the pork fat until softened.
3. Add kale leaves and toss over the heat until wilting and becoming tender, about 3 or 4 minutes. If the pan feels a little dry (depending on how fatty your bacon is), feel free to add in a splash of olive oil.
4. Season the kale with a splash of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Allow flavors to blend and serve immediately.


You can turn the above kale and bacon side dish into a satisfying meal - just toss it with some cooked pasta and a little olive oil! (Penne, farfalle and orecchiette shapes would work perfectly.)

Oven-Baked Kale Chips

An Easy Snack to Make Anytime
Oven-Baked Kale Chips

Warning: these tasty chips are seriously addictive! They're incredibly simple to make, too:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Meanwhile, wash and thoroughly dry your kale, then tear it into large pieces.

2. Line a baking dish with foil or parchment paper. Toss the kale with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1-2 teaspoons of salt (I like to use an Italian seasoning salt for a little extra flavor).

3. Bake in oven until the kale is crisped and edges are brown but not burnt - about 15 minutes.

Enjoy! These make for an excellent party snack as an alternative to heavy, greasy potato chips.

Grilled Kale Caesar Salad

A Fun Twist on a Classic Salad
Grilled Kale Caesar Salad

Who doesn't love Caesar Salad? Well, why not take it to a whole other healthy and delicious level by making it with kale instead of romaine lettuce - grilled kale, that is?

Kale is great on the grill - just brush whole leaves with olive oil and grill for about 2 minutes per side, until bright green and tender. Let the leaves cool and then tear into bite-sized pieces and toss with your favorite Caesar dressing (I use this recipe from epicurious minus the raw garlic), homemade croutons and fresh-grated Parmesan cheese.

Served alongside grilled chicken breasts or steak, it's an excellent summer BBQ side dish - or a meal all of its own!

I grill my kale indoors on my indoor grill pan - a cooking accessory I believe all home chefs should invest in! Read my article on why.

Chicken Thighs (and Legs) with Kale

A Hearty Dish from Iron Chef Michael Symon!
Chicken Thighs (and Legs) with Kale

I love Michael Symon - he's one of my favorite "Iron Chefs" and his enthusiasm for cooking and food is infectious. I recently tried his recipe for Chicken Thighs with Kale and it came out wonderful. This recipe was featured on one of his episodes of Symon's Suppers and it is a great dish to serve for friends and family - a way to elevate a basic baked chicken casserole into something memorable. (The only change I made was to use a mixture of chicken legs and thighs instead of just thighs, since that was what I had on hand.)

Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Soup with Kale

A Hearty Meal That's Easy To Make
Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Soup with Kale

This recipe is one of my own personal creations, and you can find the instructions on how to make it at my website, South Jersey Foodie. It makes for a wonderful and soothing combination of flavors: spicy chicken sausage, tomatoes, chick peas, zucchini and of course, kale to add a touch of bitter greens. It freezes well, too, so this is a great "make-ahead" soup for those days when you don't have a lot of time to cook but still want to eat healthy.

Learn More About Kale

What's Your Favorite Way to Enjoy Kale?

Comments welcome!
Updated: 07/06/2015, sockii
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


NEH82 on 10/19/2015

Kale and kabanos soup! yum

frankbeswick on 08/28/2015

Both cabbage and kale are enhanced by a rich gravy.

Veronica on 08/28/2015

One of my favourite combinations is cabbage, bacon and onions. It is a very Irish traditional dish indeed.

A lovely post . Ty

dustytoes on 07/09/2015

Baking kale in the oven to make chips sounds like a great idea! I am going to definitely try that. And your soup looks wonderful. I'll check out your site.

AngelaJohnson on 07/09/2015

I had to throw away a bunch of kale because I didn't like it. Maybe I'll try again. I used to have that Japanese Country Cookbook. I wonder if I gave it to someone.

Mira on 07/07/2015

I can also see kale with teriyaki chicken (in a salad).

frankbeswick on 07/07/2015

One tip for soup making: shred your kale finely before it goes into the machine, as otherwise it can be tangled in the cutter blades.

Mira on 07/07/2015

These are great recipes. I love the kale chips idea :)

frankbeswick on 07/07/2015

I have added curly kale into the mix that goes into the soup making machine.Kale and cabbage have the advantage that they act as a counterbalance to potatoes and leeks, which make for a thick soup, whereas kale and cabbage make a thinner soup.

A piece of historical information for you: in Scotland a vegetable garden was often known as the kale yard, for kale was very popular with the Scots.

In Britain some vendors have taken to using kale's alternative name, borecole. All members of the brassica oleraceae species [cabbages, cauliflowers, sprouts, broccoli etc] are sometimes known as coleworts, wort being an ancient Saxon word for plant.

blackspanielgallery on 07/06/2015

You seem to have made kale quite versatile, even going to soup. and, I would have never thought kale could have its own cookbooks.

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