Not quite indoctrinated into the kale-uminati and wondering actually how to eat kale? Look no further and trust me, you don’t hate kale, you’ve just been eating it wrong!
I reckon we can divide the readers of this post into two camps: those thinking “I know how to eat kale, you doof!” and those thinking “PLEASE TEACH ME HOW TO EAT KALE, YOU GENIUS!”. Regardless, y’all still need to read on.
Despite being a lifelong veggie, recent vegan and unrepentant millennial, I never bonded with kale the way you’d expect! I never hated it, never loved it either, and once it became the poster-veg of modern veganism I lost even more interest in our brassica buddy (remember: millennial).
But of late, what with the world falling apart and stuff, I’ve made more of an effort to be open minded.
“BE the change you want to see in the world” I said to myself one day.
“I’m starting..” I proclaimed “with the man in the mirror”
“Forgive those who’ve trespassed against you” I thought, with a lump in my throat.
Now I don’t know about Michael Jackson, or Ghandi, or whoever wrote the Lord’s Prayer, but I think we all owe kale a second chance. I’m here to help you with that via the medium of blog post.
Here are the FOUR commandments of the kale-uminati! Follow them and you’ll be a kale fan in MINUTES!
1. Know thy kale!
Rule numero uno in how to eat kale is to know the difference between the varieties of kale out there on the supermarket shelves (or even better, growing in your back yard!).
That’s right, kale newbies! Your new fave leaf comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours and each variety is suited to different types of dishes. Here’s a rundown of my top three and what to use them for!
This guy is my go-to for salads. It’s sweet and slightly more tender in the texture department, so you won’t be chewing it for weeks like some other varieties (not naming no names CAVOLO NERO). Follow my instructions further on in this post to “massage” this kale and you’ll end up with the most gentle addition to a salad. That colour also wakes up a boring plate, much more than some soggy spinach!
This guy’s the cooker of the family! Its leaves are pretty tough and almost scaly (hence “Dino” kale) but it has a super bold, delicious flavour which can hold up to a bit of heat. So don’t be afraid to throw this guy in with a hot dish!
It works great as a side, just sautéed in vegan butter with some garlic or sweated in a lidded pan and drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. It’s also beautiful in stews, soups and curries (in place of spinach).
This is the most common kale out there, and for good reason! It has a good balance of flavour/texture and is the most versatile variety out there!
This is the one I use in salads (when I can’t find Russian red), smoothies, green juices and for kale chips!
There are a whole BUNCH of kale varieties out there and do not be afraid to experiment (especially if you’re lucky enough to be able to grow your own!) but these are the three which tend to end up in my kitchen most often.
2. Massage thy kale!
I’m almost 100% sure, if you scroll back to the early recipes on this blog, I made a handful of jokes about massaging kale. It literally sounds like something from Portlandia. I genuinely thought this was a joke for YEARS!
But this is honestly one of the most important steps in learning how to eat kale – no joke – I massage my kale now whenever I’m going to eat it raw. You simply GOTTA massage your kale. Let me tell you why, and then how.
As most of us know, raw kale can be one tough son of a gun! It’s no iceberg lettuce, for sure! It has a much firmer, fibrous, chewy texture and if you’re not careful, it can RUIN a perfectly good salad (not to mention MONTHS of RSI in your damn jaw!).
But it doesn’t have to be like that! Massaging kale helps to soften the leaves SIGNIFICANTLY and starts to break down that tough cell structure, making it more manageable to chew and even enhancing the flavour.
You can even see the difference (see below!). The leaves start to turn translucent rather than opaque and they reduce in size, much like when you wilt spinach.
The good thing about massaging kale is that it really couldn’t be easier. My technique has four steps to it:
- Wash the kale.
Just place in a colander and rinse under the cold tap.
- Slice the kale.
I like to remove the “bone” or stalk from kale as it’s super tough, so just slice it out, and set aside – I’ll tell you some ideas for these guys later. I like to slice my kale super finely, but you do you! If you like it more chunky, you go Glenn Koko! Once sliced transfer it to a bowl which is slightly bigger than you think you need.
- Oil and salt the kale.
A little goes a long way here – just a tiny drizzle of oil and a pinch of flaky sea salt. The oil dresses the kale and makes it easier to work with while the salt acts as an abrasive and helps to break down those tough cell walls.
- Massage the kale!
Get stuck in! The motion I use is similar to when you make a crumble and you rub the flour and butter between your finger tips. You can also do the “scrunch” method, where you just squeeze the kale in your fists repeatedly. Keep going until the kale is turning translucent and feels much softer to the touch.
Once your kale is good and softened, use it in a salad or any raw dish. If you like, you can even rinse the leaves again to get off some of the oil and salt you added, or you can just adjust your salad dressing recipe accordingly.
3. Season thy kale!
Let’s face it, the flavour of kale is an acquired one. If you’re just now learning how to eat kale, chances are you’re not OVER THE MOON about its slightly grassy, slightly farty flavour.
But trust and believe, once you fall in love with it, no other leaf quite hits the spot like kale does. When I first started using raw kale in salads, I used to mix things up and do half shredded lettuce/half massaged kale. Just to ease myself in, y’know. But what I learnt pretty quickly is that kale basically always needs seasoning.
Recipe: All-purpose Kale Seasoning
After about a year of experimentation, I finally came up with my all-purpose kale seasoning which I now keep in a jar, in my cupboard at all times, ready for a-sprinklin.
It’s easy, just mix the following in a jar and give them a good shake-up.
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp tomato powder
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
pinch coconut sugar
pinch ground black pepper
Here’s what it’s good for
- Kale chips
If you’re making your own kale chips, this guy adds a cheesy, smoky flavour which elevates the whole experience. Just toss your kale in some oil and some seasoning, lay out on an oven tray and bake at around 150 until crispy.
- Steamed or sauteed kale.
If you’re planning on cooking your kale, this stuff works great too! My favourite thing to do is to whip this seasoning into some vegan butter and top the cooked kale with a good scoop while still warm. As the butter melts, it releases all that extra flavour and takes your boring side-dish from drab to FAB!
- Massaged kale.
And finally, why not top your salad with this seasoning. Once you’ve massaged your kale, sprinkle some of this magic dust over your leaves to elevate that flavour daaahling.
4. Waste no kale!
One of the reasons I used to be so kale averse was because I thought it was a wasteful veg. I’d prep a salad only to be left with loads of kale stalks which I had no idea how to eat.
Well let me tell you TONIGHT! EAT THOSE STALKS! They’re delicious and versatile and just need a little TLC to be turned into the star of the show. Here are some of my all-time fave kale-stalk recipes to help you waste-not want-not!
Kale Stem Pesto
from Love and Lemons
The key behind making this recipe work is to BLANCH those stems! This means giving them a tiny blast boil in some water before blitzing them into your pesto. I’d recommend throwing in some nutritional yeast in this recipe in place of the optional cheese. Trust me, I’ve tried it. It’s very nice!
from Mindful Avocado
The best thing about high-speed blenders is that they BLEND STUFF! I like to save all my kale stems by chopping them up finely and popping them in a little tub in the freezer. Next time you fancy a green smoothie, just chuck and handful of stems in there too and away you go. Almost any green smoothie recipe will work, but I love pineapple, so this is my go-to. Just ignore the bit about the kale being “de-stemmed”.
Kale Stem Crackers
from James Beard Foundation
These guys are VERY delicious and honestly nothing feels better than making a snack-food out of food-waste! This recipe isn’t vegan but it’s easily veganised! Just swap out the butter for a good, vegan alternative. For the buttermilk, I used soy milk with a tbsp of apple cider vinegar added. Leave it to thicken for a minute or two and you’re good to go!
Now you’re a member of the kale-uminati, you’ll want to get stuck into some kale recipes! Why not follow some of these guys below:
- Cavolo Nero Vegan Bolognese
- Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Garlic Cavolo Nero
- Bucatini with Kale and Pangritata
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