How to Cook with Kale
Bursting with nutrients, kale is touted as being a “superfood” and said to be an essential part of any healthy diet, so here are some simple tips to help add more of this hearty leafy green to your diet, and how to cook with kale.
Whether it’s kale salads, green smoothies, or simply gnawing on it like cattle feed, we are all told the more we can eat the better. But, do you ever ask yourself why? Let me first start by saying that you don’t NEED to eat kale. In fact, you don’t need to eat any particular type of superfood. If you don’t like kale there are lots of other leafy greens you can incorporate into your diet; be it spinach, arugula, lettuce, collards or cabbage. However, for those “kale haters”, is it possible that perhaps you just haven’t fallen in love with the right type of kale or the right cooking method? Yes, you can absolutely add kale to your smoothie, but there are so many more exciting and delicious ways to cook with this leafy green!
But, before I get you to run out buy all of the kale you can get your little hands-on, allow me to explain why kale is touted as being oh-so nutritious!
Kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, the same family that includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and Brussels sprouts. Kale is known for being a good source of fibre, as well as including a plethora of nutrients such as vitamin A, K, C, B6, Manganese, Calcium, Copper, Potassium and Magnesium. The high nutrient content of kale is exactly what makes is a “super green” meaning you are getting a TON of nutrition for very LITTLE caloric value. A single cup of chopped kale contains a mere 33 calories, while it also contains 133% of your daily vitamin A, 134% of your daily vitamin C, 10% of your daily calcium, 7% of your daily magnesium and 5% of your daily iron intake. Additionally, kale has been shown to help lower cholesterol, heart disease, helps fight cancer and contains over 45 antioxidants. So as you can see, kale packs a real nutritious punch!
Types fo Kale
Although most grocery stores only carry one or two varieties of kale, there are actually over 5 varieties of kale. Some of the most common varieties of kale include:
Curly Kale: Curly Kale is probably the most recognizable type of kale and the most commonly sold on grocery store shelves. It is usually a bright green colour, and as the name describes, has large leaves that curl at the ends. Curly kale is easily torn when fresh but also easily chopped for cooking. Curly kale can also be found in red varieties, and these can be used interchangeably with green.
Lacianto Kale: Also known as Dinosaur Kale, Black Kale, Flat Leaf, this variety features dark blue-green leaves with a slightly wrinkled texture. Dino kale tends to retain its texture even after it has been cooked, and is found to be less bitter than curly kale with an almost nutty like taste.
Red Russian Kale: This variety is less common in grocery stores, but popping up at local markets and farmers markets. This kale has flat, fringed leaves that resemble large arugula leaves and matures with a red or purple-ish colour. Although Red Russian Kale is one of the sweetest kales, the stems of are incredibly fibrous making them hard to chew and digest so they are best removed for cooking.
How to Select & Store Kale
When it comes to picking your kale, be it at the farmers market or grocery store, here are some simple tips to consider to ensure you are getting the best kale in the business.
- Look for kale with firm, deeply coloured leaves and moist hardy stems.
- Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves as it will be more tender and have better flavour.
- To store, place kale in a plastic storage bag and keep in the fridge.
- Kale can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (plus a few more).
How to Cook with Kale
And now, what to do with it? Here are four great ways to incorporate more of this super green into your diet and some simple ideas on how to cook with kale.
1. Smoothies & Juices
- Green smoothies are all of the rage but simply added a head of kale can make then gritty and unpalatable.
- When starting out, begin with a small portion of kale and mask the flavour with your favourite fruits. Sweeter fruits like pineapple and mango will help to mask the flavour more easily than berries.
- When using curly or dino kale, remove the centre ribs! They can add a lot of grit to smoothies, so removing them will help create a creamier texture, or try baby kale for a more subtle texture and flavour.
- You can also pre-chop and freeze kale into ice cube trays to add to smoothies. Simply process in a blender with a little water and freeze in ice cube tray. This can provide a better texture and help keep your smoothie cold.
- Learn how to master your morning smoothie and you won’t even notice the addition of your leafy greens.
2. Salads & Slaws
- The key to making a good salad is to massage your kale: sounds silly but it works!
- Kale has a very hearty texture and in a salad this can make it hard to digest or chew, so massaging the kale helps to break it down so it is more easily digested.
- To massage kale, de-stem the leaves, drizzle with olive oil and give it a good rub! Use your hands to rub the kale gently for a few minutes or until it begins to soften. Massaged kale can store in the fridge for 2-3 days.
- If you are in a pinch and don’t have time to pre-massage your kale, just be sure to use your hands when you toss on the dressing, and give it a good rub.
- This Winter Kale Slaw is the perfect way to pair kale with a sweet and savoury taste.
3. Steam, Sauté or Bake
- Although raw kale is great, cooking kale can completely alter the flavour profile in the very best way!
- Be it sautéing, steaming, braising, baking or roasting, there are so many ways to cook with kale.
- Steaming kale for 5 minutes is the healthiest way to enjoy kale, but you can also sauté kale in a pan with a little oil, fresh garlic and spices for a simple and healthy side dish.
- You can also bake kale in the oven with oil and salt for crispy and crunchy chips that make the perfect snack.
- The more you can play around with the cooking method, the more ways you will find to enjoy it.
- Try my Kale & Eggs Breakfast Skillet for a nourishing breakfast ready in 10 minutes or less.
4. Soup, Stews, Stir-Fries & Casseroles
- Although slightly rough in texture, when cooked into dishes kale’s texture is hardly noticeable.
- Kale can easily be added to your favourite soup, stew or stir-fry, and any recipes that calls for spinach can easily be substituted for kale.
- You can also bake kale right into dishes. Simply chop it up into small bite sided pieces and the family won’t even notice it in your world famous lasagna!
- This single-pot Caldo Verde Portuguese Soup is a cheap and cheerful dish that is ready in 30 minutes or less.