Do you enjoy nutritious kale, but are wondering what to do with it once you purchase a big bunch? This is your complete guide on how to prep kale. In this post, learn how to remove kale stems, how to wash kale, how to freeze kale, how to massage kale, and how to soften kale for salad! Plus, learn about the nutrition & health benefits of kale from a Registered Dietitian.

hands massaging a bowl of kale with text overlay

As a Registered Dietitian, I love to make recipes with kale because it is incredibly nutritious – and when it is prepared properly, kale is quite delicious. From kale salads, to kale pasta, to kale chips, it’s a versatile vegetable to include in your diet.

If you’ve ever picked up a bunch of kale at the grocery store only to let it wilt away in the fridge, this post is for you! Below, find a comprehensive guide on how to prepare kale so you can use it in recipes. Keep reading or click on the links below to jump to a certain section:

Step-by-step video

How to remove kale stems

The first step in preparing kale is to remove the leaves from the stems. Kale stems are thick, tough, and have a bitter flavor if eaten raw, so it is best to get rid of them before you cook with kale or make a kale salad.

  • The best way to remove the leaves from the stems of curly kale is to simply rip off the leaves from the thick center stalk using your hands.
  • For lacinato kale (or dinosaur kale), which has more delicate leaves, lay each kale leave flat on a cutting board. Use a small knife to slice and remove the leaves away from the center stalk.

What to do with kale stems: You can simply discard of the kale stems or compost them. Additionally, you can find a creative way to cook with them since they hold a lot of nutrition (and to reduce food waste). Try finely chopping the stems and adding them to soups or a stir fry, or blend them into smoothies and juices.

hands ripping kale leaves off of kale stem

How to wash kale

Place the kale leaves in a colander – either a regular one or as part of a salad spinner. Run cold water over the kale leaves, using your hands to toss them a bit so each leaf is thoroughly washed.

If using a salad spinner, spin the washed kale once or twice to get rid of excess water. If you are not using a salad spinner, spread the wet kale leaves out on a clean dish towel. Use another clean dish towel to thoroughly pat dry the leaves.

How to prepare kale for cooking

Once kale leaves are washed and dried, they are ready to be cooked or stored for later use. Some ways to prepare kale for cooking:

  • Roughly chop kale with a knife or tear into bite size pieces with your hands for stir fry, pastas, soups, braising or sauteing.
  • Shred kale with a knife or in a food processor for kale salads and kale slaws.
  • Puree kale with other ingredients to make sauces or pureed soups, like this easy kale pesto.

How to massage kale

Massaging raw kale is the best way to soften kale for salads, and helps to make taste it less bitter. It’s super easy and only takes a few minutes. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place washed and dried kale leaves in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (a few teaspoons) and a pinch of salt.
  3. Use your hands to rub the kale leaves together in a massaging motion.
  4. Continue to massage the kale for 30 seconds or a minute, until you feel the kale begin to soften. The kale will also start to look a deeper green once massaged.
  5. Be careful not to over-massage the kale to avoid a soggy texture.

That’s it! Now just add your favorite salad mix-ins and a homemade dressing.

hands massaging curly kale in a white bowl

How to store kale

Kale is a hearty green, so it stores very well! Once the leaves are washed and dried, they have kept fresh in my fridge for up to ten days when stored properly.

The most important aspect of storing kale is to keep moisture away to prevent mold. My favorite way to do this is by adding a paper towel, along with the washed and dried kale, to a food storage container or baggie to absorb excess moisture. Remove as much air as possible, then pop the container in the fridge. If the paper towel gets very soggy, you can replace it every few days.

You can really pack in the kale into your storage container and just pop it in the fridge to use later on in the week.

Can you freeze kale? Yes! You can freeze fresh kale to make it last even longer. Just remove the stems, wash, and dry the kale as outlined below. Put the kale into a freezer-safe container or baggie, removing as much air as possible. Pop it in your freezer and use within two or three months.

Kale nutrition & health benefits

Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet! This means it contains a lot of nutrients in very little calories. One cup of chopped raw kale provides:

  • 2.8 grams of dietary fiber (10 percent of your daily needs)
  • 2 grams of plant-based protein
  • 170 mg calcium (13 percent of your daily needs)
  • 1.1 mg iron (6 percent of your daily needs)
  • 161.47 mcg Vitamin A (18 percent of your daily needs)
  • 62.6 mg Vitamin C (134 percent of your daily needs)
  • 261.3 mcg Vitamin K (218 percent of your daily needs)
  • 0.616 mg manganese (27 percent of your daily needs)

Because of its moderate amount of calcium and iron, kale is a good vegetable to include regularly if you follow a plant-based diet, as these nutrients are found mostly in meat and animal products.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, kale contains other beneficial compounds including antioxidants and glucosinolates. These compounds help keep us healthy by fighting off inflammation, promoting heart health, and reducing risk of certain diseases.

Let me know if you love this recipe by leaving a comment or star rating below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!

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hands massaging curly kale in a white bowl

How to Prepare Kale: Massaged Kale

  • Author: Alex Aldeborgh
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: salads
  • Method: No cook
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Do you enjoy nutritious kale, but are wondering what to do once you purchase a big bunch? This is your complete guide on how to prep kale. In this post, learn how to remove kale stems, how to wash kale, how to freeze kale, how to massage kale, and how to soften kale for salad! Plus, learn about the nutrition & health benefits of kale from a Registered Dietitian.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 small bunch curly kale (68 cups of kale leaves)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Tear the kale leaves from the stems, discard the stems, and rip the leaves into bite size pieces.
  2. Place the leaves in a colander of a salad spinner.
  3. Thoroughly wash the kale under cold water. Give it one or two spins in the salad spinner to dry.
  4. Place the washed and dried kale in a large salad bowl or mixing bowl.
  5. Add the olive oil and salt.
  6. Use your hands to rub the kale leaves together in a massaging motion. Continue for 30 seconds to a minute, until kale has softened and has started to turn a deeper green.
  7. Add your favorite salad toppings and salad dressing.

Notes

How to remove kale stems

The first step in preparing kale is to remove the leaves from the stems. Kale stems are thick, tough, and have a bitter flavor if eaten raw, so it is best to get rid of them before you cook with kale or make a kale salad.

  • The best way to remove the leaves from the stems of curly kale is to simply rip off the leaves from the thick center stalk using your hands.
  • For lacinato kale (or dinosaur kale), which has more delicate leaves, lay each kale leave flat on a cutting board. Use a small knife to slice and remove the leaves away from the center stalk.

Keywords: massaged kale, how to massage kale, how to soften kale for salads, how to prepare kale