This lemon and garlic braised kale is an easy, healthy recipe that transforms kale into a flavor-packed, tender side dish! Ready in under 20 minutes, the simplicity of this sautéed kale recipe can’t be beat.

Lemon garlic braised kale in a speckled bowl with ingredients surrounding it

Kale is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, but it sometimes gets a bad reputation for being bitter, tough, and unappealing. As a Registered Dietitian, it’s practically my mission to make all vegetables fun, delicious, and desirable to eat – even vegan kale recipes!

This braised kale side dish recipe is my favorite way to prepare kale at the moment – it’s easy to make, uses just a few ingredients, and is downright delicious. Since the kale shrinks so much, you’ll easily eat an entire bunch of kale in one sitting!

What is braising?

The trick to turning tough kale leaves into tender, soft, and actually chewable ones? Braising! Braising is a cooking technique that uses a combination of dry and moist heat. First you’ll use dry heat to lightly saute the kale, then add some liquid to let it stew.

Foods that benefit from braising include tougher cuts of meat and hearty winter greens – like kale! The combination of dry and wet heat produces a very tender and succulent result.

Looking for more healthy side dish ideas? You’ll also love sauteed brussels sprouts!

Ingredients in lemon garlic braised kale

  • Kale – of course, you need kale for this recipe. I like to use curly kale (green or red), but you can also use Lacinato (dinosaur) kale. Use a mature kale for this dish, not baby kale, to hold up to braising.
  • Garlic – adds delicious garlic flavor to this dish.
  • White onion – helps build the savory base flavor for this recipe.
  • Lemon – fresh lemon juice adds zesty flavor.
  • White wine enhances the savory flavors of this dish. To omit the wine, just double up on the vegetable broth.
  • Vegetable broth imparts even more umami flavor.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

This recipe is suitable for many dietary restrictions, including vegan, gluten free, nut free, soy free, and dairy free. This kale side dish will serve three to four people.

Additional ingredient ideas for more flavor

  • Capers or Kalamata olives for salty, briny flavor
  • Red pepper flakes for some heat
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Slivered almonds or chopped pecans – toast them first to enhance their flavor and texture
  • Toasted breadcrumbs for some crunch
  • Chopped fresh herbs like parsley or basil for fresh flavor
Lemon garlic braised kale ingredients in small bowls on a wooden cutting board

How to make braised kale

  • First, remove the tough stems from kale leaves and tear into bite size pieces. Discard the stems or save them for a green smoothie recipe or homemade stock. Mince the garlic and dice the onion.
  • Build the base flavor: Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and onion, cooking for a few minutes being careful not to burn.
  • Add the kale leaves with salt and pepper and toss to coat them in the olive oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes to lightly soften the leaves. The kale will look like a lot, but it’s going to cook down significantly.
  • Add the liquid to braise: Pour the lemon juice, broth, and white wine into the pan. Stir everything up and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally. The kale leaves will shrink down a lot and become tender and soft as the alcohol from the white wine cooks off.

Store leftover braised kale in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can reheat individual portions in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or until warmed through.

What to serve with braised kale side dish

This recipe is a versatile side dish that pairs well with lots of foods! Try it alongside salmon, shrimp, cod, or tofu. To make it a well-balanced meal that contains starchy carbohydrates, you can also include a serving of roasted fingerling potatoes or sweet potato fries.

Lemon garlic braised kale in a saute pan

Kale nutrition & health benefits

Are you still wondering to yourself, “is kale good for you”? The answer is YES: kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! One cup of raw kale provides several micronutrients:

  • 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)

Kale also has several antioxidants, including Vitamin C, beta-carotene, flavonoids, and polyphenols. Antioxidants help fight inflammation, keep our cells healthy, and protect against certain diseases.

Does kale have fiber?

Yes, kale is a good source of dietary fiber. One cup of chopped raw kale provides 2.8 grams, or 10% of your daily fiber needs. Diets high in fiber are linked to several health benefits, including digestive health, gut health, weight management, stable blood sugar levels, and lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Does kale have protein?

Surprisingly, kale has a small amount of protein! One cup of raw kale has 2 grams of plant-based protein. However, kale is not a complete protein because it does not contain all nine essential amino acids. So, it is best not to rely heavily on kale for your daily protein needs.

Can you eat raw kale?

Absolutely, you can eat raw kale! When raw kale is prepared properly (aka when raw kale is massaged), it is a delicious base for salads. Check out these posts to learn how to prepare kale, and find some inspiration with lots of kale salad recipes.

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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Lemon garlic braised kale in a speckled bowl with ingredients surrounding it

Quick Braised Kale with Lemon & Garlic

  • Author: Alex Aldeborgh
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: serves 3
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: Braise
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This lemon and garlic braised kale is an easy, healthy recipe that transforms kale into a flavor-packed, tender side dish! Ready in under 20 minutes, the simplicity of this sautéed kale recipe can’t be beat.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • One bunch curly kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite size pieces (about 5 cups)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth


Instructions

  • Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan.
  • Add the garlic and onion, cooking for 1-2 minutes until fragrant being careful not to burn.
  • Add the kale and stir to combine with the garlic and onion and coat in olive oil. Add the lemon zest, and saute the kale for a couple minutes so it wilts slightly.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, and pour in the lemon juice, white wine, and vegetable broth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally letting the kale stew in the liquid.
  • Kale is ready once it has wilted significantly and is tender and soft. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and serve warm.

Notes

Keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container

Keywords: braised kale, vegan side dish, gluten free recipe, healthy side dish