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20 Fresh Tips for How to Cook Kale

All hail kale! This powerful healthy-eating staple is an awesome veggie, but it can be a tricky leaf with one wrong turn. Scope out these tips (#9 is genius!) to incorporate kale into your diet plan like a pro.

Much ado about kale. But really, though. You can take this nutrition powerhouse and juice it, toss it in one of the 100+ smoothies in Zero Belly Smoothies, sauté it, chip it, salad it up, sauce it down, and so much more. There are entire cookbooks devoted to the mighty veggie, and entire pockets of the interwebz where you can do nothing but get sucked up into its crisp, crunchy goodness. There's also a dizzying array of types (bunches, bagged, frozen…) to choose from when you hit the grocery store aisle.

If you're feeling a bit overwhelmed, we don't blame you. It's pretty tough stuff, no pun intended. Read on for our top tidbits of kale wisdom and you'll be, well, kale-in' it in no time. And to blast even more fat—and shrink your belly in just 7 days—click here for The Best Tea to Melt Fat—Fast. Test panelists lost 10 pounds in one week!

Choose the Best Bunch


"When selecting kale, look for crisp, tender leaves. Avoid buying any leaves that have turned yellow or are wilted. Opt for the crispest-looking leaves that are rich in color," recommends Lisa Hayim, registered dietician and founder of The WellNecessities.

Decide Which Flavor Profile You Want


When at the store, decide if bold or mild is your #KaleGoal. "Purchase based on preference or what your recipe calls for. But if you're unsure, remember smaller leaves will be more tender and have a milder flavor than large leaves," advises Hayim. Speaking of packing a lot of flavor in small item, these 20 Mason Jar Salad Recipes are great for inspiration!

Remove the Stems and Ribs

"They are really tough and don't soften enough when cooked," shares HelloFresh Chef Freida Hirsch. Don't toss them, though: "You can save them for juicing into your favorite green juice." Try this no-fail method: "The best and most efficient way to remove the stems is to grab hold of the stem with one hand, allowing the kale to be perpendicular to the floor, and with the other hand, grab the kale and tug it off the main stem," explains Hayim.

Chill it


Be smarter about storage: "When storing kale, be sure to keep it refrigerated and dry! Unlike other leafy greens, do not wash or de-stem kale before storing. Keep it as dry and cool as possible and away from other produce," advises Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN, nutritionist, and author of Kitchen Cures.

Slip it into Pesto


"If you're not a huge kale fan, try it in pesto. It adds an earthy flavor and major vitamins to your traditional pesto sauce," says Hirsch. "And you won't have to fret about any funky colors. "Pesto is already green from the basil. Adding kale to the pesto will only boost the color, along with the nutrition properties," says Hayim. If a pesto recipe calls for spinach or basil, try swapping half of the amount with kale, and then adjusting to taste. Are you a huge pasta fan? Then don't miss these 40 Ultimate Pasta Tips for Staying Skinny!

Go Crazy with the Kale Chips


"Considering that kale is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, chips are a simple and tasty way to sneak in a serving. With just 15 calories per portion, you could polish off the whole tray and still walk away with fewer than 100 calories under your belt," says Samantha Cassetty, VP of Nutrition, MS, RD at Luvo.

And then Make All Types of 'em


They're easier than you'd think: "Wash and dry the kale thoroughly. Then, remove the stems and ribs from the kale and cut the leaves into large, chip-sized, pieces. Toss on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Feel free to experiment with different additional spices for seasoning, BBQ, Garlic Powder, Old Bay, Italian Seasoning, etc. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes. But keep a close eye on the kale chips as they can burn easily. Be careful as kale chips are fragile and can break easily," shares HelloFresh Chef Nate Appel.

For Extra Crisp, Bake Them "low and Slow"


Proceed with seasonings and oil as you would above. "Spread [the kale leaves] out onto a baking sheet and bake on low heat (300 degrees) for 20-25 minutes," recommends Kotsopoulos. Feeling extra-accomplished with your healthy cooking skills? Go you! Now find out the 17 Ingredients Nutritionists Say to Avoid Cooking With.

Grind Up Any Leftover Chips for a Tasty Condiment


File this under Genius Tips: "Toss baked kale chips into a spice grinder, grind into tiny granules, and store in an empty salt or spice shaker," says Kotsopoulos. "This way, you can sprinkle kale granules onto soups, salads, stir-fries, and homemade burgers, or use it as seasoning to any dishes to provide an additional boost of greens!" Why, hello popcorn bowl…

Try This Weird Trick

"This may sound odd, but just an ever-so-small pinch of sugar can reduce the natural bitterness in greens like kale and enhance its natural savory flavor," suggests Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, a Nashville-based nutritionist and author of Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep it Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week. If you're adding kale to a smoothie or juice, the natural sweetness from fruit will balance things out, so skip this trick. Why not try it in one of these 25 Smoothie Recipes for Weight Loss?

Mix Up the Type of Kale You Use


When it comes to this cruciferous veggie, it's okay to cheat on your go-to variety. "The traditional green leaf is great for sauteing, soups, and braises because it's super hearty," offers Hirsch. "Russian red has a great color that adds a special pop to any dish. Tuscan kale is the most tender variety, and is great in raw salads, especially when massaged. Baby kale works great in salads, too—no massage necessary!"

Supercharge Your Sauteed Kale

"One of my weeknight go-to recipes is kale sautéed in olive oil with a pinch of red pepper. My secret is topping it with a sprinkle of hemp or chia seeds and nutritional yeast. The seeds add crunch and healthy fats—key for nutrient absorption—and vegan nutritional yeast has an umami flavor and nutrients like folic acid and vitamin B12 without any sodium. It's a great side dish and leftovers pair well with a hardboiled egg. talk about a fast food breakfast!" exclaims Cassetty. For more expert advice for your mornings, see these 30 Best Breakfast Habits to Lose 5 Pounds.

Sautéing Your Kale? Follow This Trick


"If you're sautéing your kale, don't dry it after washing. The extra water will help it steam in the pan and cook faster," advises Hirsch.

Blend and Store in Ice Cube Trays


When you've got kale that's on the brink of going bad, this zero-effort trick will have you reaching for kale even more often: "Blend kale in a high-speed blender with a bit of water and puree it until it's as smooth as possible. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze it to use in your morning smoothies," suggests Kotsopoulos.

Blanch a Bunch of it at Night


Blanching-and-shocking is a simple culinary technique where you plop a vegetable into boiling water (in the case of kale, do so for about 2-3 minutes) and then plunge it into a freezing cold ice bath, which effectively stops the cooking. "You can blanch a bunch of it at the beginning of the week, and use it all week in eggs, sautéed with garlic, or added to pasta," suggests Hirsch.

Give Your Kale Some TLC


"If you are going to have kale raw in a salad, a massage to break down the natural cellulose structure is in order," says Bedwell. "This will take it from tough and bitter to tender and [pleasant]. Simply take bunches of kale leaves (fibrous ribs removed) and rub them together with both hands. Repeat for several minutes until you start to see the leaves shrink slightly, darken, and soften in texture," she elaborates. You can drizzle a bit of olive oil (one of the 23 Foods Happy People Eat) to make the massaging a little easier (and tastier), as well.

Cut the Bitterness with Avocado

Transform even the pickiest of eaters with this smart hack from Hayim: "Kale can be too zingy and bitter for many people. To break down this harsher flavor, massage the kale with avocado. It instantly softens it up and makes for a salad you won't soon forget." Try this massaged avo-kale salad that only takes five minutes to make.

Make a Smoothie in a Snap

"This takes mere minutes to toss in a blender, whirl into a shake and pour into a travel mug. Blend together 1 cup kale with 1 cup frozen mango, 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt, and ½ cup plain unsweetened almond milk." Pair it with a slice of whole grain toast with a healthy peanut butter and cinnamon or drizzled with tahini and a squeeze of lemon to round out the meal.

Pair it with Citrus


You've got that whole "massaging your kale" thing down…now what? "When eating kale raw, try to 'massage' the kale leaves with a dressing that contains an acid (like lemon) to break down the fibrous walls. This helps improve digestion and the absorption and assimilation of nutrients, giving you more bang for your buck," offers Kotsopoulos. For more inspiration, check out these salad dressings for weight loss!

Making Soup? Count Kale in

Courtesy of The Almond Eater

Even if a recipe doesn't call for it, you'll love the heft and flavor it adds. For very few added calories and a big dose of nutrition, you'd be silly to exclude it. "The cooking process is perfect for kale, tenderizing it while still lending its texture to create a hearty soup," says Bedwell. "Here's a recipe I created with Garbanzo Beans, Kale, and Chorizo Soup. The prep time is just five minutes." You can also check out these 20 Healthy, Broth-Based Soup Recipes for even more ideas!

Don't Forget the Frozen Kale


C'mon, you'll hurt its feelings, and for no good reason. "Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh, they don't wilt and get wasted, and they provide the ultimate convenience—always handy in your freezer. I keep frozen kale around for smoothies. [It's perfect for when I need] a quick, delicious, and nourishing morning meal," shares Cassetty. And to lose even more weight—up to 16 pounds in 14 days!—click here to discover The Best Weight-Loss Smoothie Ever!

Perri O. Blumberg
Perri O. Blumberg is a freelance food, health, and lifestyle writer. Read more about Perri O.
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