Sauteed Kale

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Sauteed kale is easy to make and a nutritious side dish. Just chop and cook in a hot skillet with aromatic shallots, bell peppers, and garlic. A splash of balsamic vinegar at the end provides a slightly sweet and tangy flavor.

Sauteed Kale

Cooking kale can be intimidating, but we should try and sneak this superfood into our diets since the health benefits of kale outweigh the noticeable bitter flavor. The good news is sauteed kale is a really simple and fast way to get a daily nutritional boost, that tastes good too.

I have a few tricks to share with you to make the leaves more mild and sweeter in flavor. Rinsing the leaves after chopping not only cleans the greens but also reduces some pungency. Incorporating aromatic vegetables and a little aged vinegar complements the bittersweet taste.

the process of cutting kale

How to cook sauteed kale

  • Cut the stem away from the leaves.
  • Cut leaves into coarsely chopped pieces.
  • Massage the kale and then rinse and drain.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then heat olive oil until hot.
  • Saute the shallots until softened.
  • Add bell pepper and cook until crisp-tender.
  • Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
  • Add kale and saute until wilted.
  • Season with salt and pepper, cook until kale is tender.
  • Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
  • Enjoy the sauteed kale hot.

Kale selection

Any type of kale can be used for sauteing. Whether the leaves are flat like Lacinato or curly like green or red kale, their robust texture keeps them intact and brightly colored during the cooking process.

I use purple kale for this recipe because of the beautiful vibrant veins running through the leaves, plus it’s got extra phytonutrients.

sauteing diced tomatoes in a stainless steel pan

Build-in more flavor

Kale is known for its strong bitter flavor which seems to intensify as it’s being chewed. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the kale after cutting to wash away some of its bitterness.

To balance out the taste, combine with strong aromatics like bell peppers, shallots, and garlic. These ingredients add depth as it cooks in the hot oil as their fat-soluble flavors release, then mix with the sauteed kale.

Saute in batches

Chopped kale leaves are voluminous and difficult to fit in one pan all at once. Instead, add the leaves in four additions. This helps to quickly wilt the leaves without overflowing the pan. The kale can be cooked in a large stainless steel pan or cast-iron skillet. Just make sure to keep the leaves moving for even cooking.

sauteing kale in a pan

Add some vinegar

The one thing that ties the kale dish together is vinegar. Just a teaspoon of aged balsamic vinegar adds a complementary pungency to the kale and natural sweetness from the fermented grapes. Add just a splash at the end of cooking and let the flavors marinate the leaves for a few minutes before serving.

What I serve this with

sauteed kale served with diced tomatoes and crushed garlic on a plate

The benefits of sauteing kale

When cooking kale there are enzymes in the leaves called myrosinase that interact with sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates when the leaves are cut or chewed. This forms the bitter compounds we taste, yikes! Sauteeing helps to deactivate some of those enzymes so it can’t form pungent flavors. The leaves will taste more mild and sweet.

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Sauteed Kale

Sauteed kale is easy to make and a nutritious side dish. Just chop and cook in a hot skillet with aromatic shallots, bell peppers, and garlic.
Pin Print Review
4.5 from 6 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds kale, (about 3 large leaves, 7 to 8 cups chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • cup diced shallots, ¼-inch dice
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper, ¼-inch dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Instructions 

  • Remove the center stems from the kale and discard.
  • Chop the leaves into 2-inch pieces.
  • Thoroughly wash the kale with cool water and drain, it does not need to be completely dry.
  • Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.
  • Add the olive oil, once hot add the shallots. Saute until softened, 1 minute.
  • Add the bell peppers and saute until crisp-tender, 1 minute.
  • Add the garlic, saute and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  • Add the kale in 4 additions, cooking until the kale wilts, about 6 minutes.
  • Add the salt and pepper, stir to combine, and cook until tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Add the balsamic vinegar, stir to combine.
  • Taste and add more seasonings as desired.
  • Transfer to a bowl and serve hot.

Equipment

Notes

  • Yield: Recipe makes about 4 cups
  • Serving Size: about 1 cup

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Nutrition Facts
Sauteed Kale
Amount Per Serving
Calories 159 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 503mg21%
Potassium 914mg26%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 8g16%
Vitamin A 18159IU363%
Vitamin C 252mg305%
Calcium 258mg26%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Cathy Camp says

    Oh this is great. I always look at the kale in the market and then pass it up because I do not like it raw. I think I will try this for sure. And…..I have also dried kale (with a mixture of grounds cashews and nutritional yeast massaged into the leaves). oh my goodness….such a treat.

  2. Sarah De Smet says

    Hi Jessica,
    I was wondering if you could use baby kale as well in this recipe.
    I have made many of your recipes, they are all delicious. Thank you for your great tips.

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