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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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- 1 ½ pounds kale, (about 3 large leaves, 7 to 8 cups chopped)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅓ 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
- 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.
- Yield: Recipe makes about 4 cups
- Serving Size: about 1 cup
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