Ever wondered how to prep kale? How to remove it from the stems, how to wash it, and how to store it? Look no further, my friend. Here’s your complete guide to prepping this super healthy leafy green, including tips for how to make it taste less bitter!
Kale is a ridiculously healthy green vegetable- in fact, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. But it can be a bit intimidating to cook with, especially if you don’t know how to prep it!
A lot of people think kale is bitter and doesn’t taste good. I humbly beg to differ. And if you follow some tricks and tips for preparing it the right way, you can remove lots of the bitterness and use it in all kinds of different recipes!
In this post, I’ll explain:
- How to remove kale from the stems (including: with a knife, with a leaf stripper tool, and how to do it for curly vs. Tuscan kale)
- How to chop kale
- Tricks for how to remove the bitterness from kale
- How to wash kale (and get it REALLY clean)
- How to store kale (it stays good for a week or more in the fridge!)
- Recipe ideas that use kale
So go ahead and grab that bunch of kale from the store and let’s get to it!
How to remove the stems from kale
There are two ways you can remove the stems. My favorite way is with a chef’s knife. But if you’re a beginner cook and not as comfortable using a knife, a leaf stripper is a nifty tool that makes removing the stems so easy! And you’ll need to treat curly kale differently than Tuscan kale.
How to cut stems off curly kale with a knife
- Fold the kale leaf in half and hold the leaves down with your non-dominant hand, leaving the stem exposed on the edge.
- Use your chef’s knife to slice the stem off where it meets the leaves.
How to remove kale stems with a leaf stripper
Not only is this nifty leaf stripper tool great to remove stems from kale (and chard, and other greens), but it also works with herbs like rosemary and thyme!
- Find the hold in the leaf stripper that will fit the stem (you may need to trip a particularly thick part off the end first).
- Insert the stem and pull through the other end. Ta-da!
How to remove the stems from Tuscan kale
Tuscan kale, otherwise known as Dinosaur Kale and Lacinato Kale, has a flat leaf rather than curly, and is a bit more delicate. It probably won’t work as well with a leaf stripper unless you have very large, sturdy leaves.
- Place the leaf flat on a cutting board and use a paring knife to slice along one side of the stem where it meets the leaf.
- Repeat on the other side and remove the stem.
How to chop kale
I usually like to cut kale into small pieces, about 1/2″-1″ big. This is perfect for salad, to add to soups, etc. If you want to steam kale or sauté it, you may want bigger pieces, around 2″-4″.
Just fold it in half or stack a few leaves on top of each other and run your chef’s knife over it in both directions, until you get smaller pieces.
How to make kale less bitter
If you think kale is a bitter pill to swallow, you’re partially right. Kale IS known for its bitterness, as are many other healthy leafy greens such as chard.
BUT. There is hope! When kale is at its best, it actually tastes DELICIOUS, almost sweet, rather than bitter. Here are tips to bring out its best flavor.
- Kale grown in colder weather is less bitter. Frost actually enhances its flavor. So if you can get it in season, or if you can grow it yourself in colder weather (mine grows so easily here in Texas all through the winter!), it will taste much better.
- Cut the kale BEFORE washing it. You can give it a little rinse before, but rinsing it off after cutting it removes more of the bitterness.
- Soak the chopped kale in ice water. The cold will help remove some of the bitterness, and this will also help deep clean the leaves (more on that in a sec). Note: This will also help perk the leaves up if they are a bit wilted, a trick that works with all leafy greens, celery, herbs, etc.!
- Serve the kale with something sweet. Pair it with a sweeter salad dressing and/or fruit in a salad. Cook it with bacon, which usually has added sugar in it. The sweetness will help balance out the bitter flavor.
How to wash kale
It’s important to wash kale thoroughly, because it can have a lot of dirt on it, particularly if you grow it yourself. It’s also important to dry it thoroughly before storing it.
(By the way, this trick works with other dirty produce, such as leeks or cilantro, as well!)
- Soak chopped kale in a large bowl or container of ice water. Stir it around a little to loosen any dirt that’s stuck on the leaves. You should see the dirt sink to the bottom of the container.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the kale to a colander or salad spinner insert. This will ensure you leave the dirty water behind.
- Repeat this process if the kale is particularly dirty.
- Then, rinse the kale under cold running water.
- Finally, use a salad spinner to dry the kale thoroughly. If you don’t have one, lay the kale out on a couple of clean towels and pat the tops dry with more towels.
How to store kale
When stored properly, kale can stay good for a week or more in the fridge after you prep it!
Here’s what I recommend: line a container with a damp paper towel. Squeeze as much water out as you can- you only want it a little damp. Finally, place the kale on top of it and seal it with the lid to make it airtight.
The reason why you want the damp paper towel is to increase the humidity within the container. If the kale is too wet, it will go bad quickly. But if the environment is too dry, the kale will wilt.
The damp paper towel keeps the kale perfectly firm and ready to go whenever you need it!
Recipes with kale
Now that you know how to prep kale, here’s how to use it! There are countless ways.
- Make kale pesto, a cheap and healthy alternative to basil pesto!
- Adding kale to pizza with bacon is a delicious way for the kale to crisp up in the oven.
- Stir kale into soups, like this Zuppa Toscana, this 15 bean soup with ham and kale and this creamy potato and caramelized fennel soup with kale.
- Make a massaged kale salad – rubbing the dressing into the leaves softens them and enhances their flavor. This kale salad with apples and goat cheese is so yummy!
- Make kale chips! A healthy alternative to potato chips.
- Or, put it in a green smoothie with kale.
There are literally so many ways to use this healthy vegetable!
Other prepping tutorials
You can check out all my basic cooking techniques here!
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How to Prep Kale
- 1 bunch kale
- To use a chef's knife, fold the curly kale over in half, hold it down on a cutting board, and use a the knife to cut off the stem.
- To use a leaf stripper, insert the stem into the right sized hole and pull through to the other side.
- To cut the stem from Tuscan kale, place the leaf flat on a cutting board and use a paring knife to cut the stem off.
- Chop the kale to desired size- I usually prefer 1/2"-1" pieces, but you may want them bigger depending on how you are going to use them.
- Place the cut kale into a container or bowl of ice water. Stir it around a bit to loosen the dirt, then use a slotted spoon to remove it to a colander. Rinse under cold water. Then, dry with a salad spinner. (if the kale isn't very dirty to begin with, you can just rinse it instead of soaking it, but soaking also helps remove some bitterness.)
- Line the bottom of a container with a damp paper towel, with as much water squeezed out of it as possible. Place the washed and dried kale inside and place the lid on to make it airtight. Store in your fridge for about 1 week.