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Best Ways to Prepare Kale for Cooking or Eating Raw

Discover the best ways to prepare kale.  Learn the proper way to wash and store it and how to cut kale quickly and easily.

best ways to prepare kale title

The journey to discovering the best ways to prepare kale begins before you pull out your knife, cutting board, and pan.

Your adventure with kale begins at a farmers market or grocery store where you learn what kale is and all of the varieties you have to choose from.

For more information, see the Ultimate Kale Guide.

After you prepare kale, learn the 7 best ways to cook kale without boiling away the nutrients.

In this article, you will learn the best ways to prepare kale, starting with:

  1. How to choose the freshest kale
  2. Best way to store kale properly to keep it fresh
  3. How to wash and prep kale
  4. Best way to cut the kale, removing the thick stem and veins first
  5. How to soften very tough kale

How to Choose Kale

kale leaf

  • Choose kale with strong and fresh-looking green leaves.  Kale should be moist and crisp.  Smaller leaves indicate the kale plant is young.  Young kale tastes mild and is less tough to chew than older kale.

old kale leaf turning yellow

  • Avoid kale that has yellow leaves or have brown spots.  Do not buy kale that is wilted, droopy, slimy, or extremely tough.

How to Store Kale

Follow four steps for the best way to prepare kale for storage in the refrigerator.

Step 1: Remove any ties or bands from the leaves.

lacinto kale

Step 2: Add a paper towel to absorb moisture.

If you want to reduce waste, use a cotton tea towel in place of a paper towel.

kale wrapped in a paper towel

Step 3: Place the paper towel-wrapped kale in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator.

If you want to reduce waste, store the kale in a mesh polyester bag instead of a plastic bag.

kale wrapped in a paper towel and plastic bag ready to go in the refrigerator

Step 4: Use fresh kale within 2 to 3 days.

Best Ways to Prepare Kale: Begin With a Good Wash

Kale, like other leafy greens, may contain dirt in the leaves or near the stem.  Wash the leaves thoroughly, either before or after you cut them.

Wash-Then-Cut Method:

  • Wash each leaf separately under running water.  Take care to wash the center stem area where dirt accumulates.
  • Rub the kale with your thumbs to remove the dirt if necessary.
  • Cut the clean kale.

Cut-Then-Wash Method:

  • Cut the stem out of each leaf (see “How to Cut Kale” below).
  • Cut the kale into ribbons.
  • Place the ribbons in a bowl of water.

soaking kale ribbons

  • Swish the kale pieces around with a wooden spoon to loosen any dirt.
  • Lift the kale out of the water and into a colander and rinse under running water.
    • If the kale is still dirty, repeat with a fresh clean bowl of water.
    • Don’t pour the dirty water out with the kale or the kale will get dirty again.

How to Cut Kale Method 1

Use this method if kale leaf is attached along the stem with no break.

Step 1: Fold kale in half vertically, so the thick stem is exposed.

Step 2: Use a sharp chef’s knife and cut the stem away from the leaves by starting at one end of the stem and moving to the other end.

cutting the stalk off the kale

Step 3: Open the kale up. It should look like an upside down triangle was cut from the middle of the leaf where the stem used to be.

kale with the stalk removed

Step 4: Fold the kale in half.

shredding the kale in ribbons

Step 5: Cut fine strips from the kale.  The result will be thin kale ribbons.

shredded kale

How to Cut Kale Method 2

Use this method if the curly leaves are not attached the length stem without breaks.  There may be areas on the stem where there is no leaf attached.

kale

  • First, hold the kale upside down by the stem.
  • Begin at the stem end and pull the individual leaves off the kale.

pulling leaves off kale

  • Repeat until all the leaves have been pulled off the stem.

pulling leaves off kale

  • Next, tear the leaves into bite sized pieces.  If any pieces are especially large, cut into ribbons with knife and cutting board.

shredded kale

How to Soften Kale: Give it a Good Massage

When kale leaves are thick and tough, massage to soften them.

To Massage Kale:

  • First, cut kale leaves (minus the stem) into small pieces.
  • Next, place kale leaves in a zip top bag.
  • Then add a small amount of olive oil to zip top bag and rub or massage into the kale.
  • After several minutes the cellulosic fibers that make the kale so tough break down, leaving you with a soft, sweet, tender kale.

Although massaging kale works, it can be time consuming.  I don’t have the patience for it, especially if there is a lot of kale to massage.  Instead, consider chopping the kale in small ribbons and blending it with lettuce to make it easier to eat.  Alternately, cook it to soften it.

I find curly kale to be the most tiring kale variety to eat.  The tight curly texture feels rough in my mouth.  However, cutting it in very small pieces, makes the rough texture less noticeable.  Blending small pieces of curly kale with lettuce or spinach hides the rough texture even more.

To learn more about the best ways to prepare kale, check out how to cook kale 7 different ways.

Additionally, if you are looking for specific kale recipes, try Southwest Chipotle Kale Quinoa Bowl.

Learn about many other ingredients in our ingredient guides.