How to Cook Kale and Benefits of This Nutrient Vegetable

How to Cook Kale
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Kale is one of those “magical” leafy vegetables with plenty of health benefits. It belongs to the cabbage family but does not have a head. Instead, the large leaves form a cluster. The Latin name is Brassica oleracea and it flourishes well in temperatures between 18 and 23 deg. C. It can be grown at home and you can buy it in markets if available. Here, we will discuss how to cook kale. Find out all the ways you can make healthy dishes out of this ingredients.

Kale is relatively less known since it does not tolerate high temperatures prevalent in summer. These days, however, you can buy kale seeds online and grow it at home. You can use the tender leaves in salads and then you can cook the mature leaves in a variety of ways. How to cook kale to get the best taste and nutrition is simple with these tips.

A little bit about Kale

Kale is from Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean region. It was cultivated as far back as 2000 BC. From here it spread across Europe. David Fairchild, a botanist, brought kale to the Americas. The Americans used it as a decorative plant at first but then started consuming it around the 1990s once they discovered its nutritional benefits.

You will find different varieties of kale. Some plants have light green leaves while others have green and dark green leaves. The purple leaf type serves as decoration in gardens. You will find kale with plain flat leaves and with feathery type leaves. Regardless of which type you consume you get plenty of nutrition. You must know just how to cook kale right to derive maximum benefit along with taste.

Kale nutrition

100 grams of raw kale will give you about 49 kcal. You get 8.8 grams of carbohydrates of which 3.6 grams are dietary fiber. The protein content is 4.3 grams.

As for vitamins, kale is a veritable mine:

  • Thiamin: 0.11 mg
  • Lutein zeaxanthin: 6260 micrograms
  • Vitamin A: 241 micrograms
  • Riboflavin: 0.13 mg
  • Pantothenic acid: 0.9 mg
  • Folate: 141 micrograms
  • Vitamin K: 390 micrograms
  • Choline: 0.8
  • Vitamin E: 1.5 mg
  • Vitamin C: 120 mg.

Kale has minerals in plenty:

  • Iron: 1.5 mg
  • Calcium: 150 mg
  • Manganese: 0.66 mg
  • Magnesium: 47 mg
  • Potassium: 491 mg
  • Phosphorus: 92 mg
  • Sodium: 38 mg
  • Selenium: 0.9 micrograms
  • Zinc: 0.6 mg

You also get a good dose of phytonutrients like carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and glucoraphanin.

A note of caution: Kale also contains oxalic acid so consume raw kale with care. Cooking destroys oxalic acid.

Kale contains a significant amount of flavonoids, about 45 different types. You get quercetin and kaempferol from kale.

Cooking can harm most of the Vitamins so it is best consumed raw. How to cook kale without losing the nutrients requires fine balance of knowing just how much to cook it.

Benefits of Kale

Kale is a powerhouse of nutrients. If you are health-conscious then kale should be part of your diet.


Lutein and zeaxanthin prevent macular degeneration and from the harmful effects of UV radiation. Eat kale at least two times a week or more to get the full benefit and protection. Eating kale protects you against the onset of glaucoma.

Prebiotic benefit

Combine kale with lentils such as pigeon pea, green gram, black gram, chickpea, and horse gram. You receive all-round nutritional benefits. This combination is considered prebiotic. It helps provide nutrients for the good bacteria to flourish in your gut.


Your heart will thank you for eating kale. Kale controls cholesterol levels. Steam and eat it at least thrice a week for optimal results. The fiber in kale binds with bile acids to reduce acidity and reduction of cholesterol. Raw kale may not give that much of benefits but steamed kale or kale juice is ideal. LDL cholesterol reduces while HDL cholesterol level rises when you include kale in your meals.

Kale has an ample amount of potassium, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C all of which are good for the heart. Potassium also reduces the risk of stroke and reduces blood pressure.  Though the body needs about 4700 mg of potassium per day you can eat a cupful of kale and get 79 mg if it is raw kale or 290 mg if you eat one cup of cooked kale.


Glucosinolates in kale help to detoxify your system. Just drink kale juice in the morning. Kale contains plenty of phytophenols and flavonoids to cleanse your system and protect against oxidative damage.


Kale has chlorophyll along with phytophenols and flavonoids. Kale has indole 3 carbinol and sulforaphane that protect damage to cells and limit the risk of cancer.


Kale has ample calcium and vitamin K that helps to improve bone matrix and calcium absorption. Kale keeps bones strong and healthy.

Weight loss

Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of kale greens on the side and you will feel full for a longer time. Your hunger pangs reduce, your digestion improves. Your weight stays in control.

Skin and hair

Betacarotene in kale, along with calcium and vitamins of the B group are ideal for your skin and hair health. Your skin stays young and you have fewer wrinkles as you age. Hair stays strong, thick and lustrous when you eat kale every other day.

How to cook kale for maximum nutritional benefit

How to cook kale is an art. Cook it for a longer time and it loses its taste and vitamin content. The best way to achieve balance of taste with nutrition is to steam it, stir fry it or saute it. Microwaving kale for a short time retains the crunchy texture and vitamins while making fiber digestible.

How to cook kale by steaming

This is how to cook kale by steaming:

  • Use the freshest, crunchiest green leaves. Discard yellow ones.
  • Cut leaves into half-inch pieces
  • Cut stems into smaller, 1/4th inch pieces
  • Spread evenly on a sieve
  • Put in a steamer and steam at low heat for five minutes
  • Remove and dunk in cold water and remove immediately.

Always wash kale in running water to remove dirt and any insects.

How to cook kale by sauteing

Sautéing is one of the better ways to prepare tasty meals. This is how to cook kale by sautéing:

  • Cut kale leaves and stems as detailed above, leaves into half-inch pieces and stems into 1/4th inch size pieces.
  • Take a shallow pan and put some butter in it.
  • If you like you can add grated ginger, crushed garlic and cumin seeds to hot butter or oil.
  • Next add kale, ramp up the heat and stir vigorously for 3 minutes. Sprinkle lemon juice when you sauté kale.
  • Cover the pan for one minute.
  • Remove from heat.

You can mix this with other foods such as steak, cooked vegetables, and salads.

If you are sautéing a larger amount of kale leaves then add kale leaves by the handfuls. Let each handful wilt a little and then add the next lot. Do not cook for more than five minutes if you wish to retain all the nutrients.

How to cook kale in a microwave oven

Microwaving is a fast and easy way to prepare meals. This is how to cook kale in your microwave oven.

  • Wash and chop leaves and stems as you do for steaming.
  • Put them in a bowl.
  • Squeeze in the juice of a half lemon
  • Add melted butter one spoon and shake the mix to coat leaves
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper or spice powder.
  • Put the bowl in a microwave oven, set to medium and cook for 2 minutes.

Microwaved kale should preserve green color and crunchy texture. Eat it as a side dish or add to other foods.

If you choose tender kale leaves you need not cook them. Simply dip the cut leaves or whole leaves in boiling water for half a minute, remove and put them in ice-cold water and then remove and use in salads or garnish.

Kale is a useful addition to meals

You cook a variety of foods. Add kale to your meals. Some foods require extended cooking and processing. It is best to not add kale right at the beginning. Instead, add chopped kale at the end, cook for just 2 minutes and then remove from heat. This way you preserve the vitamins and the taste.

If the taste is what you are after then sauté or braise kale beforehand and then to whatever dish you have prepared. Do this and your children will eat kale with gusto.  Children may not like kale so getting them to eat it can be a chore but not when you use this method.

As stated the combination of kale with lentils makes it a rich prebiotic food. However, when you cook lentils do not add kale right from the start. Prepare lentil the usual way and add chopped kale at the end or mix in sautéed or microwaved kale when you serve it.

One of the best complete wholesome and nutritious meals is with lentils-kale-bulgur (cracked wheat). How to cook kale this way? Steam bulgur separately, mix in butter and keep aside. Cook lentils and add sauteed kale and then cook for only a minute. Serve and enjoy the goodness of kale.

Here is a kid-friendly recipe for kale:

Potato kale cutlets

This is how to cook kale in a way that everyone in the family will love it.

  • Boil two medium-sized potatoes, remove the peel, mash, set aside.
  • Finely chop kale leaves and stems and sauté for a minute and set aside.
  • Add cumin seeds, sesame seeds, chopped green chilies, boiled green peas and grated ginger to potato mash. Next, add sautéed kale and mix everything.
  • Add some salt to taste and lemon juice
  • Form patties
  • Roll in dried breadcrumb dust or poppy seeds
  • Cook on a flat griddle with some oil until lightly browned.

Serve with sweet tamarind or mint sauce.

Kale filled chapatti

This is yet another tasty method of how to cook kale so that it appeals to everyone. The usual filling is green fenugreek leaves. Here we substitute it with kale.

  • Take one cup millets and a half cup of whole wheat flour. Sieve with a half spoonful of salt.
  • Chop kale into fine pieces.
  • Grind a bit of ginger, garlic and green chilies to form a rough paste
  • Lightly dry roast a spoonful of cumin seeds and a half spoonful of ajwain (carrom) seeds.
  • Now take the flour in a wide dish, add just a little bit of water, 2 spoonfuls of oil and then add curds and make a dough.
  • Add kale and knead to make a medium-hard dough.
  • Make small balls, roll to medium thickness
  • Heat a flat iron pan. Spread a spoonful of oil. Place the rolled flat chapati and let it cook a little on one side. Flip over and cook. Add some oil at the sides so that it creeps below the chapatti.
  • Cook until lightly brown on both sides.
  • Serve with chutney or curds.
  • Chapatti will keep for 2-3 days.

Your children will love it and so will everyone else in the family.

As they say, you cannot have too much of a good thing. Kale is one of those things if you know how to cook kale right. Just keep in mind that excess could elevate oxalate levels and may cause kidney stone problems. Heart patients on beta-blockers should restrict the consumption of kale. Those with kidney problems should likewise eat kale in small amounts. If you consume blood thinners like Coumadin then you need to eat less of kale. Still, the benefits far outweigh the cons.

You may not be able to procure fresh kale in India with ease. Even if it is available it may be expensive. The better way is to get seeds online and then plant them in shallow boxes with rich sandy soil. Kale matures in 60 days so you can have it all year round. It even grows in the shade and prefers a cooler climate.

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