How to Store Kale

Storing kale properly ensures that this nutrient-rich, leafy green stays fresh and crisp, making it readily available for your meals. Kale, like many vegetables, tends to wilt and lose its appeal if not stored correctly. To keep kale fresh for as long as possible, it is important to control exposure to air and moisture, the main culprits that accelerate decay.

When you bring kale home, resist the urge to wash it immediately, as the dampness can encourage spoilage. Instead, store your kale in the coldest part of your refrigerator, usually the back or the crisper drawer, to maintain its freshness. Proper storage can significantly extend the kale’s lifespan, keeping it fresh for about five days.

If you need to store kale for an extended period, freezing is an option that can preserve its quality for several months. Before freezing, blanching the kale can help to retain its vibrant color and nutritional value. Whether you plan to consume your kale within days or are preparing for future use, knowing how to store kale effectively means you’ll always have access to its versatility and health benefits in your cooking.

Understanding Kale

Kale is a leafy green vegetable renowned for its nutritional benefits, often labeled as a superfood. As a cruciferous plant, it boasts dark green leaves that are rich in nutrients, making it an incredibly nutrient-dense food choice for your diet.

When selecting kale, you have a few varieties to choose from, with red kale being one option. The leaves should be firm and vibrant, ranging from deep green to purplish-red, indicating that they are fresh and full of flavor.

Nutrient Profile

Here are some key nutrients that kale provides:

  • Vitamins: High in vitamins A, C, and K
  • Minerals: Rich in minerals like calcium and potassium
  • Fiber: A great source of dietary fiber

Organic vs Non-Organic

If you’re concerned about pesticides or prefer foods produced with fewer chemicals, you might opt for organic kale. However, whether organic or not, ensure you wash the leaves thoroughly before consumption to remove any residues.

By incorporating kale into your meals, you are choosing a powerful vegetable that can enhance your health with its rich nutritional content. Remember to select fresh, vibrant bunches and consider organic options if that aligns with your preferences.

Selecting and Preparing Kale

Kale 101 - Selecting & Storing Kale

When selecting fresh kale, aim to find leaves that boast a vivacious, dark green color. You’ll often encounter kale at your local supermarket or local grocery store, nestled among the leafy greens. Opt for leaves that feel firm to the touch and show no signs of wilting. Veer away from any kale with yellow or black spots, as these indicate that the kale is past its prime.

Preparation starts with rinsing. To ensure you remove any dirt or residual pests, place the kale leaves in a colander and rinse them under cold running water. Gently rub the surfaces of the leaves to dislodge any stubborn particles.

Here is a brief format guide for preparing your kale:

  • Inspect: Check each leaf for signs of aging or damage.
  • Rinse:
    1. Remove kale from the stem.
    2. Place in a colander.
    3. Run under cold water, gently rubbing leaves.
  • Dry: Pat the leaves dry with paper towels, or use a salad spinner to ensure they’re devoid of excess moisture.

Post-rinsing, if your intention is to store the kale, it’s best to keep the leaves as dry as possible. Moisture can quicken spoilage, so thorough drying is a crucial step. Trim the leaves from their tougher stems if desired, but for certain recipes, the stems can be chopped finely and used for added texture and nutrition.

With your kale now properly selected and prepped, it’s ready for consumption or storage.

Short-Term Storage

Preserving your kale’s freshness and crispness in the short term involves proper refrigeration techniques to manage moisture and tactics to revive any wilted leaves.

How to Store Kale

Refrigeration Techniques

Your fridge is the best place to store fresh kale short-term. To prepare kale for refrigeration:

  1. Do not wash the leaves; water can promote spoilage.
  2. Wrap the kale in a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture.
  3. Place the wrapped kale in a plastic bag, leaving it slightly open to allow for air circulation.
  4. Store the bag in your fridge’s crisper drawer; this is often the coldest part and helps to minimize moisture buildup.

Counteracting Wilting

If your kale has begun to wilt:

  • Gently revive the leaves by soaking them in cold water for a few minutes, which can help restore turgor pressure.
  • Thoroughly dry the leaves before returning them to the fridge—wet kale can become slimy.

By following the above advice, your refrigerated kale should stay fresh for up to five days. Always check for signs of spoilage like wilting or slimy leaves before consumption.

Long-Term Storage

For maintaining the freshness and nutritional value of kale over several months, freezing is the most effective method. Properly blanching kale prior to freezing helps preserve its vibrant color and nutrient content.

Freezing Kale

Step-by-Step Guide to Freezing Kale:

  1. Prepare Your Kale:
    • Wash your kale thoroughly to remove any dirt and potential pests.
    • Remove the leaves from the tough ribs and roughly chop the leaves if desired.
  2. Dry the Kale:
    • Use a salad spinner or pat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture, as this can lead to freezer burn.
  3. Packaging for Freezer:
    • Lay the dry kale leaves flat on a baking sheet.
    • Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the leaves are frozen solid, usually 1 to 2 hours.
    • Transfer the frozen kale to freezer-safe bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing to prevent freezer burn.

Tips for Freezing:

  • Date and label your freezer bags so you can use the oldest stock first.
  • Frozen kale is best used within six to eight months for optimal quality.

Blanching Before Freezing

How to Blanch and Freeze Kale:

  1. Blanching Process:
    • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
    • Submerge kale leaves in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes.
    • For very large, thick leaves, allow a full three minutes.
    • For thinner leaves, two minutes is usually sufficient.
  2. Ice Water Bath:
    • Prepare a bowl of ice water.
    • Immediately after blanching, transfer kale to the ice water to halt the cooking process.
  3. Drying After Blanching:
    • Dry the kale thoroughly to avoid ice crystals forming during freezing.
    • Blot the kale with paper towels or spin dry.

Benefits of Blanching:

  • Blanching kale before freezing helps retain its flavor, nutritional value, and color.
  • This pre-freezing step is crucial for ensuring the quality of your kale during thawing.

Remember to use the blanched and frozen kale directly from the freezer when cooking, as there’s no need to thaw it beforehand.

Utilizing Kale in Recipes

Healthy Kale Salad Recipe

When you incorporate kale into your meal prep, you embrace a versatile green that lends itself to a wide array of recipes. Its hearty texture and slightly bitter taste enhance dishes, offering both nutritional value and depth of flavor.

For starters, kale salads are a staple. Begin by massaging your kale leaves with a bit of olive oil to soften their texture and mellow the bitterness. Pair with bold dressings and toppings like nuts, cheeses, and dried fruits for a satisfying meal.

  • Salads: Combine kale with vinaigrette, nuts, and cheese.

In soups and stews, kale’s robust leaves withstand simmering and provide a pleasant bite. They are perfect for adding a nutritional boost without compromising the texture of your dish.

  • Soups/Stews: Add kale in the last few minutes of cooking.

Kale multitasks in your blender too. For green smoothies, blend kale with fruits like bananas or apples to offset its bitterness, creating a nutrient-packed beverage.

  • Smoothies: Blend kale with fruits and liquid of choice.
  • Kale Smoothie Tip: Pair with sweet fruits to balance flavors.

Kale pesto is a delightful twist on the traditional basil pesto. Substituting kale for basil is an inventive way to enjoy this leafy green in a spread or sauce.

  • Kale Pesto: Blend kale with nuts, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.

Table: Kale Recipe Components

Recipe TypeKale PreparationComplementary Ingredients
SaladRaw, massagedNuts, fruits, cheese
Soup/StewChoppedBeans, meats, vegetables
SmoothieBlendedFruits, yogurt, honey
PestoBlendedNuts, cheese, garlic

Remember, when prepping kale for any dish, start by washing the leaves thoroughly and removing the tough stems. Experiment with kale in your recipes and enjoy the added texture and flavor it brings to your food.

Maintaining Freshness


Proper storage is key to keeping your kale fresh and crisp. By handling kale with care and following these straightforward steps, you can ensure your leafy greens stay in the best condition.

Storing Unwashed Kale:

  • Keep it dry: Any excess moisture can lead to decay. If your kale is fresh from the market or garden, do not wash it before storing.
  • Wrap: Use paper towels or a kitchen towel to loosely wrap the kale. This absorbent layer captures any residual moisture, helping to prevent spoilage.
  • Bag it up: Place your wrapped kale in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag with a few holes punched in for circulation.

Preparing Washed Kale for Storage:

  • Dry thoroughly: After washing, remove as much water as possible. A salad spinner is an excellent tool for this, but you can also pat the kale dry with towels.
  • Cut the stems: Removing the stems can save space and make your kale ready to use. However, if you prefer to store your kale whole, ensure it’s completely dry.
WashingOnly if using immediately
DryingSalad spinner or towels
StemsRemove for convenience
WrapIn paper/kitchen towels
ContainerAirtight, with or without a bag

Remember to check your kale regularly and swap out any damp towels to keep it dry and ready for your next meal.

Labeling and Organizing

Properly labeling and organizing your kale is essential in extending its shelf life and reducing food waste. You should label your kale with the date of storage to keep track of its freshness. Use a piece of tape and a marker to write the date on the container or bag. This method is especially important if you have multiple batches of kale with different storage dates.

Here’s a simple labeling format you can use:

  • Date Stored: (e.g., 01/24/2024)
  • Expected Freshness Date: (e.g., 01/29/2024 for refrigerated kale)
  • Preparation Note: (e.g., washed and chopped, blanched)

Organizing your kale ensures that you use the oldest leaves first, maintaining an effective rotation. Use the First In, First Out (FIFO) principle:

  1. Place newer kale at the back of the fridge or freezer
  2. Move older kale to the front

Maintain a dedicated space for your fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator or freezer to avoid cross-contamination and to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. You can employ storage bins or sections within your fridge/freezer labeled as follows:

Top ShelfNewly stored kale
Middle ShelfKale stored within the week
Bottom ShelfReady-to-use kale

Stick to a neutral and confident approach to reduce the chances of overlooking older batches, which can lead to both food waste and the opportunity cost of not enjoying your kale at its best. With a clear and knowledgeable strategy in labeling and organizing, you’ll always have fresh and crisp kale at your fingertips.

Health and Nutrition Information

How to clean, prep and store fresh kale | Ohio State Medical Center

Kale is renowned for being a nutrient-dense green vegetable, often touted as a superfood due to its extensive range of beneficial nutrients. When you include this leafy green in your diet, you’re providing your body with a rich supply of vitamins and minerals.

  • Vitamins: Kale is a powerful source of vitamins A, C, and K. In particular, vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting, and just one cup of raw kale can deliver much more than your daily requirement.
  • Minerals: This green is packed with minerals like manganese and smaller amounts of calcium and potassium.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, kale provides significant antioxidant content, including carotenoids and flavonoids, which help combat oxidative stress in your body.

Here’s a quick glance at the nutritional content of kale per cup:

Vitamin A206% DV
Vitamin C134% DV
Vitamin K684% DV
Manganese26% DV

*DV refers to the Daily Value based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

If you opt for organic kale, you’re choosing a product that is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which some individuals prefer for environmental and health reasons.

By integrating kale into your diet, you’re investing in a green, leafy vegetable with compact nutritional value. It’s a robust addition to your meals, whether you aim to maintain your health or augment your intake of essential nutrients.

Additional Tips for Kale Storage

When storing kale, it’s essential to keep it dry and cool to prolong its freshness. Here’s how:

  • Wash Kale: Before storing, wash your kale thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris. Use a large pot filled with water to swish the kale around, then lift it out and place it in a colander to drain.
  • Dry Thoroughly: After washing, gently shake off excess water. Lay the kale out on a clean kitchen towel and pat it dry or let it air dry completely. Kale can be sliced or torn into pieces if desired for more manageable storage.
  • Prepare for Storage: Wrap the dry kale in a layer of paper towels to absorb any residual moisture. This helps prevent spoilage.
  • Use Proper Containers: Store your prepped kale in a plastic storage bag. Avoid overpacking the bag—kale needs room to breathe. Do not securely tie the bag; a loose knot allows for some air circulation, reducing the risk of moisture build-up and subsequent decay.
  • Refrigeration: Place your kale in the coolest part of your refrigerator, typically in the back or the crisper drawer.
  • Shelf Life: Properly stored, kale can last between three to five days in the refrigerator.

Employing these additional tips ensures your kale stays crisp and fresh until you’re ready to enjoy it. Remember to avoid sealing kale in airtight containers without first wrapping it in paper towels, as it can trap moisture and hasten spoilage.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Storing kale properly is essential for maintaining its freshness, flavor, and nutritional value. Below are targeted answers to common queries on how to keep kale at its best.

What is the optimal method for preserving kale in the refrigerator?

To preserve kale in the refrigerator, wash the leaves and dry them thoroughly, then wrap them gently in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Place the wrapped kale in a plastic bag or storage container and store it in the crisper drawer of your fridge.

Can you freeze kale, and if so, what are the best practices for freezing it?

Yes, you can freeze kale. For optimal results, blanch the leaves first by boiling them for two minutes, then plunging them into ice water. Dry the kale thoroughly before laying it flat in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen solid, transfer the leaves to airtight freezer bags.

Which technique ensures kale remains fresh the longest without refrigeration?

Without refrigeration, kale remains fresh the longest by keeping it in a cool, dark place and ensuring it’s stored in a well-ventilated container or bag with a paper towel to reduce moisture. This method is best for short-term storage of up to a day or two.

How do you prepare and store kale for use throughout the winter season?

To prepare and store kale for winter, blanch and freeze it as described above. This method preserves the kale and maintains much of its nutritional content, making it suitable for use throughout the winter season.

What are the recommended steps for storing kale to maintain its freshness overnight?

For overnight storage, place the kale in a plastic bag with a paper towel, removing as much air from the bag as possible before sealing and placing it in the refrigerator. This will help maintain its freshness until the next day.

Should kale be kept moist, or is it preferable to store it dry to prolong its freshness?

Kale should be stored dry to prolong its freshness. Excess moisture can lead to decay, so be sure to dry the leaves thoroughly after washing. If necessary, a damp paper towel can be included in the storage bag to provide minimal moisture without causing the kale to become overly wet.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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