Kale Substitutes

Kale, a favorite green among many, offers its delicious flavor and vibrant hues especially during cool seasons. Often found in farmers markets and specialized vegetable shops, it becomes a scarce commodity during summer months. Nevertheless, there are alternatives that can satisfy your craving for this lush leafy green.

In search of substitutes to enjoy the unique taste and nutrients that kale provides, let us discover some equally delightful options that will not only give you similar benefits, but also broaden your culinary horizons.

Key Takeaways

  • Kale can be difficult to find in summer, but alternatives are available.
  • Substitutes provide similar taste and nutritional value.
  • Exploring substitutes can expand your culinary experience.

What is Kale?

Kale is a leafy green vegetable belonging to the brassica family, which also includes broccoli and cauliflower. This nutrient-dense vegetable is loaded with vitamins and fiber, offering numerous health benefits like heart health and weight management. Kale comes in three main varieties: Curly Green Kale, Curly Purple Kale, and Tuscan Kale, also known as Cavolo Nero, Lacitano Kale, or Dinosaur Kale. You can enjoy kale cooked or raw, with the latter option being a bit more chewy. Embrace this superfood to promote your overall health!

The Best Kale Substitutes

1. Collard Greens
Collard greens are the closest match to kale in flavor and texture, making them a great alternative when called for in recipes.

2. English Spinach
Although English spinach or regular spinach has a unique “spinachy” flavor, and the leaves are softer and more delicate, it’s a good option for cooked greens. However, avoid using it for raw kale recipes.

3. Baby Spinach Leaves
For recipes that call for raw kale or baby kale leaves, baby spinach is a preferred choice. Just remember that baby spinach is more delicate, requiring less massaging and dressing.

4. Swiss Chard / Rainbow Chard (Silverbeet)
Chard is a suitable substitute for cooked kale recipes, though its stems are larger and stronger in flavor. You may want to use the stems separately or cook them for longer to soften.

5. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens offer a similar texture to kale and are rich in nutrition, though they have a stronger flavor when raw. Young mustard greens can be used raw for a touch of heat.

6. Chinese Broccoli
Chinese broccoli has a taste similar to kale but with thicker stems and smaller leaves. It’s not recommended for raw kale dishes due to the thick stems.

7. Broccoli Raab / Sprouting Broccoli
While not as leafy as kale, broccoli raab is an excellent substitute for cooked kale dishes that include the stems.

8. Turnip / Kohlrabi Tops
Turnip and kohlrabi tops are slightly different in flavor from kale but can be used as a substitute. If the leaves are young and tender, they can also be used raw like kale leaves.

How to Prepare Kale

Kale can be enjoyed both raw and cooked, offering various textures and a versatile ingredient in your kitchen. Here’s a guide on how to get the most out of this nutritious leafy green.

Raw Kale

  1. Wash and dry the kale leaves, tearing them into bite-sized pieces.
  2. You can choose to include the stems for extra crunch but be prepared for some chewing!
  3. Toss the leaves with a bit of salt and lemon juice, letting them soften for 30 minutes before adding dressing and serving.
  4. If you’re short on time, give the kale a “massage” with your hands to speed up the softening process.

Cooked Kale

  1. Rinse the kale with cold water, leaving it slightly damp.
  2. You can either tear the leaves directly or slice them, with or without the stems.
  3. For optimum texture, tear the leaves and finely slice the stems.
  4. To cook the kale, start with the stems: heat a little oil and a few tablespoons of water in a covered pan, cooking for 10 minutes or until softened.
  5. Add the leaves and cook for another 5 minutes or until they are wilted and tender.
  6. Since kale can taste bitter at times, don’t hesitate to season it generously with salt to balance the flavors.

Whether sautéed, steamed, or roasted, kale can be a delicious and healthy addition to your meals. Enjoy experimenting with different preparations and make kale a regular part of your culinary repertoire.

How to Store Kale

To preserve kale’s freshness and nutritional value, wrap it in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. This method typically keeps kale fresh for about a week, depending on its initial freshness. If you have organic kale from a farmers market, it might last up to 2 weeks. When leaves start to yellow, simply remove them and continue enjoying the green ones.

Beloved Kale Dishes

Whip up some savory dishes with kale, like chorizo-infused kale or garlicky rosemary kale. For lighter fare, try lime-tahini salad or quinoa and ricotta kale crisps. You’ll also enjoy kale integrated into pizza, gratin, and even a kale-inspired “carbonara” dish. Explore more kale recipes for your smoothies, soups, stir-fries, stews, and casseroles.

Delectable Kale Pairings

  • Bacon & Kale
  • Chorizo & Kale
  • Goats Cheese & Kale
  • Lemon & Kale
  • Garlic & Kale
  • Olives & Kale
  • Rosemary & Kale

Enjoy these flavor combinations to enhance your kale salads, balancing its earthy, bitter, and peppery taste profiles.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use instead of kale in soup?

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Beet greens

What’s a nice alternative to kale for smoothies?

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Bok choy
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Wheatgrass

Greens that are nutritionally close to kale

SpinachA, C, K, E, B2Iron, Calcium
CollardA, C, K, B9Calcium
Beet greensA, C, K, B6, B2Iron, Calcium
Swiss chardA, C, KPotassium

Best kale replacement in lasagna

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Collard greens

Using arugula instead of kale

Yes, you can use arugula instead of kale. Its peppery taste adds a unique flavor to your dishes.

Veggies comparable to kale in taste and texture

  • Collard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Mustard greens
  • Turnip greens
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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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