Kale isn't just for vegetarians (and vegans) anymore. With our tasty recipe ideas you'll want to incorporate this nutritious veggie into your salads, soups, stews, side dishes, smoothies, and snacks. It's low in calories, high in fiber, and has zero fat.

Like all dark, leafy green vegetables, kale is good for you because it is rich in disease-fighting antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and beta carotene, and minerals such as iron, zinc, and fiber.

To keep it heart healthy, combine kale with other protective foods, such as olive oil, nuts, legumes, whole grains, garlic, avocado, and most fresh fruits and vegetables. And since long-term cooking kills off some of kale's army of antioxidants, it's best to go raw, or roast, steam, or sauté just until wilted, or add chopped or sliced leaves to mixed dishes toward the end of cooking time.

Here are five great ways to enjoy kale:

1. In Salads

Small, tender baby kale leaves are best for eating raw, and can be substituted for lettuce or spinach in almost any salad recipe. Save the larger, tougher leaves for other uses or, if you must use them in salad, slice into thin shreds or chop into very small pieces. Kale leaves are especially good in hearty whole grain and rice salads and any salad made with chopped nuts and fresh or dried fruits, such as apples, oranges, apricots, or raisins. Dress baby kale salad with balsamic vinaigrette or simple combination of olive oil and lemon juice; heartier, sturdier kale leaves can also handle thicker, creamier dressings made with pureed avocado or nut butter. And if you need to tenderize raw kale before you eat it, gently heat vinaigrette-style dressings before pouring it over leaves, or steam the leaves for a minute or two and cool before adding to salad.

2. In Soups and Stews

Kale finds its way into a variety of soup and stew recipes, especially those that feature "beans and greens." Add chopped kale leaves to minestrone, white bean, black bean, and lentil soups, or to any soup or stew that contains winter or root vegetables. To keep meaty stews heart-healthy, decrease the amount of meat you use in your recipes to an ounce or two per serving, while increasing the amount of vegetables—and adding chopped fresh kale for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

3. In Sautées and Side Dishes

For everyday cooking, prepare a simple sauté of sliced or chopped kale in olive oil with garlic, just until the leaves are wilted, and add to pasta dishes, grainy sides such as barley, quinoa, or brown rice, or serve on its own. For more in-depth flavor, pair kale with sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, cauliflower, or potatoes—adding plenty of garlic and strong seasonings such as curry powder or chipotle chile.

4. In Smoothies

Make a green smoothie with kale. Try a combination of ripe avocado, ripe banana, and chopped kale leaves with a little minced fresh ginger root if you like a spicy bite. Whirl in a blender with a little fruit juice (such as apple, cranberry, or grape), or lemon juice and water to thin the mixture until it is drinking consistency.

5. In Snacks

To make crispy kale chips, preheat the oven to 375°. Tear leaves into large pieces (remove and discard tough ribs) and toss with a little olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Spread the leaves out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully turn leaves over and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer or until crisp. Cool the leaves completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to a couple of days.

Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, reviewed this article.



Sikora E and Bodziarczyk I. "Composition and Antioxidant Activity of Kale Raw and Cooked." Acta scientiarum polonorum. Technologia alimentaria (Poland). 2012 Jul. Sep;11(3):239-48. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22744944