5 Kitchen hacks for nutritious kale stems (recipes included)
08/11/2021 / By Rose Lidell / Comments
5 Kitchen hacks for nutritious kale stems (recipes included)

Kale is used in almost any healthy dish, from salads to sandwiches, wraps and smoothies. But some people leave out one part: The stem.

However, kale stems are just as nutritious as the leaves. To make kale stems palatable, you can try five simple kitchen hacks, like braising and pickling.

Why eat kale stems?

Kale is a cruciferous vegetable and the dark, leafy green is a nutrient-rich superfood that is full of dietary fiber that makes you feel full longer.

It is also rich in beneficial phytonutrients and essential vitamins and nutrients. But when you eat kale raw or without any prepping, kale can taste bitter and be a bit hard to chew.


This is why some recipes recommend de-stemming before eating, but this doesn’t meant kale stems are inedible. Kale stems are tough, but preparing them a certain way will help make them more palatable.

Instead of throwing kale stems away, try some of the suggestions below to release some of the bitterness and break down the tough fiber in kale stems to get more bang for your buck.

Blanch kale stems for salad or pesto

Blanching is one of the easiest ways to prepare kale stems. This method softens the stems and helps cut the bitterness. Once the stems have been softened, chop them up for a tasty salad.

You can also blend blanched kale stems to make pesto or saute them with garlic and olive oil to make a healthy side dish.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 1 bunch of kale (Separate the stems and leaves)
  • Kosher salt


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Use about one tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water. If you have a pot insert, use it.
  2. Add the kale stems to the pot and boil them for one minute.
  3. Next, add the kale leaves to the pot. Boil the leaves and stems for two minutes.
  4. Drain the kale by pouring over a strainer (colander) or removing them from the pot with a slotted spoon if you don’t have a perforated pot insert.
  5. Once cool, squeeze the kale leaves and stems with your hands or a towel to remove excess moisture.
  6. Roughly chop the stems and leaves. Serve with a light salad dressing and a few pinches of salt.

You can also store the blanched kale in the refrigerator for three to four days or freeze for up to 8 months.

Braise kale stems to make a cheesy side dish

Braising is a slower way of cooking the greens than sauteing but it helps the flavors develop as the stems soften.

Follow the recipe below to make cheesy braised kale stems.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 1 large (14-oz) bunch of kale
  • 3/4 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 ounce grated Parmesan (optional)


  1. Strip the kale leaves from the stems. Coarsely chop the leaves and stems. Rinse the leaves and stems in a colander and leave the water on the chopped kale.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and cook. Stir until the garlic is golden and aromatic or for three to four minutes.
  3. Transfer the garlic to a dish and set aside.
  4. Reheat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the chopped kale and the broth. Cover and simmer until the kale is tender or for four to eight minutes. Season the kale and broth with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer the braised kale to a serving platter and top with the garlic and cheese.

Quick pickle kale stems to make a zesty side dish

Try the recipe below to make tasty, quick pickled kale stems.


  • 1 bunch kale stems, chopped into two-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)


  1. Get a small saucepan and bring the water, kale stems, chili flakes, coriander seeds, mustard, peppercorns and sea salt to a boil.
  2. Once boiled, remove the mixture from the heat and cover with a saucepan lid. Let the mixture sit for about 20 to 45 minutes until room temperature. If you have very tough kale stems, low boil the mixture for at least two to three minutes before removing from the heat.
  3. When the mixture is room temperature add the apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. Stir well to combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into a sterilized 500 ml mason jar (boil it and then rinse in vinegar water). Cover top of jar with parchment paper then seal the lid.
  5. Let the mixture sit in a warm place out of direct sunlight for about one week. You can leave it for up to four weeks before refrigerating it.
  6. Refrigerate once you open the jar. Always use a clean utensil when removing the pickled stems from the jar.

Roast kale stems to make chips

Kale leaves and stems can be oven roasted to make kale “chips.” Try the recipe below make a healthy, crunchy snack using kale stems.

You’ll need two very large bowls, two large (half-sheet 18- by 13-inches) rimmed sheet pans and parchment paper or nonstick foil.

Ingredients for 18 servings:

  • 3 pounds curly kale
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 Tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Fine sea salt, divided


  1. Heat the oven to 275 F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
  2. Line the rimmed sheet pans with parchment or nonstick foil.
  3. Chop the kale leaves and stems into bite-sized pieces. When you’re done, you should have 32 cups of leaves. Use a 1- or 2-quart glass measure to pack leaves, but don’t crush them. Wash the leaves and stems, then dry well.
  4. Transfer half of the kale to a large bowl. Toss with half of the oil, rubbing the leaves to coat them evenly. Toss with half of the cheese, pepper and salt. Once the first half is roasting in the oven, repeat step four with the other half of the chopped kale.
  5. Work in batches and spread the leaves and stems on lined sheet pans and bake in a single layer. Switch the positions of sheets halfway through until crisp for at least 25 minutes.
  6. Use a metal spatula to transfer the kale chips to baking sheets or platters, then set aside to cool. Reuse the parchment or foil for the rest of the kale.

Make a green smoothie

You don’t need to remove the stems when adding kale to a smoothie. The blending process helps break down some of the fiber and the other ingredients, including fruit, helps cut through the bitterness.

Ingredients for 2 servings:

  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (Or use more almond milk.)
  • 2 to 3 kale stems
  • 7 ice cubes


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth.
  2. Pour into two glasses and serve.

The next time you’re preparing kale, don’t throw away the nutritious stems. Instead, set it aside to make a quick pickle or kale chips.








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