Cooks Illustrated on How to Cook Kale Greens

After eating delicious servings of this anti-inflammatory superstar in restaurants and in the form of our homemade kale chips, we finally turned to the gurus at Cooks Illustrated to resolve the question of how to cook kale greens that you’d actually enjoy eating.

Kale is described as an “assertive” green, and for good reason. It needs a firm hand during preparation to calm the bitterness and soften the chew into something your average dinner guest can motor through without incurring a TMJ injury.

Turns out, it’s not that tough. Ha! I love a good pun, don’t you? 

You just have to cook it like you mean it.

kale-3Once again, we turned to the infallible Cook’s Illustrated Perfect Vegetables for their kale tips and tricks. (And while we’re on the subject, those oven baked french fries on the cover are The. Best. Ever.)

The secret to fabulous kale (p. 141) turned out to be pretty simple: just blanch the leaves in boiling salted water for about 7 minutes before using in any quick cooking recipe. And even though this step seems to be adding work to the process, you actually avoid having to soak/clean the leaves in 2 or 3 changes of water before using them in the final dish. (With its curly leaves, kale is prone to hiding tiny bits of dirt in the corners. You don’t want this kind of “crunch” in your dinner.)

Blanching Kale

Bring about 2 quarts of water to boil in a dutch oven or large, deep sauté pan.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, get the kale ready. Just pile three or four leaves into a stack, large on the bottom, smaller on the top. Fold the stack in half lengthwise so the central ribs line up and trim the ribs with one knife stroke. Turn the stack sideways and chop the leaves into 3-inch pieces.

kale-2Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and your chopped kale to the boiling water, stirring until the leaves are wilted. Cover and cook about 7 minutes or until the greens are tender; drain in a colander.

Run your pot under cold water to rinse and cool it off, then refill with cold water. Plunge your now submissive greens into the chilly bath to halt the cooking process. Harvest your kale from the water and gently squeeze dry.

And that’s it! You’re now ready to use your kinder, gentler kale in your favorite recipes. What’s that you say? You don’t have a favorite kale recipe yet?

While there are several killer kale recipes in the the Perfect Vegetables cookbook (the “Assertive Greens with Shallots and Cream” rocks), here’s a super simple and lower fat “best kale recipe” to prime the pump, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated online recipe collection.

Kale With Black Olives and Lemon Zest

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 pounds kale
  • 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pitted and chopped black olives (oil-cured or brined)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest from 1 small lemon
  • Table salt
  • Lemon wedges

Prepare the kale per the instructions above.

In a large sauté pan, heat the garlic and pepper flakes with oil over medium heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. Add the olives and your blanched kale; sauté to coat evenly with the oil. Add 1/3 cup of broth, cover and cook over medium-high heat, adding more stock during cooking if necessary, until the kale is tender and juicy and most of stock has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and serve with lemon wedges on the side.


FYI, we’re excited to let you know that Rick’s “rickandkathy” cartoons are now available as greeting cards on, and what says “I love you” or “Happy Birthday!” better than a card featuring kale?


Interested in more of our recommendations from Cooks Illustrated?

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3 thoughts on “Cooks Illustrated on How to Cook Kale Greens

  1. Jane Fentiman

    I’m going to try the recipe tonight using my lg pkg of baby kale, bought and didn’t use, so froze until needed. I think I can skip the blanche step. Love to see the cartoons back. Love them.

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