The Ultimate Guide To Kale Slideshow

There are two basic varieties you're likely to encounter at the store when shopping for kale. The trendiest variety these days (found in all kinds of fancy restaurants) is lacinato kale. This variety actually goes by many names; you may see it called "dinosaur kale," "Tuscan kale," or "cavolo nero." This variety is characterized by long, broad, deep green (sometimes almost black) leaves with a ribbed texture kind of like paper that's been crumpled up and straightened back out.

Types of Kale: Curly Kale

This is what most people are referring to when they think of kale; i.e. this is "regular kale." It's distinguishable by its bright green, frilly leaves and relatively thick stems. Also sold in purple.

Tip: Choose Smaller Bunches

Bunches with smaller leaves are often less bitter and have a more delicate flavor.

Tip: Use Right Away

The bitter flavor of kale intensifies as time passes, so it's best to use it within five days, if not right away.

Tip: Center Ribs, Out

In general, most recipes will ask you to remove the tough center ribs from kale before using — and this applies to any type of kale. This is especially important if you're planning to eat the kale raw. You can use a knife or your hands, whichever is easier. However, if you're making soup or stew, you can choose to leave the ribs in, as long as you're going to cook it long enough to become tender. 

Recipe: Kale Pesto

Some people may cringe at this idea, but it was inevitable. Perhaps it's time to embrace it? Linda Tay Esposito's version may have cooks leaning toward "yes."

Click here to see the Kale Pesto Recipe.

Recipe: Kale and White Bean Soup

"The broth is simple and comforting, the kale is packed with nutrients, and the white beans add a richness and heartiness to the soup," says Carly Goldsmith, The Daily Meal's copy editor and creator of this delicious recipe as part of our kale-themed Recipe SWAT Team one week, The Best Kale Recipes You've Ever Tried.

Click here to see the Kale and White Bean Soup Recipe.

Recipe: Mediterranean Kale Soup

Throw just about everything in the pot and wait — that's how easy this soup is from Megan Watson, author of the blog The Fresh Fridge.

Click here to see the Mediterranean Kale Soup Recipe.

Recipe: Quick Tomato Soup with Kale and Chickpeas

This soup is low in calories and fat but still tastes delicious thanks to some rosemary, chile flakes, chickpeas, and of course, kale.

Click here to see the Quick Tomato Soup with Kale and Chickpeas Recipe.

Recipe: African Kale and Yam Soup

Lindsay S. Nixon, author of the blog Happy Herbivore and cookbook author, created this spiced up kale soup for those chilly winter nights when a hot bowl of soup is just what everyone needs.

Click here to see the African Kale and Yam Soup Recipe.

Tip: Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round, Like a Record Baby…

The frilly leaves of regular kale can hold a lot of water in the little crevices, so make sure to take the leaves for a real good spin in the salad spinner before dressing it, or you'll end up watering down the dressing. To keep the salad spinner effective, fill it only about half full with kale and empty out any water that accumulates at the bottom periodically.

Recipe: Kale, Mango, and Avocado Salad

Here's a fresh and fruity take on a category — kale salad — that's often dominated by creamy dressings and savory mix-ins.

Click here to see the Kale, Mango, and Avocado Salad Recipe.

Tip: Use Bold Flavors

Raw kale's flavor is a far cry from many salad greens that you're used to. That's why it's important to combine it with ingredients that have bold flavor profiles, which can help mask some of kale's inherent bitterness. On the savory side, try ingredients like toasted nuts, dried seaweed, olives, and anchovies; on the sweet side, try ingredients like tropical fruits, yams, and charred red onion; on the tangy side, try sherry vinegar, lemon zest, and pickled vegetables. 

Recipe: Kale Hijiki Salad

Hijiki, a Japanese dried seaweed that has a sweet-savory flavor profile, turns out to be the perfect partner for shredded lacinato kale in this salad from Linda Tay Esposito.

Click here to see the Kale Hijiki Salad Recipe.

Recipe: Red Yam and Kale Salad

Intentionally charring food is risky business; sometimes it adds an extra dimension of flavor to a dish, while other times, it comes out just tasting burnt. It really does work better on some foods than others. Luckily, for kale the technique works wonders, adding a smokiness that contrasts nicely with the sweetness of yam in this salad.

Click here to see the Red Yam and Kale Salad Recipe.

Recipe: Kale and Pancetta Risotto

Dark, leafy greens like kale need strong flavors to balance them out, and since it's hardy in texture, it stands up well to preparations like risotto, which not only has rich flavors of butter and cheese, but also involves lots and lots of stirring, of course. Don't put a wimpy green like spinach in your risotto, or it'll just disappear. Instead, use kale.

Click here to see the Kale and Pancetta Risotto Recipe.

Tip: Crunch It Before Munching It

If we haven't impressed upon you that kale is totally different from other leafy greens by now, well, here's something that should drive home the point: It's OK to manhandle it. That's right — show it some tough love because it's in need of some serious tenderizing if you're serving it raw. Go ahead and crumple it up like a piece of paper (after taking out the ribs of course) and take out the day's frustrations on a bunch of kale. The more you do this, the better. You'll thank yourself later.

Recipe: Raw Kale and Spinach Salad

A garlicky dressing and quick-pickled red onions are two bold flavors perfectly matched to kale's natural flavor.

Click here to see the Raw Kale and Spinach Salad Recipe.

Recipe: Spicy Kale and Lemon Israeli Couscous

Here's a quick, easy side dish for a busy weeknight dinner, or top this with lean, healthy protein like grilled chicken breast, tilapia, or salmon for a complete meal.

Click here to see the Spicy Kale and Lemon Israeli Couscous Recipe.

Tip: Dress in Advance

Another trick to help raw kale soften up for salads is to toss it with dressing well before serving — again, the opposite of what you would do with most salad greens.

Recipe: Kale Salad with Bacon and Almonds

This hearty salad is substantial enough to serve as a meal, thanks to a combination of Kalamata olives, chunks of blue cheese, roasted almonds, bacon, and pancetta.

Click here to see the Kale Salad with Bacon and Almonds Recipe.

Tip: Chiffonade, Please

One last trick to help make kale a bit easier to chew is to slice it very thinly, a technique known as chiffonade (it's even thinner than julienne, technically speaking). The best type of kale to use with this technique is lacinato kale, since it can be stacked up a few leaves at a time. Be sure to remove the tough center ribs before starting.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Kaleslaw

Perfect for a healthy afternoon snack, this delicious twist on coleslaw will help keep you energized for the rest of the day.

Click here to see the Gluten-Free Kaleslaw Recipe.

Tip: Don't Cook Too Long

If you're not making a soup or stew, you don't want to cook kale for too long because it will start to release water, and with it, some of its beneficial nutrients. 

Recipe: Sautéed Kale

What's the secret to masking the bitterness of kale? Well, Elana Amsterdam, author of the blog Elana's Pantry, tosses it with some red onion that's been cooked until golden brown around the edges, and the sweetness helps balance out kale's natural flavor.

Click here to see the Sautéed Kale Recipe.

Recipe: Spiced Tuscan Kale Chips

This simple recipe contains just four ingredients. Once you give it a shot, you'll be making them all the time, because these are super easy.

Click here to see the Spiced Tuscan Kale Chips Recipe.