When the weather gets cold, summer's bountiful produce quickly disappears from the supermarket—or is replaced by sub-par versions that have been trucked or flown in from hundreds of miles away. Fortunately, one tasty vegetable remains plentiful even in the dead of winter: kale.
Yes, kale-everywhere is yesterday's news—it's hard to keep track of whether we're in a period of kale backlash, or backlash to the backlash, or...you get the idea. It's true that a few years ago, a subset of folks did get a tad, shall we say, overexcited about it; you might even argue that kale was the produce that first generated the popular image of farmers market–obsessed yuppies cooing about superfoods, the one that became such reliable joke fodder. Trends and trend-hating aside, kale remains a healthy leafy green with an earthy, slightly bitter flavor that lends itself well to all kinds of preparations, and it's one of my fall and winter standbys. Below are 22 recipes—salads, braises, stir-fries, soups, and more—to keep your love for kale, ahem, evergreen (sorry).
Easy Slow-Cooker Creamed Kale
For a more complex spin on rich, comforting creamed spinach, swap out the spinach for the heartiness and touch of bitterness provided by kale. After building the cream sauce on the stove—layered with flavors from aged Romano cheese, chicken stock, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes—use a slow cooker to get the kale meltingly soft.
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Hearty Vegan Polenta and Kale Soup With Miso and Toasted Sesame Oil
This Italian polenta and kale soup traditionally gets its umami backbone from Parmesan cheese. To make the recipe vegan, we substitute a few Japanese components—miso paste and soy sauce—and highlight the effect with toasted sesame oil and scallions.
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Charred Kale Pizza With Garlic
Throw kale into a blazing-hot oven, and it'll get crisp, nutty, and sweet, making it a delicious pizza topping. There are a couple of tricks involved: First, marinate the kale in olive oil to tenderize it before cooking. Second, par-cook the pizza base before adding the kale, which will keep the greens from burning before the pie is ready.
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Marinated Kale and Chickpea Salad With Sumac Onions
The sturdiness of kale's leaves and stems makes it a double-edged sword: well suited to cooking (because it won't completely fall apart when heated), but a little too tough to eat comfortably when raw. Fortunately, there are a few different ways to tenderize kale. The simplest, though most time-consuming, method is to toss the leaves with oil and let them sit for an hour—they'll wilt down wonderfully. For an easy salad, combine the tenderized kale with canned chickpeas and sumac-spiced onions.
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Braised Kale and Chickpea Sandwich With Sumac Onions
The same combination of chickpeas, onions, and sumac pairs just as well with braised kale. You can serve the mixture as a side dish, but it also works great as filling for a messy vegan sandwich using pizza bianca for bread (or whatever soft bread you prefer).
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Roasted Chickpea and Kale Salad With Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
In case you couldn't tell, we're semi-obsessed with the kale-and-chickpeas thing. And what's not to be obsessed about? It's a healthy, satisfying combination no matter how omnivorous you might be. Here, we add pine nuts, a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, and tons of fresh herbs—a full cup each of cilantro and mint. Unlike most salads, this one gets even better if left to sit overnight in the fridge, thanks to the robustness of kale's leaves.
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Vegan Curry Butternut Squash Soup With Kale
This filling soup is unbeatable comfort food on a chilly fall day. The curry flavor lends extra warmth and a little spice to a thick mix of cubed butternut squash, quinoa, and kale. Pepitas sprinkled on top give it a toasty crunch.
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Kale Caesar Salad
Using marinated kale instead of lettuce gives a Caesar salad extra flavor, extra nutrition, and a lovely true-green color to boot. Other than that swap, this Caesar is pretty traditional, with one exception: the croutons. Rather than serving the salad with large croutons, we break up the bread into small bits in the food processor, then bake them. You'll get super-crispy pieces that adhere to the kale, giving you a little crunch in every bite.
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Cold Soba Noodles With Kale, Avocado, and Miso-Sesame Dressing
For this salad, instead of tenderizing the kale, we prepare it just by chopping it finely—a time-consuming process, but a reliable way to get it soft and palatable enough that it blends unobtrusively with the cold soba, bean sprouts, and avocado. A light, refreshing dressing flavored with miso paste, ginger, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar binds the ingredients together.
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Vegan Quinoa, Broccoli, and Kale Curry
No matter how much you might love your fatty, meaty, creamy concoctions, especially this time of year, some days you just need to recharge yourself with a dish of fresh vegetables. Here, we cook broccoli, cauliflower, and kale until they're barely tender and browned, then add protein-packed quinoa and a generous dose of fragrant curry powder. Not only is it a healthy and tasty dinner, everything cooks together in the same pot for easy cleanup.
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Crispy Kale, Brussels Sprouts, and Potato Hash
The secret to making a great potato hash is to par-cook the potatoes in boiling water before adding them to the skillet, which both tenderizes them and gelatinizes their starches, allowing them to cook up extra crispy. Once you've got that down, you can flavor your hash however you'd like—a mix of kale and Brussels sprouts balances the dish and is perfectly seasonal for fall.
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Bok Choy and Kale Fried Rice With Fried Garlic
To be totally honest, this recipe really isn't about kale—or bok choy. Though kale does a fine job of bulking up a stir-fry, the real star of the dish is the fried garlic, minced in a food processor and fried until golden brown and irresistibly crispy. In fact, you'll probably want to make extra and keep it on hand for adding to rice, ramen, or any cooked green vegetable. Plus, the frying process leaves you with flavorful garlic oil to use for sautéing or drizzling.
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Chicken in Tomato Sauce With Chickpeas and Kale
Chicken breasts often run the risk of ending up bland and dry, but browning the meat and gently cooking it in a simple tomato sauce renders it flavorful and moist. Kale rounds out the dish and gives it some color—add it at the end of the cooking process so it retains some bite.
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Hearty One-Pot Black-Eyed Pea Stew With Kale and Andouille
This simple black-eyed pea stew gets loaded up with flavor from andouille sausage, pork belly, and the Cajun Holy Trinity of onions, celery, and green bell peppers. It's the addition of kale, though, that turns it into a balanced meal. While it's tempting to add the kale and the broth at the same time, you'll get a better-developed flavor if you cook down the greens before adding the liquid.
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Skillet Pasta With Mushrooms, Pancetta, and Wilted Greens
Any sturdy green, such as mustard or dandelion greens, will work in this pasta, but kale is a reliable choice. We combine it with shiitake mushrooms browned in the rendered fat from salty pancetta. The pasta is cooked in chicken stock in the same pot as the other ingredients, meaning this whole meal can be finished in a single dish.
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Warm Kale and Curried Chicken Salad With Toasted Coconut and Dried Cherries
An exotically flavored elaboration on curried chicken, this salad uses yet another approach to tenderizing kale: After braising the chicken in a flavorful broth with shallots, red pepper flakes, cumin, and curry powder, pour the hot liquid onto the kale to slightly wilt it and create a quick dressing. Finish the salad with sweet coconut flakes and tart dried cherries to balance out the spices.
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Grilled Kale Salad With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
For many of us, this year's grilling season is no more, but if you're lucky enough to live in a place with a mild autumn (or if your love affair with your grill just won't die), try grilling kale before building a salad out of it. The greens take on a rich, smoky flavor and a little extra crispness. We dress the kale with a warm vinaigrette of bacon, shallot, and apple cider vinegar, to both emphasize and contrast with the smokiness.
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Mexican Potato, Kale, and Chicken Casserole
If you need a no-fuss dish for a brunch, a casserole is the way to go—you can make it at night and then just pop it in the oven in the morning. This one, inspired by Mexican dishes like papas con rajas and chorizo con papas, features layers of sliced potatoes, kale, and shredded chicken. A chipotle-heavy tomato sauce and queso Oaxaca bind the layers together.
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One-Skillet Cod and Kale With Ginger and Garlic
Dinosaur kale, a.k.a. Tuscan kale, has an intensely earthy flavor; braising it in an aromatic mixture of rice wine, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil, as we do here, helps to balance it with tangy, spicy, and nutty notes. The kale works surprisingly well as an accompaniment for delicate cod fillets, which you can steam in the same pan.
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Stir-Fried Beef With Kale and Frisée in Black Bean Sauce
This Asian-inspired stir-fry featuring two very Western greens is flavored with a pungent homemade sauce of fermented black beans. (Fun fact: Those black beans are actually soybeans that have been allowed to ferment until very dark.) The recipe calls for both kale leaves and stems—we add the stems before the leaves so they get more of a chance to soften.
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Scallops With Spicy Quinoa, Kale, and Pistachios
When scallops are perfectly seared, they're good accompaniments for just about anything. Here, we put together a side of harissa-spiced quinoa and kale. Look for "dry packed" scallops instead of ones that have been floating in a brine—they're far better quality and will brown more easily in the pan.
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Easy Sausage, Kale, and Black-Eyed Pea Soup With Lemon and Rosemary
In addition to all its other useful qualities, kale is great for soaking up flavors—in this simple soup, those flavors come from Italian sausage, garlic, rosemary, and lemon zest. Tender, creamy black-eyed peas provide texture and their own uniquely earthy flavor. Add the aromatics in two stages, one at the beginning to season the broth and one at the end to give the soup a fresh kick.
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