There's a reason this ancient leafy green is a healthy vegan favorite.


25 Ways to Use Kale 

What did vegans do before kale?! The ubiquitous leafy green is such an integral part of my own life that I can hardly imagine what I ate before discovering it in my 20s. But the truth is that brassica oleracea—a member of the cabbage family—has been cultivated for more than 4000 years. The ancient Greeks and Romans loved it, and not just because it would grow in poor soil without much coddling. Just like us, they liked the way it tasted and appreciated its health-supporting benefits; it’s an especially good source of vitamins A and C, as well as minerals like calcium and potassium. From Red Russian and Italian Cavola Nero, there’s a kale for every occasion, even when the occasion just happens to be breakfast (hello, kale smoothies), lunch (looking at you, kale salad), or dinner (I love it steamed). These are just 25 of the ways I relish kale, all year round.

Colleen’s Top 25 Ways to Eat Kale

  1. Call it a stealth smoothie: blend kale with fruit and your favorite juice or plant milk, and you won’t even know it’s in there, but you’ll still reap the nutritional benefits. My favorite recipe marries kale with tropical fruit for a refreshing twist.
  2. As soon as the thermostat dips below 60 degrees, I start craving soup, especially a nourishing bowlful of this creamy blended soup featuring a trio of scrumptious greens, including kale.
  3. You can spend a fortune on a bag of artisanal kale chips from the natural-foods store, or you can make them at home. It’s so easy! Simply season torn leaves with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and salt, and bake at a low temperature until crispy.
  4. From caesar salads to fresh Thai-inspired bowls to this cruciferous mélange that’s holiday-table ready, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy fresh kale. The trick is a good dressing, and a squeeze of citrus helps make its iron more absorbable.
  5. Smoothie bowls are essentially extra-thick smoothies you eat with a spoon, and throwing a few leaves of kale into the blender with your acai mix gives it a healthful boost. Top with fresh berries and shredded coconut for a sublime superfood breakfast.
  6. One of my favorite raw-food meals is a collard green wrap stuffed with savory pecan “meat,” avocado, and bell peppers, served with a chipotle dipping sauce. Sometimes I mix it up and use kale as a wrap instead, and the results are equally delish!
  7. Hiding healthy greens in unsuspecting places is a parenting hack that works for non-parents, too! I add chopped kale to my favorite chili recipe, but mincing or blitzing it in a blender before tossing into the pot makes it harder for the finicky eaters in your life to detect.  
  8. Who says a burrito has to be made with a flour tortilla? At home, I swap out the typical wrapper for a giant leaf of kale, but still load it up with traditional beans, rice, salsa, and guac. It’s hearty and filling, but doesn’t leave me feeling overstuffed.
  9. Adding heft to cold-weather stews is as simple as throwing in a few roughly chopped dino kale leaves. I love adding it to tomatoey minestrone, hearty Tuscan white bean soup, and—one of my absolute favorites—this spiced Ethiopian misir wot.
  10. For a breakfast that’s a little bit extra, I marinate finely chopped or julienned kale in a garlic, olive oil, and lemon vinaigrette, then pile it atop a thick slice of toast topped with a heavenly layer of buttery avocado. Truly divine!  
  11. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of baked sweet potatoes, due in part to their nutritious versatility. While they’re delicious on their own, nothing is more satisfying than a sweet potato loaded with sauteed kale and topped with a luscious tahini dressing.
  12. The simplicity of kale sautéed with garlic and a squeeze of lemon really speaks to the idea that less is more. For a welcome dash of piquancy, I like to sprinkle a pinch of red pepper flakes into the pan while the kale cooks.
  13. Standard-issue russet potatoes are another simple and satisfying meal, especially when baked or steamed, then smothered in black beans and topped with chopped kale, guacamole, and salsa.
  14. If you’ve never tried kale sushi, you’re in for a treat. Imagine your favorite kale salad, kicked up with garlic and red pepper flakes, spooned over warm rice and rolled up in a crisp nori wrapper. What’s not to love?
  15. Kale ice cream. Sounds strange, I know, but give it a chance! I discovered this quirky mash-up in the form of Kale Cookies and Cream at vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli’s restaurant, and put my own spin on it by adding kale to this scrumptious coconut soft-serve recipe.
  16. I’m a big believer in moderation, and sometimes that means balancing a festive cocktail with a splash of kale juice for color, flavor, and a chlorophyll boost. Whirl a handful of kale in a high-speed blender, strain the vivid green liquid into your favorite martini or Cosmo and enjoy!
  17. Green drinks are never going out of style, and while I prefer my healthy elixirs on the sweeter side, I'm definitely a huge fan of the classic kale-beet-apple-ginger-lime blend, which has just the right amount of natural sugar to sate my sweet tooth.
  18. Usually, we think of kale as the salad, but what if it was actually the dressing? Mix it up and try blending kale into your next homemade salad dressing, like this superfood Caesar dressing or a classic green goddess. 
  19. Kale is to grain bowls what peanut butter is to jelly: a match made in heaven! You can sauté it, roast it, air fry it, or simply chop it up in its unaltered state and add to a bed of quinoa alongside toasted chickpeas, baked squash, and a sprinkle of scallion confetti.
  20. Try kale in your next Asian-inspired stir-fry, with black mushrooms, garlic, and tofu, and if you’re feeling adventurous, use gai-lan, also known as Chinese kale. I find it at Asian grocery stores and at farmers markets, and it’s delicious.  
  21. Incorporating chopped kale into Indian soups and curries is a favorite hack for increasing a meal’s nutritional value without compromising the flavor of a traditional dish. Try adding a handful to this no-oil chana masala for a healthy, warming meal-in-a-bowl.
  22. You really can’t go wrong with homemade peanut sauce, but if you pair it with Thai-style rice noodles and steamed kale, you’ve got perfection on a plate. A squeeze of lime and a drizzle of sriracha are the only condiments you’ll need. 
  23. Every year, as the holidays approach, I start craving this Thanksgiving Bowl loaded with the flavors of the season. Think nutty roast kabocha squash, toasted pecans, fresh kale, and tart and tangy dried cranberries napped in a maple-dijon dressing. So good!
  24. When warm-weather returns and grilling season commences, I take my kale out of the kitchen and into the backyard, where I grill it alongside veggie burgers and kebabs. Basted with a bit of garlicky tamari until just crisp, and voila! 
  25. Move over, Tofu Florentine. Sunday brunch was made for kale-and-tofu pairings, whether in a hearty scramble with mushrooms and tempeh bacon or sandwiched between an English muffin and grilled tofu drenched in vegan Hollandaise sauce.