Hearty Kale, Three Different Ways

Red Kale | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

Red kale

Even in California, winter has arrived. Most days I hibernate in my home office, covered in a blanket with a space heater at my feet, craving hearty winter foods. By the time I “leave” work and head [20 whole feet] to the kitchen to start dinner, I often happily turn to kale. There are few greens that are as versatile and simple to make. On any given weeknight, we can make kale the star of a main dish or a very important supporting side. It can be served hot, cold, wilted, crisped, or with a crunch but always super easy. Below we offer three different ways you can turn this vegetable into one of your most frequent go-to winter ingredients.Here are some of the most common varieties of kale. I encourage you to try all of them.

  1. Lacinato / dino kale (photo at the bottom of this post)
  2. Red / Russian kale (photo above)
  3. Standard curly kale

To prep:

  1. Rinse and wash kale in cold water
  2. Separate leaves from stems just by tearing them off (photo below)
  3. Dry leaves with a salad spinner or towels
How to prepare kale | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

Prep kale by tearing leaves off of stems. Dice stems and cook them first since they’ll take longer

Kale as a hearty main dish

This is one of the easiest weeknight dishes, and checks all the nutritional boxes, especially if you are a vegetarian or trying to find more vegetarian entrees (that are not pasta!). The kale is chopped up and then sauteed with some garlic and olive oil. It’s then tossed with beans to provide texture and protein, and then garnished with caramelized onions and parmesan cheese to add flavor.


  • 1 caramelized onion (1 onion + 1/2 tbps of olive oil, Simply Recipes does a great demo)
  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 15 oz. can of beans (your choice), rinsed and drained
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (as much as you want)

How to:

  1. Prep kale as described above; then chop up stems into 1/2 inch pieces and leaves into 1 inch thick strips
  2. Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and then warm up olive oil for about 10 to 15 seconds in pan before adding the minced garlic
  3. Let the garlic sizzle for about 10 seconds and then add the chopped stems. Cook for about 1 minute and then add the leaves
  4. When the leaves start to wilt and cook down, add the beans and toss for about another minute, until the beans are warm
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
  6. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the caramelized onions, nuts, and shavings of parmesan cheese

Kale as a crunchy slaw or salad

One of the best things about kale is that it’s so hearty that it holds up really well over the week, even when it’s been tossed in dressing. I make this slaw on a weekend and then snack on it over the week. It gets better and better as the flavors marinate even further. As with any salad, the ingredients are completely up to you (but don’t forget the kale!)


  • 1 bunch of kale (I prefer dino kale when served raw)
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly (I like red just because the colors are so pretty) and / or
  • 2 carrots, grated with a cheese grater and / or
  • 1 bulb of fennel and / or
  • 1 apple, sliced thinly (best if serving immediately so the apple doesn’t brown) and / or
  • Some type of cheese (blue, parmesan, or goat are all great options) and / or
  • Handful of nuts (choice is yours but I prefer pine nuts with my raw kale)
  • Dressing: 1 tsp of dijon mustard, 1/2 tbs of balsamic vinegar, dash of sugar or drizzle of maple syrup, 1 tbs of olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

How to:

  1. Prep kale as described above and then slice the leaves thinly (save the stems for a stock or saute)
  2. Combine with other desired salad ingredients (one of my favorite combos is just simply kale and red cabbage)
  3. Make dressing by mixing mustard, vinegar, and choice of sweetener together. Drizzle in olive oil, while whisking with a fork.
  4. Toss dressing with salad ingredients, and season with desired level of salt and pepper. I like to throw this salad / slaw in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving and eating.

Kale as your potato chip substitute

I ate a lot of potato chips before getting married. They really were my guilty pleasure – a pack a day was not uncommon for me – but my uber-healthy Ironman husband was not such a fan of my bad habit. Luckily, kale chips have come along and are way healthier and even more luckily, they can be easily made at home. I beg you not to pay $9.00 for a bag at Whole Foods, because you can easily make them in less time than it takes to watch a sitcom. I highly suggest starting them during a commercial break, and they’ll be ready by the time the next break rolls around.


  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • Salt
  • Red pepper flakes

How to:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Prep kale as described above and then tear leaves into potato chip size (save the stems for a stock or saute)
  3. Toss leaves with olive oil and red pepper flakes
  4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange kale leaves on the sheet so that they are as flat as possible
  5. Pop them into the oven for about 10 minutes
  6. Sprinkle with salt or cheese right out of the oven (salting before roasting will cause them to get soggy)
Lacinato or Dino Kale | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

Lacinato or Dino Kale

Join our Community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

Discover a smarter and happier way to cook

Get Started

Sign up for the Cook Smarts Newsletter


Privacy Policy: We hate SPAM & promise to keep your email address safe.