If You Don’t Always Like Kale, Try It Sauteed in Coconut Milk

  • By Jess Dang
  • September 8, 2012

Coconut Kale Side Dish | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

When I visit the kitchens of my clients, I hear a lot of, “I’d like to be eating more greens, but I just don’t know how to make them interesting.” It’s statements like these that make me realize it’s not just children who need some coaxing when it comes to greens. Luckily, most adults already understand that greens are good for them, which is more than half the battle. If all I’m asked to do is make them interesting, well, that’s a challenge I’m more than happy to accept.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with coconut milk in my kitchen, and I’ve concluded it’s the perfect thing for making greens more interesting.  The creaminess softens up the fibrous texture often found in greens; the subtle sweetness creates an unexpected contrast and helps to mute any bitterness. It definitely has been making the bunches of kale I buy weekly much more interesting. Though the prep is the same, the outcome of the sauteed kale is so surprisingly different that even my husband paused after his first bite and asked, “Whoah! What did you put in here?” Well, I guess he’ll just have to read this blog post to find out.

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Sauteed Kale Recipe in Coconut Milk

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 10 min

Total time: 15 min

Serves: 4


  • Kale - 1 bunch
  • Garlic - 2 cloves
  • Coconut milk - 1/3 cup
  • Lime - 1/2
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt



  1. Kale – Tear kale leaves off of stems. Wash and dry leaves in a salad spinner. Rinse stems and chop into 1/4″ segments
  2. Garlic – mince


  1. Heat the largest frying or saute pan you own over medium-high heat. Place a small cup of water next to the pan.
  2. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tbs. of coconut milk. When the coconut milk starts bubbling, add the minced garlic. As soon as you can smell the garlic, add the kale stems with a pinch of kosher salt. Saute stems in the coconut milk. If at any time the pan dries up and stems looks like they might start to burn, add a tablespoon or two of the water
  3. Saute kale stems for about 3 to 5 minutes. They should be softened but still have a nice crunch to them
  4. Now add kale leaves – as much as can fit into the pan – with the remainder of the coconut milk. Turn leaves with tongs so all of them get heated through. Continue adding more leaves as room is made in the pan
  5. When the leaves are wilted, turn off the heat. Season to taste with kosher salt. Add the juice of half a lime and sprinkle with red pepper flakes (amount depends on the level of heat desired)
  6. If you have any dried coconut, feel free to garnish finished dish with it
  1. Instead of using kosher salt, try some fish sauce
  2. Feel free to substitute with other leafy vegetables, preferably those with tougher leaves. Dandelion, cabbage, escarole would probably work better than chard or mustard greens
  3. This is a great way to use up a can of coconut milk that has been started earlier in the week. Also look for coconut milk that’s sold in smaller portions at your market that can be used up in one cooking session


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