Like most integrative doctors, I’m a big advocate of a whole foods diet that includes plenty of leafy green, antioxidant-rich superfoods, like kale.
Kale, a member of the cancer-protective brassica family1, is naturally rich in vitamins A, C, and hard-to-find vitamin K, a good plant-based source of iron with blood-building chlorophyll2, it contains a nice balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids3, and specific nutrients that support detoxification4.
In other words: kale is not just another “fad food”, it is a nutritional powerhouse that everyone should be eating more of.
Sadly, despite its numerous health benefits, people’s love affair with this leafy green giant is often cut short because of its naturally bitter flavor.
Ironically, bitter foods like kale, dandelion greens, and broccoli rabe, are usually some of the healthiest, and most detoxifying foods…if only we could get past the taste.
The good news is there are simple cooking and prep techniques that will help neutralize kale’s (and any other greens) bitterness, while maintaining—and even enhancing—its nutritional benefits.
In today’s post, we will show you 5 easy tips on how to cook and prepare kale (and other greens) that will help remove the bitter flavor while retaining, and enhancing, those precious nutrients.
Kale Bitter-Busting Tip #1: Add a little something sweet.
Sweetness counteracts bitterness—in life and in food. Try adding any of the following to your next kale sauté:
- Dried cherries
- Splash of apple cider
- Splash of port
- Unsweetened coconut
- A drizzle of raw honey or pure organic maple syrup
Kale Bitter-Busting Tip #2: Try a “secret” ingredient.
The savory, salty, “secret” fifth flavor known as umami really helps upstage that bitter bite. It works even better when combined with something sweet.
Some umami-rich accouterments include:
- Freshly grated (preferably raw and organic if you can get it) Parmesan cheese
- OR Pecorino Romano (for those sensitive to cow’s milk)
- Tamari or fish sauce (look for pure fish sauce with no additives or MSG)
- Sundried tomatoes
- Coconut liquid aminos
Kale Bitter-Busting Tip #3: Go raw!
Something magical happens when the combination of sweet and sour dressing hits a bed of finely sliced kale.
The key is to let it to “cook”, ceviche-style, for at least a half hour. The longer you leave it, the more tender the greens become.
Here’s a simple recipe to try at home (as always, choose organic ingredients whenever possible):
1 bunch Lacinato (aka dinosaur) kale. Stems removed, sliced very thin.
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons organic tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
3 tablespoons walnut, sesame, avocado, or flaxseed oil
1 tablespoon raw honey
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds, raw hemp seeds or chopped walnuts
¼ cup raisins, dried cherries, or cranberries
- Place ingredients for dressing (minus the seeds or nuts) into a small jar and shake to combine.
- Pour over kale, toss, and let marinate for at least a half-hour or overnight.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds, almonds, or walnuts right before eating…enjoy.
Kale Bitter-Busting Tip #4: Get friendly with ferments
Fermented, cultured, or pickled vegetables offer a wealth of naturally-occurring probiotics, can be easily made at home, AND take the bitter right out of any vegetable.
I like combining kale with red cabbage, carrot, and beet to make mine, but you can use any combination of vegetables you like using this basic procedure:
How to Make Basic Cultured Vegetables with Kale:
- Shred or grate (a food processor is handy here) 1 large head of red cabbage, 3 carrots, 1 beet, and 1 bunch of kale. Reserve the outer cabbage leaves as they will be rolled and placed on top of the mixture once bottled.
- Take ¼ of the mixture and blend with water and 2 teaspoons sea salt or Himalayan salt using a blender or food processor.
- Stir the blended mixture into the vegetables. At this point you can add any seasonings you desire such as dill or fennel seeds.
- Place the mixture in clean mason jars, roll up reserved outer cabbage leaves cigar-style and place on top of the mixture. Let sit at room temperature for 3-7 days. After 3 days taste the mixture, if you prefer a stronger “pickled” flavor, leave it for another few days.
- Store in the refrigerator and enjoy as a condiment with meals.
Kale Bitter-Busting Tip #5: Blend it up—troubleshooting tips for kale-smoothies-gone-wrong
For most of us, there have been many a kale smoothie that has gone oh so very wrong. The key lies in: not overdoing the amount of kale and blending the heck out of it.
Typically, you want to add only 1-2 leaves of kale with the stem removed and blend thoroughly.
Also, keep in mind the lacinato (dinosaur) kale tends to be on the milder side than a Russian or purple kale.
If the smoothie still tastes too bitter, add some additional sweetness like stevia or dates, and a little lemon or lime juice, and you’ll have yourself a delicious smoothie.
I hope these sweet tips have inspired you to try taking the bitter out of kale before giving up on it.
Your body, and your taste buds, will thank you.