Kale is an incredibly healthy leafy green that packs a nutritional punch. It’s loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, contains cancer-fighting compounds, and provides fiber, calcium, potassium, and more. However, some people find that kale can lend a bitter taste to smoothies.
The bitterness of kale is due to compounds called glucosinolates. When kale is chewed or blended, an enzyme called myrosinase converts glucosinolates into bitter-tasting chemicals called isothiocyanates. So the more kale you use, the more potential for bitterness.
Tips to balance kale’s bitterness
The good news is there are ways to enjoy kale’s nutritional benefits in smoothies while avoiding an overwhelming bitter taste:
- Use young, tender kale leaves rather than mature leaves which tend to be more bitter.
- Remove the fibrous kale stems which concentrate more of the bitter compounds.
- Add sweet fruits like bananas, mangos, pineapple, or berries to counteract bitterness.
- Include creamy ingredients like avocado, Greek yogurt, or milk to mellow the flavor.
- Use sweeter greens like spinach or romaine lettuce instead of or in addition to kale.
- Mask bitterness with strong spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or vanilla.
- Sweeten with a little honey or maple syrup.
- Start with just a handful of kale and increase slowly as your taste buds adjust.
- Blending kale with acidic juices like lemon, lime, or orange can help balance the bitterness.
Choosing the right kale varieties
Certain varieties of kale are less bitter than others. Baby kale tends to have a milder, more tender texture and sweeter flavor. And Siberian kale is slower to bolt and become bitter in hot weather compared to other varieties. Some kales to try that may be less intensely bitter include:
- Red Russian kale
- Dinosaur or lacinato kale
- Ornamental kales like Redbor and White Russian
- Baby kale blends
You can also look for young, smaller leaves around the center of mature kale plants, as these will taste less bitter than the older outer leaves.
Other greens for smoothies
If you find even young, tender kale makes your smoothies too bitter, there are plenty of other nutritious greens to try instead. Here are some great options:
- Spinach – This green has a very mild flavor that blends smoothly into fruit smoothies.
- Romaine lettuce – With a nice bit of sweetness, romaine has a lighter bitterness than kale.
- Arugula – The peppery zing of arugula pairs well with fruits.
- Swiss chard – The stems add crunch and mitigate bitterness.
- Celery – With its watery crunch, celery blends into creamy smoothies easily.
- Cabbage – For a slightly sweet, crunchy addition opt for green cabbage.
- Bok choy – The mild cabbage flavor works well in smoothies.
Mix and match mild greens like spinach and lettuce with small amounts of stronger greens like kale to balance flavors. And continue experimenting to find the perfect fruit and veggie blend you enjoy.
Sample recipes without kale
To get an idea of how you can make green smoothies without kale, here are a couple recipes to try:
Tropical Green Smoothie
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 banana
- 1 cup pineapple chunks
- 1/2 cup coconut water
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1/4 avocado
- 1 date (optional)
Mean Green Smoothie
- 1 cup romaine lettuce
- 1/2 green apple
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp honey
- Small handful fresh mint
Nutrition perks of kale
Even though kale can create bitter smoothies, it really is incredibly good for you. Here’s a look at some of its top nutrients and health benefits:
Just one cup of kale contains over 100% of your daily vitamin K needs. This vitamin is important for blood clotting and bone health.
With 134% of your vitamin C requirements in a cup, kale helps support immune function and collagen production.
Kale is high in antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol that fight free radical damage and oxidative stress in the body.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
These antioxidants concentrated in kale’s dark leaves promote eye health and can help prevent age-related vision loss.
The sulfur-containing compounds in kale may provide protection against several types of cancer like colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.
The isothiocyanates formed when kale is chewed or blended boost detoxification and support the liver’s natural filtering processes.
|Nutrient||1 Cup Raw Kale||% Daily Value|
|Vitamin A||10,302 IU||206%|
Kale contains bitter compounds that can make smoothies taste unpleasantly strong. But there are easy ways to balance and mask bitterness. Use young leaves, remove stems, blend with sweeter fruits and creamy ingredients, choose milder kale varieties, and start with small amounts. If kale still doesn’t suit your palate, spinach, lettuce, and other greens make great smoothie additions too. While kale does contain valuable nutrients, you can still make nutritious green smoothies without it.
Focus on finding flavor combinations you enjoy and alternating various produce to get a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This approach will help you stick with the healthy habit of downing a daily green smoothie.