Skip to Content

How do you cut kale from the stem?

Kale is a nutritious and versatile leafy green that has become increasingly popular in recent years. While it’s easy to simply tear kale leaves off the stems with your hands, using a knife to properly cut kale from the stem results in neater, more consistent pieces that are easier to eat or cook with.

Selecting the Kale

When selecting kale to cut from the stem, look for bunches that have crisp, deeply colored leaves and firm stems. Avoid kale with dry, yellowing, or wilted leaves. The best kale to use for cutting from the stem includes:

  • Lacinato kale – Also known as dinosaur or Tuscan kale, lacinato kale has long, wrinkly dark green leaves.
  • Curly kale – The most common type, curly kale has ruffled, robust green leaves.
  • Red kale – Similar to curly kale but with reddish-purple leaves.

Baby kale and mature kale can both be used, but baby kale may only need a quick chop rather than cutting each leaf from the stem.

Preparing the Kale

Before cutting the kale leaves from the stems, it helps to wash and dry the kale. Give the leaves a rinse under cool water, gently rubbing away any dirt or debris. Dry the kale by either patting with a paper towel or using a salad spinner.

Cutting the Stems

There are a couple different techniques you can use to cut kale leaves from the fibrous stems:


Hold the kale at the base of the stems in one hand. With your other hand, use a sharp chef’s knife to slice one side of the stem just above where it meets the leaves. Angle the knife to shave off the leaves in one long strip working from the bottom up.


Lay the kale leaf flat on a cutting board and carefully slice down either side of the stem to remove it. Stack several leaves on top of each other for faster chopping.

Either method takes a little practice to get the hang of. Go slowly at first to avoid wasting leaves as you learn the technique. The stems themselves can be saved for making kale stem slaw or adding to soups or stocks.

Chopping the Kale

Once you’ve removed the leaves from the stems, give them a rough chop to break them down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. Stack several leaves on top of each other and carefully slice them into your desired size pieces.

Here are some common ways to chop kale for various uses:

  • 1-inch pieces – Good for sauteing or adding to soups
  • Bite-sized pieces – Nice for salads or side dishes
  • Thin ribbons – Great for kale salads or garnishing

Storing the Prepped Kale

Freshly cut kale will last 3-5 days when properly stored. To maintain freshness after prepping, place the kale pieces or ribbons into an airtight container or zip-close bag. Remove as much air as possible before sealing and refrigerate.

For longer storage, kale can be frozen. Blanch the kale for 1-2 minutes in boiling water, then immediately dunk in ice water to stop the cooking process. Let drain, then pack into freezer bags or containers, removing excess air. Frozen kale will keep for several months.

With the stems removed and leaves chopped into ready-to-eat pieces, you can now easily add your prepped kale to an array of recipes like soups, salads, pastas, and more!

Tips for Cutting Kale from the Stem

Follow these tips for cleanly and efficiently removing kale leaves from the fibrous stems:

  • Use a sharp knife – A dull knife will crush the stems rather than slicing through them.
  • Cut near the base – Slice the leaves just above where they meet the stem for maximum yield.
  • Work from bottom up – Strip leaves from bottom to tip for better leverage.
  • Support the bunch – Keep one hand holding the base as you slice.
  • Go slow – Until you get the hang of the motion needed, work carefully.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I cut kale leaves from the stem?

Cutting kale leaves from the thick stems makes the kale easier to eat and cook with. The stems are very fibrous and can be unpleasant to bite into. Removing them leaves just the tender, tasty leafy greens.

Can I just tear the leaves off the stems with my hands?

You can tear off kale leaves, but this tends to result in more wasted leaves and uneven tearing. Using a knife allows you to cut right at the base of the leaves for minimal waste and uniform pieces.

Is it necessary to wash kale before cutting from the stem?

Washing kale before prepping helps remove any grit and debris. Dry thoroughly so the leaves aren’t too slippery to cut cleanly.

Can I save the stems for anything?

Absolutely! The discarded stems can be chopped and added to soups or stocks. They also make an interesting slaw when sliced thinly or shredded.

What’s the best way to store kale after cutting it?

For short term storage, pack the cut kale into an airtight container or bag and refrigerate for 3-5 days. For longer storage, blanch then freeze the kale in airtight bags for several months.


While kale stems are too fibrous to eat raw, the leafy greens are packed with nutrients and make a healthy addition to a variety of dishes. Learning proper techniques for cutting kale leaves from the stems makes it easy to enjoy their full flavor and texture. With a sharp knife, a few easy cuts, and proper storage, you’ll have prepped kale ready to enrich salads, sides, soups and more.