What makes kale taste better?

Kale is a nutritious leafy green vegetable that has become increasingly popular in recent years. However, some people find the taste of raw kale to be bitter or unpleasant. Fortunately, there are several techniques you can use to make kale taste better and bring out its natural sweetness.

Remove the Tough Stems

The fibrous stems that run through the center of kale leaves can make kale taste more bitter and tough. Removing the stems before eating or cooking the kale helps improve its texture and flavor. Simply hold the stem end of the kale leaf and strip the leaf downward to remove the stem.

Massage the Kale

Massaging helps softens the leaves by breaking down some of the plant’s cell walls. It also reduces bitterness by releasing some of the sulfur-containing compounds in kale. To massage kale, drizzle the leaves with lemon juice or olive oil. Then rub and squeeze the leaves for 3-5 minutes until they start to darken and wilt.

Add Acidic Ingredients

The natural bitterness of kale comes from sulfur-containing compounds like glucosinolates. Ingredients that are acidic help neutralize this bitterness. Before eating raw kale, drizzle it with lemon or lime juice. When cooking kale, add vinegar, tomatoes, citrus juice or zest to help mellow the flavor.

Cook the Kale

Applying heat helps reduce kale’s bitterness by breaking down fiber and glucosinolates. Light cooking makes kale more tender and sweeter tasting. Quick-cook methods like sauteing, steaming or blanching are best to avoid overcooking. Cook just until the leaves are wilted but still bright green.

Pair Kale with Sweet and Savory Flavors

Complementing kale’s earthy, vegetal flavor with ingredients that are sweet, savory, creamy or tangy helps balance its bitterness. Good options include chopped fruits, caramelized onions, nuts, cheese, beans, dressings, spices, and seafood.

Here are some tasty ways to prepare kale:

Recipe Ingredients Instructions
Massaged Kale Salad
  • Kale leaves, stems removed
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Drizzle kale with olive oil and lemon juice.
  2. Massage leaves for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
Sauteed Kale
  • Kale leaves, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Vegetable broth
  1. Heat oil in pan. Cook garlic and onion until fragrant.
  2. Add kale and broth. Cook until wilted.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
Kale Caesar Salad
  • Kale leaves, stems removed
  • Caesar dressing
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Croutons
  1. Massage kale with Caesar dressing.
  2. Add parmesan cheese and croutons.
  3. Toss to coat.


With a few simple tricks, it’s easy to turn kale’s bitter flavor into something sweeter and more pleasant. Removing stems, massaging, adding acidity, and pairing with complementary ingredients allows the natural sweetness of kale to shine through. Kale’s great nutritional value makes it worth the extra effort to make it tasty. Experiment with different prep methods and ingredient combinations to find your favorite ways to enjoy kale’s full flavor and health benefits.

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