If you’ve ever been on a healthy food kick, or it’s already an integral part of your lifestyle, chances are kale has played an important role in your diet. Kale and other leafy green vegetables are some of the healthiest foods out there, which makes them a great choice for a balanced diet. And while kale is perhaps the healthiest of all of the leafy greens, it’s even perhaps one of the healthiest foods on the planet!
Not only is kale extremely healthy, but you can easily include it in your lifestyle as it’s quite convenient to use. You can add it to smoothies, juices or use it in a wide range of recipes. However, the downside of kale (yes, there is a downside, unfortunately!) is that it doesn’t stay fresh very long. In the fridge, kale lasts only around three to five days.
So, you may be wondering if there is there a better way to store kale. Well, you can store kale in the freezer to keep it fresh for much longer and you don’t need to blanch it either!
Let’s get into how to freeze kale without blanching, shall we?
What is Blanching?
First, before getting into “brass tacks” if you will, it’s good to know what blanching is, if you’re not already familiar with it.
Blanching is one of those cooking methods that’s used a lot, particularly when it comes to freezing or canning vegetables. And in other cases when it comes to meal preparation, it seems like an extra and perhaps unnecessary step.
Blanching is a method of food preparation, often used for fresh greens. The items are scalded in boiling water, withdrawn after a brief period of time, and then plunged into icy water or placed under cold running water (which is known as shocking or refreshing) to stop the cooking process. Blanching foods aids in the reduction of quality loss over time.
The “reduction of quality loss” is quite comprehensive in this case. Blanching foods can help to preserve the color, flavor, and nutritional value.
Some other benefits of blanching include removing pesticides as well as decreasing the number of microbes on the food. However, water-soluble and heat-sensitive nutrients like B and C vitamins may leach out during the blanching process.
Is Blanching Kale Necessary?
Nope! In most cases, it’s recommended to blanch fruits or vegetables if you plan on freezing them. However, it’s not necessary to blanch kale before freezing it. It’s actually recommended to freeze it without blanching, as it keeps its taste and structure after it’s been frozen compared to most other fruits and vegetables. And, you don’t have to worry about losing some of the nutrients that may be affected by blanching.
While it’s generally recommended to not blanch kale before freezing it, if you plan on storing kale for a longer period of time then you should consider blanching it.
What Happens When You Freeze Kale Without Blanching?
Whilst kale can stay in relatively good shape after it’s been frozen without blanching, you may notice some changes. Here are a couple of things that may happen to your kale if you freeze it without blanching:
- Wilted leaves
- Change in texture
- Reduction of enzymes and natural flavors
- Fading colors
Similar to most frozen foods, however, the earlier you use them, the less they will change. And conversely, the opposite is true. The longer it’s stored in the freezer, the more it will likely deteriorate.
How to Freeze Kale Without Blanching
It’s pretty straightforward to freeze unblanched kale, but there are some important steps to take before you put it in the freezer.
- First (optional), before washing the leaves, some people like to soak them in one to three teaspoons of vinegar per gallon of water for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Otherwise, first thoroughly wash it to eliminate any dirt, insects, or other debris from the garden.
- Then, remove the stems from the leaves, as they are typically too tough to use in anything other than soups or stir-fries, and then slice the leaves as you normally would.
- If you intend to utilize the stems, freeze them separately. Before freezing the kale, pat it dry with dish towels or paper towels.
- Place the kale into small, clumped-together pieces on a baking sheet before putting it in the freezer. Allow these to freeze into individual pieces on the cookie sheet for about.
- Lastly, after about an hour or so, transfer the kale to a long-term storage container. A freezer-safe plastic food storage container or a freezer-safe plastic zipper bag can be used. If you’re using a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible before placing it in the freezer. This will help to prevent freezer burn. Flash freezing the kale into pieces beforehand ensures that it will remain in clumps when frozen, making it easier to retrieve the quantity you want from the freezer.
How Long Does Kale Last in the Freezer Without Blanching?
I have mentioned the benefits of freezing kale without blanching already, but there is actually a benefit of freezing blanched kale, and that’s how long it can last in the freezer.
If you blanch kale, it can keep its quality for upwards of a year (10-12 months).
However, when you freeze without blanching kale, it can only last for about four to six weeks. After this period of time, you may notice that the kale develops a bitter taste. This is because of the enzymes that exist inside kale. And when you blanch it, it deactivates them, thus preventing it from becoming bitter.
How to Defrost Frozen Kale
It’s quite simple to thaw frozen kale. Simply remove it from the freezer the night before you intend to use it and leave it in the refrigerator overnight to defrost it gradually.
If you want to defrost the kale faster, you may leave it on the counter. At room temperature, it should take about 2 hours for it to fully defrost.
I recommend spreading the kale out into a large, single layer for faster thawing. A sheet of kitchen paper can also be placed beneath the greens to absorb any excess moisture as the leaves defrost.
Before using it, pat it dry once it’s thawed.
Alternatively, you may not need to defrost the frozen kale at all. If you plan on using it in something like a smoothie or a soup, then you can easily add the frozen kale directly into your recipe.
However, if you’re adding it to your cooking just be aware that adding the frozen kale will likely have an impact on the temperature of the food, meaning you’ll likely need to increase the cooking time slightly.
Uses for Thawed Kale
There are so many ways that you can incorporate thawed kale into your diet, and since it holds its shape quite well (but not perfectly, however), you don’t have to make too many sacrifices nor drastically adjust your cooking to accommodate it!
The easiest way to use frozen kale is by adding it to green smoothies. All you have to do is simply grab a handful (or more, or less, depending on preference) and then add it directly to the blender with the other ingredients. This is a great way to get the health benefits of kale if you’re not particularly fond of the taste.
To make a quick and easy green smoothie all you need to do is combine a cup or so of frozen greens, frozen fruits, and a beverage of your choice in a blender. I like to use oat milk, almond milk, or Greek yogurt. And if you want to make the smoothie more substantial, add some almonds, oats, or chia seeds.
Making soup is another great way to use frozen greens. Fry some onions and garlic, then add your favorite veggies and greens, along with some vegetable stock. Simmer until all of the veggies are tender, then combine and season to taste.
These are just a couple of ways you can use frozen kale. Some other ideas include a puree, pesto, or add it to a stir-fry.
However, while kale does keep its shape pretty well, it’s not quite invincible and won’t be quite as crunchy compared to when it’s fresh, which you may want to keep in mind.
How to Tell if Kale Has Gone Bad
If you’ve had kale in the fridge for a few days already, you’ll likely notice some changes as it gets older.
However, it’s important to understand the difference between a change in color that’s only it getting older and less nutritious and flavorful, versus it being inedible. Because it can be slightly yellow and still edible, but it also could be mostly green and inedible. Here are some things to look for that mean that the kale is no longer safe to eat:
- There is a bad, sulfur-like smell
- It appears wilted, soggy, and/slimy
- There are black specks on the leaves
- You can see black, white, or rust-colored spots. This may signify a fungal infection on the leaves
However, if you notice that the leaves are just turning yellow, it’s likely still safe to eat assuming you don’t notice any of the aforementioned signs that would make it unsafe to eat. But, if the leaves are turning yellow, you may notice a reduction in the taste.