Since there is over 600% of the daily value of vitamin k in a single cup of kale, you could say that kale puts the k in vitamin k. Okay, sorry for the dad joke, I couldn’t resist. But, jokes aside, kale is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Even if you didn’t know that already, if you’ve ever seen kale it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I mean, the bright green color, the veins that run through the dense and fibrous leaves, all of it just screams life and longevity, am I right?
While it’s often lauded for its crazy nutritional benefits (which I’ll discuss shortly), the flavor and overall likeability as food is something that usually doesn’t come up.
So, if you’ve never had kale, or perhaps you were traumatized by it as a kid, you may be wondering what does kale taste like? Well, it tastes very much like it looks – green and earthy.
Keep reading for the lowdown on everything you need to know about the taste and texture of kale, plus the best ways to use it.
What Does Kale Taste Like?
So, I’ve already described the taste of kale as green and earthy. Some other ways to describe it would be coarse, bitter, but also somewhat bland.
Whilst it does have a distinct taste, it’s not extremely pronounced. This makes it good as an additional ingredient rather than on its own.
However, as you’ll see later, there are actually a few ways that you can make the most out of kale and even enjoy it as a dish itself.
What Do Kale Chips Taste Like?
Kale chips are a popular alternative to crisps and fries for people who want a healthier snack.
If you’ve eaten raw kale before, you might worry that kale chips will be bitter or too earthy, but when kale chips are prepared, the bitterness of the kale is removed.
As well as reducing the bitter taste of kale chips, the seasoning adds an element of flavor to the chips. You can season kale chips with countless different flavors, which is why many people choose to make their own at home so they can season them just the way they like.
You still get the same chip satisfaction when you eat kale chips, but you benefit from the nutritional benefits that kale offers as well.
What Does Kale Taste Like in a Smoothie?
I mentioned that kale is a great additional ingredient in a dish like as a part of a salad, soup, or even pasta. But, what about a smoothie?
Well, it goes very well in smoothies as well and can add even more of a nutritional punch. It has become increasingly popular to use kale in smoothies and juices instead of other leafy greens because it provides a host of nutrients and vitamins that some other fruits and vegetables cannot. It also adds almost no flavor to the smoothie.
This means you are getting all of the health benefits without the taste of kale being prominent in your smoothie.
Most likely, the smoothie will take on a slight green tint, but depending on the other fruits, dairy, nuts, and ingredients you add, it will taste delightful.
What is the Texture of Kale Like?
While still a leafy green like lettuce, spinach, or cabbage; kale is much heartier than the others.
It has tough leaves that are akin to cabbage leaves in strength, but they are much more coarse and fibrous.
Kale is available in a wide range of forms, all of which have their own textures and colors. In your local supermarket, you may come across Tuscan kale (also known as dinosaur kale or cavolo nero), curly kale, purple kale, baby kale, redbor kale, or Siberian kale, just to name a few.
Some leaves are delicate and fragile, but the majority are huge and robust, even gritty. However, once they’re cooked, they’re not nearly as dry, tough, or crunchy.
Kale Nutrional Profile
Kale is not only loaded with vitamins but it’s also low in calories and carbohydrates, which makes it a great option for those that are diabetic or trying to lose weight. Let’s check out what exactly makes kale such a nutritional superstar.
I have mentioned the low calories and carbs, but it’s also one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. A single cup of raw kale (roughly 2.5 ounces) contains all of these vitamins: (all of the percentages are the average daily recommendations)
- Vitamin A: 206%
- Vitamin C: 134%
- Vitamin K: 684%
- Vitamin B6: 9%
- Manganese: 26%
- Calcium: 9%
- Copper: 10%
- Magnesium: 6%
- Potassium: 9%
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Calories: 33
- Carbs: 6 grams (2 are fiber)
As you can see, for only a handful of calories and carbs, you get a lot of vitamins and minerals.
A kale smoothie sounds pretty good now, right?
Health Benefits of Kale
Of course, there is more to kale than just what the vitamins say. These vitamins, minerals, and other components like Omega-3s contribute to the various health benefits of kale.
In the body, antioxidants remove free radicals, which are molecules that are unstable and result from natural processes and environmental stress.
A large number of them can damage cells in the body if they build up too much. This can lead to health problems such as inflammation and diseases. Free radicals, for example, may contribute to the development of cancer, according to experts.
Protection Against Diabetes
Antioxidants, like vitamin C and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can reduce complications that may result from diabetes, and both of these antioxidants are found in kale.
Supports Heart Health
There are a few things that make kale great for heart health.
First, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are necessary for heart health and kale has a good balance of both.
Furthermore, potassium is also an essential part of heart health as many studies have linked it with lower blood pressure.
Promotes Bone Health
The calcium content found in kale makes it a good option to help bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation has listed kale as one of the “good-for-your-bones” foods.
The fiber, as well as the magnesium found in kale, is important in maintaining optimal digestion.
What Tastes Similar to Kale?
As a leafy green vegetable, which there are many, you’ll find any number of things that you can substitute for kale. The best of which is probably collard greens. They have both a similar taste and texture.
The next closest is perhaps Swiss chard or mustard greens. Both of these provide a similar taste and texture as kale.
Best Uses for Kale
As we’ve seen kale to be a serious nutritional heavyweight, the one thing that kale lacks (at least for most people) is a great taste.
I don’t mean that it tastes bad, I love it, but the strong earthy taste, combined with its tough fibrous texture makes it a hard sell for many.
So, you can help to boost its taste by cooking kale in a few different ways.
Make Kale Chips
Kale takes on an appealing nutty taste when baked with just a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, making it the ideal afternoon snack. I also like to add kale chips as a garnish to recipes that are lacking in texture. The crisp kale adds a nice texture to the platter as well as some freshness.
A low oven temperature, generally around 250-300 degrees, is essential for ideal kale chips.
Give the kale a little massage with olive oil and spices before baking for 10-15 minutes, being sure to leave some space between them so they don’t steam each other. Any of your favorite seasonings may be used to season your kale chips. I like to season mine with nutritional yeast.
Braising is also another great way to use kale. Like other heartier greens, kale responds nicely to the braising process.
After that, I add my chopped kale to the pan along with either chicken or veggie stock.
I cover it and let the kale absorb all of the flavors in the pan. This procedure aids in the breakdown of some of the fibers, making the kale easier to chew. The use of aromatics also aids in the balancing of those intense earthy notes.
If you’ve had a kale salad that wasn’t super tough and didn’t have that super strong earthy taste, you may be wondering why.
Well, it’s because the kale took a little trip to the spa first! Of course, massaging kale sounds pretty silly. But this slightly strange technique can help to soften it up.
To do it, massage your chopped kale with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt to help break down some of the rough fibers which make it much more delicate.
As you massage the kale, you’ll see that the leaves turn a gorgeous deep green. Then, just toss in the other ingredients and a drizzle of dressing. It will actually transform your mind on kale for the rest of your life.
Signs That Kale Has Gone Bad
It’s always a good practice to double-check if your kale has gone bad before you add it to your cooking. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to tell if it’s gone bad. Some of the signs that kale has gone bad include:
- A strong sulfuric smell.
- Black, rust-colored, or white spots – this may be a sign of a fungal infection.
- Wilted, soggy, or slimy leaves
If you spot any of these signs on your kale, throw it out and get some more. Though it’s great, it’s not worth risking food poisoning!