Fresh kale packs a nutritional punch and provides a sturdy cooking green for your favorite recipes. Although available year-round, the best kale is only in season in fall and spring when the weather is cool. Freezing allows you to preserve kale at its peak if it’s properly blanched to slow the enzyme actions that cause it to lose its flavor and texture during storage. Blanching also helps preserve nutrients and ensures the kale is thoroughly cleaned before storage.
Rinse the kale leaves under cool running water to remove any dirt. Cut off the touch stems with a sharp knife.
Bring 1 gallon of water to a full boil over medium-high heat. Set a bowl filled with ice water near the stove.
Place up to 1 pound of kale leaves in the boiling water. Bring the water back to a full boil and blanch the kale for three minutes, or until the leaves begin to wilt and become bright green.
Remove the leaves from the water with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of ice water. Cool the kale in the ice water for three minutes.
Drain the kale in a colander. Remove the leaves from the colander and pat them dry with a clean paper towel.
Place the blanched kale leaves in a freezer-safe ziptop storage bag, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. Push out the excess air and seal the bag closed before freezing.
Question: How do I freeze kale? Do I need to blanch it first? -Pamela T.
Answer: Freezing your kale allows you to store it for much longer than refrigerating. Blanched kale can be frozen for eight to 12 months. Without blanching, kale can be stored for just four to six weeks, and it may develop a bitter flavor because its enzymes are still active, whereas blanching stops the action of these enzymes.
Begin by washing your kale thoroughly to remove dirt, insects, and any other garden debris from its leaves. Some people like to soak their kale in water with one to three tablespoons of vinegar per gallon added before rinsing the kale. Then dry the leaves on dish towels or paper towels. Remove the stems from your kale leaves, and chop the remaining leaves. You can freeze the stems for use in soups or stir-fries if you would like, but they are too tough to work in the braises and sautes the leaves are normally used for.
To blanch your kale, bring a pot of water to a boil, and boil leaves for two and a half minutes with the lid on the pot. Stems should be blanched for three minutes before freezing. Remove the kale immediately to an ice water bath using a strainer, and let it sit in the water for as long as it cooked (two and a half minutes for leaves or three minutes for stems).
Use your hands to form kale into portion-sized clumps, and place the portions on a cookie sheet. Transfer the cookie sheet to the freezer, and allow the kale to freeze into these portions for at least an hour. Then it can be moved into a more long term storage container, such as a freezer safe plastic food storage bin or a freezer safe plastic zipper bag. Flash freezing the kale into portions first makes it easier to remove the amount you need later.
Freezing kale opens the door to quick green smoothies and tasty side dishes. Learn how to preserve this nutrient-packed green.
Get your flavonoid-packed greens fresh from the windowsill with this hearty kale mix. The blend contains the classic varieties frilly ‘Winterbor,’ reddish-pink ‘Redbor,’ and blue ‘Dwarf Curled Vates.’ Heirloom ‘Lacinato’ kale, also known as Tuscan or dinosaur kale, completes the mix.
Photo by: Burpee
Can you freeze kale? The answer is a resounding yes. Preserving this iron-rich super food is one of the simpler projects you’ll undertake in your kitchen. Kale is a cinch to grow in vegetable or flower beds, so you can also easily raise your own for freezing. Stop asking yourself, “Can I freeze kale?”—and get started.
Grow your own kale, or purchase locally grown bunches at a farmers’ market. Wash kale to remove dirt and debris. It’s a good idea to separate leaves, since dirt tends to collect between the bases of leaves. Kale may have aphids, caterpillars, beetles, or other critters hiding beneath or between leaves. Dunking leaves in water should dislodge any hitchhikers, but you can also soak leaves in a vinegar solution. Use 1 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water, and soak leaves for 20 to 30 minutes.
After soaking, rinse leaves. Kale stems can be fibrous, similar to a broccoli stem. You can freeze stems, which make a nice addition to soups and stir fries, but plan to do so separately from the leaves. To remove leaf blades from stems, fold leaves in half and tear or cut the central stem away. Roughly tear or chop leaves.
Freeze Vegetables From Your Garden
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You can freeze kale without blanching, but plan to use it within four to six weeks. Unblanched kale may develop a bitter flavor because you haven’t stopped the action of the naturally-occurring ripening enzymes in the leaves. Unblanched kale leaves work well in stews and homemade soups, where any bitterness is likely to be overpowered by other flavors. But for serving kale as a stand-alone side dish, sample frozen unblanched leaves before freezing a large batch.
For frozen kale that lasts eight to 12 months, blanch leaves and stems. Blanch leaves for 2.5 minutes, covering the boiling water pot with a lid to steam-heat floating leaves. Blanch stems for 3 minutes. Place leaves and stems in ice water for the same amount of time. Use a strainer to fish leaves from both boiling and ice water.
Dry leaves by placing them on a towel. Fill the towel with leaves, then roll it up and squeeze to remove excess water. Quick-freeze small clumps of kale individually on a cookie sheet. After they’re frozen, place clumps into freezer bags in bulk. Remove as much air as possible from bags before sealing. When you freeze kale like this, you can grab a handful for a smoothie, or pour out more to create a side dish.
If you don’t want to quick-freeze kale, simply place blanched and dried kale into individual packages prior to freezing. Choose the right size freezer bag to suit your serving-size portion. Always remove as much air as possible before sealing bags. A vacuum sealer system works well with kale. Avoid over-packing bags. Flatten bags before sealing to create kale portions that thaw quickly.
Use frozen kale in smoothies for a healthy kick, or saute with seasoned rice vinegar. For a spicier dish, saute kale in olive oil with garlic. Before serving, top with crushed red pepper. Frozen kale blends well into quiche, crock pot stews, and soups. You can also cream it for a special treat or use it to create nutritious pesto.
How to Freeze Vegetables
Learn methods for freezing vegetables so you can have fresh taste long after the growing season ends.
Whoever has been doing the PR for kale these last few years deserves a raise, because if there is one thing it seems like we all agree on is kale’s “superfood” status! It is thought to be one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet (though not quite the very top, ounce for ounce – the food that has that honor should hire kale’s PR firm today!). There a lots of ways to consume kale, but I find that my digestion is happiest with it cooked, so I’m sharing with you a very simple way of cooking it either to serve immediately or as part of a meal prep session to be eaten throughout the week.
This is the third entry in my year-long series highlighting the easiest way I know to prepare some of the most nutrient dense powerhouse ingredients that we know we SHOULD be eating all the time, but especially when we are in a healing phase and following an elimination diet like the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).To view the rest of the easy recipes in the series, click here.
Be sure you come back next week when I share 10 of the best and easiest kale recipes from my favorite AIP bloggers!
The nutritional value of kale
Kale is a leafy green vegetable in the brassica family, which means it is in the cabbage family, though it doesn’t form a head. It has been available in the United States since the 1800s, one of many foods that were introduced here by the USDA botanist David Fairchild (fascinating podcast about him here!), though until the 1990s it was mostly grown as an ornamental crop, which is why those of us over a certain age still think of kale as a little “exotic”!
A single 1 cup serving of kale provides over 100% of your daily need of vitamin A, K, and C, plus significant amounts of vitamin B6, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and magnesium (source). This combination of nutrients is particularly important for bone health, which is often a concern for people who are unable to eat dairy products either permanently or temporarily.
Additionally, the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol are found in relatively large amounts in kale (source) and are believed to be antioxidants, which are substances that help counteract oxidative damage by free radicals in the body.
Who should be cautious with kale?
Kale and most leafy greens are very high in vitamin K, which plays a role in healthy blood clotting, so if you are taking warfarin (a “blood thinner”), you need to work with your doctor to monitor your blood levels while increasing your intake of these vegetables (source).
What about oxalates?
A serving of kale averages about 17 milligrams of oxalate, the compound that is part of a chemical cascade that can trigger the formation of a certain type of kidney stone in susceptible people and may contribute to pain in certain people. Compared to spinach or Swiss chard, kale is a much “safer” option for people who need to be mindful of oxalate intake (source).
Purchasing and preparing kale
There are many different varieties of kale and more are being stocked in the produce section of American supermarkets in recent years. Most likely you will find dark green curly kale and possibly also a broader large leaf variety called Tuscan, lacinato, or dinosaur kale. Both types are great for the recipe that follows and “baby” versions are nice in salads.
Easy Blanched Kale Recipe
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Easy Blanched Kale (AIP, SCD)
- Author: Jaime Hartman
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 6 mins
- Total Time: 11 mins
- Yield: 6 servings 1 x
Let this recipe for blanched kale be your canvass of creativity. Eat it as is, or dress it up with some olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings of choice.
- 1 pound kale
- 1 quart water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- With hands or with a knife, remove and discard the tough stems and ribs of kale leaves. Then roughly chop the kale leaves.
- In a large saucepan, place kale, water and salt over high heat. Bring water to boil and then set a timer for 6 minutes.
- Drain off hot water. If not serving immediately, cool quickly by running under cold water or filling saucepan with ice water. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible before storing.
- Keep covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
- Category: Side
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This method for blanching and freezing kale comes from Tinicum CSA member, Julia K. The method can be applied to pretty much any of the greens we grow including: kale, swiss chard, collards, spinach, broccoli raab, & tatsoi. You can also blanch broccoli and green beans. Blanching before freezing helps to retain the color and the nutrients. If you’re interested in preserving some of the farm’s tasty greens, try this out!
1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and maintain a gentle boil throughout the process.
2. Fill another large pot with cold water, add ice, and place next to the boiling water on the stovetop.
3. Tear kale leaves from their stems and fill a large bowl with the bite size pieces of leaves.
4. Fill a medium-sized colander with kale. This should amount to an approximate serving size. I like to use a colander with a handle.
5. Dip the colander full of kale into the hot water. Press the kale down with a wooden spoon to ensure that it’s fully submerged for about 20 or 30 seconds, or until fully wilted.
6. Lift the colander out of the hot water, let it drip for a few seconds, then dip it into the cold water bath. Use your wooden spoon to press the kale down under the water for about 20 seconds, or until the kale is cold.
7. Using your hands, wring out the kale to remove excess water. Form into a ball and place in a salad spinner to continue draining. You can accumulate these balls of kale until you’ve finished blanching.
8. Then place each ball on a cookie sheet or a muffin tin. Put the filled cookie sheet uncovered in the freezer over night.
9. In the morning, put the frozen servings of kale into a freezer bag and you’ll have an easy way to use the servings without having them stick together. Enjoy!
Blanched Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing, Figs, Hard-Boiled Egg and Avocado makes for a flavorful, nutrient dense, light vegetarian meal.
Blanch thy kale!
It’s the final countdown!
Okay, it’s not really the final countdown. It’s the countdown before the countdown. It’s the pre-countdown countdown.
What are we counting down?
The days until my cookbook, Let Them Eat Kale! is released. 13! 13 days, my friends!
I’m feeling so giddy, clammy, pitted out, and rambunctious that all I want to do is distract you from my nervousness by showing you YouTube videos.
But I won’t do that. I’ll stay on task, put my adult ADD in check, and just remind you that on July 1, cookbook #2 will be born unto this earth, and that the contents of cookbook #2 are bonkers yummy. And healthy.
See? That was easy. No minimal youtubing necessary.
Have you ever eaten a salad with chopsticks? Yeah, me neither.
In Let Them Eat Kale!, I talk about the various methods for cooking (or not cooking) kale and incorporating it into your recipes. One of those methods is blanching. Blanching is the process of flash cooking a food in boiling water and then immediately transferring it to an ice bath to stop the cooking.
Blanching kale helps soften the tough fibers and makes it easier to chew. Most people do not care for raw kale, so blanching is a quick and easy way of making the leafy green more palatable.
For this salad, I blanched up some kale and added a tricked out sesame dressing to it. Have you ever used sesame oil for salad dressing?
It’s great (if you like sesame oil)!
I combined sesame oil with liquid aminos (which can be replaced with low-sodium soy sauce), ginger, and maple syrup.
What happens is a sensorymatic esoteric hailstorm of bangarangedness. Okay, what really happens is your salad tastes like sesame dressing. That’s what’s real.
I had some dried figs staring at me on the counter, roasted cashews gawking at me in the pantry, and a ripe avocado all back of the refrigerator bus.
So I threw them all in the salad bowl and the rest is history. Plus, I added hard-boiled egg because I’M OBSESSED WITH HARDBOILED EGGS!! Sorry. That was brash.
What I’m trying to get at here is twofold: #1: Make the salad. #2: Let Them Eat KALE!
Recently I was giving a talk on spring greens to a gardening group in my community. I was extolling the virtues of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), so I wandered into my usual semi-rant about people eating raw greens. Dandelion doesn’t have any oxalic acid in its greens, so it can be eaten without irritation. In contrast, spinach and kale do. Spinach contains much more than kale, but nonetheless, both should be eaten raw only sparingly.
Eating a Raw Spinach or Kale Smoothie?
When I was a teenager, spinach salads were all the rage. We learned through the diet gurus of the time that no one should be caught with regular lettuce in their salads. Instead, it was much healthier to use spinach as our raw greens. Recently, the kale smoothie has caught on. I’m not quite sure where that leaves spinach, but I suspect it’s not going anywhere.
The truth is that both spinach and kale are very healthy for you. Unfortunately, it really needs to be steamed before it’s eaten. Steaming or cooking deactivates the oxalic acid content that they have, making them more nutritious. Oxalic acid binds with the calcium in our food making it unavailable for digestion. Over time this can lead to a plethora of health issues, osteoporosis among them. The acids can also irritate the kidneys.
After I finished speaking, a woman approached me. She shared that she had been having the same breakfast smoothie every day for a couple years now. At about the same time each day she began to have pain in her kidneys. She had been to several doctors who had not found anything specifically wrong, and yet the same symptom appeared every day like clockwork a couple hours after breakfast. Her smoothie was made with raw kale.
How to Use Greens in a Smoothie
Does this mean that everyone should stop using spinach and kale in their morning smoothies? Absolutely not! I LOVE to mix greens and fruit in a smoothie. It’s a delicious way to get a powerful punch of vitamins and minerals.
To use greens in your smoothie you just need to steam them first. This may seem like a strange texture, but bear with me. Usually, we make smoothies when we are on the run. There isn’t enough time in the morning to steam your greens and add them into the blender. Instead, I like to steam enough for the week and then freeze a supply. Each morning I take a handful of frozen greens from the bag. They not only add the nutrition I want, but I also don’t have to add ice cubes.
How to blanch your kale and spring greens
- Set up a pot of boiling water with a steamer basket insert.
- Fill the steamer basket with your greens and immerse them into the boiling water.
- Blanch for 2 minutes.
- Remove the steamer basket from the boiling water and immediately plunge into an ice water bath.
- Remove the steamer basket from the ice water bath and put the greens into a strainer to drain.
- After they are well drained, move the greens to a clean, dry towel. Pat dry as best as you can.
- Spread the greens out onto a tray and transfer to the freezer.
- Once frozen, the greens can be broken up and placed in a zipper top freezer bag for storage in the freezer. The small chunks of greens are easier to portion out for small recipes or smoothies than if you had just placed the wet greens into a freezer bag and frozen them as one large chunk.
Be sure to label your greens so you know what you are reaching for. If your freezer is anything like mine, once these early spring harvests go in they look like everything else!
Are you eating raw green smoothies?
If so, did you know about the importance of steaming your greens first?
Freezing kale and other leafy greens couldn’t be simpler! We’ll show you how to freeze kale and other leafy greens so you can enjoy their freshness and nutrition all year round!
If you’d like to know how to freeze kale, how to freeze spinach, how to freeze Swiss chard, how to freeze collard greens or any other leafy green, we’ve got you covered!
Every year I grow extra leafy greens plants so that I have plenty to freeze to last through the winter months. In years past before I had a garden I would stock up on organic greens at the store when they were on sale for the same reason. Freezing leafy greens saves you money, saves you time, cuts down on food waste and enables you to enjoy those nutritious greens all year round. Done properly, frozen leafy greens will last up to 12 months.
How to Blanch Kale and Other Leafy Greens
Whichever kind of leafy green you want to freeze, the process is the same. The only difference will be how long to blanch them as some greens are thicker and more fibrous and some are very tender.
Start by selecting fresh, crisp, healthy greens with good color and no blemishes. Cut off particularly large, woody stems as they don’t freeze well. Rinse them several times under cold running water. Chop the leaves and stems to the desired size (small leaves can be frozen whole).
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place the greens in the pot and cover with the lid. Don’t overcrowd the greens, it’s best to work in batches. You’ll need about 1 gallon of water for every 4 cups of greens. Fill a large bowl with ice water.
Collard Greens: Blanch for 3 minutes.
Kale: Blanch for 2 minutes.
Swiss Chard: Blanch for 2 minutes.
Mustard Greens: Blanch for 2 minutes.
Baby Spinach: Blanch for 90 seconds.
As a general rule most greens will need to be blanched for 2 minutes except for collard greens, which are more fibrous, and baby spinach leaves, which are more tender.
Begin counting the blanching time as soon as you place the greens in the boiling water and cover the pot with a lid.
Immediately after the allotted blanching time, drain the greens and plunge them into the ice water. Let them cool for the same amount of time as blanching. Drain them well and then squeeze as much water out of them as you can.
How to Freeze Kale and Other Leafy Greens
After you’ve blanched and cooled the greens in the ice water and drained them, give them a thorough squeeze to get as much water out of them as you can. Now it’s time to pack them for freezing.
Place the prepared greens in freezing containers or in ziplock bags. Squeeze as much air out of the bags as you can. Label and date the bags and place them in your freezer.
Does Freezing Kill the Nutrients in Leafy Greens?
A good amount of research has been done comparing the nutrient levels in frozen versus fresh vegetables and the conclusion is that many of the minerals and vitamins are not easily destroyed by either the blanching or the freezing process. In short, your frozen leafy greens are still loaded with nutrients!
Do You Have to Blanch Kale to Freeze It?
Yes and no. If you want to store your frozen leafy greens for several months they need to be blanched first. While you can freeze kale and other leafy greens raw they will only keep for a month to month and a half before the texture, color and flavor all start to deteriorate.
Blanching is an important step when it comes to freezing any vegetable for several reasons: Blanching stops the enzymes that lead to spoilage, it enables the vegetables to retain their original texture, their vibrant colors, flavors and their nutrients. Failing to blanch your veggies will result in poor textures, faded, dull colors and off flavors. It can also cause the kale to taste bitter.
How Long Do Frozen Leafy Greens Last?
Prepared properly your leafy greens will keep for 8 to 12 months in the freezer.
Wash the leafy greens and chop them to the desired size. Small leaves can be frozen whole. Cut off particularly large, woody stems as they don’t freeze well.
Fill large bowl with ice water.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Don’t overcrowd the greens, it’s best to work in batches. You’ll need about 1 gallon of water for every 4 cups of greens.
Place the greens in the boiling water, cover with the lid, and start counting immediately. As a general rule, most leafy greens require 2 minutes of blanching except for collard greens which need 3 minutes and baby spinach leaves which only need 90 seconds.
Immediately drain the greens and plunge them in the ice water. Let them cool for as long as the blanching time.
Drain the greens.
Squeeze as much water out of the greens as you can.
Place the prepared greens in freezing containers or ziplock bags. Squeeze as much air out of the bags as you can. Label and date the bags and place them in the freezer.