Sautéed kale with garlic is one of my favorite side dishes. I make it at least a couple of times a week. It’s a great way to get in lots of dark leafy greens. Plus, it goes well with almost any main course. Vegan & gluten-free.
One thing I appreciate about kale is its versatility.
Kale is hardier than spinach. So when cooked, it keeps its shape. And you don’t have quite the same stark disappearing act as it cooks.
It’s also lighter and less fibrous than collard greens. So it doesn’t require the same lengthy cooking time to soften its leaves.
One of my favorite ways to prepare kale is sautéed.
My easy sautéed kale recipe has lots of garlic flavor. Plus, it’s a terrific way to work more nutrient-dense dark, leafy greens into your meals.
What kind of kale should I use?
When you go to the grocery store, you’ll likely see several types of kale on the produce shelves.
The two most common kinds are curly and lacinato. Lacinato is also called Tuscan or dinosaur kale, because of its bumpy leaves that resemble its namesake.
Since it’s all priced about the same, I feel like you get the biggest bang for your buck with curly kale. The bunches are often big and poufy, like clown’s hair.
Plus, I prefer to remove the stems from kale before cooking it. With curly kale, you tend to have bigger leaves than lacinato. So for the same amount of work, you amass a higher amount of food to stem. (Obviously, kale sizes vary. There are some small curly bunches too.)
The flavors of the different types are pretty similar. So try both lacinato & curly, and see what you prefer. Or if your grocery store has purple or red kale, give that a go.
Any type of kale will work for this recipe.
How to sauté kale
Here’s what you’ll need – a bunch of kale, oil, garlic, bouillon, water, and salt.
Run kale leaves under water to wash them.
As you wash it, use your hands to pull the leaves off of the hard center stems. Roughly chop the leaves.
Bring a sauté pan or pot to a medium heat with oil. Sauté minced garlic cloves until fragrant.
Add chopped kale & sauté.
Add a splash of water + bouillon (or vegetable broth), and give everything a stir. The kale will kind of steam from the liquid.
Cook for 2 to 10 minutes, depending on how soft you prefer it. For even softer kale, turn the heat to low & cover with a lid.
Make it your own
You can make this sautéed kale your own by varying the cooking length or seasonings.
Cook it a longer or shorter amount of time
If you like it just lightly cooked, only sauté it for a couple minutes after adding water. Once it’s bright green, it’s good to go.
If you like the leaves to be really soft & almost fall apart in your mouth, turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook the kale for about 10 minutes. It’s done when all of the water & moisture in the kale has cooked off.
Use broth instead of water + bouillon
Instead of adding Better Than Bouillon and water, you can use vegetable broth. Or simply omit the bouillon and use water. The bouillon isn’t essential. It simply adds a subtle bit of richness & salt.
Vary the seasonings
Try finishing the sautéed kale with a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of red wine vinegar for tang.
Season it with red pepper flakes, black pepper, or your preferred seasoning salt.
For crunch, add a handful of toasted pine nuts.
What to serve with it
This easy side dish can be served any time of year. It’s equally good for the winter holidays as it is for a summertime patio gathering.
Serve it with any of the following main courses:
- Vegan fried shrimp
- Buffalo chickpea sandwich
- Vegan pulled pork
- Veggie wraps with tahini sauce
- Hot open faced sandwich
- Air fryer stuffed peppers
- Grilled tofu with lemon & rosemary
- French lentils du Puy with caramelized onions
- Seitan piccata (below)
Other ways to cook with kale
Kale is terrific massaged into a salad or added to your favorite soup. Here are other kale recipes to try:
- Use it raw in a kale salad with roasted chickpeas
- Add it to a vegan quiche or vegan frittata
- Throw a handful into a pumpkin smoothie
- Get cozy & include it in soups like creamy gnocchi soup, potsticker soup, or sweet potato peanut stew
- Enjoy it cold in sesame kale
- Get spicy with it in a sweet potato black bean hash
- Turn it into a crispy snack of ranch kale chips
Sautéed kale with garlic
- ½ teaspoon organic canola oil or olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bunch curly kale leaves coarsely chopped with ribs removed**
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons water Plus an extra splash, if needed
- ⅛ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon, no chicken base optional
- Pinch salt
- Bring a skillet or pot to a medium heat with oil. Add garlic & sauté until fragrant, about a minute or so.
- Add chopped kale, 1 to 2 Tablespoons of water (depending on the size of the bunch), Better Than Bouillon (if using), and a pinch of salt. Continue cooking the kale, stirring occasionally, until it is wilted and soft. For bright green steamed kale, cook for 2 or 3 minutes. For softer kale that's deeper in color, turn the heat to low & cover with a lid. Cook for about 10 minutes, until all of the liquid cooks off.
- Taste for salt and add more, if needed.