Sesame kale with garlic is an easy & delicious side dish.
It doesn’t require any chopping. And it’s a great way to cram a lot of dark, leafy greens into your diet. Vegan & gluten-free.
This sesame kale recipe was inspired by a cold salad they used to sell at my local co-op.
I enjoyed the nutty flavor from the sesame oil, and the softness of the greens.
Plus, while a raw kale salad can have a fairly intense flavor, it is muted in this dish because the kale has been lightly steamed.
I loved the dish so much, I decided I needed to create my own version. That way I could have it any time I wanted.
And it would be a lot less expensive than buying a to-go container full whenever I was at the grocery store.
Once I started cooking this dish at home, I was delighted by how easy & inexpensive it is to make!
The mild kale goes down deliciously easy by the forkful.
With the nuttiness of toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds, and the salty/sour tang of tamari and brown rice vinegar, the balanced flavors make this a side dish that’s not only healthy but tasty too.
Even better, it only improves with time as the greens soften and absorb the flavors.
No chopping required
Part of what makes this dish so fast is that no chopping is required.
It’s made by steaming kale, and then squeezing it dry before seasoning it.
Both aspects – steaming and squeezing the water out – make the greens shrink.
That means chopping is wholly unnecessary. The kale will already be in bite-sized pieces.
Step by step instructions
(For full ingredient amounts, keep scrolling to the recipe box at the end of this post.)
Get a bunch of kale. (I use curly kale, but any type will work.)
Remove the leaves from the hard center stems (using your hands or a knife). Don’t bother chopping it.
Put the leaves in a steamer basket along with an inch of boiling water in the bottom of the pot.
Cover the pot & steam until it softens & shrinks.
(This is the steamer pot I use.)
Run cool water over it in a colander (or in the steamer insert).
Then wring it dry by smashing it in your hands into a ball until no more water comes out.
Or roll it in a clean, dry kitchen towel.
Give it a good squeeze until it’s totally dry.
Put the dry, steamed kale in a mixing bowl.
Then add the following:
- Minced garlic
- Sesame oil
- Brown rice vinegar
(I recommend using a Microplane zester to get the garlic extra small. But mincing with a knife works too.)
Use your hands to rub those ingredients into the kale, until the kale has separated from the ball shape and is evenly coated.
Add sesame seeds to finish and combine.
Eat the sesame kale with garlic right away.
Or put it into a covered container & refrigerate for an hour or more to let the flavors absorb & marry.
Serve this easy side dish with any of the following:
- Bulgogi tofu sandwich with kimchi
- Vegan banh mi sandwich with seitan
- Spring roll-inspired vegan wrap with peanut sauce
- Bulgogi tofu bowl (instead of sautéed spinach)
- Baked tofu bowl (instead of kale chips)
- Kimchi fried rice
- Fill a pot with steamer insert with about an inch of water. Bring to a boil. Put kale in steamer insert and cover with lid. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until it is bright green.
- Either in the steamer insert itself or a colander, rinse the kale with cool water. Using your hands, squeeze all of the water out of it. It will make a ball of kale about the size of a tennis ball.**
- Once the kale is mostly dry, move it to a mixing bowl. Add the sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, tamari, garlic, and salt to it. Using your hands, rub those ingredients into the greens until it has separated from the ball and is evenly coated. Add the sesame seeds to it and combine. Eat right away, or for best results, put the kale in a covered container in the refrigerator for at least an hour to absorb the flavors and further soften.
Content, recipe, and photos updated February 2020. Originally posted May 2016.