Steamed kale with sesame oil 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.
Steamed kale with sesame oil has a lovely light texture.
It pops with the nutty flavors of sesame, and tang of tamari and rice vinegar.
It is an easy side dish that’s positively packed with greens.
This sesame kale recipe was inspired by a cold salad they used to sell at my local co-op.
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 steamed kale goes down deliciously easy by the forkful.
And the balanced flavors make this a side dish that’s not only healthy but tasty too.
Plus, it only improves with time as the greens soften and absorb the flavors.
So it’s a great one to put in a packed lunch, bring to a vegan potluck, or use for meal prep.
In this post:
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.
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this recipe.
Kale: I like to use curly kale. But any variety will work here.
Toasted sesame oil: Look for this oil at Asian markets or near soy sauces in the grocery store.
Tamari: Tamari is a Japanese soy sauce that adds salt and umami.
Tamari is often wheat-free. That makes it good for folks avoiding gluten.
If that doesn’t matter to you, it can be replaced with Chinese soy sauce, which usually has gluten.
Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar adds tang and balance.
Look for it with other Asian ingredients or alongside other vinegars.
Garlic: Because the garlic is raw in this dish, I recommend finely mincing a small-ish clove. Or use a Microplane zester.
Salt: A pinch of salt brings it all together.
Sesame seeds: Any color of sesame seeds work as a garnish. But white particularly pops against the dark green.
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make this recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
Remove the leaves from the hard center stems (using your hands or a knife).
Don’t bother chopping it.
Put the kale 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.)
Once it has fully steamed, 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 And 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
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
- Spring roll-inspired vegan wrap
- Bulgogi tofu bowl (instead of sautéed spinach)
- Baked tofu bowl (instead of kale chips)
- Kimchi fried rice
- Dumplings & gyoza dipping sauce
- Vegan bibimbap (from Okonomi Kitchen)
Store steamed kale in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
It will keep for 3 or 4 days.
I like to eat it cold right out of the refrigerator.
However, if you prefer, you can briefly warm it in the microwave.
Steamed kale with sesame oil
- 1 bunch curly kale removed from ribs (roughly 5 cups)
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ¾ teaspoon rice vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon tamari
- 1 clove garlic minced
- Pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 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 updated January 28, 2023. Originally posted May 6, 2016.
I love this idea! Can’t wait to try it.
This looks so simple and good. I normally saute kale, but that other day my mum said it was tough on her teeth, so perhaps this steaming and squeezing would make it softer for her? I will try. 🙂
Thanks, Susan! I think it would absolutely make it softer for her. With the steaming and squeezing, it has a texture that is similar to cooked spinach. Let me know how it goes!
Kale and sesame is a wonderful combination, I love it 🙂
Thanks, Faye! I love them together too.
I have been eating a great kale salad lately which makes me want to buy more kale so thanks for another quick kale dish – I love sesame flavours. And I think I was so keen to cook when I moved out of home that I have never resented the time needed for cooking but there are days now that I am so busy it is hard to find the time.
That’s really interesting that you were looking forward to cooking when you left home. Why was that? Was it just because you loved cooking or because you were looking forward to cooking different things that your parents typically did?
Yum! I was planning to have a side of kale tonight with some pasta that I’m making, but I was probably just gonna make my usual garlic kale. I’ll try this instead! I love kale & sesame flavors together!
Thanks, Bianca! I love them together too. They balance each other nicely.