What Does Kale Taste Like?

Last Updated on January 4, 2024 by Lindsay Delk, RDN

There is no doubt that kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around. But what does kale taste like? Is kale bitter? Is kale salty? Is kale sweet? In this blog post, I will discuss what kale tastes like as well as some of its benefits for mental health. I will discuss the different flavors that kale can have and give you some tips on how to enjoy it!

This post was written by Lindsay Delk, RDN. It is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice or instructions given by your healthcare provider. 

Chopped curly kale on a cutting board next to a knife

What Does Kale Taste Like?

Kale is a nutrient-rich, leafy green vegetable that has gained popularity in recent years for its health benefits. But how does kale taste? Does kale taste good? The answer may surprise you – kale can have different flavors, depending on the variety, when it was harvested, and how it is prepared.

>Varieties of kale

There are many different varieties of kale, and each one has its own unique kale flavor. For example, curly kale has a slightly bitter taste, Russian kale is sweeter and more tender, and dinosaur kale (Tuscan kale) has a nutty flavor.

>Age at harvest

The taste of kale is also affected by when it is harvested. Young baby kale is milder, and older kale is tougher and more bitter.

>Preparation methods

Raw kale has an earthy and slightly bitter taste.

But what does cooked kale taste like? Cooking kale will mellow out its flavor. When kale is cooked, it can take on a slightly salty or sweet flavor, depending on the variety and age of the kale.

How to Choose the Best Kale for the Best Taste

When you are shopping for kale, look for bright green leaves with no wilting or browning. The kale should be crisp and not limp. Avoid any kale that has yellow or white spots – this is a sign of age.

If this is your first time to try kale, you may want to start with the Russian variety or with baby kale. These will have a milder flavor.

If you love other bitter greens, such as collard greens, turnip greens, or even mature spinach, you may love the more bitter varieties and the more mature kale. Mature curly kale tastes like bitter greens more than the milder young Russian kale.

Close-up of Chick-Fil-A kale salad with a fork to help readers understand what does kale taste like

Best Ways to Prepare Kale for Different Flavors

You can eat kale raw, cooked by itself, or added to many mixed dishes. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Added to a salad – Add chopped raw kale to any salad or make this delicious Chick-Fil-A Kale Salad recipe.
  • Blended into a smoothie – Add a handful of raw kale to any smoothie to boost its nutritional value. Or you can be extra adventurous to make a green smoothie primarily of kale.
  • Sauteed as a side dish – Simply saute kale with extra-virgin olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper for a deliciously healthy side dish.
  • Cooked into soups – Add chopped kale to many soups to boost their nutrition and flavor. Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana soup is made with kale!
  • Baked as kale chips – Bake fresh kale pieces until crispy and get creative with your seasonings.
  • Added to a stir-fry – Add kale to any stir-fry. Curly kale holds its shape especially well for a stir-fry.
  • Added to pasta – Add chopped kale to any pasta dish for a nutrient-rich, colorful, and tasty meal.

Benefits of Kale for Mental Health

Kale is not only good for your physical health, but it can also benefit your mental health. Kale is a good source of folate, vitamin C, and vitamin A, which are nutrients that help the brain function properly.

In addition, kale is a good source of phytonutrient antioxidants, which can protect your brain from damage caused by free radicals and decrease inflammation in your body.

Kale also contains prebiotics that “feed” the good bacteria in the gut. Having a healthy microbiota affects mental health through the gut-brain axis.

A bowl of gnocchi with kale and walnuts and a fork

Kale Tips & FAQ

Should I remove the stems of the kale?

The stems of kale are edible and are a good source of fiber. However, if you find the stems to be too tough or bitter, you can remove them before cooking or eating the kale.

Should I massage the kale leaves?

Massaging the kale leaves with olive oil or lemon juice before cooking will soften the leaves and make them more palatable.

Does kale taste like spinach?

Kale and spinach are in the same family, but they have different flavors. Kale can be more bitter than spinach. However, the flavor of kale can vary depending on the variety (curly, Russian, dinosaur, etc.) and age of the kale. Young Russian kale will taste the most like spinach.

What do kale chips taste like?

Kale chips are usually baked and seasoned with salt, pepper, and other seasonings. Kale chips can have a slightly salty or sweet flavor, depending on the seasonings used. The taste of kale chips might surprise you. Give them a try!

What does kale in smoothie taste like?

When kale is blended into a smoothie, it will take on the flavor of the other ingredients in the smoothie. You may not be able to taste the kale at all.

Kale is a versatile vegetable that is packed with nutrients. We hope this blog post has helped you understand what kale tastes like and how to best enjoy it!

If you try kale for the first time, let me know what you think of the taste of kale in the comments. And sign up for my email newsletter below to get recipes for kale and other foods good for your mental health and to receive a free graphic e-book.

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