Your Burning Questions

How to Use Kale Stems

by • April 19, 2014 26 Comments

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There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: We love kale's leaves, but its tough stems stump us. In honor of Earth Day, we're about to change that.

We love kale, and that's no secret. We have no problem eating its leaves in bulk -- in salads, soups, pilaf, beans, at breakfast -- really, pretty much everywhere except dessert. (And even that's not totally off the table. We like parsley in cake, so you never know...)

But when dinner's over, kale's stems still stump us. Where its bitter leaves will relax for a raw salad, its tough stalks don't let down their walls -- deep-tissue massages and mood lighting are no use. In honor of Earth Day, we're about to change that. Felicia M asked for ways to use kale stems beyond the compost pile, and the community was full of ideas:

  • Naomi cooks them fresh: "I cut them into small pieces, sauté them first (they take longer to cook), then add the cut-up leaves, and then some freshly grated nutmeg, minced fresh garlic, salt, and pepper at the end. Can't be better (or any easier)."
  • Break out the canning jars and try your hand at preserving, like claire miller, who pickles them or breaks them down in a food processor to ferment, kimchi-style.
  • Several of you suggested the classic scrap treatment: a good simmer in the stockpot. Says Eliz.: "We're told that members of the brassica family are too assertive for such use...but kale does not overpower." First We Eat agrees, but suggests adding other vegetables to balance the flavor.
  • Try blending them into your juice and smoothies, like lisina does. The fibrous stems are best paired with creamier add-ins -- think banana, avocado, or yogurt.
  • ChefJune and magpiebaker both wondered about the possibility of prepping them as one might prep chard stems -- braising or dredging and frying à la The Zuni Café Cookbook. The jury's out on this one -- others note that kale's stems are tougher than chard's -- but it may be worth a shot for the experimenters among you. (If you try something great, let us know!)

How do you use tough vegetable stems? Tell us in the comments!

Tags: how-to & diy, hotline, best question, kale stems, recycling, stock

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Comments (26)

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17 days ago Francis

KISS is my way of enjoying the stems of kale.
Cut into small pieces add to pan with garlic, cumin and ginger BEFORE scrambling eggs.
Add pieces to soups BEFORE the water boils
And last but far from least, toast a piece of flat bread and add pan warmed stems with guacamole spread, cut flat bred into bite size pieces and enjoy as you read a book a REAL BOOK

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4 months ago Shawn McDonald

dice them and add them to any long simmered veg soup.

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5 months ago Eva Bee

My friend from Ethiopia slow cooks them in a saucepan with minced ginger, sliced onions and garlic. They're delicious and tender.

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9 months ago Nancy

Finely sliced, blanched, frozen, then tossed into minestrone to simmer with other vegetables.

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10 months ago Kitty

I've run the chopped stems through my food processor and added a cup or more of the resulting fine mince to a banana quick bread recipe. they are a lovely green when you cut into or break open a muffin but I don't find there is a lot of difference in the taste of the breads and it adds great fiber.
My daughter loves these muffins, but won't eat kale served as a vegetable.

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10 months ago Alex Bonilla

Bake them the same way you would do with Asparagus. They have the same texture as the bottoms of asparagus but juicer.

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10 months ago Judith Fine-Sarchielli

Make a kale and garbanzo bean soup with them and blend or leave chopped.

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11 months ago Elizabeth

ditto great idea Sharon
from now on I will do the same

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about 1 year ago Jean

Put them in green smoothies!

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about 1 year ago Sara Rollins

I munch on them raw while I'm cooking. The stems are my favorite part!

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about 1 year ago Marilyn Lisenbee

Good Idea, Sharon. I so like making my own broths.

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about 1 year ago Sharon

I save all my veggie "scraps", throw them in a bag in the freezer. When I have enough I wrap them in cheesecloth, place them in the crockpot, fill with water. A few hours later you have the most AMAZING veggie broth!!!

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about 1 year ago Literary Equivalent

I finely cut them crosswise and add them to soups or rice dishes: stir fries, risottos. Yum.

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about 1 year ago hugo rivera

Used the stems mixed with other veggies to make soup, salad or oriental disehes...

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about 1 year ago Erika

I feed them to our chickens!

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about 1 year ago Marilyn Lisenbee

I lay them across the cookie sheet then lay the Kale Chips down on them thus the chips are crispier.

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about 1 year ago Sarah Robinson

What about shredding them into a slaw with carrots and radishes and such?

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about 1 year ago sjlongin

My dog loves them! Seriously.

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about 1 year ago shw23561

Mine too! She gets really excited whenever I make kale.

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about 1 year ago Doc Trinidad

love blueberry and kale ice cream!

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about 1 year ago Jennifer Rinde

Yes, I use kale stems in my smoothies and they blend beautifully!