Sauteed kale with butter and garlic is wonderful as a side dish, or you can top it with a couple of fried eggs for a quick, filling lunch.
Ready in just 20 minutes, this easy weeknight side dish pairs well with most meat, poultry, and fish dishes.
Kale can be challenging. Unlike tender spinach leaves, which can taste great - almost sweet - kale has a coarse texture and a slightly bitter flavor. It really does need a little help to make it more palatable.
This recipe is most definitely an excellent way to do that! The kale is cooked in garlic-infused butter until just tender, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and a splash of lemon juice. It's very easy and oh so tasty!
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make sauteed kale. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Butter: It greatly enhances the flavor of the kale and helps mask its bitterness. You can also use olive oil if you wish, but I really think it tastes best when cooked in butter.
- Minced garlic: Mince it yourself, or use the stuff that comes in a jar. Mincing it yourself is fresher and tastier.
- Chopped kale: You can chop it yourself, or do the lazy thing and get it bagged and pre-washed.
- Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should probably reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
- Fresh lemon juice: You can also use a bit of vinegar instead - red wine vinegar is good, and so is white wine vinegar.
Quickly sauteing kale in butter and garlic is one of the best ways of preparing this vegetable. It's very tasty, and it keeps the kale fresh and bright green. Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
- You start by briefly cooking garlic in some butter. You want it golden but not burnt, so keep an eye on it.
- Next, add the kale. You'll need to add it gradually, in a few batches, as shown in the video below.
- Cook the kale until it just starts to wilt. Then add salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Stir and serve.
Make sure to avoid overcooking the kale. You want it to still have some "bite," just like al-dente pasta. You don't want it mushy and limp.
Frequently asked questions
I find that cooking it in generous amounts of butter, garlic, and salt greatly reduces its natural bitterness. The butter slightly caramelizes as it cooks and this imparts a sweet flavor to the dish.
Not exactly. Both are green leafy vegetables, but kale comes from the brassica family (like broccoli) while spinach comes from the beet family of plants. Kale is coarser and has more bitterness to it, while spinach is milder.
I enjoy kale when I add flavorful ingredients such as olive oil, butter, bacon, or cheese. So sauteing it in butter as we do here is great, but I also like to make it into fritters. Kale chips are truly great - they're probably my favorite way to enjoy this leafy vegetable.
Here are a few ideas for you for varying the basic recipe:
- As mentioned above, you can use olive oil instead of butter.
- Use red wine vinegar instead of lemon juice.
- When the dish is done, off the heat, sprinkle it with grated parmesan.
- Sprinkle the finished dish with cooked crumbled bacon.
Sauteed kale makes a wonderful side dish for any meat or fish entree. I often serve it with one of the following entrees:
- Baked pork chops
- London broil
- Braised boneless short ribs
- Slow cooker beef ribs
- Baked salmon
- Baked cod
- Baked scallops
Sometimes I just top this dish with a couple of fried eggs or some fluffy scrambled eggs and call it lunch - it's quick, tasty, and very filling.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in a sealed container, for 3-4 days. They keep pretty well, although they won't be as good as when freshly made. Reheat the leftovers gently, covered, in the microwave on 50% power.
Buttery Sauteed Kale
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 8 oz kale leaves
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Heat the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, for about 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook it for 30 seconds.
- Add the kale in batches, as shown in the video below.
- Stir-fry until the kale is tender and slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the salt, black pepper, and lemon juice.
- Serve immediately.