Recipes that use kale as the secret ingredient

Kale is one of those trendy leafy greens that's been in the spotlight for some years now. It has managed to remain popular among health food nuts as well as regular folk like me because it truly is nutritious, delicious, and versatile to cook with. Low in calories, rich in iron, and full of antioxidants, kale is glorious and can do no wrong. From salads to chips to sides, kale is an easy choice for a variety of preparations. Less known about kale is its ability to hide in a bunch of unexpected dishes, lending them tons of nutritional benefits without overstepping any taste and flavor boundaries. Kale has the wonderful ability to hide in a chocolate cake as well as it lends desirable texture to meatloaf. Here are some recipes that use kale as a secret ingredient to magnificent effects.

Cake

If you've never enjoyed the unexpected bliss that comes with eating lush cake made with kale, you're in for lovely treat. While you might not think of the fibrous leafy greens as essential to dessert dishes, kale has the unique ability to lend cakes a feel-good dose of nutrients without sacrificing taste or flavor. When you eat cake as much as I do, the situation can only be sustained by creative measures like incorporating veggie servings into the recipes…. Since you can't even tell there's kale in the cake, all you get is moist, tender, cakey flavor. This win-win situation is downright cause for celebration. If you remain unconvinced, here are a few recipes to help get you on board.

This brilliant recipe from Reformation Acres manages to squeeze three whole cups of kale into a picture-perfect, scrumptious chocolate cake complete with smooth and creamy chocolate frosting.

Check out this green-forward recipe from Allergen Free Recipes to make adorable dark chocolate cupcakes infused with a healthy dose of kale and spinach. Naturally vegan and totally drool-worthy, you probably want to make these.

Want to try a non-chocolate kale cake? This recipe from Veggie Desserts makes a stunning green cake that's as moist as can be. The lush kale and apple cake gets its finishing touch from a beautiful creamy apple frosting.

Pesto

While pesto is a bright green Italian sauce that is most traditionally made using basil leaves along with garlic, pine nuts, and Parmigiano cheese, that doesn't mean you have follow all the rules, all the time. Swap in kale for basil for a big dose of fibrous goodness plus you still get that brilliant green hue. With kale as the main component of the sauce, you get to treat your body to loads of folate and Omega-3s. A guilt-free pesto that you can put on just about everything is what I would consider a culinary miracle. Whether you coat your pasta with kale pesto, eat it by the spoonful, or slather it on sandwich bread, you won't regret changing up your pesto game once in awhile. Here are three delicious recipes to get you going.

This recipe from Epicurious makes an incredibly savory, nutty, and nutritious pesto by using kale with basil for a doubly green effect. Toasted walnuts lend tons of earthy, nutty, flavor, too.

Cookie and Kate's recipe for super kale pesto incorporates loads of superfood goodness. Think kale, hemp seeds, and flaxseed oil. Imagine this blended greatness with your favorite pasta dish.

Got five minutes? Then you have time to make this satisfying kale pesto from Pinch of Yum. A bunch of kale leaves, raw almonds, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil are all it takes to make some green magic.

Brownies

Like cake made with kale, brownies made with kale probably seems dubious if you haven't tried doing it. That said, incorporating the on-trend greens into your desserts simply means you can enjoy more sweets and feel better about yourself in the process. With my unabashed sweet tooth, I love that there are fun and creative ways to infuse my desserts with healthy doses of vegetables. Chocolate is incredibly rich and bold, which makes it the perfect ingredient to pair with sneaky kale when you don't necessarily want the veggie flavor to overpower the chocolate one. If you're curious about kale brownies, please try making some and taste for yourself. Let these clever recipes guide you.

This recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie is a good starter one for kale brownies. It's easy, streamlined, and completely winning where flavor is concerned. Get your chocolate on.

For rich, buttery brownies, try this recipe from Discover Kale. It makes a chocolatey batch that's decidedly decadent and you'll never even realize there's kale inside.

This recipe from Fabulous Foods presents you with one fab way to eat your veggies. Kale in combined with both cocoa powder and chocolate chips, resulting in rich double chocolate squares.

Smoothies

While you might know that veggie smoothies are good for you, you might not realize they can be quite tasty, too. Kale smoothies don't have to taste bitter or overpowering in order to give you the nutrients your body craves. In fact, as a secret ingredient, kale manages to blend in—pun intended—beautifully with whatever other ingredients you choose to balance out its flavors with. As such, you have tons of flexibility in adapting kale smoothies to fit your particular palate. Whether you add sweet berries, tart citruses, or natural sweeteners, you'll find out quickly enough how darn adaptable these leafy greens can be when it comes to the world of brilliantly delicious smoothies. Here are a few of my favorite kale smoothie recipes to help give you some ideas.

This recipe from Damn Delicious is essentially a vibrant berry smoothie with kale incorporated for just the right amount nutrients. It's healthy, sweet, and protein-packed, and perfect for breakfast.

If you don't want a smoothie that looks green like kale but you want to get some kale in diet, this recipe from Minimalist Baker is the one for you. The greens are there but you never even taste them!

This recipe from The Blender Girl is kind of amazing. Made with kale, dates, cashews, and bananas, this smoothie actually tastes like the richest, creamiest, most decadent ice cream ever.

Cookies

As you probably realize by now, I am fully on board with recipes that incorporate kale into desserts. Why is it so fun to sneak greens into sweets? Well, for one thing, you can't taste them. Then there are the added bonuses of providing nutrients and discovering the unexpected. With a handful of kale, you can turn a standard batch of chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies into treats that are almost as nourishing as they are devourable. If you have kids, you might find it pretty satisfying to get them to eat their vegetables without them ever suspecting! Pick up a couple bunches of kale from the store the next time you do a run and experiment with these charming cookie recipes for some good, plain baking fun.

This recipe from The Colorful Kitchen makes a delectable batch of vegan kale and oatmeal cookies you can feel great about eating and sharing with the people you love. Sweet and hearty, they're splendid as an afternoon snack.

For a more adventurous take on kale cookies, try this recipe from Cookies to Kale. Chewy, warmly spiced, and a little chocolaty, these cookies have lovely green speckles of kale throughout.

This recipe from Food Network results in a batch of charmingly thin kale cookies infused with refreshing mint flavor. A chocolate glaze on top doesn't hurt.

Oatmeal

I love having oatmeal in the morning, but only recently have I started to prepare savory bowls of oatmeal for breakfast. As a change, they are wonderful. Moreover, they manage to be ridiculously satisfying and keep me going for hours. While this popular veggie might not be the first thing you think of when you imagine your morning bowl of oatmeal, I urge you to give it a chance. Whether you steam it, saute it, or massage it in olive oil, kale makes a surprisingly delicious pairing for hearty oats. Try these recipes to test out my new obsession.

This recipe from Naturally Ella make savory oatmeal topped with unapologetically garlicky kale and egg for added protein. Make this, eat this, keep your energy levels up for hours.

This recipe from Jackie Newgent makes a hearty bowl of savory oatmeal that you easily adapt if you like. Kale and cremini mushrooms lend it tons of nutrients, while tamari gives the entire bowl irresistible umami flavor.

Whole Foods' recipe for creamy oats with kale is a lush take on savory oatmeal and I'm all for it. The smooth texture of the oats contrasts nicely with the crispy kale leaves, resulting in oatmeal unlike any other you've had before.

Granola

Kale granola? Yes! If you love eating kale chips as a snack and you're a fan of crunchy granola, you'll be as obsessed with this superfood mashup as I am. Full of textural intrigue, earthy flavor, and crunch, clusters of kale granola are the ideal healthy snack for any time of day. Infinitely adaptable, you can mix and match ingredients you love with kale to get just the right amount of sweetness, saltiness, and depth. Baked until golden as you would with standard granola, kale granola makes it easy to get in healthy quantities of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Make a big batch and have enough for every day of the week. Try these recipes, fiddle with them, make your own delicious versions.

This recipe from One Ingredient Chef is one I love for its big crunchy clusters. Dates, nuts, and shredded coconut join kale to lend the pieces so much good flavor and crunchy sweet-savory bite.

This recipe from Nutritional Wisdom makes a batch of granola that's looser and more suited for eating as cereal. Chock full of nuts, dried fruit, and kale, this granola is a great everyday staple.

Want to make your own version of kale granola? I like to start with this recipe from Betsy's Best since it's designed to be adapted. Keep the kale in your experiments but feel free to change up any of the nuts, fruits, or sweeteners suggested.

Lasagna

Make a lighter, healthier lasagna by adding kale. Whether you're in charge of Meatless Monday or just want to eat a less omnivorous version of traditional lasagna, kale is a terrific ingredient to use for adding substance and heartiness to the pasta favorite. Chopped kale leaves add a layer of textural bite while adding nutritional value to a dish that's normally high in carbs, fatty meat, and dairy content. Mix kale with other vegetables for a more robust vegetarian lasagna or keep it simple and green. Even adding kale to a lasagna recipe with meat helps to incorporate plenty of vitamins and minerals. Try out these recipes to see which ones work for you.

This recipe from Food Network combines kale with meaty portobello mushrooms in a lasagna the entire family can love. It's comfort food as its best and no one will even miss the meat.

For bold, spicy flavors, try this recipe from Annie Eats. Made with loads of kale, three kinds of cheeses, and zesty tomato sauce, you might just end up making this dish every week.

This creamy white lasagna from Meatless Monday brings together kale, spinach, and artichoke hearts for a green pasta dish that promises to be a crowd pleaser.

Meatloaf

I love a good humble meatloaf when my heart and belly ache for comfort food. That said, sometimes I feel like the meal isn't balanced enough for an adult to eat on the reg. As such, I like the idea of incorporating kale into a meatloaf as a way to eat more veggies while eating helpings of red meat. As far as veggies go, a leafy green like kale is rather unobtrusive in a hearty dish like meatloaf, making it the ideal secret ingredient. By making kale meatloaf you're basically enjoying a meat main course and a veggie side dish all together and at once. These recipes are rustic and easy. Do yourself a favor and try them out.

This recipe from Delish Plan makes turns a kale salad and a classic meatloaf into a kale meatloaf. Oh, yes, please.

This recipe from My Utensil Crock is super kid-friendly and grownups love it, too. Made with kale, beef, and cheddar cheese, it's kind of the best of all the worlds.

Crispy kale lends a traditional meatloaf lots of layers and levity in this recipe from Ditty's Sunday Suppers. If you like texture, you'll be all in with this dish.

Pizza (crust)

Pizza is universally delicious, but it always feel like a childish indulgence. Carby, cheesy, and simple, it makes everyone happy, yet you might wonder whether it's a healthy enough meal for a random Tuesday night. When you make the crust out of kale, you can actually feel pretty good about eating pizza whenever your heart desires. Like cauliflower crust, kale crust is a wonderfully nutritious way to incorporate some healthy nutrients into an otherwise carby food. If you've never prepared kale crust, you'll enjoy reading these recipes and experimenting. The results are quite amazing.

This kale crust recipe from Sweet as Honey is naturally low-carb and it tastes like a really yummy thin crust pizza that happens to be a brilliant green color.

This recipe from Farm Fresh Feasts combines bread flour with kale for a crust that's closer to what you're accustomed to, but still loaded with green nutrients and much less carbs.

And if you're ready to take your love affair with kale pizza crust to the next level, try this recipe from Perry's Plate. With kale as the main ingredient, the crust bakes up like a big crispy salad on top of which you layer your sauce and toppings.

I bet you didn't realize you could cook and bake kale into so many dishes you adore. Pretty cool, huh?

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