The 12 Best Kale Recipes

Much like broccoli or Brussels sprouts, kale used to get a bad rap. If you'd been offered a kale salad 12 years ago, you likely would've said something like, "What in the dinosaur food is that?" But just a year later, kale was the four-letter word on everyone's lips (and later, Beyonce's sweatshirt). That's all thanks to a 2013 guerrilla marketing scheme orchestrated by Oberon Sinclair, CEO of boutique public relations agency My Young Auntie. Sinclair took kale from Pizza Hut garnish to PR miracle by positioning the superfood where people with cultural influence could see it — and she did it all for the love of kale.

Loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, kale has proven to be beneficial in keeping an array of unsavory medical conditions at bay. While its stellar reputation as a health food should be enough to convince people to eat more of it, let's be real: It has to taste good, too.

Now, we're acquainted with kale well enough to know that there are loads of delicious ways to enjoy it. At the risk of sounding like a Dr. Seuss book, you can eat it raw, steamed, baked, sautéed, or fried — in soups, stews, salads, and pasta dishes — as a side dish, a snack, or the main course! With so many methods to choose from, here are the 12 kale recipes we think are the best of the best.

1. Cheesy Kale Chips

With just olive oil, nutritional yeast, steak seasoning, and 8 minutes in the oven, you can turn what's basically leaves into the perfect late-night snack. There are upward of 150 types of kale out there, and you can use just about any of them for our take on cheesy kale chips. No matter which variety you choose, the sentiment remains the same: The drier the kale, the crispier the chip. That said, a salad spinner or tissue paper works best to thoroughly dry kale after washing. 

Recipe: Cheesy Kale Chips

2. Sweet Kale Salad

This elevated slaw-style salad with bursts of fruity flavor is the perfect addition to a backyard barbecue. But because it's made with just about every ingredient in your pantry, we're here to remind you there's no shame in making substitutions! If you don't have pumpkin seeds, don't fret — sunflower seeds, pine nuts, or slivered almonds can also work. No cranberries? Dried cherries, blueberries, or apricots can add a pop of sweetness. Additions are also welcome. For this recipe, we love an avocado or grilled chicken topper.

Recipe: Sweet Kale Salad

3. White Bean and Kale Soup

Imbued with the earthy flavors of Tuscany, white bean and kale soup is one of those vegan dishes that can convince even the most hardcore carnivore to put down the steak knife for an evening. And the secret to its unparalleled creaminess? Removing a portion of the mostly-cooked soup, puréeing it in the blender, and adding it back to the pot. Call it insouption. Call it using the released starches as a thickening agent. It's your kitchen — call it whatever you want!

Recipe: White Bean and Kale Soup

4. Air Fryer Kale Chips

If you thought oven-baked kale chips were easy, wait until you try air fryer kale chips. Made with just kale, olive oil, salt, and pepper, this stripped-down version is the epitome of simple pleasures. While it's the work of the air fryer to get those bad boys next-level crispy, it can't work its magic if the kale is piled in all willy-nilly. Plan on making a few batches so the leaves can lay flat in the air fryer basket without overlapping.

Recipe: Air Fryer Kale Chips

5. Sheet-Pan Chicken and Kale

When you're looking for a hearty meal that doesn't require much cleanup, it doesn't get better than sheet-pan chicken and kale. Made with baby potatoes, slices of red bell pepper, and kale arranged around chicken thighs, it's a dish as beautiful as it is tasty. For chicken that's tender and juicy on the inside but perfectly crispy on the outside, try using skin-on chicken thighs. If thighs aren't your jam (we'll try not to judge), drumsticks or breasts are an easy substitution. 

Recipe: Sheet-Pan Chicken and Kale 

6. Kale and Sweet Potato Hash

If you've been meaning to host the baddest brunch in town, but the thought of all of those dishes is holding you back, then this kale and sweet potato hash is the recipe you've been waiting for. Not only is it sweet and savory with sexy eye-appeal, but the entire dish can be made and served in a single skillet. The addition of roasted corn, black beans, or salsa verde can help punch up the dish's subtly smokey Southwestern flavors.

Recipe: Kale and Sweet Potato Hash

7. Kale Salad With Pears and Maple Pecans

It's not as easy to fall in love with a salad the way we get hung up on a particular kind of cookie or a favorite flavor of chips — unless, of course, it's this kale salad with pears and maple pecans. We don't have to tell you that a dish with goat cheese, pear, and red onion is delicious (seriously, what a combo). However, it's the homemade candied pecans and perfectly balanced dressing — made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, and Italian seasoning — that sets this recipe apart.

Recipe: Kale Salad With Pears and Maple Pecans

8. 5-Ingredient Kale and White Bean Gnocchi

Italian cooking is centered around the use of simple techniques that allow the ingredients to shine. This hearty kale and white bean gnocchi is a prime example of that philosophy. With just five ingredients and one pot, it couldn't be easier to make. If you get your kale pre-chopped, you won't even need to flex your knife skills. While the recipe calls for cauliflower gnocchi, go on and swap it out for potato gnocchi if you're itching for something a little starchier.

Recipe: 5-Ingredient Kale and White Bean Gnocchi

9. Kielbasa Stew

If you think a pot of stew with Polish sausage, orzo, beef broth, and Parmesan cheese rind sounds like just the kind of place a vegetable like kale would avoid, then you don't know kale at all. The perfect addition to kielbasa stew, kale lends its texture and earthy flavor to the dish. But if you plan on having leftovers, make sure to store the extra stew sans orzo and kale in order to avoid a mushy mess. That shouldn't be too difficult, though, as both are added at the final stage of the cooking process.

Recipe: Kielbasa Stew

10. Beef and Butternut Squash Skillet

This beef and butternut squash skillet is like an adult-ified Hamburger Helper — except instead of macaroni, it's sweet potatoes, and rather than cheese sauce, it's soy sauce and tomato paste. There's also red bell pepper and plenty of kale, because nothing feels more grown-up then getting your veggies in. You might also try this dish with ground chicken, turkey, or lamb if you're feeling adventurous. For a plant-based option, the beef-less butternut squash skillet is spectacular poured over a tofu scramble.

Recipe: Beef and Butternut Squash Skillet

11. Copycat Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana Recipe

Olive Garden may consider you family when you're there, but sometimes it feels better to stay home with your own family and whip up a copycat of its zuppa Toscana instead. While it combines the powerful flavors of spicy Italian sausage, heavy cream, and bacon, somehow, the tender curly kale still takes center stage in this hearty Italian soup. Just don't forget to add the secret ingredient at the end ... shhh, it's apple cider vinegar! (If you want the full OG experience, you might also try our copycat Olive Garden Breadstick recipe.)

Recipe: Copycat Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

12. Easy Chicken Pesto Soup

When you're looking for a light and freshly-flavored meal, nothing beats easy chicken pesto soup. While the supple shredded chicken absorbs all of that herbaceous and nutty flavor, the holy trinity of vegetables and a heaping handful of chopped kale provide the dish with a tender yet toothsome texture. Pour it over rice, dunk some bread in it, or if you've got some extra kale on hand, throw together a sweet kale salad for the perfect soup and salad combo — heavy on the kale!

Recipe: Easy Chicken Pesto Soup