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I usually use kale in salad recipes (like kale salad), but this week I decided to try something different and made sauteed kale! It’s just like cooking sauteed spinach, and creates an incredibly easy and tasty side dish. And while raw kale tastes bitter to some people, cooking it in a pan with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and my “secret” ingredient tones down the bitterness and brings out a nice flavor. This easy sauteed kale recipe might just become your new favorite way to enjoy leafy greens!
Why You’ll Love This Sauteed Kale Recipe
- Buttery, lemon garlic flavors
- Tender, but not mushy
- Just 6 simple ingredients (plus salt and pepper)
- Cooks in 5 minutes
- Pairs with a variety of dishes
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for sauteed kale, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Kale – Choose fresh, vibrant curly kale with firm, deep green leaves. This sauteed kale recipe also works with a different variety of kale, such as dinosaur kale, lacinato kale (Tuscan kale), or Russian kale, but will need to adjust the cook time.
- Olive Oil – This has the best flavor for sauteing kale, but you can also use avocado oil or your preferred cooking oil.
- Garlic – I always find that using fresh minced garlic gives the best flavor, but you can take a shortcut by using 1 teaspoon of jarred minced garlic. I’ve totally done it on busy nights!
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper – Kosher salt also works fine instead of sea salt.
- Butter – My “secret” ingredient! Just a tablespoon added at the end adds a rich, smooth, buttery flavor. (This works better than sauteing the kale directly in the butter, since it burns easily.) Get grass-fed butter if you can!
- Lemon Juice – Although optional, I recommend adding a splash of lemon juice to counteract the bitterness and help break down the tough fibers. You could also use balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar for a similar effect with a different flavor.
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – Adds a subtle kick of heat! You can omit it if that’s not your thing.
How To Saute Kale
This section shows how to make sauteed kale with garlic, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Chop kale. Remove the kale stems and chop leaves into bite-sized pieces.
- Saute garlic. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant.
- Saute kale. Add the chopped kale, salt, and pepper. Saute until the kale has wilted down.
- Season. Turn off the heat. Stir in the butter, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes into the skillet, until the butter melts.
Variations On Sauteed Kale
Ready to mix things up a bit? While classic sautéed kale is delicious on its own, here are some flavorful variations I’ve made in the past that turned out amazing:
- Mushrooms – Stir in sliced mushrooms (or make sauteed mushrooms) along with the kale for an earthy flavor boost. Shiitake or cremini mushrooms make great choices.
- Bacon – Add crispy, chopped cooked bacon (or turkey bacon) before serving for a smoky, savory twist. The bacon’s richness pairs well with the greens.
- Nuts – Toss toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds into the finished dish for added crunch and nuttiness. If your nuts are raw, you can toast them in the pan for a few minutes in the beginning.
- Garlic Parmesan – After cooking kale, sprinkle with shredded or grated Parmesan cheese. This is my favorite way to change it up!
- Onions – Make caramelized onions in the pan first, then proceed with the rest of the sauteed kale recipe in the same pan.
- Store: Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Reheat: Simply warm leftover sauteed kale in a skillet over medium heat, or microwave for a quick option.
- Freeze: Store it in freezer-safe bags or containers for up to 6 months.
What To Serve With Sauteed Kale Recipes
This simple side can pair with most healthy dinner recipes, but if you can’t decide what to make, here are some ideas:
- Chicken – Enjoy with tangy BBQ chicken legs or simple grilled chicken for a light dinner.
- Pork – For a 30-minute meal, pair with air fryer pork chops or air fryer sausage. If you want to get a little fancy without a lot of effort, try stuffed pork chops.
- Beef – A juicy rump roast or tri tip roast make comforting mains for this sauteed kale recipe.
- Fish – The lemon and garlic flavors work perfectly with fish! My go-to is simple baked salmon, but flounder or halibut also pair nicely.
- Breakfast – For a brunch twist, serve alongside a fluffy omelette or in a sweet potato breakfast hash.
More Easy Kale Recipes
Looking for more ways to enjoy kale? Check out these easy kale recipes:
My Favorite Tools To Saute Kale
- Large Skillet – This cast iron retains heat well to help the kale cook perfectly. And it lasts forever!
Sauteed Kale (10 Minutes!)
Make this easy sauteed kale recipe with garlic, olive oil, lemon, and a secret ingredient for the best flavor. A quick, healthy side dish!
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Remove the kale stems and chop the kale into pieces.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds, until fragrant.
Add the kale, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the kale has wilted down. Use a spoon to mix around the kale while it sautés.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the butter, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper flakes. Continue to stir until the butter is melted.
Did You Like It?
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Serving size: 1 cup
Nutrition info does not include optional lemon juice.
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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