Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Ginger

Hearty Red Kale
Hearty Red Chard

From green kale to red kale, from collard greens to beet greens, there is a tremendous assortment of hearty leafy greens in the late season that are perfect for cooking with the flavors of your main dish.  All of these greens sauté quickly and are easy to reheat — making them something you can do just about anywhere during your meal prep process.

Plus there is plenty of chatter about the health benefits of kale – it’s a superfood, it’s the “new beef”, the best green ever.  These expressions are getting applied to most every cruciferous vegetable because of their nutrient density and the amount of fiber they contain.  But I’m not here to give nutritional advice, so let’s get back to how to cook kale….

Quick note: the image is actually of red chard….even though the post is about kale.  That was my mistake when first posting.  Though the cooking method applies to just about any hearty green.

Cooking with Greens

The simplest way to cook red kale is with a little bit of garlic and lemon juice.  However, for this dish I wanted to give them a bit more flavor and match them to both 1) the wine I was serving and 2) the crusted tilapia that I’d be cooking.  Cooking greens like this in a really wide pan, or wok, is key here since you’ll be stirring the greens frequently and they love to hop out of a pan.  By planning to use the same pan to cook the fish, cleanup is easier and even more flavor can be transferred.

Sautéed Red Kale
Sautéed Kale

If you haven’t sautéed greens before, you’ll quickly learn that they shrink in size nearly the same way as a balloon when it is deflated.  Most greens will be about 75% of their starting size.  The standard bunch of greens that most markets sell with 5-7 large leafy stalks usually serves 2 people once trimmed, prepped and cooked.  The recipe below assumes two bunches and serves 4 people.

Something else to watch out for is having the greens stick to the bottom of your pan, which some recipes call for using a small amount of oil on the pan to prevent this.  I’m not a big fan of that method as wet greens, hot oil and quick stirring can be dangerous due to the splattering, popping and sizzling caused  by water & oil.  My preferred method is to add small amounts of diluted stock to the pan to cause the steam needed to soften the greens and simultaneously add flavor.  While stock is always Low Sodium (see my Recipe Assumptions), I go one step further and dilute it so that it doesn’t reduce down to a salt lick.

Finally, add your flavors at the end.  Be it fresh garlic or herbs.  Cooking them first only mutes their impact.  If you add the garlic and ginger here just before you’re done, you’ll get maximum flavor

The picture above shows the Red Kale served with Almond Crusted Tilapia and a Wheat Berry Salad.

Red Kale with Garlic and Ginger Recipe

First batch of kale going in the pan
First batch of kale going in the pan


  • 2 bunches of hearty Red Kale, rinsed thoroughly and torn into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 cup flavorful stock
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari (or low sodium soy sauce).  Mix this into the stock to give it a little umami meatiness and match the garlic/ginger


  1. Over medium high heat, add small handfuls of the greens into the pan and begin stirring them
  2. As the steam subsides from the first batch, add a small amount of stock to keep the greens moist.  Continue adding as necessary while the greens cook
  3. After 5-7 minutes, the greens should be fully wilted.  Add in the garlic and ginger, stirring well, reduce the heat to medium
  4. You should only need 2-3 minutes more to integrate the flavors and finish cooking


Adding a little stock to keep the red kale moist
Adding a little stock to keep the red kale moist


Fully cooked with garlic and ginger added
Fully cooked with garlic and ginger added

Also Featured on Refinery29: 7 Yummy Kale Recipes


  1. Your pictures of red kale look more like red chard. I once confused the red kale that I got in my CSA for kohlrabi greens and mistakenly threw them out since they were wilted. I've been enjoying red kale in my green juices and salads. Your simple recipe is often the best way to quickly cook & enjoy greens.

  2. You know, you're actually right. When I first posted the article, I mistakenly called it kale, but it actually is red chard….

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