Kale is one of my favourite vegetables. While it’s easy to find in the cooler months at farmers markets and good green grocers / veggie shops, it can be a bit tricky to track down in Summer. If you’re struggling to find this delicious green, here are my favourite kale substitutes…
What is Kale?
It’s leafy green vegetable that’s part of the brassica family which includes broccoli and cauliflower. Like all good brassicas it’s packed with vitamins and fibre.
It can be eaten cooked or raw. Although the latter does require some chewing!
There are three main varieties:
1. Curly Green Kale
2. Curly Purple Kale
3. Tuscan Kale (pictured above).
(It’s also called Cavolo Nero, Lacitano Kale or Dinosaur Kale)
The Best Kale Substitutes
(in order of preference)
1. Collard Greens
In terms of flavour and texture collard greens are the closest match to kale and can be used interchangeably.
2. English Spinach
The most common green, English spinach or spinach has a more green ‘spinachy’ flavour than kale. And the leaves are much more soft and delicate. However if you just want to add some cooked greens to a dish, spinach including defrosted frozen spinach is a good kale substitute.
Spinach isn’t great eaten raw though so don’t use it in recipes where the kale is uncooked.
3. Baby Spinach Leaves
If your recipes calls for raw kale or baby kale leaves, baby spinach is your best bet. The thing to note is baby spinach is more delicate so you won’t need to massage and probably won’t need as much dressing.
4. Swiss Chard / Rainbow Chard (Silverbeet)
Similar to English Spinach the chard family is great in cooked kale recipes. The stems of chard are larger and stronger in flavour than kale stems so you may like to compost the stems or use for another dish. Or cook the stems separately – expect them to take longer than kale to soften.
Unless your chard is super young and tender, it will be too bitter to eat raw.
5. Mustard Greens
While these have a strong hot mustardy flavour when raw, once cooked they taste a lot like kale. Texturally similar too. And packed with nutrition!
Young mustard greens can be lovely raw if you like a little heat.
6. Chinese Broccoli
While the stems are much thicker and the leaves are smaller, Chinese broccoli does taste similar to kale. Not a good choice for raw kale dishes due to the thick stems.
7. Broccoli Raab / Sprouting Broccoli
Not as leafy as kale, however a good kale substitute for cooked dishes that include the stems.
8. Turnip / Kohlrabi Tops
Slightly different in flavour to kale, these green tops of fellow members of the brassica family can be used instead of kale. If the leaves are young and tender they can be used raw like kale leaves.
How to Prepare Kale
To use raw
Wash, dry and tear kale leaves into bite sized pieces. Either compost the stems or save them for another use.
You can also finely slice / shred the raw leaves with or without the stems. If you leave the stems in you’ll be in for a lot of chewing!
I like to toss the leaves in a little salt and lemon juice and allow them to soften for 30 minutes or so before dressing and serving raw. Or sometimes I toss in a salad dressing and let it stand for a least 10 minutes and preferably up to 30 minutes.
If you’re short on time, massaging the kale with your hands can help speed up the softening process. Seriously it’s a thing.
Rinse with cold water but no need to dry. As per raw kale, you can either tear the leaves or slice (with or without the stems).
Slicing is quickest but if I have time my preferred method is to tear the leaves and finely slice the stems.
To cook, I do the stems first in a little oil and a few tablespoons water in a covered pan for 10 minutes or until softened. Finally I add the leaves and cook for another 5 minutes or until wilted and tender.
Either way be generous with the salt because it masks the bitterness often associated with kale.
Favourite Kale Recipes
- Chorizo with Kale
- Salted Kale with Green Tahini
- Lime & Tahini Kale Salad
- Killer Kale Gratin
- Crisp Kale with Quinoa & Ricotta
- Kale Pizza
- Rosemary & Garlic Kale
- Kale ‘Cabonara’
- 9 Clever Recipe Ideas for Kale
- The Kale Archives
Delicious Kale Flavour Pairings
- Kale & Bacon
- Kale & Chorizo
- Kale & Goats Cheese
- Kale & Lemon
- Kale & Garlic
- Kale & Olives
Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.
Have fun in the kitchen!