Freezing kale opens the door to quick green smoothies and tasty side dishes. Learn how to preserve this nutrient-packed green.
Can you freeze kale? The answer is a resounding yes. Preserving this iron-rich super food is one of the simpler projects you’ll undertake in your kitchen. Kale is a cinch to grow in vegetable or flower beds, so you can also easily raise your own for freezing. Stop asking yourself, “Can I freeze kale?”—and get started.
Grow your own kale, or purchase locally grown bunches at a farmers’ market. Wash kale to remove dirt and debris. It’s a good idea to separate leaves, since dirt tends to collect between the bases of leaves. Kale may have aphids, caterpillars, beetles, or other critters hiding beneath or between leaves. Dunking leaves in water should dislodge any hitchhikers, but you can also soak leaves in a vinegar solution. Use 1 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water, and soak leaves for 20 to 30 minutes.
After soaking, rinse leaves. Kale stems can be fibrous, similar to a broccoli stem. You can freeze stems, which make a nice addition to soups and stir fries, but plan to do so separately from the leaves. To remove leaf blades from stems, fold leaves in half and tear or cut the central stem away. Roughly tear or chop leaves.
You can freeze kale without blanching, but plan to use it within four to six weeks. Unblanched kale may develop a bitter flavor because you haven’t stopped the action of the naturally-occurring ripening enzymes in the leaves. Unblanched kale leaves work well in stews and homemade soups, where any bitterness is likely to be overpowered by other flavors. But for serving kale as a stand-alone side dish, sample frozen unblanched leaves before freezing a large batch.
For frozen kale that lasts eight to 12 months, blanch leaves and stems. Blanch leaves for 2.5 minutes, covering the boiling water pot with a lid to steam-heat floating leaves. Blanch stems for 3 minutes. Place leaves and stems in ice water for the same amount of time. Use a strainer to fish leaves from both boiling and ice water.
Dry leaves by placing them on a towel. Fill the towel with leaves, then roll it up and squeeze to remove excess water. Quick-freeze small clumps of kale individually on a cookie sheet. After they’re frozen, place clumps into freezer bags in bulk. Remove as much air as possible from bags before sealing. When you freeze kale like this, you can grab a handful for a smoothie, or pour out more to create a side dish.
If you don’t want to quick-freeze kale, simply place blanched and dried kale into individual packages prior to freezing. Choose the right size freezer bag to suit your serving-size portion. Always remove as much air as possible before sealing bags. A vacuum sealer system works well with kale. Avoid over-packing bags. Flatten bags before sealing to create kale portions that thaw quickly.
Use frozen kale in smoothies for a healthy kick, or saute with seasoned rice vinegar. For a spicier dish, saute kale in olive oil with garlic. Before serving, top with crushed red pepper. Frozen kale blends well into quiche, crock pot stews, and soups. You can also cream it for a special treat or use it to create nutritious pesto.