May 31, 2020

Were you skeptical like I was when kale first became popular? 

I initially had a hard time understanding the hype behind the vegetable—but I can assure you that’s in the past now! I love how versatile it is because I can add it to so many different recipes and it always ends up enhancing the taste with its unique flavor.

There are a number of ways you can use kale, such as for grilling, baking, braising, salt tendering, and frying. You can even eat it raw. Just throw it into a salad or use it as a side with bacon—there are hardly any chances of going wrong with this one. In fact, you can even use it as a pizza topping, in soups, as stuffing for cornbread or in a breakfast casserole. Personally, I love making kale chips.

For me, kale has really expanded my range of ingredients, but I’m also careful about how I use it. Massaging kale can make a ton of difference when using it in a recipe, especially in salads. Here’s how to massage kale using a few simple methods, and why you should opt for it too.

Why Do You Massage Kale?

Why? Because without massaging the leaves, you can’t release the sugars inside them. When you soften them, it makes them taste better and they’re also much each to munch on. 

It may seem like an unnecessary step in the preparation process, but it’s only after you’re done with the recipe and ready to eat will you realize you’ve made a huge mistake. Without softening kale, you won’t be able to chew it properly because it just won’t break down. You’ll also be left with a bitter taste in your mouth. 

How to Massage Kale?

It’s really not that hard to massage these leaves. The important thing to remember is just that you’ll have to take some time out before you begin with your recipe. 

One major mistake that people tend to make is to knead the leaves so roughly that the kale loses its shape and texture. You don’t want to massage the kale to the point of it looking like a cluster of smushed spinach. It just should be softened enough to bring out the taste in the leaves.

Method1—Traditional Massage

What you’ll need:

  1. Kale
  2. Olive oil
  3. Salt
  4. Bowl

One easy method that I prefer using is to start with taking the ribs off the kale and putting the leaves in a bowl. Basically, separate the leaves from the rib so you’re not unnecessarily kneading the ribs that you’re not going to be using in the recipe.

Next, add a few drops of olive oil on top of the leaves and sprinkle them with a little salt. 

If you’ve ever kneaded dough (and I’m sure you have), then use the same technique to knead the leaves. 

Knead for around 5 minutes at most, and your leaves will be soft enough to use.

Method 2—Skipping the Massage

What you’ll need:

  1. Kale
  2. Olive oil
  3. Lemon
  4. Bowl

For those of you who don’t like the idea of kneading your kale leaves, there’s an alternate solution. 

Like the previous method, you have to remove the ribs from the leaves and toss the kale into a bowl. 

Add olive oil and a few drops of lemon. 

Mix them around a little and then place the combination in the fridge. If you leave it in the fridge through the night, it’ll be softened by morning.

Method 3 – Another Massage

What you’ll need:

  1. Lemon juice/apple cider or vinegar
  2. Olive oil
  3. Salt

Cut up the de-ribbed leaves into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Cover them in olive oil and then add 2 teaspoons of either vinegar, apple cider or lemon juice, whichever you prefer. Depending on how you want the flavor to turn out, you can add more of it as well. 

Then, sprinkle the mixture with a little salt.

Knead for around 2 minutes. One way to tell that you’ve kneaded enough is that the kale will look like the quantity has gotten lesser. That’s because the leaves start clumping together as they soften.

Method 4 – No-Massage Massage

What you’ll need:

  1. Kale
  2. Knife
  3. Salad with dressing

The last method that has worked for me is the no-massage massage. Although we’ve already discussed a no-massage massage above, this method is a bit different. 

What I do is cut up the kale into tiny pieces that automatically become easier to chew and release the flavors present in the leaves as well.

Cut them up to confetti size, or small, if you can. 

This method works only because the tiny pieces are easily softened when you add seasoning and dress your salad with olive oil and vinegar.

 So, as you toss the salad, you’re basically massaging the tiny pieces of kale at the same time, without having to put in the extra effort.

How Long Does Massaged Kale Last?

If you’ve packed up the massaged kale properly and kept it in a sealed container or an airtight freezer bag, it can stay fresh for about 3 days. 

Make sure you keep it in the fridge and don’t allow any air or moisture to enter the bag or container, or it’ll wilt or ruin the leaves, or even dry them out.

What Kind of Kale Is Best for Salads?

It really depends on the kind of flavor that you’re going for. There isn’t one particular kind of kale that reigns supreme for its use in salads, because the kind of kale you use is also determined by the taste you prefer in your salad.

For example, you might have seen Tuscan kale and curly kale at your local grocery store. Although many people prefer Tuscan kale because it’s less bitter if you’re eating it raw, it also has a more subtle taste, which you might not be looking for.

On the other hand, curly kale, those curly, bright green leaves, have a spicier taste and are also somewhat bitter. If you’re looking for a more invigorating salad, this kale might be what you’ll go for.

Tips and Tricks

It goes without saying that while kale is a great addition to all our food palettes, it takes some time to get used to it. It’s bitter, a little on the spicier side, and you might be hesitant to eat it raw for the first time. However, once you get the hang of it, there are multiple ways you can combine it with your recipes to add some extra flavor and spice.

While it isn’t always necessary to massage the kale, it’s very important to soften it when you’re combining it in a salad. This is because salads mostly involve raw kale, which is almost too bitter to eat if it hasn’t been massaged. 

You need to give the sugars inside the leaves a chance to release their sweetness into your salad.

One way to balance out the taste of kale is to pair it with a sweeter side. If you’re going to curly kale, you may want to add some sweeter tasting seasoning and dressing to your salad to balance out the taste.

Final Thoughts

Massaging kale isn’t nearly as difficult as the name might sound. It’s just a simple measure you take to ensure that your salad—or whatever else you’re adding the kale too, gets the enhanced flavor you’re looking for. 

By softening the kale, you’re making it easier to eat, tenderized and more flavorful as well, so try to take out those 5 minutes and do this extra step!

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About the author

Meet Go-Go-Gadget Renee'. Her passion for #kitchen gadgets is matched only by her love for tech. A real #foodie, she's all heart for red wine and delicious meals. #CookingChewTribe

Renee' Groskreutz

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