What Does Kale Taste Like? All You Need to Know


Kale has become one of the superfoods that everyone seems to be eating all the time, along with chia seeds, quinoa, and avocado. Kale contains plenty of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin A which is good for your bones, eyesight, and immunity, vitamin C that prevents colds, and vitamin B that is indispensable for proper brain function. Kale also contains Omega-3 fatty acids and plenty of iron.

If you want to add kale to your diet but are not sure if kale’s taste will be up your alley, check out our in-depth kale taste review.

What does kale taste like? Kale has a slightly bitter flavor with earthy notes. Kale has a refreshing and bold flavor, but the taste is rather mild compared to arugula or spinach. Kale has very thin yet juicy leaves that acquire a slightly sweet taste when cooked. Kale is strong-tasting but not spicy. 

Read on to find out more about kale flavor, whether it is sweet or bitter, and to find out what kale pairs with.

Kale Taste Ultimate Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Kale belongs to the cabbage family, has thick stems (they are usually not eaten) and thin, juicy dark green leaves. Most kale varieties are slightly bitter because their leaves are prone to predation by rabbits, bugs, and insects. However, if you are not into bitter green vegetables and are sick of spicy arugula, do not worry – kale can be tasty, and we will show you how!

Is kale sweet or bitter? Raw kale is rather bitter because its leaves are prone to predation by rabbits, bugs, and insects. However, when cooked and marinated in olive oil, salt, black pepper, and minced garlic, kale acquires sweet, nutty hints and a crunchy texture. Overall, when cooked properly, kale tastes great.

When buying kale, ensure it has dark green leaves without yellow or brown spots. The leaves must be thick, and the stem must be firm to the touch. Fresh, high-quality kale does not have a pronounced smell – it has a subtle vegetal aroma.

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However, kale is quite expensive. In the US shops, a bunch of fresh kale greens costs $1.28, while the 16 oz. (453 g) pack costs $3.38 (according to Walmart). Despite the cost, we strongly recommend trying out kale to enjoy all the benefits of this superfood.

What does kale taste like when cooked? Properly cooked kale is mild, sweet, and creamy. Cooked kale preserves its crunchy and juicy texture and becomes delicate and nutty. Cooked kale tastes best when marinated in olive oil with sea salt and black pepper. Kale is perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Why Does Kale Taste Bad?

Why does kale taste so nasty? Since kale leaves are prone to predation by animals, bugs, and insects, they have acquired an unpleasant bitter taste. To get rid of the kale bitterness, simply marinate the leaves in olive oil, salt, and black pepper. You can also add minced garlic to hide the kale flavor. 

If possible, we recommend buying baby kale – it has a much milder taste with sweet notes even when raw. When cooked, it becomes extremely soft, delicate, juicy, and sweet with no hints of bitterness. You can also try Red Russian kale as it is the sweetest kale variety, but it can be difficult to find.

A lot of people complain that kale tastes like dirt, sweaty socks, or even like shoes. But why is that? The thing is that kale is naturally bitter because its leaves are prone to predation. However, you do not need to eat bitter or dry kale to get all its health benefits. All you need to do to neutralize its bitter flavor is to massage the leaves with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and sprinkle some lemon juice and leave it in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

When you cook kale, it loses its bitterness under heat treatment, so this leaf cabbage becomes sweet and nutty (especially if you add some butter or greek yogurt when cooking). If you have marinated kale, but it is still bitter, it can be bad.

When buying kale, ensure its leaves are dark green without any brownish or yellow spots. The Kale stem must be firm to the touch, and the leaves must be thick, not watery or soggy. Kale leaves should be crispy and vibrant – avoid slimy or wilted leaves. Kale also must not have any strong rotten smell. 

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You also should not store kale for a long time – try to consume kale within 2-3 days after buying. Storing kale is easy – just put it in the fridge in the original container. Do not rinse kale before storing. Even though raw kale is fine to keep in the fridge for up to a week, we strongly recommend cooking it within 2-3 days after buying to prevent a bitter flavor.

Kale and Other Vegetables

Kale looks quite similar to lettuce, spinach, and arugula, but do they taste the same?

Does kale taste like spinach? Raw kale has a much bitter flavor and a chewy texture than mild, vegetal-flavored spinach with iron notes. Spinach is sweeter than kale, but kale is more earthy. Cooked kale has a juicier texture and tastes slightly more similar to spinach, but the kale flavor is more pronounced and less sweet than spinach.

Does kale taste like lettuce? Kale has a stronger taste than lettuce. Kale is more bitter, earthy and hearty than lettuce. Lettuce is more bland and slightly sweet. Kale is also much juicier and crunchy than lettuce. However, when cooked, both kale and lettuce become mild, slightly sweet, and nutty.

Kale has quite a unique flavor compared to other leafy vegetables. When raw, it has a rather bitter flavor that disappears with heat treatment. If you marinate kale in olive oil, salt, and lemon juice, kale will become soft, juicy, and sweet with nutty notes.

How Do You Eat Kale?

Kale can be eaten raw and cooked. Raw kale is added to smoothies and vegetable salads. Kale can also be boiled, baked, steamed, roasted, stewed, and sautéed. Kale goes well with any meat, cheese, poultry, mashed potatoes, beans, legumes, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, noodles, or added to soups.

Kale can be consumed raw and cooked. Raw kale is often added to smoothies and salads (usually with other leafy greens like spinach, arugula, and lettuce, but kale also goes well with cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and bell peppers).

Kale can even be added to pesto sauce, just rinse kale, remove the leaves from the stem, and put them in the blender. Add lemon juice, garlic, and blend again. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of water, and blend again. Add some parsley and 1 tbsp of water and blend everything – the kale pesto sauce is ready!

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If you are into crackers, try out kale chips! Kale chips can be with the flavor of soy sauce, tomato, or onion powder – there is something for everyone! You can also find some kale chips recipes that include sweet toppings like chocolate, maple syrup, or coconut.

How do I eat kale to make it taste good? To subdue kale’s bitter flavor, rub some olive oil and lemon juice in and leave kale in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Kale tastes mild, sweet, and nutty when cooked, so you can pan-fry, sautee, boil, or steam kale to make it taste good. Remember to add your favorite seasonings, too.

Kale is a really versatile vegetable – it goes well with pineapple, and greek yogurt in smoothies, with stewed meat and vegetables, with raw vegetables, mashed potatoes, beans, legumes, quinoa, rice, pasta, sausage, beef, pork, ham, turkey, chicken, duck, goose. Kale is tasty when baked, boiled, sauteed, pan-fried, or even stewed, so whatever recipe you choose, you should enjoy the sweet and creamy flavor of the new superfood!

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Kale Taste FAQ

How do you get the bitter taste out of kale?

Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper work best to get the bitter taste out of kale. Kale loses its bitter flavor and chewy texture when subject to heat-treatment, so you can bake, boil, sauteé, pan-fry, stew, or even make a soup with kale, and it will not be bitter anymore.

Can you taste kale in smoothies?

Since raw kale is often used in smoothies, you can taste it, but its slightly bitter taste will be balanced by other smoothie ingredients. Try adding pineapple to neutralize kale’s strong flavor. You can also add greek yogurt, peanut butter, and vanilla almond milk.

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Does kale taste good cooked?

Kale does taste good when cooked and mixed with olive oil, salt, onion, and garlic. Cooked kale is still juicy and crunchy, but is not bitter or chewy like raw kale. Cooked kale goes well with mashed potatoes, beef, pork, turkey, chicken, tomatoes, cheese and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What is the best way to eat kale?

The best way to eat kale is to marinate it in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, and your favorite seasonings and bake it for 10-15 minutes. Serve kale with stewed beef and mashed potatoes. You can also pan-fry, boil, steam, grill kale, or add it to a soup or smoothie.

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