Kale is an awesome superfood that freezes really well for use all year-round. Kale has been dubbed the world’s healthiest food because it is super high in vitamins, K, A, and C and easy to eat in smoothies or soup. Below, I’ve included the steps I go through when freezing my annual kale crop.
I’ve been in seasonal denial for the past 2 weeks, but there is no mistaking it, Fall has made an appearance in Chicago. The end of summer is always a bittersweet time of year because, as the gardening season comes to an end, I begin to can, pickle, dehydrate, and freeze everything I can get my hands on in preparation for the colder months ahead.
This summer, I may have gone a little overboard by planting three kale plants instead of one because at the moment we’re swimming in kale! I don’t mind though because kale freezes really well and I love to add it to smoothies and winter soups. I was so sad when I used the last of our garden fresh kale last year that I was determined to plant enough to sustain us well into the winter. Hopefully, I have succeeded.
Every year, we plant Lacinato kale (also known as Dinosaur kale or Tuscan kale), but this method will work with any kale variety you have producing in your garden. I do not blanch my kale before freezing, but there are many tutorials out there that claim you should. Last year, I was using unblanched, frozen kale until March and didn’t notice a significant drop in flavor, texture, or color.
How To Blanch
Before I get into the reasons for blanching, I want to tell you what blanching is in case you do not know. To blanch something, you bring a pot of water to a boil, add your greens/veggies, and boil them for about 3 minutes. Then, you remove them and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water (known as an ice bath). This stops the cooking process and keeps your veggies crisp and the colors vibrant.
To Blanch or Not To Blanch
The main reason for blanching before you freeze something is to preserve color and texture. I haven’t noticed a difference in my kale and usually skip the blanching step to save myself a bit of time.
If you find kale to be bitter, blanching can help remove the bitterness. I don’t think homegrown, fresh kale tastes bitter at all. If you pick it and immediately use it, I find it to be sharp like spinach, but not bitter.
You may also want to think about how you are going to use your frozen kale in the future. If you are going to be adding a handful to smoothies and the taste will be masked by all of the other things you are adding to the blender, blanching is probably not necessary. But if you will be using it in casseroles or soups and find the taste off-putting, you’ll want to blanch it first. The choice is yours. If you opt to blanch, do it in step 5 below.
How to Freeze Kale
Step 1: The first thing you want to do is roughly divide your kale by size. You are going to be chopping your kale into ribbons and this will help make sure you have even ribbon pieces.
Step 2: Next, you want to remove the stalk. Nestle the tip of your knife as close to the stalk as possible and slice the leaves off on each side.
Step 3: Stack the leaves and roll them from top to bottom.
Step 4: Slice your bundle into 1/4 inch rounds.
Step 5: Now that you have kale ribbons, wash, blanch (if desired) and dry them. I usually wash them twice to ensure they are free of any dirt or spider webs (yuck!) and dry them in my salad spinner.
Step 6: When your kale is dry, divide it into freezer bags. I store my kale in gallon freezer bags and grab a handful anytime I want to add some to soups or smoothies. This is obvious, but it will freeze in one giant clump if it is soaking wet when you put it into the bag so make sure it is dry! Squeeze as much of the air out of the bag as you can before sealing and freeze.
Ways to Use Frozen Kale
During the school year, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and cannot be bothered with cooking myself breakfast before the sunrises. I can barely be bothered to clean the blender after making a smoothie, but somehow I manage.
From September – June, my breakfast 5 days a week consists of a kale, strawberry, coconut, almond milk, and flax seed smoothie and 2 hard boiled eggs. Glamorous? No. Functional and healthy? Yes!
If you aren’t a smoothie person, you could add it to my pot roast stew, my paleo beef pho or use it in one of the recipes below.
Spicy Kale and Coconut Stir Fry – Cookie and Kate
Pistachio Kale Pesto – Edible Perspective
Sweet Potato and Kale Hash – Shared Appetite
Kale, Mushroom, Feta, and Mozzarella Casserole – Kalyn’s Kitchen
Kale and Acorn Squash Soup – Kim Kim Cooking
Sweet Potato, Kale, and Shrimp Skillet – Primavera Kitchen
Vegetarian Kale Soup – Sandra’s Easy Cooking
Seriously, how delicious do all of those look? Now, I kind of wish I planted 4 kale plants! What are your favorite ways to use frozen kale?