Not Martha

how to blanch and freeze kale

kale in orange bowls, ready to blanch

Here is another thing I make in bulk and freeze so I can have something very nearly ready to go at dinnertime. By the end of the day I have no imagination left for dinner so often our nutrition suffers (Annie’s mac and cheese again? yay!). But, I can be virtuous and lazy if I have kale in my freezer.

If you would have told me two years ago that I would fall deeply in love with kale I wouldn’t have believed you. I only tried in initially because I felt guilted into eating better (see: Annie’s mac and cheese). However, preparing it for dinner can seem like it would just take too much effort what with all the washing and chopping. It took me way too long to realize that I could blanch it to freeze and have ready to go. One note: I did find bags of frozen kale for sale at Amazon Fresh but they are cut the same way that cut frozen spinach comes, roughly and too small, and I find it rather unpleasant to eat.

Below is step by step instructions on how I get it ready. I put it here because I figure I cannot be the only person who has no idea how to do this. I used the instructions from Pick Your Own, and these here are what I’ve figured out in order to do a lot of kale in batches as efficiently as possible.

blanched kale on a kitchen towel ready to be squeezed out

If you just freeze greens they get bitter, but if you dunk them in boiling water for a few minutes, then stop the cooking abruptly you kill of the enzymes that create the bitter flavor. This is called blanching and except for watching Martha Stewart do it to green beans years ago I never knew much about it.

I usually buy four bunches of kale, which is a lot of kale. First, start boiling water in a huge stockpot. (My electric kettle gets a lot of work here.) Put a large bowl in your sink and fill it with water. Dunk the kale around to wash it. If you bought it from your local organic market look closely for little buggies. Sometimes they just hug the stem and you can get rid of them in the next step. I usually don’t find bugs but there was this one time when I just re-fused to throw out four whole bunches of kale and had to work carefully.

dunking the kale

Next, trimming. The easiest way to trim out the stem is to fold the kale leaf in half lengthwise with the stem facing away from you. Run the tip of a knife along the stem to separate it. (I learned this in Everyday Food, I think.)

trimming the stem

Then you can leave the kale where it is and quickly chop it. Now move that into a bowl and do the next one. If you develop an assembly line rhythm at this point you can get through all your kale pretty quickly.

(Let’s talk briefly about knives. I have an expensive 8″ chefs knife, but I nearly always reach for my Oxo Santoku Knife, which is $20. Just saying. Good stuff.)

quickly chopping

Now get the following things ready: a huge pot of boiling water with a lid, a huge bowl of ice water, a strainer you can use to move the kale from the boiling water to the ice water, a salad spinner, a large kitchen towel laid out flat on your counter and a kitchen timer set to two minutes.

pot of boiling water, bowl of ice water, two minutes on the timer

When the water is boiling dump a bunch of the kale in it, put on the lid (the steam helps cook the bits bobbing on top) and let it cook for two minutes. I usually just stir it once.

When the time is up quickly lift the kale from the pot of water into the ice bath. You’ll reuse the boiling water for the next batch. The water turns progressively darker green with each batch but I cannot imagine that would hurt anything. Bet it would be great for making vegetable stock. Someday I’ll make stock of some sort.

kale in ice bath

Now we need to get it dry. I spin it in a salad spinner. (The OXO Salad Spinner still totally rules. I have the little one and it works fine for two people.)

kale in the salad spinner

Then I lay it flat on a kitchen towel. When all the batches of kale are done I roll the towel up…

kale being rolled in kitchen towl

and squeeze.

kitchen towel looking like a kale-filled burriot

Then I lay the kale out on a sheet of parchment on a cookie sheet. Pop that in the freezer and in about 30 minutes it will be frozen enough for you to shake into your airtight container of choice.

kale spread in single layer on a cookie sheet

And there you are, it’s all ready to pull out of the freezer, saute in olive oil with a little minced garlic (I’m not ashamed to love my garlic press) just until it’s hot, shake a bit of crushed red pepper and salt on top and, ta da!, excellent leafy green side dish that allow you to be smug about your eating habits and level of cleverness for the next 24 hours.

· comments [126] · 06-12-2009 · categories:food · freezerpantry · recipes ·

126 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Susan Green // Aug 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Meagan, I really like your blog. I’m a “kaleaulic”. We’ve had it in our garden for about three years…(We live in Alaska)…..We love it raw mixed with our other salad greens. I also eat it sauteed, in soups….last year I went through withdrawls and got the bright idea to blanch and freeze. It’s everything I knew but had to refresh. That’s a great idea about putting it on the cookie sheet for 30 minutes first, that’s the way we do our blueberries. I didn’t think about that until I saw it in print! I’ll be reading your blog more often now. Great info….thanks

  • 2 Bonnie // Aug 19, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I just packed 45 ziplocks with raw kale and cold water. How long will they keep in the freezer? I did them for smoothies. I just put my blueberries in an icecream bucket and they are fine and don’t stick together when frozen. You can just grab a handful

  • 3 megan // Aug 19, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Bonnie – Unfortunately I have no idea how long it will keep. Anybody?

  • 4 sadie // Aug 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I use a bamboo steamer to steam the kale prior to freezing with the same results and possibly less loss of nutrients? Perhaps someone already posted this…

  • 5 shari // Sep 15, 2012 at 6:30 am

    does it crisp up again after blanched, frozen, then fried?

  • 6 megan // Sep 17, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Shari – I does depending on how you prepare it, though the frozen kale does let off a bit of water. I usually cover it to let it steam itself for a while. I have not tried making something as crisp as kale chips from the frozen kale.

  • 7 Jan // Sep 22, 2012 at 11:36 am

    The blanching stops the enzymes from continuing to break the kale down as it normally would. It is an important, simple step to help preserve the nutrition in the kale.

  • 8 Preserving the Harvest | High Mowing Organic Seeds' Blog – The Seed Hopper // Sep 25, 2012 at 9:30 am

    […] Freezing Kale – […]

  • 9 Myra // Oct 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I think you are not supposed to use the water that Kale is boiled in. There is something bad for you in it. Google it.

  • 10 Donna // Oct 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

    Aren’t important enzymes destroyed by blanching? Those enzymes are the main benefit in eating raw vs cooked food. I use raw kale in smoothies made in my VitaMix. I grew some this year and want to harvest it before winter and I’m wondering if anyone has frozen it, unblanched, and used it in smoothies.

  • 11 Nikki // Nov 14, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Glad to see this post! I have been searching the web for ways to “de-bitter” kale. I know it is super healthy, but just can’t tolerate the extreme bitterness…. I have only ever eaten it raw (both fresh and frozen without blanching) and used it in smoothies… I had to add soooo much sweet fruit like very ripe bananas just to make it drinkable, and that was only using about 2 leaves (though I left the stems on, which are supposedly the most bitter part). I am hoping to try blanching and then using in a veggie stew soon… that is, if I can find any that is not wilted anywhere!! So hard to find fresh kale around here! Oh, one more thing, people say to save the blanching water for all the nutrients, but doesn’t that water contain all the bitterness?

  • 12 Pasta with Tuna, Broccoli Rabe and Meyer Lemon-Olive Pesto // Jan 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    […] Something green…Uh-Oh, I may have to go to the store for that. I have baby bok choy, but that’s too bitter for these ingredients.  I have green cabbage, but that’s going to be part of the Asian Tacos (that’s the recipe to come.) BUT WAIT…freezer stash.  I have blanched collards and broccoli rabe. (Blanching technique that can be applied to any greens here.) […]

  • 13 Barb // Apr 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Our kale overwinters wonderfully here (PNW) so we’ve been eating quite a bit of kale but I don’t think we can eat it all before it goes to seed.

    Going to be trying this, thanks for all the details!

  • 14 Martin // Jun 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Great post!! I grow my own kale and freeze bags and bags of it. I don’t blanch, just double wash, manually pull off the stems, salad spin to dry and put directly into large zip locks. I use them in smoothies for my family and my 4 and 2 yr old girls just love them. Here is the recipie: 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, a large handful of kale (maybe 2 cups), one frozen banana, handful of other frozen fruit, 2 tbls chia seeds, one scoop of Greens8000 (freeze dried green powder). We love the taste and are hoping its as healthy as it sounds! Any other kale smoothy recipies out there?? How long can it last in the freezer?

  • 15 Tina // Sep 21, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Kale, potatoes, & vinegar – Dutch Recipe!!
    The above, has been eaten in the Netherlands for hundreds of years. Then when World War II happened and many evacuees flooded little villages in the country side, looking for grains & other foods to take back to cities, the only thing to offer travelers was a meal made out of boiled Potatoes, boiled and (chopped up!) Kale. Mix both with potato masher, or blender (not too fine!!) and sprinkle bit of vinegar over it!!! If you have a good smoked sausage, tastes wonderful also with this dish. But we did without sausage and everybody, even finicky city dwellers, ate mashed potatoes with mashed kale with gusto, bit of vinegar added the right touch! This is a very simple dish, with great value!!!

  • 16 Mary // Nov 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    I harvested 3-1/2 pounds of kale out of my Utah garden this morning and froze it using the microwave method of blanching. So easy! I am excited to have this kale in my freezer for the upcoming winter. Thank you Megan and all who’ve shared their methods.

  • 17 Banana Berry Blast Smoothie and Freezing kale | Grove is Green // Jan 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    […] website helped me tremendously – pics and step by step directions if you need help: Share this:TwitterFacebookGoogleMorePinterestPrintEmailLike this:Like […]

  • 18 Rolf // Mar 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    You mentioned that when using the same water for several batches, it begins to turn green. Much of what is left in the water are the nutrients vitamins and flavor of the kale. My grandmother would save and drink the water from her cooked greens. I steam my vegetables thus saving all the good stuff for my plate. This also works if you want to freeze them.
    Next time you throw out your cooking water, think about what you are throwing away.

  • 19 Tess // Sep 7, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Kale fried rice: 2 fried eggs chopped into thin strips , set aside. 5 or 6 bacon strips chopped and fried till crisp. Add 9-10 cups deveined, chopped, , Russian kale. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, tamari/soy sauce to taste, pepper, cook kale for only 1 minute. Take off the heat. Mix in the egg strips, 3 cups freshly cooked brown rice, cup of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Mix well. Salt to taste.

  • 20 Judy // Sep 24, 2014 at 2:54 am

    My neighbor offered me a ton of kale from her garden & I took it because she suggested I should freeze it for later. I found this website right away. GREAT pictures & detail – it was very easy! Looking forward to some yummy soup in October!! THANKS!

  • 21 Anna @Green Talk // Feb 24, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I grow a ton of kale and like your tutorial. However, sometimes, I have too much and have started dehydrating. See here.

  • 22 Debbie Curle // Aug 23, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Great idea for freezing kale – my daughter decided we should plant some this year – haven’t done so before so she planted four plants – I have it coming out my ears. I like it fresh in a salad with sliced strawberries, some cut up peppers, cucumber, and Asian dressing. We didn’t let it freeze for 30 minutes – just about 5 minutes on a cookie sheet but I don’t know if you have to even do that.
    Has anyone ever used it instead of chopped spinach in lasagna? Wondering how that would work.

  • 23 MOUSE // Apr 2, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Have used kale or swiss chard all the time in lasagna…don’t know the difference.

  • 24 Emily S. // Jun 12, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    Funny, I was just eating a box of Annie’s mac n cheese with sauteed kale and garlic (to help make it healthy of course), and i thought i’d look up a way for me to enjoy this in the winter when i don’t have copious amounts of kale in my garden. Thanks for the tips – looking forward to trying it!

  • 25 Lena // Sep 20, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Just followed this exactly with Swiss chard. Thank you so much!!!

  • 26 Jules // Dec 8, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Thank you, this is helpful information about freezing. Frozen kale is surprisingly expensive, and kale is the easiest thing to grow, it’s indestructible and lasts well into cold weather. Do discard the water from blanching. Kale contains oxalic acid which is removed by blanching. Some people cann0t/should not consume raw kale because of this, blanching reduces the oxalic acid content so we can enjoy kale goodness. I make kale chips from blanched leaf quarters and it turns out fine.

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