Freeze Kale for Quick Smoothies and Last-Minute Meals
This nutrient-packed and versatile green keeps for up to 6 months in the freezer—here's how to freeze it, thaw it and enjoy it.
Kale is one of the heartiest greens around and might seem like it lasts forever in the fridge, but it really only stays fresh for about a week. Thankfully, this versatile, good-for-you green freezes beautifully and defrosts in no time, which makes it easy to whip up a veggie-packed frittata, kale pesto or vibrant green smoothie whenever you like. Read on for how to freeze kale, plus recipes for making the most of your freezer stash.
Pictured Recipe: Really Green Smoothie
Wash and Chop
Leafy kale has a tendency to trap dirt and requires a good rinse before freezing. Because the leaves and stems cook at different rates, you'll need to separate them before you freeze them. Roughly chop the leaves and cut the stems into roughly 1-inch pieces, and be sure to thoroughly wash and dry both before freezing. (Got frozen veggies? Check out these 20 + Easy Frozen Vegetable Recipes.)
Blanch to Avoid Bitterness
Blanching kale before freezing prevents the leaves from turning bitter, helps maintain their color and extends storage life. Blanched kale can be frozen for up to 6 months. To blanch kale, bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Cook the kale leaves in the boiling water until they brighten in color, about 2 minutes, then plunge into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the color. Drain the leaves and dry them thoroughly. Do the same with the kale stems but cook them until they are just tender, about 3 minutes.
Two Ways to Freeze Kale
You can freeze whole bunches of kale by placing the leaves in an airtight freezer bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible before you seal and freeze. Freezing a bigger batch of kale is quick and it's ideal when you want to use a good amount of it to make a side dish like sautéed kale or when you plan to use it in soups and stews. The stems can also just go in an airtight freezer bag, and they'll make a great addition to those soups and stews as well.
Pictured Recipe: Kale-Butternut Squash Gratin
If you don't need a lot of kale at once, you can scrunch kale leaves into 1-serving bundles, place them on a baking sheet and freeze for about 2 hours, or until solid. Transfer the frozen kale bundles to an airtight freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, then seal, label and freeze. This method requires a bit more time and effort but can be more convenient if you only need a small amount of kale for making a green smoothie or a single serving of kale pasta.
Whichever method you use, the key is to always squeeze out as much air as possible and try to press the leaves flat, so the bag can be easily slipped in the freezer. And be sure to label the bag with the date and what's inside to make sure all that kale—and the energy you put into freezing it—doesn't go to waste.
How to Thaw Frozen Kale
Kale defrosts pretty quickly, especially if you're only using a handful or so, but if you're thawing a larger amount, you can place the bag in a bowl of cool water to speed up the process. While previously frozen kale is perfect for cooked dishes and smoothies, it's less ideal for raw salads, kale chips or recipes that depend on the texture of fresh leaves.