Nutrient-packed chard is a leafy green vegetable that's easy to prepare and cook. It can also be enjoyed raw. Learn how to choose, prepare and cook chard. 
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Leaves of Swiss chard on white, marble background
Credit: Getty Images / Claudia Totir

You may find colorful bundles of chard at your local grocery stores year-round, but this leafy green with vibrantly colored stalks is most abundant in the spring and summer months (and that's also when it's at its lowest price). In addition to being widely available, chard is also relatively inexpensive at about $3 to $5 a bundle, depending on the season and where you live. If you're hungry for options beyond spinach and kale, load up on some chard! Read on to find out how to effortlessly choose, prepare and cook chard.

Related: What Is Chard

How to choose the best chard

Chard is sold in bundles. Look for firm stems and bright and glossy leaves free of blemishes, yellow or brown spots. Chard leaves can be crinkly, but withered leaves are a sign of aging and should be avoided.  

How to prep chard 

To keep chard fresh, it should be stored much like spinach. Fresh chard can last about one week after purchase. You can place it in an open bag, or loosely wrap it with a cloth, paper towels or plastic wrap, and store it in the refrigerator. For best results, place the whole bundle in the crisper drawer, where temperature and humidity are more suitable for keeping greens fresh.

To extend the greens' shelf life, you can separate the leaves and the stems. Wrap the leaves with paper towels and place them in a plastic bag before refrigerating. For the stems, just wrap them and refrigerate. 

Keeping chard fresh also requires keeping it dry. Wash chard only when ready to prep it for eating. Washing in advance increases wilting. If the chard leaves become damp, use a paper towel to dry the leaves.

Whether you eat chard raw or cooked, wash it under cold water to remove any dirt, debris or insects hiding in there. 

Can you eat chard raw?

Choosing to eat chard raw or cooked depends on your taste and textural preferences. You can enjoy chard raw like spinach, kale and lettuce. As with spinach and kale, chard is earthy, but its bitterness is less intense than kale's. "The variety with dark green leaves and reddish stalks (sometimes referred to as rhubarb chard) has a stronger flavor than [chard] with lighter leaves and stalks," according to The Food Lover's Companion by Herbst and Herbst. Baby chard and smaller chard leaves are best for salads for their tenderness.

The colored stems of chard certainly add visual appeal to any salad dish. If you want to experience the full range of flavors and textures offered by chard, slice and discard the end of the stalks, then separate the leaf from the stem by holding the base of the stalk, grasping the leaf at its base and pulling gently upward. Alternatively, you can remove the leaf from the stalk by using a knife to slice the leaf along the stem. Then, dice the stalks into pieces about 1/4-inch thick and toss them together with roughly chopped leaves.  

How to cook chard

Cooking diminishes the vibrant stem colors and wilts the leaves, shrinking them in size, making them less earthy, and bringing out a pleasantly mild bitter flavor similar to beets. Surprisingly or not, beets and chard belong to the same plant family, except chard is a beet without an edible root.

Since chard stems are rather tough, they require a few extra minutes to cook and become tender. Many people cook the sliced stalks and the leaves separately, but if you decide to put both leaves and stems in the same dish, it is best to cook the stems first and add the leaves a few minutes later.

Chard pairs well with an array of ingredients, such as garlicshallotswalnuts and olives. If you love cheese, consider pairing chard with goat cheese and ricotta.

Looking for side dish ideas other than kale and spinach? Our Garlic Creamed Chard will not disappoint. Chard also blends well with pasta and mixed-entree dishes, like our Ham & Chard Stuffed ShellsBeef and Chard Mafalda with Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant SauceRainbow Chard Spanish TortillaBacon Chard QuesadillasChard Chorizo FrittataChard Dumplings in Chive Broth and more.

How to cook chard leaves

While both young and mature chard leaves are suitable for cooking, large leaves and mature leaves are firm and best suited for moist cooking methods, such as in soups, stews and braised dishes. They are also ideal for dry cooking methods such as stir-frying. Our Homemade Breadsticks with Chard will be a perfect morning staple for your weekend brunch if you love to bake.

How to cook chard stems

You can cook chard stems the same ways as you cook asparagus: steaming, sautéing, grilling or roasting. You can also add chard stems to stir-fries.

How to sauté chard

Sautéed chard also makes a delicious side dish that will brighten up your dining table. Chard pairs well with a range of ingredients, such as red chile and garlic. If you decide to use the stems too, place the stems in the heated skillet with cooking oil first, allowing more cooking time to let them get tender before adding the leaves. 

Bottom line

Like other leafy greens, chard is a versatile vegetable that makes a perfect salad, side dish or an ingredient in a mixed dish. It is an ideal substitution for kale and spinach, perfect for adding to your rotating roster of vegetables. Whether you already love chard or want to give chard a try, our collection of healthy chard recipes will inspire you to use chard in your meals.