Can you cook kale stems? 

In this brief guide, we’ll address the query: “Can you cook kale stems?” Also, we’ll explore how kale stems can be cooked, why they’re often removed, what their nutritional content is, if they’re healthy to eat, and should kale stems be cooked. 

Can you cook kale stems?

Yes, kale stems can be cooked, as they are perfectly edible, and can be prepared in an assortment of ways. 

Cooking kale stems is recommended to tenderize their chewy, fibrous texture, and there are many recommendations on how they can be prepared to be made more appetizing, as well as savory. 

How can you cook kale stems

Kale stems can be cooked in many ways, although there is a consensus among many that states that in order to cook them, kale stems should first be blanched (dipped in boiling water) and then shocked (dipped in icy water). This process of heating and then instantly cooling is reported to soften rigid kale stems and make them easier to cook. 

Once softened, kale stems may be: sautéed, fried, stir-fried with other ingredients, charred, mashed, poached, and even braised.  The exact method will of course depend on the following recipe, but there are several options to cook kale stems. 

However, not all recipes instruct that kale stems should be “blanched and shocked” with some even dispensing with this step, as they focus on maintaining the crunchy texture of kale stems. These methods may include pickling, mashing in a blender, grilling, frying, stewing, etc.  

Why are kale stems removed? 

Despite being edible, some kale recipes instruct the removal of kale stems, on account of them being difficult to soften with regular cooking methods. Mainly, because they may confer an unappetizing texture to dishes, on account of their rigid structure. 

They are, however, innocuous. Stems are perfectly safe to eat along with the rest of the kale leaves, albeit not always desirable. 

Despite their seemingly inconvenient texture, more authors are urging readers not to dispose of kale stems, and instead cook and consume them, in a bid to reduce waste and the impact of produce-farming on the environment. 

What is the nutritional content of kale stems

As they are a main component of kale leaves, it’s safe to say that the nutritional content of kale stems will not vary greatly from that of kale itself, and as such, they are rich sources rich: 

  • Vitamins A, C, K, and B6
  • Carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin)
  • Folate
  • Fiber
  • And manganese. 

However, as kale leaf stems constitute the transportation system for water and nutrients to reach the leaf surface from the main stem, they may have a smaller concentration of these nutrients, and more water and fibrous carbohydrates. 

Are kale stems healthy to eat? 

Kale stems are healthy to eat, as they don’t concentrate any noxious substances, and provide a rich intake of vitamins, fiber, and minerals. 

If cooked, kale stems may have varying levels of total fat content, especially when fried, sautéed, or stewed, as these methods require adding outside sources of fat.  Also, if mashed or blended into something like a smoothie or a sauce, their sugar content may also increase.

The exact way to cook them should be taken into account by diabetic patients and people at risk of heart disease

Should I cook kale stems

Invariably, readers should cook kale stems, not only to broaden their culinary repertoire but also to make the most out of kale, and to optimize the use of resources that were necessary to farm the kale. 

They may be eaten raw, as is, although kale stems are reputed to have a coarse, crunchy texture that has, at times, discouraged many from eating it, and prompted authors to recommend others to simply discard them. 

There are in fact, many recipes detailing how kale stems can be made more appetizing, as there is a wide variety of ways to cook them and ingredients that blend well with them.


In this brief guide, we’ve addressed the query: “Can you cook kale stems?” Also, we’ve explored how kale stems can be cooked, why they’re often removed, what their nutritional content is, if they’re healthy to eat, and should kale stems be cooked. 


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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.