The best substitutes for kale? Go no further, here’s everything you need to know. A green leafy cruciferous vegetable that’s packed with a wide range of nutrients, Kale, a superfood, has been loved for the longest time.
From soups, salads, smoothies, and curries, it has made its way into several dishes. But what if you are unable to get your hands on it? Read the list of the best substitutes for kale below in this article.
Wondering about the best kale alternatives? Leafy veggies like collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, and turnip greens make the best substitutes for kale.
Kale has one of the longest seasons of any vegetable which makes it available all year long. However, if you run out of its stock or decide to experiment with a kale alternative for giving your palate a little dose of change, we have many options. Read on to know more about the best substitutes for kale.
Quick Peek: Kale
This section has all the information you need on kale, its flavor and texture profile, uses, and nutritional information. So, let us discover Kale, its best substitutes along with their health benefits.
What Is Kale?
Kale is a superfood that helps in digestion, lowers cholesterol, and also reduces the risk of developing certain cancers. Rich in antioxidants, calcium, fiber, vitamins such as C and K, iron, and a wide range of other nutrients, kale comes with many health benefits. This power packed vegetable is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia.
With its leafy nature, kale is a member of the cabbage family. Typically dark green in color, it is also available in a variety of colors, that includes purple, white, and red. The structure of the leaves comes with edges that are either flat or curly with elongated stems. There are 7 varieties of kale, but you usually see the common curly kale in grocery stores.
Describing Kale: Flavor And texture
Kale has a chewy and tender texture and a strong earthy taste. Its composition is very close to the substitutes of kale i.e. spinach, which often leads to major comparisons between the two. However, there are different types of kale that have fairly distinctive tastes. The leaves are dry, crunchy, and tough.
Uses Of Kale
Kale is a versatile nutrition superstar. This factor makes it an ingredient fit for throwing in a handful of diet foods. It can be used as a major ingredient in soups, dressing up a crunchy salad, blending it in power-packed smoothies, or as a base for pasta or as a topping for pizza.
Kale On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope
Kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and contains very little fat. The only good portion of the fat that this leafy vegetable possesses is an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. Speaking of the health benefits, Kale lowers the risk of heart disease as the percentage of potassium in kale promotes heart health.
It contains potential cancer-fighting properties with glucosinolates, natural sulfur compounds, which break down during digestion to help detoxify the body. This green leafy vegetable also helps in protecting eyesight by possessing vitamins such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which contribute to the health of eye.
Another benefit of consuming Kale is that it helps in weight loss because of its high water content and low calories. Kale also prevents overeating and keeps you feeling full for longer by being rich in fiber.To put it simply, consuming Kale is a great way to elevate the total nutrient content of your diet.
This vegetable has been around for centuries with Europe starting its farming. As a winter vegetable, kale is the best choice when other cruciferous options are not available. And if you buy kale after a heavy frost, its flavor notes turn sweeter.
Why Do We Need Substitutes For Kale?
There is no doubt that today kale ranks as the top rated superfood for all its nutritional value. However, there are many other alternatives to it. These are equally packed with all the goodness, but with a slight twist in flavor and texture. There are many innovative ways to use substitutes in your diet if your pantry runs out of kale. Which means, if it’s tough to get your hands on it, substitutes for kale are the way to go!
8 Best Substitutes For Kale
There is no denying that Kale has become a staple on restaurant menus and dieticians’ lists. However, for those of us who never quite got the “kale thing,” or have health issues that could aggravate due to its nutritional content, there are many substitutes for kale that are delicious and healthy. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Collard Greens
A relative of cabbage and broccoli, collard greens offer unique health benefits just as kale, making it the best alternative to the powerhouse vegetable. They are the closest match to kale in terms of texture and flavor. When cooked for a longer period of time, the sturdy leaves of collard greens hold up well, just like kale. They taste best in salads with a sprinkle of the same seasoning used for kale.
Collard greens, too, are a great source of calcium, folate, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B2, B6, and C. Being one of the best sources of vitamin K, Kale is perfect for bone and blood health. Speaking of taste, both the vegetables have a bitter flavor, but collard greens are slightly milder. This makes them easier to go well with other ingredients in the recipes. But when eaten raw, they are similar to kale.
Many ask if spinach and kale taste the same or if spinach is a healthier option than kale. Thanks to Popeye instilling this in a whole bunch of generations! The truth is that both kale and its alternative i.e. spinach are great choices and healthy for the heart, but spinach also boasts more fiber, protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin A than kale.
A factor that makes spinach the best substitute for kale is that its tender texture with high water content makes it useful to be incorporated into recipes that call for purées or sauces. And not only this, it works great in salads, soups, curries, and baked dishes as well. One characteristic that makes spinach stand out is that it can be cooked the way you like.
But kale, having coarse and thicker structure takes longer time to cook. Another difference between kale and spinach stands in their time to wilt. While kale, with its strong structure, requires a longer time to wilt, the Spinach, with its tender surface, requires comparatively less time.
3. Mustard Greens
Just like collard greens, mustard greens also come quite close to kale in terms of their texture with their curly and flat varieties, red and green, making it the best alternative. And as for the flavor, these greens offer less earthiness than kale, which many people could find more appealing. Those qualities sure make mustard greens go well with a variety of food options as a substitute for kale.
Thinking about how to pair your food with these energy- boosting greens? There are many options to play with mustard greens for your next meal. You can saute bacon and mustard greens together to make it a side-course dish, or you could also infuse the freshness of those greens with some flavorful meatballs.
And that’s not all. If you are looking to elevate your comfort food with a dash of smoky flavor, you can add in these delicious greens into a creamy stew for a delectable experience. Last, but not least, if you wish to just add a few greens to your meal, you can also stir-fry mustard green in some sesame oil and ginger and serve them alongside your main dish.
4. Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard makes another great substitute for kale with its naturally-occurring red, yellow, purple and white stalks. Just like kale, Swiss chard can generally be grown year-round, which makes it easily accessible. The leaves are big and have a crispy texture, and at the same time possess a nutty taste like kale.
Due to its rich deep flavor, Swiss chard can be used as an alternative to kale as it goes with everything and is easy to prepare. From herbs and spices, dairy, to savory foods like lentils, chicken, fish, pork, walnuts, pine nuts, pasta, and brown rice you can saute it, braise it, or even it raw! This one is sure to win a place on your dinner table.
Lastly, there is no doubt kale wears the crown when it comes to leafy vegetables. However, Swiss chard with its high content in vitamin C, A, E, potassium, magnesium, folate and phosphorus has shown many health benefits. It is known for not only lowering blood pressure, and preventing cancer and osteoporosis, it also helps in increasing athletic performance.
5. Turnip Greens
If you are looking for sweeter flavors then turnip greens are the best substitutes for kale. Their flavor composition is both sweet and spicy, however, they make for a delicious meal. Just like kale, they are a great source of Vitamin K and other nutrients and low in calories.
When added in southern-style dishes, green turnip leaves work well and add a texture in every bite to stir fry, quiche, and stews. If you are into soups, then turn to turnip green for peppery notes.
6. Iceberg Lettuce
Iceberg lettuce is another substitute for kale. The main difference between kale and lettuce lies in the category of vegetable each fall. While kale comes in the cruciferous vegetable category, lettuce is a member of the leafy vegetables.
Another major difference lies in the consumption of both these vegetables. We usually eat kale mixed in salads and smoothies, or even raw. However, lettuce is only consumed raw in salads and as sandwich toppings.
If you are looking for a crunchier texture for your salads then iceberg lettuce makes the best substitute for kale. With its ease of availability and a mild taste, it’s the perfect kale alternative for you to play with ingredients.
What do broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower and bok choy have in common? They’re all members of the cruciferous, or cabbage family of vegetables. Hence Broccoli is a valid replacement for kale that comes with the same color and taste like kale.
Packed with nutritional value, it’s included in many popular diets such as the vegan diet, Keto diet, and military diet. Another point to keep in mind is that while in some country’s availability of kale might be scarce, broccoli can be a great alternative.
There are many recipes where broccoli can be used as a substitute for kale. You can use it in salads, stir-fries or curries and you are in for a sumptuous treat.
While both kale and cabbage come with low calorie count and are supercharged with nutrients, cabbage has a longer shelf life. They are best stored in the refrigerator. However, Kale generally loses its freshness faster than cabbage. So, if you have a lot of kale it will wilt much before the cabbage.
Another factor that makes cabbage rank more than kale is that it turns out to be an inexpensive alternative. Again, the availability of this vegetable is more accessible than kale, which might be difficult to find in some places. In terms of culinary uses, cabbage can be used in the same way as kale.
Short Recap for best kale substitutes
I’m sure by now you have many ideas for using kale substitutes in your recipes. However, if you are looking for the closest alternatives that work best for you, read on to know more.
Best substitutes for kale in terms of flavor & texture
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
Best kale substitutes which are most suitable
The most suitable substitute for kale is Swiss chard.
Best kale substitute which are easily available
- Iceberg lettuce
How To Substitute Kale
- Collard greens
- Mustard Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Turnip Greens
- Iceberg lettuce
- Go through all the substitutes mentioned above.
- Choose the one that goes well with your recipe.
- Use the substitute in required amount and proceed with your recipe.
Kale, with its impressive nutritional profile, is more than just food and it’s become one of the biggest trends. However, between following trends and food availability, there also lies the truth that our palate is always looking out for new options and flavors, and we don’t have just one, but many alternatives.
I hope you find the best option that suits you and wish you healthy and happy cooking!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is kale good for you?
Yes, it is a nutrition superstar packed with many health benefits.
Do spinach and kale taste the same?
No, spinach has a milder taste than kale.
Is kale healthier than Spinach?
Both are highly nutritious with their associated health benefits.
Does kale have any side effects?
Like anything in excess causes problems for health, Kale, in particular, with its high potassium content can be harmful to people whose kidneys are not fully functional. Being a rich source of Vitamin K, it also contributes to blood clotting, which could interfere with the activity of blood thinners.