Braised kale is a tasty way to get your greens in. The kale tenderizes as it simmers in a light sauce with onion and garlic then is tossed with white beans and butter for a luxurious finish. It's such an easy, healthy weeknight side dish.
"Eat the rainbow," they say, but sometimes I just want to eat rainbow cookies instead. But dang -- I really felt the need to get a little stricter about my eating habits after the pandemic holidays. There's nothing like eating away your stress one Christmas cookie at a time that'll get you to pick up three bundles of kale.
This braised kale recipe has sneakily become one of my favorite side dishes as of late, and I've made John eat it a million times. It's a great way to get your iron in. It's a great way to get your protein in. It's a great way to jazz up your side dishes to make you feel like you're eating something special -- all in 20 minutes. And that little tiny bit of butter you add at the end?! OMG. It just adds a little bit of velvety goodness to make the side dish go from a side dish to a restaurant-quality, fancy side dish.
What is Braising?
Bon Appetit says braising is the technique that asks so little but gives so much back to cooks, and it's so true. Braising is a combination cooking method that uses both dry heat and wet heat to cook your food, whether it's meat or, in this case, your kale. The dry heat gets the kale tender with a quick flash of heat, then it's finished in the wet heat when the kale simmers in a light but flavorful braising liquid of onions, garlic, and chicken stock.
Braising meat gives it a nice sear to not only make it look nicer but have a much better texture with a crispier, browned top and allows even the tougher pieces of meat to become tender in the juices. In this recipe, the kale has a little bit longer to become more tender and less bitter thanks to braising. While your kale doesn't get crispy and browned like a piece of meat would, it's an easy way to add more flavor to your greens.
Ingredients You'll Need
- kale (any kind will do. I use regular ole kale)
- extra-virgin olive oil
- yellow onion
- salt + pepper
- red pepper flakes
- chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock but you can easily make this vegan with vegetable stock, of course)
- cannelini beans (canned is the way to go because they're ready in 5 seconds)
- unsalted butter
How Do You Braise Kale?
First, heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add onions and salt and pepper and cook until tender. Then add garlic and red pepper and cook one minute more.
Add the kale in small batches, cooking in the hot pan until just wilted. Once all of the kale is in the pan, add the vegetable or chicken stock and reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.
Let kale simmer 10-15 minutes. Add white beans and butter, stir to combine and until butter is melted. Serve immediately.
What To Serve with Braised Kale
- Pan-Seared Chicken Breast -- what I ate most recently with the braised kale (and what's pictured)
- Pecan Crusted Halibut -- a light fish is probably my second favorite main to enjoy with the kale.
- Maryland Baked Crab Cakes -- John's favorite
- Lemon Butter Fish
Braised Kale with White Beans & Garlic
- 2 pounds kale (usually two large bundles that roughly equal 7-8 cups)
- 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 11 oz. can cannelini beans, drained
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- Remove stems from kale and roughly chop in 3-inch pieces. Wash and dry kale.
- Heat Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium-heat with the olive oil. Add onion, salt and pepper and saute until tender, around 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute an additional minute.
- Add the kale in small batches, letting it wilt a tad with the heat (about 1 minute). When all of the kale is added, add stock. Cover pot with lid and let simmer on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Add white beans (cannelini beans) and stir until combined and hot. Remove from heat and add butter just before serving.