The Cheap-Ass Gourmet: Stir-Fried Kale (yeah, that weird green stuff)

Welcome back to The Cheap-Ass Gourmet, where today we will ask the candid question, “What is that unruly green wavy stuff in the far reaches of the supermarket produce section, and do I actually cook it or just turn the weed-whacker on it & order KFC?”

This was, in fact, the very question I asked of a colleague of mine a few weeks back, when I was casting about for something new, healthy & tasty to have for dinner. Also something loaded with iron, as Dr Smiter is anemic and needs to boost her iron levels.

Kale: it's not the enemy.

This colleague, Miss Maggie, is a vegetarian, and immediately began to sing the praises of the Great and Mighty Kale. This normally would be worrisome behaviour in a colleague, but as the second verse included the word “garlic,” I sat up and began to pay attention.

I was (and remain) amazed at how good this stuff actually is for you: not only is it a good source of iron, but it’s also a really good source of calcium, beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and lutein.

And it goes well with garlic. Mmmmmmmmmmm… garlic.

Ahem. So here, without further foofurrah (that’s “ado” for my elvish American friend ;-)), is the recipe for Miss Maggie’s Kick-Ass Stir-Fried Kale. Count on about half an hour from “OMG, this green stuff is massive and unruly!” to “Yum… wow, I can’t believe it was this easy to make… please pass the kale again…nom nom nom”.

You will need:

  • One nice healthy bunch of kale (look way up near the rhubarb & parsley & other unloved greenery on the forehead-level shelves of your supermarket’s produce section, or just ask)
  • Several cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced or crushed
  • Sesame oil (available at Asian groceries or most regular supermarkets)
  • Cayenne pepper or Chinese hot sauce (or not, if you don’t like spicy food)
  • Sesame seeds (if you’ve got ’em; skip it if you don’t)
  • Soy sauce (I use the low-sodium kind, as I wish to keep my arteries a while longer)

First of all, fill a VERY big pot with water, add a bit of salt and bring it to a boil. This will be your Kale Monster Processing Bath, or KMPB.

Our two chief weapons are garlic, sesame oil, and a large cooking pot. .. Wait, I'll come in again (with apologies to Monty Python & the Spanish Inquisition).

Next, fill your kitchen sink with cold water (yes, take out all the dirty dishes first, silly person) and unbundle the kale into it. There will be a LOT of kale. Seriously, it’s scary. But don’t be afraid: we’ll deal with this.

Swish the kale around to rinse it (unless you like sand in your dinner) and then cut the stem ends off and pile the washed kale in a big colander (the drainer thing with the holes in it).

Then cut the kale into biggish pieces — stems and all. By “biggish” I mean something you will reasonably be able to manipulate with chopsticks or a fork later when you get to the tasty “eating” stage of this exercise.

When your pot of water, or KMPB, is boiling, dump the kale into it and close the lid quickly so there are no escapees. Note, do NOT attempt to tamp down the kale with your hands, like a certain Smiter did a few weeks back. I am not making this up. Hot-hot-hot.

Turn down the heat to medium & boil the kale for about 5 minutes, or less. You’re just softening it up a bit here so it’s more manageable in the stir-fry portion of this recipe. It will lose a lot of its volume and that’s what we want — basically a nice pliable mass of green. Don’t overcook it — you do not want kale porridge. Or maybe you do, in which case you’re done and bon appetit to you!

For those of you proceeding to the stir fry, drain the cooked kale in the colander you used before, set it aside, and prepare your stir-fry pot or wok thusly: place pot on high heat and add a couple of tablespoons of the sesame oil. When it is warm (test it by flicking a few drops of water into it — they should sizzle & jump), add the garlic and give it a stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Pause here to inhale the incredible aroma — this is one of my favourite parts of the stir-fry….

Next, simply dump the kale in (I know, professional chefs don’t say “dump”, but then Dr Smiter is not a professional chef, now, is she??) and begin to stir it around in the hot oil & garlic. Keep a VERY close eye on it — this won’t take long.

Pour in a few tablespoons of soy sauce to keep things moist and add some flavour; add the hot sauce/Cayenne and sesame seeds if you’re using them. Stir, stir, stir!

After about 5 minutes, or when you simply can’t stop licking your chops, you’re done. Remove the wok from the hot element, turn off the heat (yes, I know that’s obvious to some of you, but Dr Smiter has reached that phase of life where she sometimes puts the Cheerios in the linen closet!), and prepare to dine.

I have eaten this dish in a variety of ways, all good:

  • with a side of brown rice (seriously tasty stuff & dead easy to prepare with a rice cooker)
  • with tofu chunks stir-fried along with the kale (for a whack of protein)
  • with a nice marinated pork tenderloin (I am not a vegetarian)
  • by itself

Total expenditure:

  • $2.99 for the kale
  • maybe 20 cents for the rest of the seasonings, garlic & oil

So about $3.19 in total for some of the yummiest, most nutritious fare you can make.

Seriously good, cheap eats.

And thanks again to Maggie for converting me to the Cult of the Heavenly Kale!

"We praise thee, Kale, with leaves of green./
The nicest veg we've ever seen!"



  1. I’m a big Kale fan and it’s a great source of calcium (as you mentioned), especially for those of us who avoid dairy. Another fantastic way to cook it is by making Kale chips – 350 oven, take out the bitter stems of the kale leaves, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Pop ’em in for about 15 minutes on a cookie sheet with some parchment paper and voila!

    • JMC

      Sounds yummy – thank you! 🙂

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