Kale is a tasty leafy green vegetable that can be used both in hot meals and shredded in salads, smoothies and sandwiches. It's packed with healthy nutrients and very easy to prepare and use. But what if you need some kale substitutes to make your healthy meals?
Here we talk about 10 healthy alternatives to kale that can easily be found in the store and cooked up for a tasty lunch or dinner!
This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or dietetic advice in any way.
Is kale healthy?
Kale is a leafy green vegetable that has become very popular in recent years for being a healthy addition to your meals!
Part of the Brassica family, there are many varieties of kale to choose from. The most commonly found in the store are curly kale, which is dark green in color with rippled edges, lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, Tuscan kale and Italian kale), which has long flat darker green leaves and red Russian kale which is green with red-purple stems. See Tasting Table's overview of kale for even more varieties!
Kale is described by Healthline as one of the one most nutritious leafy greens in their discussion of the health benefits of kale. It's a good source of vitamins C and K and manganese, as well as beta-carotene.
Kale is also high in antioxidants, including quercetin, which may be of interest to those looking to make low histamine recipes given that this flavonoid may be helpful for easing allergy symptoms (Healthline).
How can we use kale?
Kale is a very versatile leafy green vegetable and can be used in so many ways! Here's just a few:
- Add to smoothies to give them even more goodness, such as in my peach kale smoothie and celery cucumber smoothie.
- Make kale chips as a fun snack.
- Dice and massage in a little salt and olive oil to add to salads such as my apple kale slaw and tahini kale salad.
- Use shredded kale to make healthy soups such as my turmeric chicken soup and vegetable gnocchi soup.
- Add some goodness to comfort food dinner recipes such as in my creamy kale pasta, or simply steam as a side with chicken, fish or plant-based dishes.
Why may we want to substitute kale?
One of the common reasons to need to substitute kale is because we head to the fridge and we're out of it! It's always frustrating when that happens when we are making a recipe isn't it.
You may also wish to use a lettuce as an alternative to kale if making a salad, so you can skip the step of massaging your kale!
Kale is also simply not tolerated by all, and you may have a food sensitivity to it. Always speak to a dietician if you have concerns over food intolerances.
10 Best Kale Substitutes
Whether you are making a tasty salad or cooking up some soup, let's talk through some replacements for kale in your recipes:
Swiss chard or rainbow chard is a good substitute for hot dishes. It has a slightly earthy taste, and the stems can be likened to celery. Swiss chard is a long fairly flat leaf and it's very easy to grow yourself. I have so much in my back yard during the summer!
Chard can easily be diced and steamed or sauteed to use as a side dish, or added to soups and stews. Unlike kale where it is usually best to remove the hard stems, you can consume the stems of Swiss chard.
Baby spinach leaves are an ideal replacement for kale in salads, smoothies or hot dishes. It has a fairly strong earthy taste, so does pack more of a punch in terms of flavor than kale.
It should be noted that spinach is a high histamine food per the SIGHI list, so my low histamine readers will likely wish to avoid it.
Bok choy (also known as pak choi) has a very different appearance to kale, but if you're after a leafy green it's a good replacement as a side dish. Bok choy comprises stems and leaves, and both can be eaten. It has a mild celery taste, but you can easily add more flavor with a dressing.
As a kale substitute for a simple side dish, cooking bok choy is very easy to do. Adding a simple glaze of garlic, ginger and sesame oil brings so much flavor, as in my steamed pak choi and air fryer bok choy recipes. Bok choy is particularly nice in a stir-fry too!
There are so many types of cabbage available, and they can make excellent substitutes for kale as a side dish or in soups, stews or stir-fry.
Green cabbage, savoy cabbage and napa cabbage are the closest to kale in terms of texture. Simply shred your cabbage as you would with kale, and either steam, saute or air fry. Or for a summer salad, finely dice cabbage to make a tasty slaw!
Collard greens have a rather similar appearance to lacinato kale, with large green leaves. They are cooked in different styles across many countries, including Brazil, Southern United States and Eastern Europe, amongst others.
Similarly to some types of kale, you want to remove the tough stem from collard greens before use. As a kale substitute, you can use collard greens as a simple side dish, sauteed with a little oil and vinegar, or add it to stews or soups. As they are quite mild to taste, they can also be used in salads. Collard greens can be used for healthy wraps as a swap for wheat tortillas too!
Romaine lettuce looks very different to kale, but is still a leafy green! It has longer pale green leaves bound together at their stem. Romaine has a mild bitterness and is quite crisp, similarly to iceberg lettuce.
We can use romaine lettuce as an alternative to kale in salads or as a side dish. Romaine doesn't need to be prepared for use in a salad, simply dice the leaves and dress! It's most known for use in caesar salad, but is equally good in other styles.
To enjoy romaine lettuce hot as a kale substitute, it's very easy to grill indoors or out. Or you can make air fryer romaine lettuce with a light oil herb dressing!
Looking for a kale substitute for salads? Arugula is a dark green leaf, usually purchased in a bag in stores. Although you can grow it yourself too! Arugula has a light peppery, almost spicy flavor making it a good addition for salads.
Arugula has the advantage of not needing any preparation for inclusion in salads, whereas kale is usually best massaged in a little oil and salt first. You can also swap kale for arugula to make pesto, to top pizza or in sandwiches.
Iceberg lettuce is fresh and crisp, and a very common item in the produce area in the store. It's a tasty kale alternative that works well in salads or sandwiches.
Butter lettuce has round dark green leaves and is slightly sweet to taste. It's a good replacement for kale in salads or sandwiches and is usually served cold.
Butter lettuce can also be used as an alternative to wheat tortillas such as in my turkey lettuce wraps.
Watercress is a healthy leafy green, and a good source of vitamin K as well as other nutrients (Healthline). It's peppery leaves make it a good substitute for kale in salads, sandwiches and smoothies.
As well as serving it cold, you can also replace kale with watercress in soups and sauces. It makes a nice pesto if you like something a little different too!
Frequently asked questions
Kale can be used cold in salads, sandwiches and smoothies. It can also be added to hot soups, stews or served as a side dish.
Kale can be replaced with collard greens, green or savoy cabbage or spinach to make healthy soups.
Arugula is a good substitute for kale in salads and sandwiches.
Lettuces work well as kale substitutes in salads, including iceberg, butter and romaine lettuce. Arugula, spinach and watercress are all good options too.
Leafy greens such as spinach and romaine lettuce can be used in small amounts to replace kale in smoothies.
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More substitute posts
If you find yourself needing some easy substitutes, then perhaps my posts on bean substitutes, spinach substitutes, celery substitutes, orzo pasta substitutes and sugar replacements for coffee will help you out! Some more posts to check out:
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