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Spicy sautéed kale is a delicious way to eat more of this leafy green vegetable. Chili paste adds a nice little kick and can be added as liberally as you desire. It’s a great side dish, but also makes a great base for salads, wraps, and breakfast bowls.

Spicy sautéed kale

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I go through phases of eating certain foods. Spicy Sautéed Kale is one I come back to frequently because it’s so quick and easy to make, isn’t boring, and is a great base for so many things. It’s especially great for changing up my breakfast routine, because I get so bored with the “same old, same old” breakfasts.

Is kale good for you?

Kale is a nutrient-dense green leafy vegetable, aka, that vegetable doctors tend to tell you to make sure you include in your diet. You can learn more about the nutrients in kale here, and more about how to use kale in my article Everything You Need to Know About Kale.

That being said, there may be instances where you have a health condition and/or eating too much kale isn’t good for you. Please be sure to reach out to your doctor if this could be a concern for you.

What type of kale should you use?

The easy answer to this is that you can use whatever type of kale you have on hand. This recipe was tested and made using raw kale versus frozen or canned, so you will have best results with raw kale.

Additionally, different types of kale may be a bit tougher than others and take a little longer to sauté.

Shortcut: Use pre-cut, prewashed kale. I find this in the coolers of the bagged produce section of most grocery stores. It doesn’t tend to cost that much when you compare it to buying a bunch of kale, and I often get it at Aldi. This saves a significant amount of prep time.

Should you blanch the kale before sautéing it?

You can blanch the kale before sautéing it to speed up the process of softening it if you would like, but it isn’t necessary. See more on softening the kale below. If you decide to blanch your kale, you can do so by dropping it in boiling water for 1 minute then transfer to an ice water bath to quickly stop the cooking process. You can also see here for more on blanching kale.

How do you soften kale?

There are three ways to soften kale if you so desire. As you will see below, doing so adds varying amounts of time to prepping this super simple veggie side dish. It’s kind of a choose your own adventure. Spoiler alert: I choose not to soften it.

Also, apologies if you get through this section and now have the Bop It! game sounds running through your head like I now do. (I got a little sidetracked with my nostalgia and discovered that this game still exists and is available on Amazon.)

Blanch it.

As I mentioned above, blanching your kale can speed up the softening process. However, it doesn’t really shortcut the amount of time it takes to make this dish since you would need to bring water to a boil to blanch the kale. Then, you need to transfer the blanched kale to an ice water bath before sautéing. It all feels rather fiddly to me and I don’t have patience for that.

Soak it.

You can soak the kale in hot water for 10-15 minutes before sautéing it to soften it. Again, this does add time, and well, like I said above, I don’t feel like adding that kind of time to making a simple dish.

Massage it.

A super popular question is whether or not you need to massage kale before using it. You don’t have to, but it is the quickest way to soften it if you want to do so. To do this, you would want to add a little olive oil, salt, lemon juice, or vinegar. Then, just like it sounds, massage your ingredient (or ingredients of choice) into the kale for a few minutes before sautéing it.

Can you use the kale stems?

Kale stems are edible but can be very tough and not so enjoyable to eat. If I am blending or cooking kale, I usually keep all but the largest stems because the fatter the stem the tougher they tend to be and they don’t break down as well.

What chili paste should you use?

Use your preferred chili paste. If you don’t generally use it, you can find it in the multi-cultural aisle of most grocery stores, local Asian markets or HMart, or online on Amazon. I use this chili paste without garlic (sambal oeleck) or Union Foods Ground Fresh Chili Paste as pictured below, as it’s more versatile and is garlic allergy-friendly, but the chili garlic paste is also a great option. A little goes a long way!

What do you serve with Spicy Sautéed Kale?

I often eat it by itself as a side dish, but here are a few other ways I like to change it up:

  • Sauté chopped red bell pepper and chopped bacon until just soft and the bacon is starting to crisp then follow the steps in the recipe card below.
  • Sweet potato and kale breakfast bowl. Top spicy sautéed kale with mashed sweet potato, eggs cooked your preferred way, and crumbled feta.
  • Top with cooked quinoa, cooked ground meat or chickpeas, and favorite salad toppings.
  • Garlicky Spicy Kale – Prepare recipe as directed below except you will heat one tablespoon minced garlic or 3 cloves, minced in the oil before adding the kale.
  • Spicy Nutty Kale – Prepare recipe as directed below. Before serving, toss kale with 1/4 cup slivered almonds. You could also toss with pumpkin seeds instead of almonds for an allergy-friendly version.

Spicy Sautéed Kale

Spicy sautéed kale is a delicious way to eat more of this leafy green vegetable. Chili paste adds a nice little kick and can be added as liberally as you desire.

  • Author: Heather McCurdy
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 7 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Vegetable
  • Method: Sauté


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 cups chopped kale*
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground chili paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Mix together the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, chili paste, and salt and set aside.
  3. When the oil is hot and slightly shimmers, add the kale.
  4. Drizzle the chili paste and oil mixture over the kale.
  5. Stir and sauté the kale for just a few minutes until the kale turns a deeper green and is somewhat shiny rather than a dull matte green.
  6. Serve.


  • *Pack the kale down when you measure it.
  • Preparation time is figured using pre-chopped and washed kale. You will need to add some time if you are preparing the kale yourself.
  • Nutrition is calculated based on this recipe. If you make any of the adaptations in the article your nutritional values will vary.

Keywords: kale, kale recipe, vegetable recipe

sauteed kale in bowl

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