The Greatest Way to Quickly Freeze Kale

Freezing Kale

Lacinato kale in my front yard garden just waiting to be preserved for winter eating!

In this post I’ll show you how insanely easy it is to freeze kale for use in delicious recipes all winter long.

During the height of the summer harvest season, kale can get a little lonely in our gardens. I have to admit, I often brush by my kale plants in summer and rush towards the dramatic reds, purples, and yellows of my favorite summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

But, when I take an objective look at kale, it wins a place at the top of my “most worth it to grow” vegetable list.

In my zone 5 garden, I plant my kale seedlings in mid-April and there they sit all season long calmly producing leaf after leaf after leaf for me to harvest and eat.

I’m often harvesting from those same kale plants through the heat of summer, into the cooler temperatures of fall, and right into the freezing days and nights of winter. It truly is an amazing vegetable!

It’s extremely long harvest season is why I devote a least one large garden bed to my kale plantings each season and usually grow somewhere around 12 plants of various varieties.

If you’re a kale addict like me, you probably end up with a large amounts of kale that’s ready for harvest, but no way to possibly eat that large of a quantity.

(Although the magical wonder of a massaged kale salad can go a long way towards helping you ingest a mountain of kale in one or two sittings.)

When you get to the point of having more kale than you can eat it’s time to freeze kale!

Kale leaves are at their most tender and yummy when they’re new, so there’s not a lot of benefit to letting them sit in the garden for weeks on end. It’s better to harvest and use them.

Luckily, kale is one of the easiest vegetables to preserve. There’s virtually no prep involved!

In the rest of this post I’ll walk you through the extremely easy process I use to freeze piles of kale every summer.

I’ve stopped buying kale from the grocery store in winter because I can simply run down to my basement chest freezer and pull out a bag of frozen kale whenever I want.

If you plan it right, this can be your reality, too!

how to quickly freeze kale

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Directions to Quickly Freeze Kale

It’s true – you can freeze kale raw! I used to steam it first, but after a tip from a friend, I started freezing it raw.

I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two methods. So, of course, I opted for the path that gets the kale into the freezer quicker.

And if you’re also growing swiss chard, collards, and beets you can feel free to mix these greens into the same bag as the kale, especially if you need to bulk up the amount you need to fill a freezer bag. Check out this post all about freezing swiss chard.

Food preserving really doesn’t get much easier than this.

directions on how to freeze kaleDe-stemming the kale.

Step 1: De-stem & Chop

Use a knife to cut the leaves from the stems and chop the leaves into desired bite-sized pieces. You can discard the stems, freeze them with the leaves, freeze them separately, or turn them into Kale Stem Pesto!

cutting kale for freezing

Chopping the kale into pieces for freezing.

Step 2: Wash

If you tend to have worms and insects in your kale (I do!) you might want to wash the leaves before processing.

how to dry kale for freezing

Dry it in a salad spinner after washing.

Step 3: Dry

If you rinsed your kale, try to dry the leaves off a bit before freezing. This will cut down on the ice crystals that form due to moisture.

Use a towel to pat them dry, or give them a few turns through your salad spinner if you have one. (I’ve had this one for many years and use it several times a week.)

containers for freezing kale

Step 4: Load into containers

In this step you have a choice on how you want the finished product to function.

If you don’t mind the kale leaves freezing into one big chunk, simply pack the leaves as densely as possible into freezer bags. This is what I do.

If you’d like the leaves to be loose and easily broken apart, spread them on a cookie sheet and pre-freeze them in the freezer for 60 minutes. Then pack into freezer bags.

I don’t find this to be a necessary step because even when you freeze the kale in a block it’s pretty easy to break off a chunk.

You could try a few bags with each of the two methods and decide which you like better.

See below for notes about other containers to use.

Step 5: Store

The best place to store your frozen kale is in a chest freezer. If you’re getting serious about easy food preserving you’ll want to invest in one.

The freezer contained in your kitchen fridge (upright freezer) goes through periodic defrost cycles, which is why your ice cream is a bit soft sometimes when you dig it out for a late night snack.

A chest freezer stays at a constant temperature of zero degrees F. This is better for long lasting frozen food quality.

When you freeze your kale it will last up to one year – unless you eat it all first!

Ta-da! Five steps. That’s it!

kale harvest for freezing

Containers for Freezer Storage

We’re trying to reduce our overall plastic use in our house. For many of my frozen food items I use wide mouth glass quart, pint and half pint glass canning jars.

Kale is difficult to remove from these jars, so I’ve defaulted to using freezer bags instead.

I try to care for my bags so they last several seasons in a row and then they’re often downgraded to hold other random household objects. But, they still do wear out and need to be thrown away.

If you have the budget, or plan to just freeze small amounts of food, you could invest in Stasher bags (or some other reusable silicone based bag).

You can also use plastic tupperware type containers for freezing vegetables.

See all of my recommended garden tools, books, seeds, and easy preserving supplies in my Amazon storefront.

How Much Kale to Freeze

I find that a quart-sized amount of frozen kale is one or two servings depending on how I’m using it in a recipe.

That’s why it’s so convenient to use the quart freezer bags, even though I’m not crazy about the plastic. (If you have a solution to this leave me comment below!)

I recommend keeping a record of how much food you’re preserving each year so you can evaluate whether you’re putting away too much, not enough, or exactly how much you need.

It’s best to try to eat your frozen kale and other vegetables within one year.

I checked my records and I usually freeze 15 quart bags of kale for winter and tend to use them up by the beginning of the kale harvest season the next spring.

Once you have fresh kale coming out of your garden you’re not going to want to dig out that old frozen kale!

how to freeze kale

Ideas for Using Frozen Kale

I love to use frozen kale in smoothies, soups, stews, and stir-fries throughout the dark winter months. I simply take out a freezer bag and use the whole chunk, or cut off what I want with a knife.

I don’t usually defrost it first. I throw it in frozen.

Frozen vegetables never have the same consistency as their raw counterparts, so frozen kale is best used in cooked dishes.

If you love massaged kale salads you should use your fresh kale. (Here’s a blog post where I share how to make a massaged kale salad.)

In any recipe that calls for frozen spinach, I substitute frozen kale instead.

Favorite Recipes for Using Frozen Kale

Learning how to preserve your extra vegetables is only one part of the equation. Once you have that down you can start searching out recipes that highlight the vegetables you’ve put away. That’s the fun part!

Here are some of my favorite recipes I’ve discovered over the years that are a great complement to frozen kale.

Thai Red Curry with Vegetables from Cookie and Kate

Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes Recipe from 101 Cookbooks

Best Vegetarian Lasagna from Love and Lemons

Quinoa and Kale Veggie Quesadillas from Love and Lemons

If you love the idea of having a stash of kale to use in your favorite dishes all winter long, make a plan to plant more than you can eat fresh this season.

Then, when the plants are pumping out fresh leaves during harvest season, have a blast gathering piles of kale and using this simple method to freeze it!

And don’t forget to check out my free mini-course: Get Started Stocking Your Pantry for Winter. I’ll show you how simple it can be to fill your pantry with lots of healthy food that will save you trips to the grocery store this winter! Start watching the videos here.

 

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