How to Freeze Kale (For Fast Smoothies & Quick Meals!)
If you’ve ever found yourself in an abundance of kale (whether it’s curly kale or dinosaur kale), don’t fret! You can easily help reduce food waste and save money by freezing it until you’re ready to eat it.
How to keep kale fresh
Keeping fresh, leafy greens like kale is super simple. Kale can stay fresh in the fridge for at least 5 days (or more) if you clean kale after getting it home from the store, dry it off completely, and place it in a bag with a paper towel to collect excess moisture.
To learn how to store kale in the freezer, it only takes a few steps and a couple of minutes to meal prep for future healthy meals. All you need is kale, running water, a salad spinner, a storage container, and a freezer.
Can you freeze kale?
You can definitely freeze excess kale and use it for a myriad of recipes for the future–it will most likely keep its texture after freezing too. I’ve found that varieties like dinosaur kale will keep its crisp texture after freezing, however, you need to carefully handle curly kale while defrosting to prevent it from breaking.
Some of my favorite ways to use kale after its frozen are below:
- Hot soups
- Scrambled eggs/omelette
- Kale chips
How to prepare kale for freezing
You first need to decide if you want to process the kale by blanching it or just leaving it in its raw and fresh state. If you want to use kale in smoothies within the next 6 weeks, fresh kale is the best option to get the most nutrients. If you need to keep kale longer than 2 months, then you should blanch it first to preserve its structure and flavor.
Washing and chopping
If you plan on freezing your kale raw for smoothies, chop your kale first and then wash the leaves. Remove the stems and chop the leaves into your preferred size. If you want to blanch your kale before freezing, you can leave the leaves whole. Clean the kale thoroughly under running water and submerge them in water to get to those extra crevices where dirt hides.
Continue the blanching process by heating up a pot of boiling water and place the kale to cook in the water for about 2 minutes (any more and you’ll overcook it). Immediately lift the kale out and transfer them into an ice bath for 2 minutes to stop the cooking process. Place them on a paper towel to remove excess water and then put them in an airtight container or bag.
Freezing kale raw
If you want to freeze the kale raw, use a salad spinner to remove all the excess water or blot it out with paper towels. Transfer the kale into airtight containers or bags and remove as much of the air inside as possible to prevent freezer burn.
Freezing kale for smoothies
When freezing kale specifically for smoothies, I like to freeze them raw in order to keep as many water-soluble nutrients like vitamin c in the greens intact; These nutrients would most likely get removed from kale during any cooking process that involves heat. Since frozen raw kale only lasts for about 4-6 weeks in the freezer, it’s important to consume the greens as soon as possible.
If you need any ideas on how to use frozen kale, you can definitely use it to prep any frozen smoothie packs for future snacks and breakfasts. Like adding frozen kale to soups or stews, you can also add frozen kale directly into the blender–its icy consistency can even act as a thickener for your smoothies.
Why do you blanch kale before freezing?
If you plan on freezing kale for longer periods of time, blanching may be the right option. Like other vegetables and foods, kale has naturally occurring enzymes that continue to ripen and change its texture and quality even after picking the food. Blanching before freezing kale helps to stop this process to preserve the color, texture, and taste for up to 12 months in the freezer.
Additionally, if you want to save space in the freezer, blanching reduces the size of kale to a fraction of its original size and takes up less space in the freezer.
Freezing fresh kale without blanching
You also have the option of keeping kale in its original shape without blanching. I prefer freezing kale in its raw form when I know I’ll use it within 6 weeks because it has higher beneficial nutrients like antioxidants and vitamin c than cooked kale.
I like to chop kale into smaller pieces to be able to fit more into a ziplock bag. This works great for using frozen kale for soups because you don’t have to bother cutting it. You can just toss them directly into the soup and the heat of the soup should defrost and cook the greens super fast.
Does freezing kale ruin it or reduce nutrients?
With or without freezing, the natural enzymes occurring in raw kale will continue to ripen the greens and change its flavor, texture, and color. Freezing does help to slow down these enzymes, but it doesn’t stop them unless you properly blanch the leaves.
While blanching kale before freezing helps to stop enzymes from over-ripening the greens in the freezer, it is only blanching the kale that reduces the number of water-soluble nutrients like vitamin c. However, blanched kale still has plenty of nutrients in regards to antioxidants like flavonoids and other minerals.
Freezing kale should not change the texture if you use it within 6 weeks for raw kale or 12 months for blanched kale. However, when taking the kale out of the bag from the freezer, be careful because its frozen state makes it easier to crumble or break if you’re too rough with it while it’s still frozen. I found this especially true with curly kale.
How to Freeze Kale
- knife and cutting board
- salad spinner
- Ziplock bag or airtight container
- paper towels
- pot and mixing bowl (optional)
- 1 bunch kale
- For curly kale, remove the stems by holding the end of the stem in one hand and using your other hand to strip the leaves and separate them from the stems. I like to keep the stems of dinosaur kale intact. You have the option to cut the leaves into smaller pieces depending on your preference.
- Clean the kale under running water and submerge in water for 2 minutes to remove excess dirt.
- To blanch kale before freezing: Heat a pot of boiling water and prepare an iced bath. Add the clean kale in the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes or until it begins to wilt. Transfer it immediately to the ice bath to stop the cooking. Place the leaves on a paper towel to remove excess water and then transfer into an airtight container, removing as much air as possible.
- To freeze kale raw: Use a salad spinner to remove excess water or use a paper towel to pat the leaves dry. Transfer into an airtight container and remove as much air inside as possible without crushing the kale.
- Mark and label the containers for the date of freezing and best by date and store in the freezer making sure to use raw kale within 4-6 weeks and blanched kale within 12 months.
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