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Lacinato Kale is a popular vegetable, not just because of its impressive nutritional profile of vitamins and fiber, but because it’s an incredibly versatile leafy green. When prepared properly, it’s delicious cooked or raw, as an element in soups, and salads, and can even be baked until crispy for kale chips

a bunch of lacinato kale on a white marble board

But how much do you know about this wonder green? Here are some basics, a bit of history, and 10+ great recipes to try.

What is lacinato kale?

Lacinato kale is a dark blue-green, heirloom variety of Kale that has been enjoyed in Italy since the 18th century. It goes by many names: dinosaur kale (said to resemble what dinosaur skin may have looked like), Italian or Tuscan kale, and cavolo nero (which translates literally to ‘black cabbage’ in Italian, as it’s a member of the cabbage family). 

What is the difference between kale and lacinato kale?

Lacinato kale is a cruciferous vegetable among many others (like Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and collards). Its flavorful leaves tend to be sweeter and more delicate than other kale varieties, like curly kale (the most common variety, pictured below), and Red Russian kale.

leaves of curly kale

How to Buy:

When you buy Lacinato kale, look for dark blue-green leaves, without brown spots or wilted edges. The stem ends should look recently cut, not brown or dry. Smaller leaves, are more tender and their stems and ribs may need very little if any trimming.

You’ll find it it most grocery stores, but it will likely be fresher if you can find it at your local farmer’s market.

How to Store:

Make sure that your Lacinato kale leaves are dry before transferring them to a zip-top plastic bag or grocery store produce bag. Store bunches in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator where they will stay fresh for 5-7 days.

How to Prepare:

It’s important to wash Lacinato kale leaves well before cooking as grit tends to hide in the leaves many bumps and folds. For a small bunch, rinse both sides of each leaf under cold water.

If you’re washing a lot of kale at once, it’s best to remove the stems and center ribs (optional – see below) and coarsely chop the leaves or cut them into ribbons and submerse in water. Slosh the kale leaves around to allow the grit to drift to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the kale out and transfer to a strainer. (Never pour the kale and the water used to rinse it directly into a strainer, as you’ll end up pouring all the grit that’s fallen to the bottom right over your clean kale!)

Should you eat kale stems?

Though kale stems and ribs are edible, but can be tough. They are typically removed by running a sharp knife along the stem and center rib to separate the leaf. (see video / image below for how to cut away the rib and stem). If the stems and center ribs are tender, they’re often sweet and crunchy and can be finely cut into ribbons for use in salads and soups. (The center ribs on smaller leaves are often tender and can be left intact.)

If you don’t want to discard the stems, you can cook them separately from the leaves or add them to stocks that will be strained. To cook the stems, finely chop and cook along with other recipe base aromatics like onion and garlic, so that they are sautéed long enough to become tender. 

Can you eat lacinato kale raw?

Lacinato is a great choice for making kale salad. It’s best to cut the leaves crosswise into thin ribbons or tear into bite size pieces. Then massage with a pinch of salt or fresh lemon juice to soften and season the leaves before dressing them and adding other ingredients. In the images below you’ll see how the kale softens and turns a deeper shade of green when massaged.

How to Cook Lacinato Kale

The simplest way to cook trimmed, chopped lacinato kale is to cook and stir it along with minced fresh garlic in olive oil until tender and then season with salt. This makes a wonderful side dish to almost any preparation of meat, poultry, fish, or seafood. 

Raw kale is also a great addition to many soups (it’s a typical ingredient in the classic Tuscan soup: Ribollita). In as little as 5 minutes it will be tender enough to eat, yet holds its texture for long simmering times and reheating.

Kale Salad Recipes

kale and quinoa salad served in a white bowl

Kale and Quinoa Salad

5 from 9 votes
Serve this warm or cold – it’s delicious either way!
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Kale Caesar Salad served on white plates

Kale Caesar Salad

5 from 2 votes
A fresh take on Kale Caesar Salad! Thin and tender ribbons of Italian kale tossed with a simple, creamy dressing (that doesn’t require a raw egg), shredded parmesan cheese and crunchy garlic and olive oil breadcrumbs instead of croutons. 
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Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad served in a white bowl

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

5 from 7 votes
You’ll want to use Italian kale, also called lacinato or dino kale for this as the leaves are more tender than other kale varieties. 
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Kale Salad with Tomatoes Bacon and Preserved Lemon Dressing

5 from 2 votes
Use thick sliced bacon for this – you want it to have a solid presence in the salad. Adapted from this recipe in Bon Appétit magazine.
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Cornbread Salad

5 from 1 vote
24 fresh sage leaves may sound like a lot, but, trust me, once they’re chopped and butter crisped you won’t mind. This recipe makes enough for four generous main course servings. 
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Summer Farro Salad

The ultimate feel-good salad loaded with crunchy, raw vegetables, kale, and pecans.
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Warm Kale Salad with Almonds and Golden Raisins

4.75 from 4 votes
A warm and wonderful kale salad, full of sweet and savory flavors. (Skip the cheese for a vegan salad.)
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Snow Pea and Kale Salad with Toasted Coconut and Lime

Be sure to give your kale a quick salt massage – it makes a big difference in texture and flavor! Lightly adapted from this recipe in Bon Appétit magazine.
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Kale Apple Salad served on white plates and photographed from the top.

Kale Apple Salad

5 from 1 vote
Brilliant green kale, crispy sweet-tart apples make a wonderful base for this salad. Make their flavors sing by tossing them with a tangy apricot Dijon dressing, salty Pecorino and crunchy, buttery hazelnuts.
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Kale Soup Recipes

Ribollita served in a black bowl

Ribollita Soup

5 from 5 votes
If you plan to serve this Tuscan ribollita in the traditional sense, over several days, only use the portion of toasted bread appropriate to the number of servings. Store the rest in an airtight container at room temperature to add to remaining soup.
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caldo verde

Caldo Verde

5 from 1 vote
Simply said, this Caldo Verde soup is spectacular. It’s a Portuguese classic for good reason.
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Pasta_e_Fagioli being served from a ladle

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

5 from 3 votes
A simple and authentic recipe for Pasta e Fagioli soup! One of my favorite Italian dishes. So easy to make with with sausage, beans, pasta, vegetables and a flavorful broth.
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White Bean Sausage and Kale Soup served in a white bowl

White Bean, Sausage and Kale Soup

5 from 8 votes
A hearty, deeply flavorful soup that's easy to make and serves a crowd!
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Roasted Vegetable Minestrone

Roasted Vegetable Minestrone Soup

You can use broth or water for the liquid in this soup – or even the juice from cooked beans if you’ve saved it.
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More Kale Recipes

Kale, Kohlrabi & Mint Stir Fry with Bacon and Fried Egg

The ingredient mix is the key here, the quantity of each is up to you. I’ve listed the amounts I use to make dinner (or lunch) for two as a starting point – adjust them to make it your own.
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Crispy-Chicken-Thighs-with-Kale-and-Bacon on white plates

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Garlicky Kale

You can have this whole meal on your table in about 45 minutes with just a few minutes of prep. It’s huge on flavor and low on fuss!
View Recipe
Penne-with-Slow-Roasted-Tomatoes-Kale-and-Mozzarella in a white bowl

Roasted Tomato Pasta with Kale and Mozzarella

5 from 1 vote
I’ve called for canned tomatoes, but Slow Roasted Tomatoes also work wonderfully in this recipe. 
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Steamed Cod Over Greens with Meyer Lemon Gremolata

If you want to skip the bacon, just use olive oil and a bit of smoked salt if you have some one hand. Feel free to double the recipe (or more) if you have more people to serve.
View Recipe

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17 Comments

  1. Carol says:

    I ran across Lacinato Kale in my area and I love it! I use it in my smoothies, salads and egg white omelets. I have even sauteed it with shallots, grape tomatoes, sweet basil, mushrooms and garlic in avocado oil. A very tasty side dish.

  2. Ben @ Havocinthekitchen says:

    How interesting! I’ve never heard of lacinato kale. In fact, I am not a huge fan of regular curly kale (It tastes too cabbage-y to my liking), but according to your description, I should like it more thanks to a sweeter and more delicate flavour. Needless to say, it has a gorgeous vibrant colour. Hopefully, I can get my hands on it on and use it in a recipe!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I hope you can find it, Ben! It really is as delicious as it is versatile!

  3. Leanne says:

    We can get curly kale and red kale around here, but I don’t often see dinosaur kale. Hopefully I can find it and give kale chips a try!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I hope you can find it, Leanne! 🙂

  4. Dawn - Girl Heart Food says:

    I love all types of kale and this one is extra hearty! Love all the tips and, of course, the recipes! Now, off to get some kale 😉

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Yay! Thanks, Dawn.