Before kale earned its well-deserved reputation as a nutrient-dense superfood about seven years ago, it was pretty much only purchased by caterers as a garnish, or as the inedible part of a food display. Because of its newfound and rather unprecedented popularity, it is now grown in abundance. There's doubt kale has found its way into your home too, and you might be wondering, can you freeze kale? The answer is yes! In fact, kale is one leafy green that holds up in the freezer like a star.
Whether you grow your own kale in your backyard garden or buy bunches of the locally grown stuff at your farmer’s market, give your greens a good wash in the sink to remove any dirt or debris. Make sure to separate the leaves, because that’s where dirt, as well as little hitchhikers, tend to hide. You can also more thoroughly dislodge any critters by dunking your kale in a solution of one to three tablespoons of vinegar per one gallon of water and letting it soak for about half an hour. Once your kale is cleaned up, give the leaves another rinse and then get chopping. While the stems are generally too fibrous to eat, they are a fine addition to soups and stir-fries as long as you cut the central stem away.
Getting your kale freezer-ready couldn’t be easier. All you need is a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water nearby. Simply toss the leaves into the boiling water for about 20-30 seconds. This is called blanching. Then, immediately transfer the kale leaves to the bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process, then drain. Finally, transfer your reasonably cooled kale into a freezer bag or other airtight container and pop it in the freezer.
Freezing raw greens without blanching causes the plant cells within the leaves to rupture, permanently destroying both the texture and color. This is why when you buy those bags of frozen vegetables at the supermarket, such as spinach, they’re already partially cooked. However, some people prefer to freeze kale raw. Not only is it hearty enough to survive the freezing process better than other leafy greens, but it can also be crumbled easily into recipes this way, saving you from having to chop it beforehand.
Without a doubt. Just like fresh kale, frozen kale is packed with an incredible array of nutrients because minerals, fiber and fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin K and beta-carotene survive the blanching and freezing process pretty well. Unfortunately, water-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin C, aren’t as stable, and generally don’t survive blanching or freezing, which means frozen kale has significantly less of that vitamin than fresh. Furthermore, while both frozen and fresh kale are loaded with glucosinolates, only fresh kale is rich in the enzyme that transforms this phytonutrient into isothiocyanates, which may help fight cancer.
The answer to this question depends almost entirely on storage conditions. If you’ve properly prepared your kale for freezing at peak condition, it will be at its best for approximately 10 to 12 months. If you still haven’t found a use for it after all those months, rest assured it will remain safe to eat even after that time, and kale that has been kept consistently frozen at 0°F will last almost indefinitely.
Defrosting kale is as simple as it sounds. Just take the bag or whatever container you’ve stored it in and place it directly into a bowl of cool water for approximately one hour. Once the kale is thawed, it’s ready to be used for whatever dish you desire to make.
If you want to enjoy previously frozen kale as a side dish rather than incorporating it into a recipe, here’s how to cook it in just a few steps:
You can tell when kale is approaching its use-by date when it begins to lose its bright green color and starts taking on a more yellowish hue. The best way to know for sure if your kale has truly gone bad is to examine the leaves. If it is spoiled, the leaves will become increasingly discolored, mushy and soft. At this point, you should compost it.
Unfortunately, the thawed texture of thawed kale is no longer very salad-friendly. But in almost every other application, the opportunities are truly endless. Quiches, omelets, casseroles, pasta dishes, side dishes, sauces, dips -- you name it. If the recipe calls for kale, you’re covered. You can even add it directly from the freezer to certain recipes, like hearty soups and stews, and antioxidant-rich green smoothies.
You should consume previously frozen kale as soon as possible. That being said, thawed kale that has been properly stored in a cold refrigerator will usually keep fairly well for about five to seven days. If your previously frozen kale was cooked, you can expect it to last about three to five days in the fridge.