You want to like kale. You've tried really hard to get on the bandwagon. But with its bitterness and tough texture, kale is not exactly the friendliest veggie, especially when eaten raw in a salad.
While this cruciferous green doesn't always go down easily, there's a good reason why it's become so trendy — it's super healthy.
"Kale is a powerhouse of nutrients, offering a hefty source of vitamins A, C and K, plus it's rich in antioxidants and fiber and can help defend the body against free radical damage, oxidative stress, diabetes and heart disease," Lisa Moskovitz, RDN, founder and CEO of The NY Nutrition Group, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
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If you want the health benefits of this superfood, but a big bowl of kale doesn't sound appealing, we've got you covered. These creative and tasty cooking ideas and recipes will have you eating more of the leafy green — no salad required.
1. Build a Burrito Shell
"Replacing refined flour tortillas with nutrient and fiber-dense kale is an excellent way to add more value to your meals," Moskovitz says.
And don't limit yourself to burritos: Kale leaves work for any kind of wrap from turkey to chicken and veggies. Try subbing in sturdy kale for romaine or collard greens in one of the recipes below.
Wrap Recipes to Try
2. Blend Into Burgers or Meatballs
"If you can't figure out how to enjoy kale, chopping or blending it into meat or veggie burgers can be the perfect solution," says Moskowitz.
"You will barely taste it, but your body will definitely appreciate that it's there."
Indeed, mixing kale into your favorite meat dishes — from burgers to meatballs and meatloaf — will heap on a hefty helping of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.
"Studies even link the nutrients in kale to healthier eyes, bones and hair," Moskovitz says.
3. Develop Into a Dip
While spinach may be a staple in dip recipes, it's not the only green that goes well with creamy dips. Kale blends beautifully into yogurt, cheese or sour cream-based dips, too.
In fact, you can even swap out spinach for kale in your favorite spinach artichoke dip recipe, Moskovitz says.
Serve your kale creation with veggie sticks or whole-wheat pita wedges and watch how fast the delicious dip disappears the next time you have a get-together.
A Dip Recipe to Try
4. Add It to Baked Goods
"Kale doesn't have to be just reserved for savory or salty meals," Moskovitz says. Matter of fact, kale can blend effortlessly into your cake batter.
By slipping kale into your baked goods, you can easily enhance the nutrient profile of decadent desserts without affecting their flavor. This way, you get a mouthful of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber with every bite.
A Healthy Cake Recipe to Try
5. Sneak Into a Smoothie
Not just refreshing, smoothies are the perfect vehicle for combining many different food groups in one — and they supply a seamless way to sneak more kale into your daily diet, Moskovitz says.
Start with your favorite fruit, then add some kale along with a serving of high-protein, probiotic-rich yogurt and you'll have a balanced, ultra-nutritious snack or meal, Moskovitz says.
"You can also combine the bitterness of kale into something smooth and creamy like a milkshake," she says.
In a blender, simply mix together a serving of light ice cream (Moskovitz recommends Halo Top Vanilla Bean), your milk of choice, a spoon of natural almond butter, fresh fruit and a big handful of kale.
Smoothie Recipes to Try
6. Create a Crispy Snack
Think potatoes are the only veggie that can make a great chip?
"Kale can easily be transformed into crispy, crunchy chips," Moskovitz says. And making this savory snack is quite simple: All you have to do is toss kale leaves onto a baking sheet, sprinkle them with sea salt and olive oil and bake.
We promise these crunchy tater chip alternatives will crush your junk food cravings minus the extra fat and calories.
7. Toss It Into Soup
"Soups are by far the easiest way to incorporate, or even sneak in, this hearty leafy green," Moskovitz says.
Just add a few handfuls about 10 minutes before you turn off the heat. As your soup simmers, the kale will soften up to perfection without fully falling apart thanks to its sturdy texture.
"Add plenty of other flavorful ingredients like onions, carrots, celery, beans, broth and seasonings, for immune system benefits," she says.