How to Cook Kale in a Microwave

Kale is nutrient-dense and easy to make.
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An underused vegetable up until the last decade, kale is a nutritious go-to that can be enjoyed either raw or cooked. And you'll find that using the microwave for kale recipes is surprisingly easy!

Did you know that, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, before kale became a trendy health food starting in 2012, its most common use was as a garnish in restaurants? But as more people became aware of its nutritional benefits and versatility, it became more and more popular.

Kale’s Health Profile

A member of the family of cruciferous vegetables, kale is a relative of broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. As Harvard explains, it is a rich source of vitamins K, C and B6, as well as folate, manganese and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients make kale a great protector against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

And kale is low in calories too. The USDA lists 1 cup of loosely packed kale as having only 8 calories, much of which comes from its 1.4 grams of carbohydrates (with 0.6 grams of fiber and 0.4 grams of sugar) and its 0.7 grams of protein.

How to Microwave Kale

Cooking greens in the microwave is a fairly simple preparation method that doesn't deplete too many nutrients. According to an April 2018 report in Food Science and Biotechnology, less vitamin K loss was seen when cooking greens in the microwave (in this case, specifically spinach and chard) versus cooking other vegetables in the microwave.

If you were to microwave broccoli, a relative of kale, you would similarly find that its nutritional characteristics are not negatively affected, or so a January 2016 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found.

Read more: Does Baked Kale Have Nutrients Left?

You can microwave kale a number of different ways. If you simply want soft, wilted kale — similar to how it would get if you were to steam or sauté it — then Purdue Extension recommends putting kale in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 teaspoon of water, covering it, and microwaving for two minutes per 2 cups of kale. You can then drain and serve.

A similar recommendation comes from the Marion VA Medical Center with the Department of Veteran Affairs, which suggests putting 8 cups of torn kale in a microwave-safe bowl, covering and cooking for three minutes until it is wilted. Afterward, drain the bowl and allow the kale to cool before chopping it. The medical center then suggests using it to make a hash with red onion, diced turnips, salt and pepper in a stove top skillet.

Read more: 10 Microwave Hacks That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

But it's not just wilted kale you can achieve in the microwave. Colorado State University explains how you can make kale chips by tossing chopped kale with oil and salt, then draping the leaves around the edges and base of a microwave-safe bowl or plate. Microwave the dish on high for three minutes and check for crispness. If the kale leaves still need a little more cooking, put them back in for another three minutes.

Once you successfully microwave the kale, get creative with how you use it in your meal planning. Purdue Extension notes that kale pairs well with other foods, including brown rice, eggs and bacon, among many others.

In many cases, you might not have to cook kale. Use it raw to make a variety of cool dishes, like our Crunchy Kale Salad with apples and sunflower seeds or even our Kale Pesto.