If you've ever wondered what to do with leftover kale stems, this recipe is for you! In under 15 minutes, kale stems are transformed into a delicious sweet and spicy side dish. Using a handful of pantry ingredients, the stems become not just edible but enjoyable.

If you love kale, also check out the best kale salad, wheat berry salad with squash, kale, currants, and walnuts, and sage pumpkin pasta bake with kale and buttered pecans.

Sautéed Kale Stems in  pan

This recipe was originally published in 2012. We've updated the post with some new photos and more information, but we've left the delicious recipe exactly the same.

Eating kale stems

Kale stems have a reputation for being fibrous and tough, so it's no surprise that they quickly end up being discarded. They're actually completely edible and can be delicious if done right. From juicing to pickling, roasting, adding to soups, a stir-fry, and pesto, there are endless ways to use kale stems and save them from the compost bin. They're also chock full of nutrients and fiber making them a healthy addition to any meal or side dish.

Tip for saving kale stems: if you're making a recipe with kale leaves and you're not using the stems right away, trim off the ends of the stems and place them in a jar or tall cup with water in the fridge to keep them fresh until you're ready to use them.

Tips for de-stemming kale

When cooking with kale, generally the first step will be to separate the leaf from the stem. Most recipes will use only the leaf, but the stems take center stage in this recipe. There are a few ways you can easily remove the stems from the kale leaves:

  • Use your hands – hold the stem firmly with your dominant hand while using your other hand to gather the leaves and pull them back and away along the stem. This trick also works for herbs with tough stems like rosemary or thyme.
  • Use a large sharp knife – fold the leaves of the kale together and hold them with your non-cutting hand against the cutting board. Use the knife to chop the leaves from the stem as closely as possible.

a close up of Sautéed Kale Stems in a pan

How to make sweet and spicy sautéed kale stems

On busy weeknights, it's helpful to have quick recipes like this one that use just a handful of pantry staples. This one comes together in 3 simple steps:

  1. Prepare the vegetables. Remove the kale leaves from the stems, chop them into 1″ pieces, and mince the onion.
  2. Cook to soften. Saute the kale stems and onion in olive oil to soften while leaving some crunch.
  3. Bring it all together. Add the seasonings, taste and add extra salt if you'd like, then enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions: Sauteed Kale Stems

What kind of kale should I use?

You can use any kind of kale except baby kale. Some of the more popular varieties that work well are curly, lacinato, and red russian kale.

Can I use any hot sauce in place of sriracha?

It will depend on your hot sauce but good substitutions are sambal oelek (an Indonesian hot sauce), chili garlic sauce, or gochujang (a spicy Korean fermented hot sauce.) Because heat levels will vary with different sauces, adjust the amount to taste.

Does this recipe keep well?

This recipe is best if eaten right away but any leftovers can be stored in a container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

What to serve with sweet and spicy sautéed kale stems

This would make a great side to just about any main, especially the Spanish chicken bake (which uses the kale leaves), pork chops with caramel apples, or slow-bake Asian salmon.

a serving dish with sweet and spicy sauteed kale stems
Sautéed Kale Stems in pan

Sweet and Spicy Sautéed Kale Stems

If you've ever wondered what to do with leftover kale stems, this recipe is for you! In under 15 minutes, kale stems are transformed into a delicious sweet and spicy side dish. Using a handful of pantry ingredients, the stems become not just edible but enjoyable.

If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!

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Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 10-12 kale stems, picked clean of the leaves and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce, can use reduced sodium
  • ½ teaspoon sriracha
  • 1 pinch chili flakes
  • 1 pinch sea salt

Instructions 

  • Heat the oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the kale stems and onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until the kale stems have softened but still have a little crunch.
    2 teaspoons olive oil, 10-12 kale stems, 2 tablespoons finely minced onion
    image for recipe instruction
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the honey, soy sauce, sriracha, chili flakes, and season to taste with sea salt.
    ½ teaspoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup, ½ teaspoon sriracha, 1 pinch chili flakes, 1 pinch sea salt
    image for recipe instruction
Serving: 1 serving = ¼ cup, Calories: 64kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 78mg, Potassium: 293mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 5714IU, Vitamin C: 69mg, Calcium: 87mg, Iron: 1mg
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