What to do with kale stems

sauteed kale stems on crusty bread

Lotta kale going on around here lately. Lots and lots of kale. Creamy kale stuffed into toasty roasted mushrooms. Cheesy kale stuffed into sweet, earthy spaghetti squash. It just seems useful at this point to share my favorite thing to do with all the leftover kale stems. I freeze mine so I usually have a bag waiting for me whenever I need an easy meal or a quick, convenient appetizer. Here is my favorite “recipe”, if you can call it that. It is spicy, garlicky, and served on toast. Plus, it takes less than 10 minutes to make, so… yes, we’re on the simple track to easy town.

If you’ve ever bitten into a raw hunk of kale stem, you know they can be quite bitter and unpleasant to eat… they kinda taste like they’re not meant to be eaten at all. But, with a little finesse, they’re actually delicious and even healthier for you than the leaves.

How to make a meal out of stems

a jar of chili oil, sliced kale stems, sliced garlic, and a lemon on a cutting board

To make good use of these super nutritious kale stems, slice them into 1/4” rounds so they’ll cook quickly and become nice and tender. Slice up some garlic and cut a wedge of lemon while you heat oil in a skillet.

I love, love, love to use the oil from a jar of Calabrian chilies for this. It gives a nice smoky heat… quite a bit of fiery spice actually… almost too spicy but still somehow just right. This DeLallo brand is the kind I buy, although this is a link to a 6-pack of them. Seriously, 6 jars of these aren’t the worst thing to have in the house… Anyway, fiery heat is a *perfect* match with hearty greens. If you don’t have a jar of these, just throw a pinch of crushed red pepper in halfway through sauteing the kale stems.

thinly sliced kale stems sauteing in a skillet with a wooden spoon

Get those kale stems into the oil and season them with salt. Cook, stirring, until they’re bright green and tender.

Add the garlic, stirring until it’s slightly golden but not burnt. Squeeze a lemon over it for brightness, then, unload all of this goodness onto a piece of toasted bread. No one would be mad at a big piece of crusty French bread… charred under the broiler… and maybe rubbed with a bit of garlic. Yum. Drizzle some olive oil over all your little kale toasts and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

sauteed kale stems on crusty bread

OK, feels like I should have more to say here. But, this recipe is just that simple and so delicious in a good, clean, fun kind of way because it’s just vegetables and bread. I feel super resourceful making something like this, hope you do too!

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Spicy Sauteed Kale Stems

sauteed kale stems on crusty bread

My best use for kale stems is to thinly slice and quickly sauté them in chili oil with garlic and pile them up on some nice crusty bread – easy, healthy, and delicious!

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 4 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 2, or more as an appetizer 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Saute
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 2 TBS oil (I use the oil from a jar of Calabrian chilies, see note)
  • 1 1/4 C of kale stems, sliced in 1/4” rounds
  • salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • Good crusty bread, toasted
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • flaky sea salt for finishing


  1. Heat the chili oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kale stems, season with salt, and saute until bright green and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute, stirring until it’s golden brown but not burnt. Squeeze a wedge of lemon over the stems.
  2. Spoon mixture onto toasted bread, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Enjoy!


If you don’t have a good chili oil to use, throw in a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes when the kale stems are almost done cooking. Also, just a heads up, if you do use the Calabrian chili oil, it is HOT!

One thought on “What to do with kale stems”

  1. I’m really looking forward to making this Kale recipe as well as your cauliflower leaves and stalk. Can’t wait! I’m just learning to use every bit of edible vegetable parts! These recipes look better than anything I have seen before. Thank you!

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