Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika

We have a thing for greens in our family. Beet greens, collard greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale. My mother even picks dandelion greens to add to soups, and mix in with other greens. The thing about most greens is that they tend to be bitter, and some, like collard and kale, a little tough as well. Blanching before sautéing can help take the edge off the bitterness, and soften the greens. Greens are often prepared with garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, bacon, chili pepper, or barbecue sauce, strong flavors that can balance the inherent bitterness of the greens. In this recipe, the kale is first boiled, then sautéed with onions, chili flakes, and smoked paprika. We’ve used smoked paprika in a few other recipes here; it sort of has the flavor of barbecued potato chips. It takes just a little more than a pinch to bring a little smokey kick to these kale greens.

My father made this kale for us last night, from a recipe in an old issue of Bon Appetit. It was so good (truly, the best kale I’ve ever eaten, ever), not only did I take more than my fair share, I insisted that he make them again today, for lunch, so I could eat even more and try to take a good photo. (Thanks dad!)

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Sautéed Kale with Smoked Paprika Recipe

Kale tends to collect dirt in the leaf wrinkles, so rinse carefully before using. To prep, cut the leaf away from the center rib and stem of each leaf. Discard stems and center ribs.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh kale, carefully rinsed, stems and center ribs cut away and discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (also sold as Pimenton), sweet or hot
  • Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
  • Salt

Method

1 Bring a large pot (4 qts) of water to a boil. Add a Tablespoon of salt to the water. Add the chopped kale. Cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2 Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the smoked paprika and crushed red pepper. Add the kale and sauté for several more minutes. Sprinkle on more salt and smoked paprika to taste.

Serves 4.

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Adapted from a Deborah Madison recipe in Bon Appetit magazine.

30 Comments

  1. monica

    Oh man, I LOVE kale. I’ve made the same recipe many times, but without the smoked paprika! Next time I will this. Thanks!

  2. Jessi

    Simple & delish! Thanks Elise, for insisting your dad make it again. :) I haven’t been able to find kale here in Oz, what would you suggest for substitute? I know that it’s a dilemma that’s repeated whenever a recipe calls for kale, or collard, so what is the best sub that’s the closest? I have kept up with the past suggestions and links but still wonder. Thanks in advance.

    I would try Swiss chard. ~Elise

  3. Sarah Knowles

    Another kale fan here. I love the deep, earthy satisfying taste ; especially as the weather turns colder. I have a bag of shredded kale in the freezer and having read this I know exactly how I shall be cooking it! Kale is also fab dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

  4. Alanna @ A Veggie Venture

    Lovely, Elise. Pimenton can be hard to find in the usual spice aisles although Penzey carries it so is easily available online. It’s addictive, completely different than hot or sweet paprika. I lent a friend my can to make paella a few weeks ago, he liked it so much I needed to get another. But he’s using it in everything from morning eggs to supper stews. I know that everything made with pimenton just seems deeper, darker, smokier, so it’s a great choice for kale.

  5. Lindsay Wood

    Looks great and I will be making it tonight.

    I will likely use regular paprika, but will substitute chipotle pepper for the red pepper flakes to get the smokiness.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  6. Joseph

    Kale is such a great ingredient during the cold weather months. I love that bitterness that gives way to a mellow sweetness when cooked. I usually don’t remove any part of the kale because I like the soft wilted leaves and the crunchy center rib and stem. I find blending in some dried fruits and toasted nuts often tones down some of the bitterness.

  7. Karen

    This sounds like a good recipe. Now that colder weather is here, I’m ready to make my Portuguese Kale Soup… yum!

  8. Jennifer

    I received kale from a CSA that I signed up for for the winter. I have been looking for recipes to try as I never had kale before this. I think this will be the first, it actually looks good and I have smoked paprika!

  9. Whitney

    I love kale. It doesn’t get soggy like most greens do. What a yummy, healthy side dish!

  10. Tracy

    Wow–I made this a few weeks ago (thinking I “made it up” LOL) after having some real Southern collard greens and wanting to NOT use pork. It was really, really good.

    I also make Swiss Chard with shallots and balsamic vinegar. YUM.

  11. Tom

    Nice recipe. I didn’t realize that blanching greens would cut the bitterness; good tip. Smoked paprika sounds excellent too. If it has a flavor like barbecued potato chips it has to be good.

  12. EAT

    Thanks for the tip on blanching the greens to take out some of the bitterness. We love greens around our house, and I’m always trying to improve on my preparation.

    The only complaint I have is that no matter how much I make, it never seems to be enough!

    Yep, it seems like you start with enough greens to feed an army, but they cook down so much that you are left with barely enough for 2 or 3. ~Elise

  13. katrina

    Oh, this looks wonderful – and I’ll have to find that smoked paprika. I’ve never had a problem with kale tasting bitter ( as you mentioned in another post) – it may be because the kale I get is local, and has been through a frost, but it would be an unpleasant surprise to find your Portuguese Kale Soup ruined by the bitterness. That’s a good suggestion, to blanch it first. Love those greens!

  14. Leah

    I love kale too…it’s one of my favorites in the fall. Lately, though, I’ve been skipping the boiling/blanching step in favor of simply steaming the kale in the microwave for a couple of minutes before I saute it. I just prep the kale, put it in a bowl and cover it with a plate. The water still on the leaves from when I rinsed it somehow steams it perfectly, leaving it softened and ready for flavoring.

  15. Hallie

    This looks so good, however I have never been able to find smoked paprika, do you know of a chain grocery or kitchen store that has it?

    McCormick is distributing it now; last year it started showing up in the national grocery chains. If you can’t find it locally, you can always order it from Penzeys. ~Elise

  16. tone

    Elise!
    You love Kale? The kitchn recently posted an awesome baked kale recipe.. “Kale Chips” .. I did them in a flash as an accompaniment to umm… homemade Corn Dogs on election night.. I figured we weren’t eating horribly if we ate something green.. and anything with the word “chips” in it catches my attention.
    They were awesome.. My bf ate half the batch before I was done w/ the corn dogs..
    Recipe couldnt be easier: tear kale into smallish pieces, toss with a bit of olive oil/salt/pepper to coat.. and bake at 375 for ~15 mins.

    So tasty.

  17. Espahan

    I feel so healthy when I eat greens. I noticed you mentioned beet greens. I made greens the other day using the tops and the cubed bottoms of some golden beets. They were dilish.

    I love the smoked paprika. We like bold flavor in our foods so I use it liberally. I get mine from Penzey’s Spices in Portland, Oregon. They have an internet store and list stores in you area.

  18. Leya

    I just made this and it was awesome! I added a tiny bit of cinnamon to round out the flavor, which was good, but not really necessary. This will become a new go-to recipe for weeknights for us.

  19. My

    I sure wish I knew what you all are talking about–this pimenton–never seen anything like it here in SE Asia…but it seems like it would be awesome. Do you think I could roast some red chilies as a substitute? For you kale (any greens, for that matter) lovers: par boil and dress with toasted sesame oil, umeboshi vinegar and a few sliced scallions…WOW!

  20. Michele

    We eat greens at least once a week. I was excited to try a new way to make them and it was a hit! I subbed some regular paprika and chipotle for the 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika.

  21. Karen

    Elise – this is wonderful. As it happens, I had received some smoked paprika in a Christmas gift of spices from around the world. I would never have thought to use it with greens, but I’ll probably use it every time now. Delicious!

  22. Laura

    I have been using all different kinds of greens from my CSA (mustard, chard, and even broccoli). Something our farmers keeping telling us is to us the broccoli greens much like kale. I will be giving both a try. Thanks!

  23. Dunja

    This sounds wonderful, I love, love, LOOOOOVE kale. I already saute my Kale mostly but I do it without the blanching step as I like it a bit crisper. One thing I do with Kale that is super satisfying and yummy when I need something filling is to make a hot broth with some diced chicken, spice that up with Paprika, Chipotle or even thai style with lemongrass and then pour the broth in a bowl on top of the chopped, fresh kale. As I sit down for my meal the Kale got nice and tender and brilliantly green.

  24. Rose

    Oh wow. I just found this and had the smoked paprika on hand. That is excellent with the kale! It makes a spectacular base for greens and beans too, which is what I ended up with at the end.

  25. Diane

    Having never eaten kale before, but having received some in a box of produce I received, I served this the other day to my family with some trepidation. I went with your recipe because I figured if there was a recipe they’d like, it would be yours because I’ve never made one of your recipes and not have it a hit. But unknown greens… I wasn’t too sure. Oh “me” of little faith; it was a hit! One thing I did add, though: some bacon pieces. I thought the added flavor might enhance the greens and make the famIly more accepting of them. I don’t know if they made a difference, but I’ll definitely be making it again. Thanks for broadening our culinary horizon!

  26. Deirdre Reid

    This has been my go-to kale recipe. Even my kale-wary boyfriend loves this — a convert! Thanks for sharing it.

  27. Diane T.

    Thank you for the inspiration. One night,I couldn’t decide whether to fix this kale dish (healthy) or yams (yummy), so I did both together, peeling and dicing the yams into about 1″ dice, sauteeing first in olive oil with pimenton until tender, then adding the greens…served it topped with crunchy onions (packaged). All balanced one another – it was a meal in itself!

  28. Ari

    Smoked paprika is magic! My family is crazy about paprika (currently five types in the spice cupboard) so I knew I had to try this. We are also crazy about greens, but never big on sauteed kale. That’s changed now! This dish was incredible! Smokey, slightly hot, sweet from blanching winter kale, just perfect! Even the toddler gobbled it up! Thanks for introducing us to a simple, delicious recipe!

  29. Lisa

    Oh, yes! I love greens, too—and smoked paprika, which I am always looking for excuses to use. I put a little smoked paprika into a sausage and kale soup last night; it rocked, as you might imagine. I must try your dad’s version of sautéed kale ASAP!

  30. Adrian

    This was yummy! I might add more salt. It is hard to get it all mixed evenly…stir a lot once everything is in the pan!

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