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!)

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.



  • 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


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.

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Showing 4 of 31 Comments

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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