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Crispy Charred Kale Salad

Crispy Charred Kale Salad

This simple recipe is my favorite way to prepare kale. Call it a crispy kale and scallion salad with lemon and caramelized maple syrup, but it is known in my circle, as “Mack’s famous half n’ half kale.” I get it. That second title is likely a hard sell for the internet-- I am not famous and while the dish has been a beloved item on many dinner party menus since 2012, it isn’t famous either, yet. Call it what you will, just make sure to make it.

Kale and scallions are cooked to a crisp in olive oil or ghee while lemon juice and salt marinate the remaining raw kale in a separate bowl. The trick to charring kale is making sure it is dry when it goes into the pan and leaving it alone for longer than you think you should before stirring it. After the kale in the skillet is plenty crisp, I pour a glug of maple syrup into the pan and let the liquid cook down and caramelize onto the leaves. The charred kale reduces to about half its original mass, and when it is added to the bowl with the lemony kale, the uncooked half is ever-so-slightly steamed by the hot kale, offering what looks like a smaller yield overall— a.k.a. the most flavorful way to put two times the kale into my body in just one sitting. A beautiful component to an easy weeknight meal.  

I love getting the health benefits of raw kale, which is loaded with Vitamin K, A & C (among other things) while also enjoying the crispy, smoky bits that come from frying half of it in hot oil. This “half n half” kale is an easy, 5-ingredient salad that serves as the perfect pal for a plateful of dumplings or a hearty empanada.

Crispy kale and scallions, caramelized maple syrup, mixed in with tart lemon and salt— yes please! This 15-minute weeknight dinner staple works just as well on Saturday and Sunday and has all the flavor components of a classic salad dressing (acid, sweet, salt, fat), but I think it tastes even better!

If you think it is too much work to char some kale to mix into a salad, think about all the time you will spend chewing a raw kale salad by itself. :)

Crispy Charred Kale Ingredients

  • Two bunches of kale

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee

  • Juice from a whole lemon

  • Salt

  • About two tablespoons of maple syrup

Crispy Charred Kale Salad Directions

Chop kale into ½-inch thick ribbons, then turn your knife and chop the ribbons perpendicular to your original cut. Wash them well, and then roll them into a dry towel to remove excess water. Make sure your greens are as dry as they can be before you fry them.

In a skillet, heat olive oil or ghee until water sizzles when you add a few drops to the pan. Add half of the chopped kale and the white part of the scallions to the pan of hot oil, and stir once before leaving it alone for 3-4 minutes.

In the bowl you will serve your salad, squeeze half a lemon over the remaining kale and sprinkle with salt. Mix the salted lemon kale and let sit while you check on the kale in the pan. Turn a big piece of kale on the edge of the skillet to see if it has achieved a crispy brown bottom. If it hasn’t, give it another minute or two before stirring.

Once the kale is ready to stir, leave it again for another few minutes so the rest of it can crisp in the pan. When all of the kale has reached almost maximum crisp factor, pour the maple syrup into the pan and cook on high stirring often, until it has evaporated, about 30 seconds. Maple candied kale, yeah!

Transfer the charred kale to the bowl with the raw kale, and let it sit for a minute or so before you stir it all together. This allows the steam to evaporate from the hot kale before you stir it into the kale underneath, which slightly wilts the raw kale with lemon juice before tossing it together.


Raw kale before adding lemon juice to tenderize the kale. Photo by  Mackenzie Smith Kelley
Lemon and Scallions for Kale Salad. Photo by  Mackenzie Smith Kelley
This is what all of the kale on the bottom layer of the pan should look like before you stir it!

This is what all of the kale on the bottom layer of the pan should look like before you stir it!

Charred Kale Salad
Crispy Charred Kale Salad. Photo by  Mackenzie Smith Kelley
I really enjoy a big serving of crispy charred kale salad with a swoop of plain yogurt!

I really enjoy a big serving of crispy charred kale salad with a swoop of plain yogurt!

When I bring kale home from the store, I chop it, wash it and roll it into a towel so that when I am ready to use it, it is clean, dry and ready to prepare.

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