Freezing kale involves a few simple steps, including cleaning the leaves, trimming off the stems, and placing the leaves in an airtight bag. Freezing kale when it’s dry is crucial for helping the leaves to maintain as much structure as possible.
Whether you have a garden overflowing with kale or want to take advantage of a deal at your supermarket, we’ll teach you how to freeze kale that’ll have a shelf life of around one year.
Can You Freeze Kale For Smoothies?
Yes, you can freeze kale for smoothies. Because of its sturdier nature within the leafy green family, it holds up better in the freezer than lettuce and spinach.
Kale tends to become more brittle in the freezer, and there are steps you’ll need to take to ensure it comes out of your freezer in a usable state.
How to Freeze Kale
Freezing kale isn’t difficult, but you need to prepare accordingly. Otherwise, your kale could become even more brittle than usual in the freezer and soggy when it defrosts.
For starters, clean your kale well. You can do this by running the leaves under tap water. However, we recommend soaking your kale in a bowl of water first. Then, rub your hands over the leaves to remove the loosened dirt, making sure to get into all the crevices.
After, cut around the stem and throw it away; the stem contains an even higher water concentration than kale leaves. So, if you put it in your freezer, the water will expand as it turns to ice. In turn, that’ll damage the stem’s structure.
The next step is crucial: Let your kale drain thoroughly. In fact, we recommend patting it with paper towels before letting it air dry.
After, put your kale into freezer bags. You have two options for approaching this method:
- Divvy the kale up into pre-portioned bags.
- Flash freeze the kale before putting it into a larger bag.
Since the first method is self-explanatory, let’s focus on the second one. If you don’t know how much kale you’ll want to use at a time, or you hate the thought of wasting lots of half-filled freezer bags, you can put all your kale into a single bag.
In that case, it’s best to lay your kale out on a baking tray, making sure the leaves don’t touch and sticking it into the freezer for two to three hours. That way, any pesky droplets of water will freeze to the leaves, allowing you to put the kale in the same bag without running the risk of them sticking together when you go to pull them out in batches.
Below are some other tips to keep in mind when you’re preparing to freeze kale:
- Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible.
- Avoid packing the kale too tightly in the freezer bag.
- Don’t place items on top of the kale because it becomes brittle in the freezer.
Finally, make sure to label the kale bag so that you know what date you froze it.
Many vegetables require blanching before freezing. Doing so helps them maintain their texture, color, and flavor.
However, since kale already has such a sturdy structure for a leafy green, it isn’t necessary to blanch it. Nevertheless, unblanched kale can sometimes become bitter, especially if you plan on keeping it in your freezer for upwards of one year.
Therefore, if you wish to blanch your kale before freezing it, place the leaves (and stems, if you choose) into a pot of boiling water for 2.5 – 3 minutes. Then quickly transfer the leaves to ice water for an equal amount of time.
Dry the leaves the best you can, then place them on a baking tray and flash freeze them. At that point, you can put all the blanched kale in a freezer bag together, squeeze out the air, and store them in your freezer.
Kale will last for around one year in your freezer. However, for maximum taste and texture, we recommend eating it within a few months.
The longer your kale stays in the freezer, the dryer it’ll become. The best way to slow down the drying process is by squeezing as much air out of the freezer bags as possible before you store them.
Freezer burn is another issue you’ll need to watch out for that can contribute to kale drying out. It occurs when oxygen accesses the surface of the kale leaves. It then draws out moisture, forming the crystal coating that’s iconic of freezer burn.
Once you’re ready to consume your frozen kale, there’s no need to bring your fridge into the picture—you don’t have to thaw frozen kale. Keep reading because we’ll show you great ways to use your frozen kale shortly.
Determining if your frozen kale is bad can be a bit of a challenge since it usually comes out of the freezer with a dryer, more crumbly texture than when you put it in.
However, if you notice that your kale has a slimy film, it’s a good indication that it’s bad. It also might change colors, usually turning from a deep green to green-yellow or even brown.
Finally, take a whiff of your kale. If it smells as bad as the kale that would go bad in your fridge before you knew you could freeze it, it’s best to throw it out.
It should go without saying, but just in case, your kale’s quality won’t improve during its time in the freezer. So, if you freeze kale leaves that are already on the verge of turning bad, you can expect them to come out of the freezer in a similar state.
Frozen kale isn’t the type of ingredient that you’ll want to include in your salad or use for making kale chips.
Although kale leaves hold up relatively well in the freezer compared to other leafy greens, the water in kale expands when frozen, breaking down its firm leaf structure. As a result, if you thaw frozen kale leaves, you’ll encounter a pile of soggy, lifeless leaves.
For this reason, we recommend using frozen kale in hot recipes or smoothies. There’s no need to thaw the kale in advance—it gets to room temperature quickly.
Below are some recipe ideas where you can use frozen kale:
- Pasta sauce
- Soup and stews
- Scrambled eggs
- Pizza topping
You can also use frozen kale in casseroles and other hot dishes that call for spinach.
If you’re concerned about frozen kale losing its nutritional value, rest easy. When done correctly, freezing foods of all kinds helps preserve their nutrients.
Frequently Asked Questions on Freezing Kale
If you still have questions about freezing kale, we have answers. Read on for common queries about managing frozen kale.
Technically, you can freeze kale without washing it. But we don’t recommend this. Kale will come out of your freezer in a brittle state. And as it thaws, it’ll become soggy, making it a challenge to remove dirt. For these reasons, it’s important to wash your kale before you freeze it.
Yes, you can freeze kale without blanching. In fact, many people choose to forgo blanching since kale has a firmer texture for a leafy green. However, if you plan to freeze your kale for upwards of a year, blanching it will help remove a bitter flavor that may set in with time.
Cooking frozen kale is one of the best ways to make use of it. You don’t have to thaw frozen kale before cooking. Instead, toss the greens directly into pasta sauces, lasagna, soup, stews, and more. If you don’t wish to cook frozen kale, consuming it via smoothies is an excellent option.
Kale stays good in the freezer for about one year. However, we recommend consuming it within a few months for better flavor retention, especially if you don’t blanch it. If you leave your kale in the freezer for longer than a year, it’ll get extra brittle and may have a bitter or otherwise unpleasant flavor.
Freezing and canning kale are both excellent methods for making use of your excess greens. So, the “better” option usually comes down to space. If you have more freezer space than shelf space, freezing your kale is a better choice.
Now that you know how to freeze kale, the only thing left to do is head to your garden or grocery store and load up on this leafy green. Although frozen kale isn’t ideal for eating in a salad, you can add it to smoothies and hot recipes.
Provided that you follow the freezing preparation methods here, you can expect to have tasty kale for up to one year from the date you put it in your freezer.