How to Grill Kale – To Ease the Bitterness

Kale is a cruciferous veggie best enjoyed raw in a salad, steam-boiled as a side dish, or churned into a smoothie. Even better is when it is seasoned and put on the grill. It makes a fine addition to any dish if you learn how to grill kale correctly.

This greatly improves its flavor and texture. Grilling kale leaves removes its bitter tang and breaks down its toughness. 

Grilled kale leaf with burnt edges

Choosing the Right Kale Leaves

One of the secrets to an appetizing grilled kale recipe is the type of leaves you use. There are many varieties of kale, but the most popularly used are curly kale and Tuscan kale.

I prefer the Tuscan variety for grilling since it is sweeter, more tender, and cooks quicker than common curly kale. Tuscan kale is also known as black kale, Lacinato kale, or dinosaur kale. 

Curly kale or its red variety is fine if Tuscan kale is unavailable. Simply leave the part that is not tender enough to eat. But don’t throw it away! You can still cook kale stems and add them to soups and other dishes. 

Preparing Kale for the Grill

When using raw kale in a salad, it is important to massage it to break down the fibrous texture of the veggie and tenderize the leaves. Massaging and cooking kale have the same effect, so you don’t have to massage it before grilling.

However, you can soak your kale leaves in water before drying, seasoning, and grilling them. This helps clean the leaves but also can improve the flavor. Soaking the leaves in water is similar to massaging but takes less time and effort.

How to Grill Kale


  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt or any fine salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Ground pepper
  • Sesame oil, optional
  • Lemon juice, optional


  1. Preheat the grill or oven to medium heat (350-375⁰F)
  2. Wash the kale leaves thoroughly and pat them dry with a kitchen towel
  3. In a large bowl, toss the leaves with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add onion salt if you want, or substitute it for kosher salt
  4. Place the kale in a single layer on the grill rack, preferably on the upper rack, for indirect heat. If grilling very young and dainty leaves or using chopped kale, place them in the grill pan
  5. Grill for about 2 to 5 minutes. The grilling time will vary according to the leaf variety you choose. Once charred, flip the leaves and cook them for a few more minutes

Remove your kale from the grill and season the leaves with toasted sesame oil or lemon juice. Red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese, red pepper, and almond slices go well with kale. You can also try experimenting with other natural veggies seasonings

Person holding fresh kale leaves

How to Grill Kale: Our Tips and Techniques

Crispy leafy greens like kale are a palate teaser that will please even those who vehemently dislike vegetables. Unlike the usual bland preparations like sautéed kale, grilled ones carry a smoky flavor. The added crunch makes grilled kale taste like air fryer kale chips. 

Choose the Right Leaves

Choose the younger, larger leaves if you are picking fresh kale for grilling. If you think the leaves are too tough, blanching them before grilling can make a difference.

Do this by submerging the leaves in a pot of boiling water and then giving them a quick dip in ice water. The sudden hot and cold temperature change will soften the leaves, and they will retain their color.

Drain and pat the leaves completely dry with a paper towel to prevent moisture while grilling. 

Use Indirect Heat

You risk charring the kale with direct heat, so you want to grill the leaves over indirect heat. Indirect heat is gentler, giving the leaves time to cook thoroughly and bask in the flavors you use.

Grill the kale leaves on the upper rack over medium heat. Most importantly, watch them closely to know when to flip them or remove them from the heat to avoid over-toasting or burning them.

Preheat the Grill

Preheating the grill before putting down the leaves produces amazingly crunchy grilled kale and kale chips. Preheating makes a big difference when it comes to evenly grilling the kale.

When learning how to grill kale, grill frozen vegetables, or cook other food in dry heat, you will find these cooking techniques all share the same principles: avoid direct heat, don’t overcook, and watch your veggies on the grill closely.

Make a Dressing for the Kale

Marinating meat before cooking is important to make it tender and gives the meat time to soak up the flavors. When it comes to vegetables, however, the dressing is done after cooking because the veggies absorb flavor better when they are hot.

Olive oil and other saturated fats will soften them and add a protective layer to the vegetable as it cooks. Lightly coat the leaves with the dressing but don’t go overboard or you risk overpowering the kale’s natural flavor and making it soggy.

Tuscan kale has a nutty and earthy flavor, while curly kale is slightly more bitter, but the cooking process reduces some of that bitterness. After grilling, serve your kale as chips with your favorite dip or as a side to your favorite entrée.

Grilled kale also pairs well with avocado, lemon, garlic, pecans, and parmesan, making it the star of any salad.

Keep the Leaves Whole

The inner ribs of kale are tough, and many people just throw them away. But they serve an important purpose in the grilling process. The leaves shrink under the heat, and the ribs help keep them intact as they cook.

When grilling chopped kale instead of whole leaves, use a grill basket to prevent the pieces from sliding and dropping through the grates. You can choose to discard (or repurpose) the ribs after grilling and shredding the leaves. Serve them as an appetizer or side, or turn them into a healthy and delicious salad. 

Kale and knife on top of wood chopping board

How to Serve Grilled Kale

Grilled kale makes a good accompaniment for any meal or snack. And now that you know how to grill kale, here are a few ways you can serve it:

  • Sprinkle the grilled kale leaves over a pizza as a nutritious topping
  • Serve them with a dip for roasted vegetables
  • Pair your grilled kale with sweet potatoes
  • Use the grilled kale leaves as a garnish
  • Toss your grilled kale leaves into your soup
  • Craft a simple kale salad with garlic-grilled kale leaves, vinegar, and green onions


The charred and crispy goodness of grilled kale can put a tasty spin on an otherwise boring meal. Grilling the kale reduces its bitterness, turning it into a more palatable food or snack. Being watchful is the secret to perfectly grilled kale.

The cooking time varies, so you must rely on your eyes and judgment to know when to flip the kale leaves and remove them from the heat. Kale is good when it turns bright green with noticeable brown spots on the edges. At this point, it is lightly crispy.

Generally, perfectly grilled kale only takes about four to five minutes on each side when grilled on the top rack over indirect heat.

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