How to Store Kale—Chopped or Whole—to Keep It Fresh Longer (2024)

  • Food
  • Shopping and Storing

Avoid wasting food with these kale storage tips.

ByLacey Muinos

Updated on April 13, 2024

In This Article

  • Overview
  • Fridge
  • Freezer
  • Sample Recipes

How to Store Kale—Chopped or Whole—to Keep It Fresh Longer (1)

You probably know that eating leafy greens—like spinach and kale—is a good idea. Kale is super good for you, and it’s chock-full of nutrients. But if you accidentally buy too much, it will just go bad in your refrigerator—and we could all do our part to reduce food waste. Here, we show you how to store kale—whole or chopped—so you can keep it on hand for future meals.

How Long Does Kale Last When Stored Properly?

Kale tends to have a short shelf-life if not stored properly. That's why storing kale in the refrigerator or freezer is best for keeping kale at its optimal quality. Here's a breakdown of how long kale lasts when left at room temperature, refrigerated, or frozen.

  • Room temperature kale will only last a few hours—about four at most. Any longer, and the kale will start to wilt and get bitter. Additionally, there's an increased risk of bacteria growth when left out too long and unrefrigerated.
  • Refrigerated kale should last up to a week before it starts to wilt. This is true whether you refrigerate whole kale bunches or chopped kale leaves.
  • Frozen kale is best used within six months as it will be freshest. Be sure to follow our freezing instructions to keep kale at its best quality. Beyond six months, frozen kale is safe to eat, but it may show signs of wilting or freezer burn.

Choosing the Freshest Kale

To help kale last longer and ensure it tastes great, choose the freshest kale bunch you can find at the supermarket. Look for bright, deeply colored kale with springy leaves. Most varieties of kale will be green or purple and should be firm and plump with no yellow or brown discoloration.

Steer clear of slimy, wilting bunches, and run from kale with black spots. Kale is on the "Dirty Dozen" produce list (which the USDA found contained the most pesticides), so spring for organic kale if you can. If you find your kale too bitter, massage it for a few minutes before prepping to lessen some of the bitterness.

How to Store Kale Leaves in the Fridge

Whole Fresh Kale

Fresh kale needs to be refrigerated, so if you don’t plan on using it right away, follow these steps.

  1. After washing your hands, wash and dry your kale. Excess moisture can cause kale to go bad faster, so give it a good pat dry before moving on.
  2. Wrap the head of kale in paper towels before placing it in the bag or container. This will help absorb any moisture.
  3. Place clean, dry kale in a plastic storage bag or a reusable food storage container with an airtight lid. (A bag is convenient since you can squeeze out all the air.)
  4. Pop the bagged kale into the crisper drawer of your fridge. If your fridge doesn’t have one, place the kale at the back of the fridge, or invest in produce keepers.

Chopped Kale

Cutting kale before washing it can help remove some of the bitterness. If chopping your produce before storing it is part of your meal-prepping process, here's what to do.

  1. Remove the stems from the kale bunch by folding the kale leaves in half and using a sharp knife to slice off the stems.
  2. Chop the kale leaves into the desired size.
  3. Give the chopped kale a good rinse in a colander or large bowl before transferring it to a salad spinner. Get it super dry with a few spins before placing the kale in a plastic bag or airtight container.
  4. Similar to whole bunches of kale, line the container with paper towels to help absorb moisture.
  5. Place the container of kale leaves in your refrigerator's crisper drawer or the back of the fridge.

How to Freeze Kale

The ultimate hack for storing kale is to freeze it. Your kale will last longer than if stored in the refrigerator, and you'll have kale available to use in future recipes. Freezing chopped kale is more efficient than freezing whole kale. Here's how:

  1. Remove the stems, chop the leaves into smaller pieces, and rinse and dry thoroughly before freezing.
  2. Once you’re ready to freeze, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the kale pieces on top of it.
  3. Pop the tray into the freezer for about two hours.
  4. Once the kale is frozen, transfer it to a freezer bag or freezer-safe container, and label it with the date. This will help you remember when the kale was frozen so you can use it in time.

Thawing Frozen Kale

Many recipes call for frozen greens, so thawing kale isn’t always required. If you want to thaw your frozen kale, simply transfer it to your refrigerator overnight. If you're in a hurry, placing a bag of frozen kale in cold water is a quicker way to defrost it. You'll have just-like-fresh kale available for your week's meals.

Cooking With Fresh or Frozen Kale

Keeping kale on hand is perfect for adding to salads, soups, and other kale recipes. You can also add kale to your morning green smoothie, hummus, juices, and pestos. Here are some other ways to use this nutritious leafy green:

  • Chuck chopped kale into a Caesar salad, which is always a crowd-pleaser.
  • Add seasoning to kale leaves and air fry for a few minutes to make smoky kale chips.
  • Instead of spinach, add kale to your favorite homemade flatbread pizza.

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How to Store Kale—Chopped or Whole—to Keep It Fresh Longer (2024)
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