Kale is a superfood, chockfull of antioxidants that protect your heart and fiber that keeps you trim. It’s also tough as all getup when eaten raw. This alone is good reason to scare off would-be kale lovers. But to soften kale, you don’t have to boil it, braise it, fry it, roast it, or cook it at all. You can preserve its raw integrity, while softening it to complete yum-dom, by applying one basic ingredient: salt.
Salt draws moisture out of things, and salt alone is enough to soften the toughest of raw kale leaves. All you need is salt and your hands. You’re going to massage the kale into softness.
It’s an age-old technique used in Macrobiotics cuisine that’s just as applicable today, Japanese cuisine or not. Massaging salt into raw vegetables lulls out the water from within, rendering a softened, near-cooked texture. The result: vegetables that are tastier to eat, easier to chew, and much quicker to digest (goodbye, raw kale burp-belly).
And the technique works like a charm on raw kale. Whether your kale is shredded for a slaw or chopped for a New Age Caesar salad, a good 5-minute rub with salt (preferably sea salt) will yield it softer with more depth of flavor coming out, and a hint of salt left behind.
Here’s how to do it:
- Place your chopped, shredded, or sliced kale in a large bowl.
- Add a generous amount of salt (ballpark ½ to 1 teaspoon for every bunch of kale) and massage into the kale with your hands.
- Keep massaging until the kale starts to give off a bit of moisture. You’ll physically feel a bit of water drawing out, and you’ll notice the kale soften noticeably in your hands. This may take 1 to 2 full minutes; be patient.
From here, your kale is essentially ready for your recipes. Simply squeeze or drain out any excess liquid from it (and along with it, the excess salt), and voila.
Believe it or not, the flavor of the kale really changes from a good massage—from a slightly offensive bitterness to a rounder, richer, savory flavor, almost like the flavor it develops in baked kale chips. Try it for yourself and see how good raw kale can be—when you’re good to your raw kale.