The Best Braised Kale German-Style
You will love this delicious and hearty braised kale recipe that is a staple in Germany in the winter months.
Whether you have had this dish in Germany before or not, you will love this delicious braised kale recipe. It is a staple in Northern Germany in the cold winter months for good reason. But even in other regions, you will find all sorts of variations of this hearty cabbage dish.
The recipe is one that my mom has been making ever since I can remember. She always told me about how after the war in Germany, her mother would buy so much kale that they filled up an entire bathtub. They had to feed a family of five but kale also shrinks a lot!! Just in case you are wondering why there is so much kale in this recipe.
Since this is a traditional German recipe, it can sometimes be challenging to get the same ingredients the same way as in Germany. At farmers’ markets, you can actually buy very large quantities of kale. Living in the US, I often buy shredded kale in bags at Trader Joe’s. The advantage is that you don’t have to cut it anymore but the downside is that those bags contain little pieces of the tough stems as well. Typically I find myself picking those out during the cooking process.
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Why you’ll love this recipe
This recipe is a family favorite for us for various reasons:
- it contains a good amount of healthy kale which is high in protein and vitamin A
- you can easily make it with everyday ingredients
- it is nourishing and hearty on its own or as a delicious side dish
- you can make it ahead of time and reheat it
What are the ingredients
These are the simple ingredients for this easy sautéed kale recipe:
- Kale: this vibrant green is the star and main ingredient. Traditionally, Germans use curly kale, especially the one that has already had some frost (it makes it sweeter)
- Onions: they always make every dish taste better and deeper
- Goose fat: while I always keep some fat back when I am making a roast goose, you can also use other fats or oils (see below)
- Broth or bouillon: adding some broth makes the whole dish a deeper, rounder, and savory
- Rolled Oats: adding some rolled oats helps to bind and thicken the braised kale
- Mustard: I like to add a teaspoon of mustard to make this delicious recipe taste even better
Useful tools and equipment
You don’t actually need any special equipment to make this recipe but here are some that are helpful:
- large dutch oven or pot: since you will need a lot of kale it helps to use a very big pot even though the kale will shrink tremendously
- slotted spoon: this comes in handy if you’d like to boil or steam the kale before braising it
- sharp knife: an essential tool to cut the kale off the stems and into smaller pieces
How to make this dish
- Peel and cut the onion into small dice.
- Place a large pot over medium heat. Add the goose fat and let it gently melt.
- Add the onions and sautee them a little bit until translucent.
- Gradually add the chopped kale. Sautee it while stirring.
- Once the kale is completely wilted, add the broth or bouillon and mustard.
- Cover the pot with a lid and over low heat, simmer the kale for a total time of about 1 to 1.5 hours. Make sure to stir it every so often and check that there is still some braising liquid in it to prevent it from burning at the bottom. The long braising time ensures that the tough texture of the kale is tender to the bite.
- At the end of the cooking time, add the rolled oats and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Season the kale with sea salt, black pepper, sugar (optional), and any other seasonings you like.
- Serve it immediately or save it for later.
Substitutions and variations
These are some variations and substitutions for this dish:
- Kale: even though the traditional variety of kale is the curly one, you could also use dino/lacinato kale or purple kale
- Kale preparation: I like to keep things simple and saute the kale directly in the sauteed onions. Another way is to steam or quickly boil the kale to break down the tougher parts, cut it into smaller pieces, and then saute it with the onions.
- Freezing kale: If kale has had some frost before the harvest, the starches turn to sugar and give this dish its distinct flavor. I often throw kale in the freezer before braising it which is not exactly the same but the next best option.
- Onion: feel free to substitute red onion, white or sweet onions for the yellow onions
- Goose fat: I really like the slightly gamey flavor of goos fat but you can easily use duck fat, lard, tallow, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or any other cooking oil
- Mustard: if you don’t have or don’t like mustard, you can omit it altogether
- Broth: I always like using my homemade bone broth but any chicken broth or even vegetable stock works in this recipe
- Other seasonings: even though the authentic German recipe is very simple and basic, you can add some chili flakes, soy sauce, a spitz of lemon juice, a couple of garlic cloves, or a dash of sugar
How to serve
The perfect accompaniment (my favorite way) is a red sausage with a smokey flavor such as Polish Kielbasa. In some areas, people serve braised kale with Kassler which is a salted and smoked piece of pork. Sometimes, you will even find red sausages, smoked pork, and pork belly all on a serving platter with the kale.
Germans love their potatoes which are the classic side for this dish. You can use boiled and peeled potatoes or potatoes that you peel first and then boil in salted water. My late mother-in-law even rolled the boiled potatoes in caramelized sugar.
I don’t see any reason why you can’t eat braised kale with white rice, pasta.
Make ahead of time?
I find that cabbage recipes taste just as good if not even better the next day.
You can easily make the kale ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 8 days in an airtight container.
You can also freeze the sauteed kale in an airtight container for up to four months.
Another idea is to blanch the kale and freeze it for later use.
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Braised Kale German-Style
- 2 pounds kale
- 1 medium onion
- 2 TBSP goose fat (see notes for alternatives)
- 2 cups bone broth or bouillon
- 1 tsp mustard, medium hot
- 2 TBSP rolled oats
- Cut the kale from the stem and chop into smaller pieces
- Peel and cut the onion into small dices.
- In a large pot or dutch oven, melt the fat over medium heat.
- Add the onion and saute until translucent.
- Gradually add the kale and saute while stirring. The kale will shrink a lot!
- Add the broth and mustard. Cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat to low. Simmer for about 1.5 hours.
- Check occasionally to make sure that the kale doesn't get too dry. If needed, add more broth.
- At the end of the cooking time, add the rolled oats and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Serve with red smoked sausage (Polish Kielbasa) or your favorite meat and boiled potatoes.
- you can use any other fat such as lard, tallow, olive oil etc.
- this braised kale is even better the next day
Oh MY, it looks great! Can’t wait to cook em this Sunday!
Nice! Happy cooking ~ Anja