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Black Kale with Ham, Garlic & Onion

Scott Phillips

Servings: eight.

You can use any variety of kale for this dish; I’m partial to the spicy flavor of black kale. Watch the Test Kitchen’s video to get a few quick tips for trimming kale.


  • 3 lb. kale, preferably black Tuscan cavolo nero, also known as lacinato kale
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. smoked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 1-1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion (from about 1 medium onion)
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups homemade or low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • Red-wine vinegar (optional)

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on eight servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 170
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 90
  • Fat (g): 10
  • Saturated Fat (g): 6
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2.5
  • Cholesterol (mg): 25
  • Sodium (mg): 390
  • Carbohydrates (g): 15
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 9


  • Remove the tough stems from the kale leaves by slicing a narrow “V” up into each leaf to remove the entire stem. Wash the leaves well in cold water and drain in a colander. Stuff into large (gallon-size or bigger) zip-top bags and put in the freezer for at least 2 hours or up to a month.
  • Fill an 8-quart pot with 2 inches of water and bring it to a boil over high heat, add a good pinch of salt, and add the frozen kale (yes, right out of the freezer). Cover with the lid slightly ajar and cook on high heat, turning occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. The kale should still have a little bite but shouldn’t be stringy or tough. Drain in a colander and press with the back of a large spoon to squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible. When the kale is cool enough to touch, chop it into small pieces.
  • Melt 3 Tbs. of the butter in the 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the ham and cook until it starts to brown a little, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt; cook covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. You don’t want the onion or garlic to brown; if they start to, lower the heat. Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Return the kale to the pot, stir in the remaining 3 Tbs. butter, season generously with pepper (13 turns of a pepper mill should do), and cook gently until the flavors are well blended, about 7 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately with a slotted spoon. Offer red-wine vinegar for sprinkling on individual portions, if you like.

Make Ahead Tips

This recipe can be made completely up to a day ahead: Just let it cool and then refrigerate; right before serving, reheat on the stove.


Freezing is the secret to tender kale. Stuff washed kale in a heavy-duty zip-top bag and freeze it for a few hours or up to a month. Cook it straight out of the freezer. Freezing breaks down its fibers in a way that no amount of cooking can.


Rate or Review

Reviews (2 reviews)

  • Kokoro | 09/10/2018

    I made this recipe a week ago using premium quality smoked ham. Although it was very delicious, the dish did not look appetizing as the black kale looked like a dark, muddy green colour. I will make it again as a black kale pie using pastry. Delicious flavour and great tip about freezing the tough black kale to break down the fibres!

  • oliviagutierrez | 09/13/2010

    Here is a good tip for this recipe, just replace the ham by some jamon iberico de bellota, in case you do not know it this is probably the best ham in the world, it is extremely tasty and healthy (no cholesterol), it comes from a particular breed of swine only found in Spain and Portugal. While it is a bit pricey, the results on the recipe are just amazing. If you want to keep it low budget, buy some Serrano ham which is also great.I always buy my iberico ham online at Buyjamon.com as it is fresh and delivered to your door.BuyJamon.com the market place for iberico ham.

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