Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

Kale with Crispy Pancetta

Scott Phillips

Servings: 8

The pancetta adds a bit of salty crunch to every bite of tender kale, making this colorful side dish hard to resist. This prep-ahead method makes the dish easy to add to a Thanksgiving menu or a quick weeknight meal. Freezing the kale ahead of time not only makes less work just before dinner, but helps make the kale more tender.


  • 2 lb. kale, preferably Lacinato (2 to 4 bunches depending on variety)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 oz. thinly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 cup)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more as needed

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 150
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 100
  • Fat (g): 12
  • Saturated Fat (g): 2.5
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 7
  • Cholesterol (mg): 15
  • Sodium (mg): 240
  • Carbohydrates (g): 6
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 6


  • Remove the stems from the kale and discard. Slice the leaves crosswise into 1/2-inch strips. Wash and dry the kale well and then pile into two large zip-top freezer bags. Gently press out as much air as possible, seal, and freeze.
  • Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, add the pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it just starts to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Let cool in the pan (the pancetta will not be crisp). Scrape everything, including the fat, into a zip-top freezer bag or other airtight container and freeze.

To finish the dish

  • Two hours before serving: Take the kale and pancetta mixture out of the freezer and let thaw at room temperature.
  • Heat the pancetta mixture in a wide 5- to 6-quart pot over medium-low heat until the fat melts and the pancetta is crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain the pancetta mixture in a fine-mesh sieve set over a heatproof bowl. Wipe out the pot with paper towels.
  • Return 3 Tbs. of the fat to the pot and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add a big handful of the kale and toss with tongs until it’s coated with the fat, about 20 seconds. Continue adding the kale by the handful and tossing to coat. When all of the kale is in the pot, add 1/2 cup water, season with 1/2 tsp. salt, and cover. Reduce the heat to medium, cook for 4 minutes, and then remove the lid. Toss and continue cooking until the kale is tender, up to another 8 minutes depending on the variety. If the pan is dry before the kale is fully tender, add a little water.
  • Add the lemon juice, toss, and season to taste with salt and a little more juice, if necessary. Toss half of the pancetta with the kale, pile into a bowl, and top with the remaining pancetta. Serve.

Make Ahead Tips

The kale and cooked pancetta can be frozen for up to two weeks.


Rate or Review

Reviews (1 review)

  • Midlotable | 12/27/2014

    Served with lamb and roasted potatoes at Christmas dinner. I liked that prep could be done in advance, frozen and then quickly finished while roast was resting. Delicious. My son added a dash of white wine vinegar to his. I thought the lemon juice was enough. Pancetta really added to the dish. Will fix again.

Rate this Recipe

Write a Review

Delicious Dish

Find the inspiration you crave for your love of cooking

Fine Cooking Magazine

Subscribe today
and save up to 50%

Already a subscriber? Log in.


View All


Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, subscribe today.

Get the print magazine, 25 years of back issues online, over 7,000 recipes, and more.

Start your FREE trial