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A delicious way to enjoy healthy leafy greens! Sauteed Kale with Bacon is a flavorful, tender and a perfect side dish recipe for just about any meal. With a hint of maple syrup, garlic and the rich, smoky taste of bacon, these addictive Southern greens appeal to even the pickiest little family members!

Close overhead shot of sauteed kale with bacon in a blue and white bowl

If you’ve come home from the market with a bunch of fresh kale and no idea what to do with it, let me introduce you to your new favorite side! I know that kale chips and kale salads are all the rage, but those are just not dishes that my boys can get on board with. Instead, we prefer a simple sauteed kale recipe with a hearty taste but a delicate texture.

How to make Sauteed Kale with Bacon:

Do you want to know how to make sauteed kale taste good?! Add bacon! And garlic! And a drizzle of maple syrup! What’s not to love, right? Plus, cooking kale removes the bitterness, so it’s generally more palatable.

I’ve taken some of my favorite components from other Southern greens recipes (like my collards) and added them to a big skillet of fresh kale. Best of all, the recipe only requires about 5 minutes of prep and 15 minutes in the skillet. Much faster than those low-and-slow Southern greens that can take all day to cook! Let’s get started…

Ingredients:

  • Kale
  • Bacon
  • Garlic
  • Chicken broth, beef broth (or water)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Maple syrup

Step 1: Cook Bacon

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until it’s nice and crispy. Then use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a separate dish, leaving 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pan.

Bowl of crispy chopped bacon

Step 2: Sauté Kale

Saute the kale with garlic and broth until tender and bright green.

Process shot of making sauteed kale

Step 3: Garnish with Bacon

Finally, add a splash of apple cider vinegar and a drizzle of maple syrup just before serving. Then season with salt and pepper and garnish with the reserved bacon.

Side shot of sauteed kale with bacon in a skillet with a wooden spoon

What to serve with Sauteed Kale:

Here are a few good entrées that go well with sauteed kale:

Nutrition:

Kale is well known for its amazing health benefits, and is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. For instance, kale is full of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, K, C, B6, calcium and magnesium (among others). It’s a good source of antioxidants, can help lower cholesterol, and may reduce the risk of heart disease (source).

Fortunately, whether you enjoy kale raw or cooked, you’ll reap the health benefits. Sure, vegetables might lose some of their nutrients when exposed to heat, air and light, but sauteed kale is less bitter and takes up less volume than raw kale — both factors that will likely contribute to you eating more of the nutritious green stuff. The bottom line: when food tastes better, you’re more likely to eat it…and therefore more likely to receive more of the healthy benefits!

Close side shot of a bowl of southern kale greens with bacon

Preparation and Storage Tips:

  • Make sure that you pull off or cut off the tough stems from the kale leaves before cooking. Then chop the leaves into manageable size pieces.
  • Store sauteed kale in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To reheat the kale, microwave for about 1 minute (or until warmed through). The leftovers are equally delicious!
  • How to freeze cooked kale: While you can technically freeze cooked kale, the texture of the greens and the texture of the bacon will be different when thawed. As a result, I recommend freezing cooked kale to use in other dishes (such as soups or casseroles) — not to eat on its own. The quality of the cooked kale just won’t be as good as when it’s freshly prepared. To freeze the sauteed kale, allow the greens to cool completely, package in an airtight container or freezer bag, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • This looks like a lot of kale, but it cooks down significantly! If you’re serving a family of more than 3 or 4, I recommend doubling the ingredients.
  • If you don’t have thick-cut bacon, use 3 slices of regular bacon. You want to make sure that you have plenty of drippings in the pan and enough cooked bacon to crumble on top.
  • Just a teaspoon of maple syrup adds a tiny hint of sweetness to balance the smoky, savory flavor that you get from the bacon. If you don’t have maple syrup, you can omit that ingredient (or add brown sugar to the broth and kale).
  • Chicken broth or beef broth adds another layer of flavor to the greens; however, you can substitute with water in a pinch.
  • The acid from the apple cider vinegar gives the dish a brightness and brings all of the flavors together. If you don’t have vinegar on hand, you can substitute with lemon juice.
Overhead shot of sauteed kale in a blue and white bowl topped with crispy bacon

More easy recipes to enjoy your leafy greens:

Close overhead shot of sauteed kale with bacon in a blue and white bowl

Sauteed Kale with Bacon

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 55.4 kcal
A delicious way to enjoy healthy leafy greens! Sauteed Kale with Bacon is a flavorful, tender and a perfect side dish recipe for just about any meal.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large bunch of kale, chopped with stems removed (about 8 oz of kale after trimming)
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (about 1 clove)
  • ¼ cup chicken broth, beef broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and set aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the skillet; drain off the rest.
  • Add the garlic and cook until soft, stirring constantly (about 1-2 minutes). Add the broth and kale; toss to combine. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until leaves are tender and bright green. Remove cover and continue to cook and stir until all of the liquid evaporates. Add vinegar, drizzle with maple syrup, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with crispy bacon just before serving.

Notes

  • This looks like a lot of kale, but it cooks down significantly! If you’re serving a family of more than 3 or 4, I recommend doubling the ingredients.
  • If you don’t have thick-cut bacon, use 3 slices of regular bacon. You want to make sure that you have plenty of drippings in the pan and enough cooked bacon to crumble on top.
  • Just a teaspoon of maple syrup adds a tiny hint of sweetness to balance the smoky, savory flavor that you get from the bacon. If you don’t have maple syrup, you can omit that ingredient or use brown sugar instead.
  • Chicken broth or beef broth adds another layer of flavor to the greens; however, you can substitute with water in a pinch.
  • The acid from the apple cider vinegar gives the dish a brightness and brings all of the flavors together. If you don’t have vinegar on hand, you can substitute with lemon juice.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the recipeCalories: 55.4kcalCarbohydrates: 4.3gProtein: 3.1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1.1gCholesterol: 6.3mgSodium: 136.3mgPotassium: 134.9mgFiber: 1.1gSugar: 1.7g
Keyword: cooked kale, sauteed kale, sauteed kale with bacon
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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