This article will explain the textural, nutritional, and flavor-related qualities of greens that make great kale substitutions for a wide array of recipes. It’s my goal to provide only the most similar replacements.
The best similar substitutes for kale are savoy cabbage, collard greens, spinach, mustard greens, arugula, green cabbage, turnip, Brussels sprouts, chard, romaine lettuce, broccoli, tatsoi, bok choy, iceberg lettuce, and mache. The best substitution will depend on the recipe you’re cooking.
In the following sections, you’ll also find out more about the right ratios and cooking techniques to ensure that the replacement doesn’t negatively affect the final dish’s taste, so without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Savoy Cabbage
Though far from the most accessible option on today’s list, savoy cabbage is arguably the closest substitute for kale. After all, both greens are members of the Brassica family, meaning they share a similar genetic makeup and, in turn, similar taste, texture, aroma, and even nutritional benefits.
They’re both crinkled and mild-tasting, qualities that make them a great addition to a wide array of soups and salads. Since I mentioned soups, I also want to note that both greens react similarly to heat, which allows them to be used interchangeably, even in hot dishes.
2. Collard Greens
Since savoy cabbage isn’t always easy to find, you can opt for a more easily accessible substitute instead – collard greens. From the more accessible options on this list, collard greens are the closest kale substitute. They boast a similar texture and flavor to the famous super-green, so they make for an excellent replacement.
Again, collard greens react to heat very similarly to kale, so you can use this substitution on hot dishes as well, not just salads and wraps. Additionally, since both types of greens boast a rich micronutrient profile, you won’t miss out on any health benefits when replacing one with the other.
As far as accessibility goes, spinach is probably your best bet. However, the green is pretty similar to kale in terms of taste and texture, too, so you won’t be sacrificing your dish’s success when making this type of substitution.
I still want to note, though, that spinach as a kale replacement works best in smoothies. That’s not to say that you can’t use the two interchangeably in salads or hot meals, but since their tastes aren’t exactly identical, you’ll have a better shot at a successful replacement if the taste of the greens isn’t the main star of a dish.
Again, both kale and spinach hold impressive nutritional values, and while their micronutrient profiles aren’t the exact same, both will provide you with the boost of energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs.
Lastly, I want to note that any spinach variety you might have on hand will likely do. Whether you can get your hands on regular, English, or baby spinach, chances are the substitution will work just fine.
4. Mustard Greens
If you’re looking to get a spicy kick from your replacement, I recommend opting for mustard greens. These are another excellent kale substitution in terms of texture, aroma, and nutritional value; however, they possess a bit of a kick, which, in my opinion, can make some boring kale-based recipes that much better.
However, the spicy flavor that these greens provide doesn’t fit in with just any dish, or any palette, for that matter. So keep in mind how they might affect the overall taste of your food before making the substitution.
Arugula is yet another accessible kale substitute you can find in most grocery stores and, at the risk of sounding subjective, one of my personal favorites. Now, the taste and smell of arugula are pretty distinctive, so you won’t be able to achieve the same exact effect that you would with kale. However, in my experience, the slight change in flavor can actually work in favor of some dishes.
This green has a slightly peppery taste that’ll provide a slight kick to your dish; however, if you’re not a fan of this type of flavor, it’s best to opt for one of the other substitutions mentioned on this list.
A significant advantage of arugula as a kale substitute, though, is that it can be used in both cold and hot dishes, so you won’t be limited by the recipe you’re following.
6. Green Cabbage
If you’re unable to find savoy cabbage in your local grocery store, don’t worry – regular green cabbage can also be an excellent kale substitute. What’s even better, you can use it in all types of dishes, both hot and cold.
Keep in mind, however, that the taste of cabbage is pretty different from that of kale, so while you might achieve a similar texture and nutritional profile by making the replacement, beware that the taste might vary slightly. For this reason, I’d recommend using this substitution only in instances when the greens aren’t the main focus of the dish.
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7. Turnip / Kohlrabi Tops
Since turnip is yet another member of the Brassica family, it boasts a genetic resemblance to kale that makes it an extremely suitable substitution option. Both types of greens share similarities in taste, texture, and nutritional profile.
One caveat to keep in mind is that mature turnip is better suited to warm dishes, so consider the type of recipe you’re following before making the substitution. Young, tender turnip leaves, on the other hand, can also be used uncooked in smoothies and salads, just like kale, so your possibilities are endless.
8. Brussels Sprouts
Though this substitute can seem a bit out of the left field, you’d be surprised at how good a cooked kale-based dish can turn out with Brussels sprouts instead.
So, if you’re dying to make a soup or stew that calls for kale but don’t have any, see if you have any Brussels sprouts instead – they’ll bring the same fresh flavor and crunchy-yet-soft texture that kale does. They’ll also pack your dish with a wide array of micronutrients, just like kale would.
However, I still want to note that the final taste will inevitably differ, though it’ll likely still be lovely.
9. Chard (Silverbeet)
You’d be surprised at just how good of a substitute chard can be for kale. This type of green features some large stems that are packed with flavor and nutrients, both qualities that you’re looking for in your quest to find the best kale replacement.
Chard is fairly accessible, too, so chances are you’ll be able to get your hands on some no matter where you live. Again, I want to note that some taste variations are to be expected; however, most kale-based dishes would work just as well with the flavor profile of chard, so you should be good to go.
10. Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is yet another excellent substitute for kale. Its biggest advantage is the fact that it’s widely accessible, and chances are you already have some on hand from previous recipes. However, it’s important to note that I don’t recommend substituting romaine lettuce for kale in hot recipes, as it doesn’t hold up well in excessive heat.
That’s why I’d recommend relying on this substitution only for salads or sandwiches. While the overall flavor profile will be a bit different, the crunchy texture and fresh taste will surely still get the job done.
Similarly to Brussels sprouts, broccoli is a great kale substitute in soups, stews, and other cooked dishes. Broccoli also boasts an impressive nutritional profile, so you won’t be missing out on essential micronutrients when omitting your kale. It also falls into the list of “accessible” options on this list, so chances are you can already have some lying around.
Broccoli works exceptionally well as a kale substitute in pureed soup when you want a similar enough flavor and nutritional profile but don’t care much about texture.
I know that tatsoi isn’t the most accessible type of greenery around, but if you do happen to have some on hand, it can make for one of the best kale substitutions. However, keep in mind that tatsoi packs quite a punch, adding a mild, sweet, earthy, mustardy flavor to any dish it’s in.
So, if you’re after a more neutral-tasting substitution, it’s best to stick to one of the other options mentioned on this list. However, it’s still worth noting that while tatsoi has a pretty distinctive flavor, it still resembles kale enough to be one of the closest substitutions taste-wise. It’s also rich in vitamins C and K, just like kale, so you’ll be getting many of the same micronutrients.
Last but not least, tatsoi can be consumed both cooked and raw, so there are no limits to when you can make use of this substitution.
13. Bok Choy
Since bok choy is one of the most popular leafy vegetables, chances are you already have some on hand. I’ve got good news for you – bok choy also makes for a fantastic kale substitute, especially in stir-fries. However, make sure to use the stalks, too, for the best nutrition and flavor results.
14. Iceberg Lettuce
You probably already know that iceberg lettuce isn’t the most nutritionally-rich option on this list; however, it can still make for an excellent kale substitute in salads and sandwiches, especially if you’re looking for a neutral-tasting leafy green. Keep in mind that iceberg lettuce is crunchier than kale, though.
Last but not least, we have mache. Mache is an excellent substitute for kale, especially if you’re planning on using it raw (like in a salad, sandwich, or smoothie, for example). Since it doesn’t have an overly strong flavor, it fits in with most dishes, all while providing that sough-after crunch.
People Also Ask
Now that you know more about the 15 best substitutes for kale, it’s time to clear some frequently asked questions around the topic once and for all.
Can You Replace Kale With Spinach?
You can replace kale with spinach in a 1:1 ratio in most recipes – neither the taste nor the texture should be affected too much. Moreover, since both greens are extremely nutritious, you also won’t be missing out on any essential micro or macronutrients.
Can You Replace Lettuce With Kale?
You can replace lettuce with kale, but this is far from the best substitution you can make. Still, in a pinch, lettuce can easily be used in lieu of kale, especially if you’re making a fresh salad. However, keep in mind that the taste and nutritional value of the final dish won’t be the same.
Is Kale Better Than Spinach?
Kale and spinach are both highly nutritious greens, and neither is inherently better than the other. Each boasts a different set of advantages, so the option that’s better for you will depend on your individual needs. Kale is richer in vitamin C and vitamin K, while spinach has more iron.
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