5 Best Substitutes for Kale

Holly Riddle

By Holly Riddle

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Kale has received a lot of love over the last few years. Kale’s made its way into your soups, your smoothies, your salads — even your snack foods, in the form of dehydrated kale chips. However, not everyone’s a fan of kale, either due to the taste or the texture.

Man holding kale leaves over a bowl on a kitchen counter.

Luckily, you can easily substitute other leafy ingredients for kale in a range of recipes, for a more palatable flavor and texture, and similar health benefits. Here are some of our favorite kale substitutes.

Sautéed Spinach.
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1. Spinach

Spinach makes an easy swap for kale. The flavor is a bit milder, so you’ll appreciate that if you’re not a fan of that noticeable kale flavor.

However, do note that the texture is different, too. This means that spinach might not make a great swap in recipes like a hearty salad, that relies on kale’s firmer leaves to mix with heavier dressings and other ingredients without turning limp and soggy, like spinach might. Consider using spinach as a replacement in recipes that call for kale in soups or smoothies, or any recipe that doesn’t rely on kale’s texture.

2. Collard Greens

Collard greens offer a similar texture to kale, with a hard, fibrous stem that you’ll want to remove before eating or cooking, but some prefer the flavor of collard greens to kale. Food Network even called collard greens “the new kale,” reporting that, somewhat surprisingly, collard greens — often associated with less-than-healthy southern meals, maybe served alongside barbecue or fried chicken — are actually healthier than kale.

Collard greens offer more calcium, iron, fiber, and protein than kale.  

Italian arugula green leaves harvested in garden. A woman's hands collecting a bunch healthy organic greens.

3. Arugula

If you’re looking for a kale substitute that will add some zippy flavor to your salads or wraps, grab some arugula. This versatile leafy green is often easier to prepare than kale, as there’s no need to de-stem and slice it. If you don’t find it fresh, you can buy arugula in a bag in the produce aisle and simply take it from bag to (salad) bowl.

Watercress in a white bowl and watercress scattered around it.
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4. Watercress

Watercress often gets overlooked, but it shouldn’t! This is a healthy alternative to kale. Just like collard greens, watercress is healthier than kale. In a study that aimed to define powerhouse produce, watercress scored much higher than kale in nutrient density and was named one of the world’s healthiest foods.

5. Cabbage

Like spinach, cabbage is another kale swap that you can use if you particularly don’t like kale’s tougher texture, or you don’t like kale’s unique flavor. However, cabbage, of course, has a unique flavor of its own, so that’s something to keep in mind. It will impact the overall flavor of your dish.

It’s worth pointing out that, while cabbage doesn’t get the same love for its health benefits as kale, cabbage still offers plenty of health benefits worth noticing. Good Housekeeping points out that, just like kale, cabbage is low in calories and high in Vitamin C, while providing digestion benefits and flavonoids. Plus, cabbage comes in a lot of fun colors and varieties, and is easily available year-round.