Air Fryer Kale is light, airy and crispy yet loaded with nutrition. It has a really fun texture that goes well as a topping on practically any savory dish. Top it on a salad, add it to your Buddha bowl, or even put it in a sandwich.
Intro to Air Fryer Kale
Kale is an ingredient I always keep on hand because it’s so versatile and nutrient-dense. I drink it in smoothies, eat it in salads, and saute it. But I recently discovered that it gets a really nice texture when air fried. The edges get airy and crispy, while the stem gets tender and juicy like steamed broccoli.
One way to keep meals interesting is to combine different textures. If your dish already has something chewy and something creamy, adding some crispiness to it can really elevate the dish. Fried onions on creamy green bean casserole are a great example of this.
I’ve been putting air fried kale on my pasta, potato salads, and shepherd’s pie and the extra crunch worked beautifully every time. It’s handy to have this way to create a crunchy and nourishing topping for whatever I happen to be making.
Why Make Air Fryer Kale
- It’s fast and easy. You can do the prep while the air fryer preheats, and prep consists of washing and drying thed kale, then chopping it into very thin strips. Once you’ve preheated the air fryer, it takes just 3 minutes of cooking time.
- Fun texture! As I hinted just a second ago, different textures make for more interesting meals. You get a nice crunchiness and (if you leave the stems in) a toothier texture. Contrast these textures with others.
- Nourishment. Kale is especially nutrient-dense: tons of fiber, lots of vitamins A+C+K, a number of beneficial minerals, and a large dose of antioxidants. Adding a little kale to each meal like this goes a long way toward overall health.
How to Air Fry Kale
Preheat the air fryer. This gets it warmed up so that it can air fry the food right away, rather than steam it. I usually pre-heat for at least 5 minutes.
Prepare the kale. You can do this while the air fryer is preheating. Give it a thorough rinse, dry it, then slice it as thinly as possible. If the leaves are really large, you can roll them into a bundle before slicing.
Put the kale in the air fryer basket and spray it with a bit of oil. You don’t need the oil, to be honest, but it does help the kale crisp up a little better and keeps it from having a dry mouthfeel. Shake the basket as you spray it so that you get a more even coating. Spread the kale across the air fryer basket as evenly as you can before putting the basket into the fryer.
Air fry the kale. This part is quick, just about 3 minutes. You’ll want to check on the kale 1.5 or 2 minutes in, to make sure it’s not burning, and give it a shake.
You can remove the stems if you want. They have a more fibrous texture than the leaves and will not get as crispy.
I recommend serving this as soon as it’s ready. The texture gets worse the longer you wait. You can keep the leftovers in the fridge but the texture will not be the same as all.
It’s not in the recipe, but a splash of lemon or vinegar will make the flavor pop.
More Easy Air Fryer Recipes
- Tomatoes – charred and smoky, with beautifully concentrated flavor, yet still juicy
- Portobello mushrooms – crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, bursting with umami
- Potatoes – similarly crispy outside and tender inside, to accompany any meal
- Peaches – intensely peachy flavor and silky texture, with a bit of caramelization on the surface
More Simple Veggie Side Dishes
- Three-Ingredient Vegan Creamed Spinach – extremely quick and easy to make, with big creaminess and umami
- Chickpea and Kale Curry – tender peas and grassy kale leaves in a creamy curry gravy
- Three-Ingredient Sauteed Summer Squash – elevates and concentrates the sweetness of the squash
- Chinese Mushroom Stir-Fry – an irresistible combo of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and baby bok choy
As always, if you try this recipe out, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @gastroplant on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Air Fryer Kale
- Air Fryer
- 3.5 ounces kale leaves 100 grams or 2-3 cups
- Oil spray
- Salt to taste optional
- Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees F (175 C) for at least 5 minutes
- While the air fryer preheats, wash and dry the kale leaves thoroughly. Remove the stems from the leaves if desired (see note). Slice the leaves into very thin strips.
- When the air fryer has finished preheating, add the sliced kale into the basket. Spray the leaves with oil as you shake the basket. Season lightly with salt (if using). Make sure the leaves are spread evenly across the basket before you put the basket back in the fryer.
- Air fry for 3 minutes, pausing briefly after 1.5 or 2 minutes to shake and agitate the kale. Serve immediately.