Green Kitchen: Vegan Creamed Kale

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

There are lots of reasons one might want to avoid dairy. One might be allergic. One might be vegan. One might be omnivorous but prefer dairy from happy, grass-fed cows, which can be expensive or hard to come by. One might be lactose intolerant and rationing those pricey lactase pills.

Or one might like that experimenting with non-dairy versions of usually-dairy meals can lead one to delicious dishes one might never have eaten otherwise.

A little of column A, a little of column B.

I ended up at creamed kale the other night by an internet/culinary odyssey – my original plan for cold sesame broccoli was thwarted by the fact that it was about thirty degrees outside, and maybe five cooler in my apartment. Next thought: cream of broccoli soup, but Leigh already has us covered there. So what else is in my fridge? Kale! Cream of kale soup? Creamed kale? I love creamed spinach – is creamed kale a thing?

Thank you, internet, because you showed me that it is.

(Have I ever mentioned how much I owe the internet for my cooking? Other people have cookbooks; I have a netbook and WiFi.)

I read a few recipes, and started to get an idea of how one might make creamed kale at all; creamed spinach, love of my life, has always come to me frozen in a little cardboard box. I eliminated recipes that called for whisking flour into broth, to keep things totally grain- and gluten-free. I found a recipe calling for a cashew cream for the sauce. That sounded intriguing, and while I didn’t have any cashews, I’ve been working through a bag of slivered almonds (after some unsuccessful almond meal pancake attempts) that could do with being polished off.

What’s amazing about this dish isn’t that it tastes like it’s made with dairy – it doesn’t. It’s saltier, more savory and complex, and, to be fair, not as smoothly creamy. But, and maybe even more excitingly, this dish is amazing in its own right. It scratches the creamed spinach/kale itch – hot, creamy, savory comfort food, totally addictive despite being packed with super-healthy greens – but without pretending to be something it’s not. The sauce is nutty and has a hint of oniony taste, not quite cream but just as good.

And I can save my lactase pills for the Seabrook Farms creamed spinach hanging out in my freezer. Maybe in February, when local greens are truly, totally gone. Late November? Still total bounty.


If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy:

Vegan Creamed Kale
(adapted from Whole Foods)
Serves 4

1 bunch kale, torn into smallish pieces (5-6 cups, torn)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon margarine
1/2 cup vegetable broth (I used Better than Bouillon)
dash salt
1/3 cup unsweetened soy milk
2 tablespoon soy creamer (or more milk)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/3 cup blanched, slivered almonds (or ½ cup whole raw almonds, or cashews)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
a few grinds of black pepper

1) Steam kale until bright green and tender, about four minutes. (You can also blanch it.)

2) Drain kale and rinse under cool water.

3) Melt 1 T margarine in a sautee pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and a dash of salt, and sweat until translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic; cook one minute more.

4) Combine onion mixture, broth, creamer, milk, lemon juice, soy sauce, almonds, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg in food processor or blender, or use an immersion blender, to puree smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

5) Return mixture to sautee pan and simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens slightly, stirring often, about ten minutes.

6) Stir in kale and cook, tossing often, until kale is cooked and sauce is thickened to your liking, 5-10 minutes more. Top with ground black pepper.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein and Price per Serving:
155 calories, 8.6g fat, 4.2g fiber, 7.2g protein, $0.83

1 bunch kale (5-6 cups, torn): 184 calories, 2.6g fat, 7.4g fiber, 12.1g protein, $1.50
1 medium yellow onion: 42 calories, 0.1g fat, 1.8g fiber, 1.2g protein, $0.50
2 cloves garlic: 9 calories, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.4g protein, $0.04
1 T butter: 102 calories, 11.5g fat, 0g fiber, 0.1g protein, $0.13
½ cup vegetable broth (Better than Bouillon): 2 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.05
dash salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
1/3 c + 2 T unsweetened soy milk: 35 calories, 2g fat, 1g fiber, 3.5g protein, $0.45
1 T lemon juice: 8 calories, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.1g protein, $0.07
1 t soy sauce: 4 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0.6g protein, $0.02
1/3 c blanched, slivered almonds: 207 calories, 17.8g fat, 4.4g fiber, 7.6g protein, $0.33
1 T nutritional yeast: 27 calories, 0.3g fat, 1.7g fiber, 3g protein, $0.19
1/8 t red pepper flakes: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
1/8 t nutmeg: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
a few grinds of black pepper: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
TOTALS: 619 calories, 34.4g fat, 16.6g fiber, 28.6g protein, $3.32
PER SERVING (Totals/4): 155 calories, 8.6g fat, 4.2g fiber, 7.2g protein, $0.83