This Easy Creamed Kale recipe is a comforting and delicious spin on a classic. Kale gets tossed in a creamy sauce made from milk (no cream), melted cheese, and a bit of cream cheese. The combination tastes indulgent, without being too heavy. It might just become everyone's favorite way to eat their greens during the holidays!
Kale is heartier than spinach, so it holds up well to heat and cooking. You can keep leftovers in the fridge for cozy weeknight dinners. Or, whip up a batch for a potluck with family and friends. A buttery, peppery Ritz cracker topping adds a crowd-pleasing crunch to the silky filling. Add it right before serving so it stays crisp.
Why you'll love this recipe
- A delicious way to get everyone to eat their greens
- A lighter version of creamed kale/spinach, that doesn't compromise on flavor
- Less than 30 minutes to make
- One pot recipe (no need to blanch the kale in boiling water!)
Ingredients (and substitutes)
This recipe combines nutritious kale with delicious pantry ingredients. The result is lighter spin on a traditional creamed spinach/kale dish. Here's what you'll need:
- Kale: Kale is heartier than spinach, so it holds up well to cooking and reheating leftovers. We used lacinato kale, but you could swap curly kale instead. Many recipes tell you to de-stem kale, which you can do. But, we usually skip it for this dish. The stems soften when cooked and we don't mind them—plus, you'll save a lot of time!
- Milk: While other recipes use cream, but we found that milk yielded delicious results too. It's an easy way to lighten up this dish, without missing out on flavor.
- Cheese: White cheddar cheese is our go-to for this recipe, but Gruyere is delicious too. In a pinch, you could use mozzarella, but the flavor will be milder.
- Nutmeg: A tiny bit of nutmeg really rounds out the flavors in this dish—especially during the holidays! Freshly grated nutmeg has the best flavor, but pre-ground nutmeg works too.
- Ritz Crackers: Buttery crumbled crackers add a delicious, textural twist to creamed kale or creamed spinach. But, it's totally optional. This topping is best added right before serving, so it stays crisp.
How to make (step-by-step photos)
This one pot creamed kale is super easy to make! Here's how to make this recipe:
Frequently asked questions
Yes, you can eat kale stems! Kale stems are more fibrous than the leaves, but they will soften once cooked. We don't mind them in this dish, so we keep them on. It reduces food waste and saves time! But, if you personally don't like to eat kale stems, de-stem the kale before using.
Yes, you could modify this recipe to make it vegan. Use vegan butter. Swap the milk for a dairy-free barista-style creamer (or a neutral, unsweetened nut milk). Then, use a meltable vegan cheese substitute for the cheddar.
One bunch of lacinato kale usually weighs about 12 oz (340g). So, for one batch of this recipe, you'll need about 3 bunches. But, size can vary, so if you don't have a scale at home, you can weigh them in the store.
Check out our holiday recipe collection for more vegetarian & vegan recipe inspiration!
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Easy Creamed Kale
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 cup minced yellow onion (about 1 medium)
- 2 lbs lacinato kale, thinly sliced (de-stemmed optional, see note 1)
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1¾ cup milk (whole or 2%)
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese
- 1 cup white cheddar cheese (see note 2)
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- Black pepper
- 1 cup crumbled Ritz crackers (see note 3)
- Cook onions: In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until golden on the edges, about 5 minutes.
- Add kale: Add kale and salt, stir, then cover pot with a lid to help steam the kale. Cook, stirring frequently, until kale is softened and bright green, about 8 minutes. Transfer the entire mixture to a bowl and set aside.
- Cook sauce: Return the pot to the stove, reducing the heat to medium. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and add garlic. Cook, stirring continuously, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour. Cook until flour is pale golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in milk, and once the mixture starts to thicken slightly, whisk in cream cheese until smooth. Add cheese, nutmeg, and a pepper (to taste). Whisk until smooth.
- Combine: Add kale mixture to the sauce. Toss to coat evenly. Transfer to a serving platter.
- Garnish and serve: If garnishing, mix together crackers and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the creamed kale just before serving. Serve hot.
- Kale: You can de-stem the kale before using. But, the stems will soften as they cook, so if you don't mind them, leave them on (as we often do!) and save time. One bunch of lacinato kale weighs about 12 oz (340 g), so you'll need about 3 bunches. But, weigh them if you can since bunches can vary in size. You can use curly kale instead of lacinato, if you prefer.
- Cheese: We recommend white aged cheddar cheese for this recipe. Alternatively, you could substitute an equal amount of Gruyere cheese. Mozzarella would also work, but it doesn't contribute as much depth of flavor as cheddar or Gruyere.
- Crackers: We love topping our creamed kale with buttery Ritz crackers seasoned with pepper. It adds a nice crisp texture contrast. But, you could totally leave them off. If topping with crackers, do so just before serving so they stay crisp.
- Storage & reheating tips: Cover and refrigerate extras. If you think you'll have leftovers, serve the Ritz cracker garnish on the side so you can add it fresh. To reheat leftovers, warm in a microwave or in a skillet over low heat. If reheating in a skillet, you may wish to add an extra dab of cream cheese—since creamed kale/spinach loses a bit of creaminess when reheated.
- Serving size: This makes 6 generous servings. If serving this as part of a holiday potluck (or similar) with many sides, it can probably stretch it to 8+ servings.