Fried Kale Stems, The Zero-Waste Salty Snack

You were going to throw them out anyway — so why not fry them up?

Food waste is a serious problem in our country. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, nearly 40 percent of food in the United States goes to waste. That waste ends up in landfills that produce large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Uneaten food also wastes the resources that went into producing it, like water and fuel.

Move for Hunger, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help end food waste, puts it into perspective. According to its research, throwing away one pound of beef is the same as throwing away the 6,500 gallons of water that were needed to produce the meat. Tossing a single glass of milk down the drain is equivalent to wasting nearly 260 gallons of water.

We can all do our part to help combat this issue. Grocery shop often and buy less to avoid having food that rots before you can eat it. Freeze food just before it goes bad. Or try cooking with ingredients you might otherwise waste. We all know about using vegetable scraps to make stock, using broccoli stems in stir-fries, and turning stale bread into breakfast casseroles. But here’s a new one for you: Fry kale stems.

The next time you cook kale, don’t throw away those woody stems ― they can actually be turned into a delicious appetizer. Think of it as the zero-waste version of a deep fried green bean. And before anyone gets upset about the wastefulness of frying oil, did you know it can be recycled? Once it’s cooled, strain it and then store it in a dark place; you can later use it to fry again. (Here’s an in-depth explanation.)

Kale stems are fibrous, making them tough to chew if eaten raw, so they must be blanched first (quickly dunked in boiling water, and then immediately in cold water). This also helps remove their bitterness. Then, dredge them in a quick beer batter and fry to golden brown perfection. The batter in the recipe below is light, airy and super crunchy and comes together with just a few pantry staples. Don’t be afraid to sip on any leftover beer while you’re cooking — can’t let it go to waste, right? (You can also substitute seltzer water for beer.) This recipe also works great with any extra kale leaves you have lying around.

Serve it with your favorite dip and you have a unique appetizer that will amaze your guests.

Kelly Paige

Fried Kale Stems


  • Stems from 2 bunches of kale, trimmed into 3-inch pieces

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 6 ounces cold beer

  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

  • Kosher salt


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

2. Once water is boiling, add kale stems. Cook until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately add stems to ice water to stop cooking process. Drain cold water and blot dry with a clean kitchen towel.

3. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a cooling rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet.

4. In a large bowl, stir together flour, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon salt and baking powder. Slowly whisk in beer. It should be the consistency of pancake batter. Add more beer if needed.

5. Working in batches, add kale stems to batter, let excess liquid drip off, and then carefully place them in hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Use tongs to remove from oil and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining kale stems.

6. Season with salt then serve with your favorite dip.

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