This is simply one of my favorite dishes, and it has a legendary place in the history of my marriage. My wife was not a fan of this vegetable—or of any vegetable. Fan might not be the right word. It’s not just that she didn’t like them; she actively campaigned against them, prosecuting them, all guilty as charged, although on scant evidence. It was this simple dish that got her to at least begin to consider laying down her sword. The crisp texture, the smoky, charred taste, the transparency of the whole process got her to let her guard down. And now it’s a staple. So you might say that this recipe is a gateway vegetable.–Barton Seaver


As a matter of fact, you can. Our testers found that olive oil and kosher salt was pretty darn good but you could add a little bit of zip with a sprinkle of garlic powder, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, or a pinch of pepper—black or chile would heat stuff up nicely. Even a little squeeze of lime wouldn’t be out of place here. Let us know if you try anything else!

A few pieces of grilled kale stacked on a white plate.

Grilled Kale

4.67 / 6 votes
Other kale varieties are fine for this, but lacinato is the only variety that crisps rather than wilts, allowing you to get great texture very quickly.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories128 kcal
Prep Time8 minutes
Cook Time7 minutes
Total Time15 minutes


  • 2 bunches lacinato kale, (also known as black, dinosaur, or Tuscan kale)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt


  • Prepare a grill, preferably with some chunks of maple or oak thrown on the fire, on medium heat.
  • Rinse the kale and pat it completely dry. Strip away and discard the stems from the kale. Tear the leaves into large bite-size pieces (large enough so they don’t fall between the grates of the grill) and toss them with olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Arrange the kale in a single layer on the grill rack. They'll begin to sizzle almost immediately. This is a good thing. Resist the temptation to turn them. The burn is good; the burn is your friend. After 4 to 5 minutes, flip the leaves once to give a slight char to the other side of the leaves. Cook for another minute or so, then move the kale to a platter. That’s it. Serve immediately.
Where There’s Smoke

Adapted From

Where There’s Smoke

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 128 kcalCarbohydrates: 12 gProtein: 6 gFat: 8 gSaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 51 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Barton Seaver. Photo © 2013 Katie Stoops. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Quote from a professional chef at our barbecue: “What a great reprieve from all the meat here….” This was a perfect addition to our meat-heavy cookout—even the carnivores were curious to see the big leafy greens on the grill. The leaves picked up a smoky, meaty aroma, and were nice on their own or on a burger. They were a bit like kale chips, but with smoke. The cooking time was accurate. I’ll be making these at many future barbecue gatherings.

Did you take one look at the recipe and ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” I did. I tend to avoid turning the oven on during summer, so what fun it is to find a recipe that turns a hot commodity into a summer-friendly hybrid. I can’t think of anything easier and more efficient than harnessing the residual heat of the grill after cooking your mains to roast a bunch or 2 of kale. Simply scatter the leaves on the grate and then heat the big, nubby, blue-green leaves until they’re spotted with char.

I stuck to arranging them in a single layer and this proved successful in providing a uniform cooking time from top to bottom, left and right. The charred spots are pronounced and complex tasting. I see them being an awesome garnish over a myriad of dishes. And they’d stack up nicely next to a cold, hoppy beer.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    On occasion, when I have an over abundance of kale or collards in the garden, I’ve thrown a washed bunch on a low grill to steam and serve as a side. I don’t expect crispiness but I do get a little char on the edges. This recipe made for giant kale chips that had both char flavour and crispy texture. I paired mine with grilled halloumi cheese, grilled mushrooms, and braised cannellini beans. I do believe the trick is to fry the leaves well and massage the leaves with olive oil after separating from the stalks. The Tuscan kale is also key. Its robustness allows it to take the heat and still stand. I’m so excited to have another trick for elevating a beans and kale dish. Thank you!

    1. Oh wow, that sounds AND looks great, Gorm3sa! Love the combination with the grilled haloumi and mushrooms.

  2. Thanks for the advice. I tried to grill a batch this evening and made sure it was dry. I squeezed it in paper towels. The kale still shriveled and never got crispy. It must depend on the type of kale.

    1. Thanks for letting us know, E. What kind of kale did you use tonight that shriveled? We’ll make a note in the recipe so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Thank you!

  3. First batch I grilled turned out great! Light, crisp, smokey. But the next time, the leaves shriveled up, got mushy, and shrank!! I couldn’t believe it! I guess it does matter what type of kale you use. They all look the same to me.

    1. Yes, E, perhaps the type of kale contributed to the situation. What kinds did you use? And I wonder, did you pat the kale completely dry prior to grilling it the second time? What you experienced sounds suspiciously like what happened to us when we were rushed and didn’t dry the kale as thoroughly as we ought to have done.