bowl and fork with kale gratin

Kale….but make it craveable. That’s exactly what this vegan oven-baked kale gratin delivers in spades. I’m not kidding when I say I could eat the whole pan myself.

Despite the conventional wisdom that you shouldn’t make a recipe for the first time when people come over (because how stressful would it be if it doesn’t work?), I’m famous for testing out new recipes on company. When I first made this kale gratin, I took that devil-may-care attitude a couple notches further.

It was Christmas.
And I veganized this gratin recipe from Bon Appetit – which I had never made before – on the fly.

Cream? No problem, cashew cream instead. Boil the onion in the cream? Cannot do…let’s use onion powder. Is my roasted squash burning in the oven right now? Whatever!

WELL. It was so freaking good I almost couldn’t stand it. So I knew I had to recreate it for you here before the weather got too warm to wanna bake kale for an hour.

Don’t let the time this recipe takes deter you. Most of it is in the oven…and you can be doing other things, like catching up on Netflix. In fact, the only thing about this recipe that is even remotely time-consuming is washing and tearing four bunches of kale. And the first time you make this recipe, you’ll love it so much that you’ll consider making kale washing your full time career.

I’ve made this oven-baked kale gratin a couple of times now, and I have a way I like to wash the kale that feels a bit more efficient:

  • I put a salad spinner into the sink and de-stem and tear the unwashed kale right into the spinner. Save the stems, you can chop them and cook in a stir-fry or something later.
  • Then I fill up the spinner bowl with water and use my hands to agitate the kale to wash it. You’l probably only fit half the kale into the spinner at one time. I lift the spinner basket from the bowl to remove the kale and drain off the water.
  • Drop the kale onto a rimmed baking sheet and repeat with the other half of the kale. You don’t have to spin the kale as the water on the leaves will help it wilt.

There are lots of healthy kale recipes out there. There are also kale recipes that taste so good they seem like they couldn’t possibly be good for you. This vegan oven-baked kale gratin falls into the latter category.

Everything in this recipe, from the kale to the cashew cream, is super good for you. This recipe is officially anti-inflammatory but doesn’t taste like it. Sure, it’s got a wee bit of salt and faux cheese…but come on! It’s SO good.

This gratin would be delicious with some sort of lentil nut loaf for a special meal, or grilled tofu, or you could even throw in a big can of cannellini beans into the mix and call it a complete meal, kind of like my Sweet Potato Chard Gratin (obviously I’m a fan of anything creamed).

bowl and fork with kale gratin

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Vegan Oven-Baked Kale Gratin

This cheesy, crispy, craveable baked kale recipe is going to be the side dish you make whenever you want comfort + health in equal measure. Adapted from Bon Appetit.
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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds curly or tuscan kale (about 4 bunches), de-stemmed and torn into large pieces
  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, divided
  • 1 sprig rosemary, about 4-5 inches long, leaves only, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested, divided
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chile flakes

Toppings

  • 5 slices vegan cheese, torn into large pieces (I like Violife Provolone or Daiya Swiss style)
  • ½ cup regular or gluten free panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Equipment

  • High Speed Blender

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350°Fahrenheit (180°Celsius).
  • Place cashews and water in a blender. Grate 2 of the cloves of garlic into the blender. Add rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder, half the lemon zest, 1 ¼ teaspoon (6ml) salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Blend until smooth and taste. The cream should taste saltier than you would otherwise make as the kale is unseasoned. If not, add more salt (I add ¼ teaspoon (1ml) extra for 1 ½ teaspoon (6ml) total). I like a little squeeze of lemon juice in there too. Set aside.
  • Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat without oil. Add ⅓ of the kale and cover with a lid for one minute to start the wilting process.
  • Uncover and stir until wilted by half, about 1-2 minutes more, then push that kale to the side and repeat the process with the remaining kale. You are only wilting it enough to get it all in the skillet - it's okay if some of the kale is barely wilted as it will cook in the oven. Remove from heat.
  • In a small bowl, grate the remaining clove of garlic, and then mix in panko, remaining lemon zest, olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Pour the cashew cream over the kale. Top the kale with the torn cheese and then sprinkle with bread crumb mixture.
  • Bake until cashew cream is bubbling, cheese is melted and crumbs are golden brown, about 50-55 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for a moment and serve.