how to keep kale and other greens fresh

Ok, I’ll be frank with you all, this isn’t the most exciting post I have ever put out there. As I was writing it, I kind of yawned a few times and thought to myself, am I really writing about how to keep lettuce and kale fresh, really?  I’m writing this post because I want you all to see how easy it is to whip up a nightly salad on the fly without having to buy the pre-washed bagged lettuce or kale.

We eat tons of kale and lettuce on a weekly basis and I have found a handy way to keep them fresh longer, while also making it more convenient to just grab a handful of leaves when I want to throw a quick salad together. I’m not claiming to be an expert here, but this technique works for me, so I thought why not share it with you all. This works great for individual lettuce leaves and kale, but not for rolled up lettuces, such as iceberg lettuce.

The key to keeping lettuce fresh is to pre-wash, dry and store your lettuce. I always try to wash my lettuce and kale the same day that I purchase it.  I just make sure when I’m unpacking groceries to throw the lettuce on the kitchen counter, so I don’t forget to wash it.  Ok, lets just get started, shall we?

First off, you need to wash your lettuce. You can wash up your lettuce leaves whatever way suits you.  I usually fill a large bowl with some cold water and swirl the leaves around to get rid of the excess dirt. You can also fill your sink with cold water, but I’m not a fan of doing that because even though I keep my sink clean, I don’t want to be washing fresh produce in there. I mean we wash our dirty hands in there, rinse raw meat, you get my point. Anyway, drain the water and then give each lettuce leaf a quick rinse under the tap to get rid of any remaining dirt. I sometimes get lazy and just rinse my leaves one-by-one under the tap and call it a day.

Now, if you’re rinsing kale, make your life easier and just de-stem it as you’re rinsing it.  I always de-stem my kale as I’m rinsing it because it just saves so much time when it comes to throwing a kale salad together. If you need a demonstration on how to de-stem kale, click here.  I also show you how to properly wash, de-stem and thinly slice kale in my lacinato kale salad video post. Check it out…

Ok, next you will need a salad spinner.  I honestly think I use my salad spinner every day, so if you like salad, I would highly recommend purchasing one. Put the rinsed lettuce into a salad spinner. Make sure not to crowd the spinner too much or the lettuce won’t dry. Give the spinner a whirl, and spin the lettuce until its dry.

Spread two paper towels (still connected) on your counter and pile the dry lettuce/kale leaves on one end. Wrap the paper towel around the lettuce and then add some more leaves and continue the process until all the lettuce is wrapped up.  Make sure to wrap the leaves up tightly.

DSC_0049I thought I would show you a picture of the de-stemmed kale before it gets wrapped up.


Rolling up the lettuce is almost like rolling up a sleeping bag.

Slide the rolls into a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Squeeze the air out and close the bag.

Place the sealed bags in your crisper. The lettuce should stay good for about a week to 2 weeks.  Honestly, I never keep my lettuce around for more than a week.
Now, you can have fresh de-stemmed kale or lettuce at a moments notice.
Just take out what you need whenever you want to make a salad and then just reseal the bag. The plastic bags can also be reused. I let them air out in between uses so that they stay dry.  I also make sure to compost the paper towels.
I also did a post on how to keep herbs fresh. Check it out if you want.  It has helped my cilantro last 2 weeks.

Now that you have some freshly washed greens, you can make some amazing salads on the fly.

Here are some links to my favorite kale salads.

Lacinato kale salad.

lacinato kale saladKale salad with Brussels sprouts and toasted almonds.

kale salad with brussels sprouts and toasted almondsKale salad with ricotta salata.

kale and ricotta salata saladKale salad with delicata squash, almonds and aged cheddar.

kale salad with delicata squash, almonds and aged cheddarMiso kale salad with miso roasted tofu.

miso kale salad with miso roasted tofuStay tuned for Thursday as I’m going to post my kid friendly caesar salad.  The dressing is mayo, egg and anchovy free! Now that you have fresh ready-to-go lettuce, it will be a cinch to whip up.

kid friendly caesar saladI also love these two kale recipes.

Pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnuts.

pasta with kale, lemon and toasted walnutsWheat berries with charred onions and kale. 

wheat berries with charred onions and kaleMashed potatoes with kale.

mashed potatoes with kale

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    • Jen says

      Here, here! I agree! I’ve only ever had kale one way: Spray it with Pam (or drizzle with olive oil), barely sprinkle with salt (goes a LONG ways), bake for about 7 minutes @ 350 degrees, until the leaves get crispy but not burnt. Makes the most yummy, sinful snack — you’ll be sure you’re making yourself fat with this, and yet it is DELICIOUS. My daughter (15) took this from the broiler idea, but it was too hard to control, so she tried experimenting in the kitchen. Now we eat it every day!

  1. Desiree says

    Well, you may think this was a boring post but I Googled ‘how to store kale’ and it brought me here, so thank you for the tip! I’m so tired of my kale getting wilty before I can use it and I’m hoping this will help, even though I don’t have a salad spinner.

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Desiree. Love your comment! I realized since I posted this tip that it’s become pretty popular :) I guess it’s pretty useful. You don’t need a salad spinner, just dry your kale the way you normally do and then wrap it in the paper towels and zip it up in the ziploc. My kale definitely lasts a week sometimes longer. I don’t really keep track anymore. BTW, kale that’s soft still makes a great salad. Let me know if you have any additional questions :)

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Eddie! Yes I do, I reuse the same bags. If they get too much moisture inside, then I turn them inside out and let them air dry.

  2. Latifa says

    While this might not have been the most exciting post to write, it was immensely helpful to those of us who are new to the produce section and don’t know what to do with all this green leafy weirdness. Thanks!

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Latifa. I now realize that some of my less exciting posts are actually my most popular and useful posts, so I’m glad this one helped you as well. It’s funny that you commented on this post this morning, because I just came home with 3 heads of kale and washed them up, dried them and packed them away in the fridge. It may take 10-15 minutes to do the whole process, but once you’re done, you’re done and you have fresh kale and greens to make up a salad on the fly :) I also love that my greens stay fresh for over a week :) I also have a post on how to keep herbs fresh and that one really works as well! Have a great day! xoxo, Jackie

  3. Sonja says

    Thank you for the wonderful tip!! I have a question…if I don’t feel like wrapping it in paper towel in ziplock, do you think putting lettuce in glass container with paper towel would work the same?

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Sonja! Yes, I think that would totally work. You could also line the bottom of the glass container with a towel as well and then just seal up the container. :)

  4. says

    I just bought kale for the first time last night for smoothies, and was trying to figure out a way to keep them. This is such a good idea, and very convenient. Thanks!

  5. Anne-Sophie says

    Hello! And thank you for your lovely and helpful post. I will definitely try it because my sad looking kale is too far gone by now :( However, the stems are my favorite part of kale though I admittedly don’t eat kale raw.
    Cheers! :)

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Anne-Sophie! I’m glad you found this post. It will totally keep your kale fresh as well as those stems that you love! Have you tried raw kale massaged in a salad? It’s amazing and yet so easy. Watch my lacinato kale salad video or just try the recipes, it’s so tasty and the massaging of the kale breaks it down like when it’s cooked. :) xoxo, Jackie

  6. SandyK says

    You have just given a massage therapist a new client! The de-stemming eliminates the stiff bitterness that I didn’t like and the simple lemon and garlic dressing is perfect. You have converted another kale lover. Thank you so much for having such a wonderful website.

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Nancy! No, not at all. I buy pre-washed ready-to-go spinach all the time. I do find it cheaper to buy the greens fresh though. I also find that kale is way better fresh. The baby kale that they sell in those prepacked containers is really not that tasty. It does take more time to as you have to wash the kale, but it lasts for up to two weeks and saves you some money in the end! It’s all personal preference! :)

        • jackiegrandy says

          Awesome Nancy! You will notice a difference. I did right away, and it’s really helped me not waste as many greens. :) xoxo, Jackie

  7. doug says

    I am new to caring for tortoises and there kale supply gets rubbery, tough and limp before they are half way through it. I am glad I found this and I’m going to try your advice, thank you so much.

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Karen! A crisper is just the drawer in your fridge that you keep your veggies in. Yes, you can slice the kale ahead of time and store it. To be honest, I’m not sure how long it will store for that way. I usually just de-stem it and then store it and slice it up right before I make my salad. I’m sure it will work both ways, I just haven’t tried it! :) xoxo, Jackie

  8. Lea says

    Thank you so much for the post. I had no clue how to wash kale. it is the first time I am buying it. We want to try kale chips to replace potato chips. I do have a question, when I wash lettuce I always soak it in a bowl with water/vinegar mix. You did not mention vinegar. Is it not necessary?
    Thanks from Lea.

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Lea! I never use vinegar when I wash my kale or greens, I just rinse them in water. What does the vinegar do?

      • Anonymous says

        The vinegar kills all the bugs that might be lurking there. That’s how I learned to do it from my mom. We always had bugs in the lettuce and even though we washed it we might have missed some. So the vinegar made sure it’s still ok to eat.

  9. V AA says

    I just wanted to share that I use my salad spinner to clean my greens. I pick them from my garden so you can imagine the bugs/dirt. Put the greens in the salad spinner and fill with water. Swirl them a bit with your hand. Let sit for about 5 minutes. All the gook will settle in the bottom. Lift the inner strain piece with the greens in it out of the bottom plastic bowl. Dump the water from the bowl. Then put the strain piece back in and do the spin.

    Thank so much for the tip on how to keep them fresh.

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Cynthia! Sometimes I pre-slice the kale and put it in the towel if I’m going to use it later that night. I’m sure that it would be fine to slice it ahead of time and store it for longer! Give it a try! xoxo, Jacquelyn

  10. says

    Great post – thanks. In addition to a “time-saver” – when you’re putting together a quick salad, this is also a money saver. We buy organic whenever possible – as well as harvest a lot of kale and lettuce from the garden. In either case, it’s like “gold” and anything that prolongs the “shelf-life” is great. I’m wondering though, if cutting the stems off of the kale shortens the storage time or quality?

  11. Elyse says

    I read a post from a nutri-bullet blog that she puts her individual servings in small tubs of water to keep fresh.have you heard of this? Another one pre pulses her greens and then freezes in ice cube trays. Do you think freezing causes loss of nutrients ? I am going to try your suggestion..been doing that but w/out paper towel. Thanks!

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Elyse! There are really so many ways I’m sure to keep kale and other greens fresh, so give them a try. I just found use this tip and find that it works perfectly. I don’t think greens loose thier nutrients once they hit the freezer, but I’m not an expert! :) xoxo, Jackie

  12. Susan says

    I bought 2 huge bunches of kale today and prepared it for the first time. We tried your lacinato kale salad for dinner and I think I used too much dressing for the amount of kale – it was a bit intense. I am trying this storage method with some fresh spinach – it doesn’t usually last very long and I end up throwing out every other leaf. So I’m hoping it lasts a few more days so I can put it on my quinoa and black bean wraps for lunch this week. Thanks for your tips and great recipes!

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Susan! You’re so welcome :) This method should keep your greens and spinach fresher longer. It really works for me. Sorry about the dressing being too intense. Some heads of kale are smaller than others, so you may just want to add the dressing to taste next time. I also find that when I massage the dressing in for a bit, it really helps to absorb into the kale, and doesn’t seem like too much dressing. xoxo, Jacquelyn

  13. says

    Nice tips :) I wanted to see if there was a different way than I do it (the same as you but I store it dry in a large mason jar and it also keeps 2 weeks) as sometimes i am out of jars. I tried ziplock green produce storage bags last week and they were AWFUL! So I will use regular when no jars. Also for anyone who forgets to get it torn and washed and stored immediately and find it is wilted – just cut off a bit from the stems and put in cold water on the counter for half an hour to refresh – works great but then eat it – don’t restore :)

    Also I thought this recent post on “using the right type of kale for the right recipe” might be up your alley.

  14. says

    You are a lifesaver! I’m having a big Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in years. I am teaching my self to cook healthier so everything is new again. I have so much to do and now knowing I can prep the kale for the salad ahead will be a huge help. Thanks again and HAPPY THANKSGIVING :)

  15. says

    thank you so much for this post! I was googling where to store greens in your fridge and came across this! I only have one drawer in my fridge, so mixing the fruits and veggies doesn’t always work and my kale will literally wilt in 2 days, or freeze if its not in the right spot in my fridge…ive wasted so much money! I am trying this method out right away!

  16. Connie says

    I have found that white paper towels tend to bleach the color of my greens, so I’ve used natural brown coffee filters instead. I haven’t stored lettuce or spinach this way, but since moving to a different house and refrigerator some months ago they haven’t been keeping as long, so I’ll try this method.

    • jackiegrandy says

      Hi Connie! I hope that this method works for you! I haven’t noticed my greens getting bleached by the paper towels, hamm… interesting! Great tip on the coffee filters! I will give those a try just to test them out :)
      Do you seal up the plastic bag? That should help keep them fresh! I also put the greens in my produce drawer in the fridge.


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