How to Cook Dark Leafy Greens

Dinner, Lunch, Recipes

If you were anything like me growing up, you may have avoided your dark leafy greens. It wasn’t until my early adult years that I decided to give greens another try and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them.

These days, I can’t get enough of the nutrient-packed veggies. I try to have a serving of dark leafy greens with almost every meal. And now I’m here to encourage you to do the same. Are you ready to reap the health benefits of a diet full of dark leafy vegetables? 

What are the Healthiest Dark Leafy Green Vegetables to Eat?

When I started adding more dark green leafies into my diet, I was at a loss when it came to selecting the best greens for taste and nutrition. There are so many options, and it’s true that not all green vegetables are created equally when it comes to vitamin and nutrient content.

So how do you know which dark green leafy vegetables are the best for your diet? It all depends on the specific nutrients that your body needs.

When it comes to nutrition and versatility in the kitchen, the green powerhouses are kale, bok choy, leeks, and nappa cabbage. These greens are relatively easy and quick to cook. Not to mention all of the health benefits.

Read on for why you should reach for these vegetables at the market, and how to enjoy them all together in one super-charged recipe. 

The Best Dark Leafy Greens For Your Diet

Kale is known for being full of antioxidants. These fight free radicals in the body and support the immune system. Kale is also packed with nearly all of the vitamins we need on a daily basis, plus other nutrients such as calcium, potassium and manganese.

Bok choy also contains high levels of essential vitamins. It’s high in vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. And it has a delicious, fresh flavor, even cooked. I love to have cooked bok choy on hand to enjoy as a sidedish and to add to my favorite soups. It’s easy to prepare and include in your diet.

Nappa cabbage may sound strange, but it’s a staple here in my kitchen. It is also known as Chinese cabbage because it originated in Beijing. Thankfully it has made its way around the world and straight to my dinner table. It’s very nutritious, with a high dietary fiber content. I like to add nappa cabbage to my salads for extra crunch.

Why are Dark Leafy Greens Good For You?

There are dozens of benefits to the body and mind of eating dark leafy greens on a daily basis. First of all, one of my favorite things about dark leafy greens is simply how they make the body feel.

All of the vitamins and minerals in dark leafy greens help the body heal. And I’m not just talking about injury. Your body is continuously self-healing wounds and regular cellular damage, as well as protecting you from threats such as illness. The immune system relies on the vitamins and minerals you eat to perform its key functions. 

For example, free radicals can cause cell damage that can lead to cancer. The antioxidants in kale and other dark leafy greens combat these invaders. While the vegetable’s other nutrients support your body to heal any damage done.

Another reason that dark leafy greens are so important to a healthy body is that they feed and heal your gut. Your gut is deeply connected to most of your basic bodily functions. It needs to be functioning efficiently at all times for optimal performance, immune response and general wellbeing. Greens provide the dietary fiber your gut needs to clean itself and operate in tip-top shape.

How to Cook Dark Leafy Greens

Lucky for you, I’ve learned how to turn a variety of dark leafy greens into a delicious meal so you don’t have to stress about it.

The stir fry below is my go-to recipe for cooking dark leafy greens! It’s simple, packed with flavor and is a great option for meal prep, because this stir fry lasts for several days in the fridge.

Making An Easy Stir Fry with Dark Leafy Greens

The first step in this easy stir fry is to gather all of the ingredients and prepare the greens. Since they are plucked straight from the ground, dark leafy greens can be pretty dirty.

How To Wash Dark Leafy Greens

I like to wash my dark leafy greens in a big bowl of water with a few drops of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice added. First, swish them around and soak for 5 minutes, then rinse under cold running water. Finally, place the greens in a colander to drain. Washing is essential to make sure that your veggies are completely insect-free, especially if they’re organic. And double-check ingredients like leeks and boy choy, which can hide dirt in the sneakiest places. 

Washing leeks is an art, so make sure you watch the video below to see how to do it the right way!

After washing, separate the kale leaves from the stems and chop the leaves. You can also use the stems in the stir fry, but cut them into small pieces first. For the bok choy, remove the end and roughly chop the leaves.

Nappa cabbage is a little different. I normally prefer to take the outer leaves off and just use the inner parts. Next, remove the core from the bottom and chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. For the scallions, trim off the little roots, then slice them into small pieces. You can cut them on the diagonal for a nice look. Finally, slice the leek in half the long way and cut the stalks into 1/2 inch slices. 

How to Quickly Stir Fry Leafy Green Vegetables

After you have sliced up all your beautiful leafy greens, it’s time to get cooking. Heat olive oil in a skillet large enough to hold your pile of veggies. First, add the leeks and let them cook for a few minutes. Then follow with the other veggies. Next, add a little water and let everything steam until tender. Voila: there you have it, the perfect stir-fried dark leafy greens ready in 20 minutes.

Feel free to season the stir fry with your favorite sauces, seasonings and spices. I like to use fresh ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. 

More Easy Vegetable-Packed Recipes

Spring Roasted Vegetables

Arugula Beet Salad with Fennel

Heart-Healthy Curried Pumpfu Stirfry

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Mixed Leafy Greens Stir Fry

  • Author: Christine Waltermyer
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 servings 1x


You won’t have any issue filling your plate with nutritent-packed dark leafy greens thanks to this easy, quick and flavorful Mixed Leafy Green Stir Fry.



  • 1 small head nappa cabbage, cut in half length-wise
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 leek
  • 1 baby bok choy
  • 5 leaves green kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Splash of water
  • Sea salt
  • Options: Chopped ginger, minced garlic, coconut aminos, crushed red pepper flakes, etc. for added flavor


  1. Wash all of the vegetables. Pull the kale leaves from the stems and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. If you want to use the stems, be sure to chop them up finely. Or, you can save them to make veggie stock.
  2. Trim the bulb end of the baby bok choy, and wash the leaves again under running water. Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. For the nappa cabbage, remove any outer leaves with bad spots. Slice the core out from the bottom. Slice the leaves widthwise into ½-inch slices, removing any bad spots. For the scallions, trim off the root end, then slice on a diagonal into ½-inch pieces.
  3. To cut the leek, trim the root end and slice in half lengthwise. Rinse again under running water, checking between layers for any dirt. Lay cut side down on a cutting board and slice into ½-inch size pieces.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add the olive oil, leeks, and a pinch of salt to help them soften. Cook for a few minutes, then add the kale.
  6. Cover and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, unitl the kale starts to wilt. Add another pinch of salt and a splash of water.
  7. Add all remaining ingredients, plus another splash of water if needed to keep the greens from sticking and help them soften.
  8. Cover and steam for another few minutes, or until all of the vegetables are tender but still bright green and not overcooked.
  9. Serve as is, or with your favorite dressing or an additional drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.
  • Method: Stovetop


Christine Waltermyer

Christine Waltermyer

Christine Waltermyer


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