Creamed Kale (dairy-free, vegan, keto)

This vegan creamed kale is so good you won’t need to tell anyone it’s dairy-free!

Hearty kale is softened with caramelized onions in a savory, garlicky sauce and it takes only 30 minutes.

It goes great with chicken, beef, pork, fish or as part of a vegetarian or vegan meal.

Plus this quick and easy recipe happens to be low carb, keto, Paleo and Whole30-friendly as well!

Whole30 creamed kale and caramelized onions in a white bowl next to a denim towel on a wooden table

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Creamed kale recipe

You might be familiar with creamed spinach, a popular side dish.

This version swaps out the spinach for kale, a hearty green that stands up well to the creamy, garlicky sauce.

Adding some sweet, tender onions adds more texture, while red pepper flakes add a bit of heat (but you can leave them out).

The addition of a bit of grated nutmeg might seem odd but nutmeg is often used when cooking leafy greens and it adds a a very subtle smoky, woodsy flavor.

Even if you’re not a kale fan (or a fan of recipes with “creamed” in the title, which…I don’t blame you), this easy, healthy side dish is irresistible.

 

What you’ll need for vegan creamed kale

This vegan kale recipe is so simple! You’ll need:

And for ingredients, you’ll need:

  • kale – I like the way kale maintains some texture in this dish, as opposed to spinach. To make life easier, this recipe uses bagged, pre-washed kale. If you prefer, you can buy two large bunches of curly kale, remove and discard the stems and chop, rinse and dry the leaves.
  • onion
  • garlic
  • coconut milk – Using full-fat canned coconut milk instead of heavy cream is how to make this recipe dairy-free and vegan. Once it simmers with the garlic and other seasonings, it won’t really have a coconutty flavor.
  • nutmeg – Fresh is best, so a nutmeg grater or microplane grater helps. Otherwise, ground nutmeg is perfectly fine.
  • red pepper flakes, optional

paleo creamed kale in white bowls next to a plate of fried chicken, a denim towel and spoon on a wooden table

How to make creamed kale

This low carb kale recipe is pretty easy! Minimal slicing and chopping, maximum flavor.

  • Slice the onion into half moons. Don’t need to chop it further than that! The onion will turn all soft, caramelized and sweet.
  • Sauté the onion in your preferred cooking fat.
  • Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes, if using
  • Add the kale, in batches, seasoning each batch.
  • Sprinkle in the nutmeg (nutmeg and greens is a classic combo) and sauté everything until the leaves have softened.
  • Pour in the coconut milk and let it come to a simmer. It’ll take on the flavors of the onions, garlic and seasonings and begin to thicken.

And that’s it! Pretty straightforward, and when you’re done you have this hearty, creamy side dish.

Making it ahead of time

You can make this coconut kale dish up to 5 days in advance and store it in the fridge. Warm it up over low heat on the stove.

You can also freeze this creamed kale for up to 3 months (coconut milk freezes very well). Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat as above.

keto creamed kale in a white bowl next to a denim towel on a wooden table

Variations and substitutions

  • You can use spinach instead of kale.
  • You can use collard greens instead of kale. I don’t see these pre-washed and bagged very much, so you’ll have to buy 2 large bunches, remove the stems and chop, rinse and dry the leaves.
  • No onion? Just saute the garlic in the oil for a minute before adding the kale. When you add the coconut milk, add 1 teaspoon onion powder.
  • No garlic? When you add the coconut milk to the kale, add 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • No garlic or onion? Heat up the oil and add the kale in batches per the recipe. When you add the coconut milk, add 1 teaspoon each onion powder and garlic powder.
  • If you’re not vegan, you can also ghee or – if you’re lucky – bacon fat. It adds a wonderful smokiness.
  • If you can eat dairy, you can replace the coconut milk with 1.5 cups heavy cream.

What to serve with creamed kale

I love creamed kale as part of a down-home Southern feast, so I’d definitely pair it with this gluten-free fried chicken and these gluten-free biscuits. Or if not biscuits, then this dairy-free and gluten-free cornbread.

And then I’d serve this gluten-free strawberry rhubarb crisp for dessert.

But it would also be great with other dishes, like this crunchy plantain chip chicken.

For the holidays, it would go well with this spiced pork tenderloin.

Or keep it simple and serve it with 1 of these 3 Paleo meatballs, sauteéd Italian sausage, roast chicken or pork chops.

 

Other recipes you might like:

  1. Kale Salad with Beets, Oranges and Granola Croutons
  2. Braised Red Cabbage
  3. Easy Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
  4. Rainbow Crunch Salad with Almond Butter Dressing
dairy-free creamed kale in a white bowl next to a denim napkin and spoon on a wooden table
Whole30 creamed kale and caramelized onions in a white bowl next to a denim towel on a wooden table
Print Recipe
5 from 7 votes

Creamed Kale (dairy free, vegan, keto)

This hearty, luscious side dish features curly kale and caramelized onions in a garlicky coconut milk sauce. Serve it with chicken, pork, beef, fish or as part of a vegetarian or vegan meal.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: coconut kale, kale recipe, keto kale recipe, vegan kale recipe, whole30 kale recipe
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Don Baiocchi

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • teaspoons fine sea salt, divided, plus more if necessary
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional, adjust to your liking
  • 1 (12 oz.) bag pre-washed chopped curly kale
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
  • 1 (15 oz.) can full-fat coconut milk
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • In a large pot that has a lid, heat the oil over medium heat.
  • Slice the onion in half and peel. Slice both halves into thin half moons. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and stir occasionally until it begins to brown, 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, peel and mince the garlic cloves. When the onion is golden, add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes, if using. Stir for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add half the kale and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir, trying to fold the onions up and over the kale. Cover and let the leaves soften for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the second half of the kale, another 1/2 teaspoon salt and the nutmeg. Stir, again trying to fold the first batch of leaves and onions up and over the new leaves. It should only take another 2-3 minutes for all the leaves to soften (no need to cover this time).
  • Pour in the coconut milk. It doesn't matter if the water has separated from the cream. Just pour it all in and stir until the water and cream blend together. Scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Let simmer for 4-5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Serve warm.

Notes

Technically, this serves 4. However, if you're like me who wants to eat more than his share of this because it's so good, it might only feed 2. It's your call.
You can make this up to 5 days in advance and store it in the fridge. Warm it up over low heat on the stove.
You can also freeze this for up to 3 months (coconut milk freezes very well). Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat as above.
 
  • You can use spinach instead of kale.
  • You can use collard greens instead of kale. I don't see these pre-bagged very much, so you'll have to buy 2 large bunches, remove the stems and chop, rinse and dry the leaves.
  • If you're not vegan, you can use ghee or - if you're lucky - bacon fat. It adds a wonderful smokiness.
  • No onion? Just saute the garlic in the oil for a minute before adding the kale. When you add the coconut milk, add 1 teaspoon onion powder.
  • No garlic? When you add the coconut milk to the kale, add 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • No garlic or onion? Heat up the oil and add the kale in batches per the recipe. When you add the coconut milk, add 1 teaspoon each onion powder and garlic powder.
  • If you can eat dairy, you can replace the coconut milk with 1.5 cups heavy cream.

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