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How to Tell if Kale Is Bad

Are you trying to eat healthier and incorporate more leafy greens into your diet? Kale is a popular choice for its high nutrient content and versatility in recipes.

However, nothing is worse than buying a fresh bunch of kale, only to realize it has gone bad. Not to worry, in this article, we will be discussing the signs of bad kale and how to tell if it’s still good for consumption.

So, if you want to avoid throwing out spoiled kale and save some money in the process, keep reading to learn “How to Tell if Kale is Bad.”

How to tell if kale is bad


If kale is bad, it will have yellow or brown patches on the leaves, and the leaves will be wilted. The stem may also be discolored. If you see any of these signs, it’s best to throw the kale away.

White bowl with fresh kale leaves on a weathered gray table.

Kale is a nutrient-rich leafy green that makes a great addition to any balanced diet. Unfortunately, even the best-quality kale can go bad relatively quickly, so it’s important to know how to tell if kale is bad before you eat it.

There are a few key indicators you should look out for, such as discolored or wilted leaves, a bad smell, and a slimy texture.

In this article, we’ll provide you with all the details you need to know to avoid food poisoning and make sure you’re taking full advantage of the nutritional benefits of kale.

How it looks

Rotten kale will usually be discolored or brown and slimy, with black spots. The leaves will be wilted and will have lost their rich dark color, turning to a pale greenish-yellow, and eventually turning brown.

How it smells

Kale that has gone bad will have a foul smell, almost like sour eggs. It will no longer have its fresh earthy smell but instead will have a sulfurous smell, like that of rotten eggs.

How it feels

When kale goes bad will feel slimy to the touch and its texture will become increasingly flexible, offering no crunch when cut.

It will also be sludgy, with the liquid from the leaves turning a slimy texture. This is a clear indication that the kale has expired and should be discarded immediately.

How it tastes

Bad kale tastes bitter and sour, with an overpowering sulfur smell that is reminiscent of rotten eggs. The taste of bad kale is not something you’d want to experience, so it’s best to throw it away if you can smell any off odors.

How long does kale last?

Kale is a popular and nutritious leafy green vegetable that can make a great addition to any meal. But how long does kale last?

The answer depends on whether it’s fresh from the garden or bagged from the store. Bagged kale has a shelf life of around 10 days, while fresh kale lasts about five to seven days.

Cooked kale should be consumed within four days. To make the most of your kale and keep it fresh for longer, store it in the refrigerator and postpone washing it until you’re ready to use it.

Additionally, freezing it can extend its shelf life even further.

You can also find out how to tell if spinach has gone bad or how to tell if kohlrabi is bad in my blog posts.

How to pick out kale

When picking out kale, it is important to look for leaves that are bright green, firm, and free from brown or black spots.

The kale should also smell fresh, not off-putting. Avoid kale with yellowed leaves or that looks wilted. To check the quality of the kale, make sure the leaves are crispy and feel firm to the touch.

Furthermore, the kale should not have any mold growing on it. If the kale passes all these criteria, it is safe to purchase and enjoy.

How to Store Kale in the Refrigerator

To store kale and other leafy greens in the fridge unbind the leaves, remove them from the plastic bag and loosely wrap them in paper towels.

Storing them in the crisper drawer will keep them lasting longer as it will keep the moisture away from the leaves.

How to freeze kale

If you want to store kale in the freezer, the best way to do it is by blanching the leaves first. To blanch the leaves,

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the kale in the boiling water for two minutes until they start to brighten in color.
  2. Drain the kale and immediately transfer it to an ice water bath, then drain again and dry.
  3. Spread the dried leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for at least three hours.
  4. Transfer them to a freezer-safe bag and label them with the date before freezing for up to six months.

When you are ready to use it, thaw the frozen leaves overnight in the refrigerator or quickly run them under running water until they are soft again.

A few other posts that you may also find helpful are how to freeze cabbage and how to freeze asparagus.

How to Wash Kale

Washing kale is an important step to remove any dirt, debris, or pesticides that may be on the leaves.

To wash kale properly, start by filling a large bowl or sink with cool water. Remove the kale leaves from the stem and add them to the water.

Swirl the leaves around gently with your hands to loosen any dirt or debris. If the kale is particularly dirty, you may need to change the water and repeat this process.

Once the kale is clean, remove it from the water and shake off any excess moisture. You can also use a salad spinner to remove the excess water.

If you’re not using the kale immediately, wrap it in paper towels and store it in an airtight container in the fridge to keep it fresh.

Frequently asked questions for how to tell if kale is bad

Yellow kale will taste bitter, so it is best to cut away the yellow chunks and consume only the green parts. Additionally, yellowing kale should be eaten quickly since it is likely to go bad soon afterward. It may be possible to use yellow kale in recipes, but the bitterness may be more of an issue.

It is best to not wash kale before storage, as this introduces moisture that can cause the kale to spoil more quickly. However, if you want to prep the kale in advance, you can wash and cut it. Make sure to dry it completely before storing it in an airtight container or bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

It’s not recommended to use kale in smoothies if it’s going bad. Even if you blend it, the bacteria present in bad kale can still make you sick. Always use fresh kale for smoothies.


Now that you know the signs to look for to determine if kale has gone bad, you can confidently make the most of your leafy greens.

Remember to always store kale correctly and regularly check for any changes in its appearance or smell.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that you’re consuming fresh and nutritious kale every time you add it to your meals.

So, don’t let bad kale ruin your healthy eating habits, and use our guide to “How to Tell if Kale is Bad” to keep your greens fresh and tasty.

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