What is cavolo nero?

Cavolo nero is curly kale’s tall, dark Italian cousin. Originally hailing from Tuscany, this black kale, or black cabbage as it is sometimes known, is rich in vitamins and iron. Its robust texture and attractive leaves make it a popular choice with chefs looking for a slightly sweeter cabbage substitute.


When is cavolo nero available?

The peak season runs from July through to early October. However, cavolo nero is now readily available from most large supermarkets all year round, or you can get it at local farmers' markets.

What should I look for when buying cavolo nero?

Look for crisp, unblemished leaves with no holes. Avoid cores that are split or dry.

How to prepare cavolo nero

Cavolo nero is incredibly versatile and can be boiled, stir-fried, steamed or eaten raw with a dressing. The best way to prepare it is to remove the central stem and shred the leaves. We advise not to eat the core as it's generally quite tough.

How to cook cavolo nero

See below for plenty of ideas for cooking this leafy vegetable, and also check out our collection of cavolo nero recipes. For more information about storing and preparing cavolo nero, read our glossary page.

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To eat raw:


Thinly shred the leaves of the cavalo nero. Toss in a large bowl with a punchy creamy dressing and serve with tuna for a modern take on a classic Caesar salad. The buttermilk helps to tenderise the black kale and brings out its sweetness in this satisfying salad.

Try these other delicious salad recipes:
Salad recipe collection
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To boil:


Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Drop in the cavalo nero and cook for 3-4 mins until wilted and darker in colour. If you want the kale to retain even more bite, immediately plunge into ice-cold water to halt the cooking process. Try with lashings of butter and salted bacon for a heavenly indulgent side using our winter greens with bacon butter recipe.

To simmer:


Try cavalo nero slow cooked in a hearty Italian minestrone soup. It can also be added to sauces and makes a great partner to pasta and breadcrumbs, as with our Orecchiette with cavolo nero, anchovies & pangrattato recipe. The robust leaves stand up to stronger flavours such as anchovy and chilli that bring out its natural sweetness.

To stir-fry:

Heat a splash of oil in a wok or large frying pan over a high heat, add the shredded cavolo nero and any aromatics, such as garlic, chilli and ginger. Cook for 3-4 mins until visibly wilted but still crunchy. Cooked this way, cavalo nero makes a great substitute for kale in a healthy stir-fry.

See our vegetarian stir-fry recipes for more inspiration.

Keen for more cabbage? Check out these collections and guides:

Kale recipes
Pak choi recipes
Spring greens recipes
Iron-rich vegetarian recipes
Pump up the iron


What other cavolo nero recipes do you like to make? Let us know in the comments below...

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