Kale with Caramelized Kumquats

Kale with Caramelized Kumquats Recipe

This side dish couldn't be easier to make. Onions and kumquats are slowly caramelized with ginger and agave nectar and added to slightly sautéed kale. What could be better than a dish that's delicious, healthy and simple?

I was inspired to make this dish by a reader. Chef Doreen T. Ross is a culinary artist and consultant from North Carolina. Doreen sent me a recipe suggestion using kumquats (I've asked for recipes using this ingredient) with wilted kale. I've adapted Doreen's recipe and added an Asian twist to it. Sunny and Lulu were my guinea pigs, and they loved it. Merci Doreen!

As I've said several times, I'm just a home-cook who is passionate about food and has had no professional training. Creating this site has really broadened my culinary horizons. I've received many lovely messages filled with kind words and a ton of tips and culinary tricks. Thank you all for your support, and please keep those messages coming.


Yields: 6 servings

2-½ pounds kale, fresh
1-½ tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 kumquats
1 teaspoon fresh ginger (see tips), freshly grated
1 tablespoon agave nectar (see tips)
2 tablespoons orange juice (or lemon juice), freshly squeezed
1 clove garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground


Prepping the kumquats: Wash the kumquats and thinly slice them using a sharp chef's knife. Discard the seeds and the white center membrane (if any).

Caramelizing the onions and kumquats: Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add the onions. Cook over low heat for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Add the ginger and sliced kumquats. Cook for about 4 minutes until the kumquats are soft and tender. Add the agave nectar and orange juice. Transfer to a plate with the citrus-infused oil from the pan.

Cooking kale:

Wash the raw kale thoroughly in several baths. Remove and discard the fibrous and older part of the stems. Drain and remove all the excess water using a salad spinner. Roughly chop the kale leaves.

In the same pan, add the rest of the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the minced garlic. Cook the garlic for a minute until fragrant. Add the kale to the pan, constantly toss the kale leaves until they're shiny (coated in oil). The leaves will start to wilt after 30 seconds or so. Season with salt (this will prevent the kale from changing color and help keep its bright green color). Add soy sauce. Turn off the heat. Stir well. Cover and let sit for about 2-3 minutes. Add the onions and spiced kumquats with the oil. Check seasoning and add black pepper.

Bon appétit!


The flatter the onion, the sweeter it is. I always try to pick flatter-shaped yellow onions at the market. You can add a little sugar depending on the level of sweetness of the onion.

My favorite soy sauce is the Da Bo De brand. It has a very nice flavor and is not too salty. You can find this particular sauce at, for example, Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 S 2nd St, in San Jose. Make sure the bottle says nước tương chay, which means vegetarian in Vietnamese.

Little reminder on how to make freshly grated ginger: Clean the ginger root and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife (or the edge of a spoon). Grate the ginger with a fine mesh Microplane. Gather about 1 teaspoon of grated ginger root.

It's kumquat season again in my garden; the kumquats I picked this morning weren't very sweet so I used orange juice, but depending on the level of sweetness of the fruit, you could also use lemon juice.

kumquat fruit picture

If you don't have kale on hand, you could use any other greens such as collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, bok choy or spinach.

If you want to add another Asian flavor to the kumquats, you could add finely chopped lemongrass.

Agave nectar is a natural sweetener. You can find it in specialty stores such as Whole Foods. In France, it's called agave honey. Unlike honey, agave nectar has a long shelf life and does not crystallize over time. Agave nectar is made out of the purified sap of cactus-like desert plants. If you can't find it, you could use palm sugar (you can buy it in any Asian stores, Costco or Trader Joe's), honey or granulated sugar.

agave nectar picture

If you want to add some crunch to the dish, you could add slighted toasted walnuts.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on February 7, 2010.


[-] Awesome! - Guest-Lydia
This is great! I'd love to add it to my list of 100 ways with greens on my site if you don't mind (it will have to change to 100+ ways...)!

I first used kumquats several years ago in a Thanksgiving cranberry relish along with ginger and star anise, but other flavors work well, too. I also recently used up a small bunch in a liquer recipe by steeping them in grain alcohol for a while then adding simple syrup. It's tasty, and surprisingly floral.

Lydia Website Link
[ Posted at 6:21 AM on 2/7/10 | Reply ]
I love kale. What an awesome combination. I've saved your dish for the future. Thanks!

Kristi Rimkus Website Link
[ Posted at 8:21 AM on 2/7/10 | Reply ]
[-] Kale with Caramelized Kumquats - Guest-DailyChef
I love finding new ways to use kale! Thanks for sharing.

DailyChef Website Link
[ Posted at 10:19 AM on 2/7/10 | Reply ]
[-] Hola ola... - Guest-sugarplum
Hello sweet Jacqueline ...am here to tell ya that i love ur fantastic melting pot of cultures and cuisines galore.....wonderful world or eliciousness ...am loving every post here....

sugar plum Website Link
[ Posted at 11:15 PM on 2/7/10 | Reply ]
[-] Nicely done - Guest-Nate
Wow, I've never seen kumquats used like that before. Pretty neat flavor combination!

Since you are using homegrown kumquats, would you like to enter this post in our Grow Your Own roundup this month? Full Details at


Nate @ House of Annie Website Link
[ Posted at 7:43 AM on 2/9/10 | Reply ]
[-] Yum Kumquats! - Guest-Kasey
I love kumquats, but would never think to pair them with kale like this..What an inventive dish--I'll definitely have to try this.

Kasey Website Link
[ Posted at 5:25 PM on 2/10/10 | Reply ]

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