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German cooking: “Grünkohl” – Kale Posted by on Nov 17, 2011 in Culture, Food, People, Traditions

Grünkohl (kale) is a very popular dish for the Adventszeit (Advent Season) and Weihnachten (Christmas) in Germany. And I also like it very much. It is one of my favorite dishes. As someone of you asked how to prepare it, I’d like to address myself to this topic.


First of all, you need to know that there are different varieties of it. That is, the recipes differ from region to region. Thus, I can only tell you how my grandmother and mother cook this meal.


In order to make Grünkohl you need, of course, kale, which is available as leaves (fresh kale), tiefgefroren (deep-frozen) or in glasses. If you buy fresh kale you have to prepare the leaves before you begin to cook the actual meal.


Fresh kale:

Wash the kale thoroughly because it can be very sandy. After you have washed the leaves you have to blanch them. That is, put them into boiling(!) water and cook them until they crumple up (about 5 to 10 minutes). Then decant the leaves and rinse them in cold water. Subsequently, cut the leaves grossly. Now you can start cooking Grünkohl.


Put everything into a large pot:

In order to cook the kale it has to be covered with water. So, when you are taking kale in glasses you pour the whole content into a pot. If you use fresh or deep-frozen kale you additionally have to pour fresh water into the pot. After that add ¼ piece of well-chopped Weißkohl (white cabbage), some Salz (salt), 2-3 Lorbeerblätter (bay leaves), and 5-6 Gewürzkörner (allspice). The white cabbage reduces the strong flavor of the kale.

Before you can cook the mix you have to add some meat. Which sort of meat you take is up to you, but it has to be fat meat, e.g. pork (smoked pork chop or the neck of pork). Some Germans use a special sort of smoked sausages made from bacon, groats, and spices, called Pinkel. My mother always uses pork. If you don’t eat pork you can of course add any other fat meat, e.g. Hammelfleisch (mutton).

Now that you have added everything into the pot, boil it up and then let it simmer for several hours (3-5 hours) until the meat is soft. Now, remove the meat, let it cool down and store it in the fridge. From now on you have to cook the Grünkohl for several days. My mother usually lets it simmer between 2 and 4 days. She basically does this to make the kale and cabbage as soft as possible and to reduce the strong flavor of the kale. Before my mother serves the Grünkohl she adds the meat again and lets the Grünkohl and meat simmer for another two hours.


My mother basically uses the meat only to flavor the cabbage and to make it fat. We eat the Grünkohl with Gänsebraten (roast goose) / Entenbraten (roast duck) / Putenbraten (roast turkey) and Kartoffeln (potatoes) or Klöße (dumplings), whereas others put a lot of fatty meat to it and eat that meat instead of poultry.


Here you can see one variety of Grünkohl.

Guten Appetit! – Enjoy your meal!




der Grünkohl – kale

die Adventszeit – Advent Season

die Weihnacht / das Weihnachten– Christmas

tiefgefroren – deep-frozen

der Weißkohl – white cabbage

das Salz – salt

das Lorbeerblatt (sgl.) / die Lorbeerblätter (pl.) – bay leaf / bay leaves

das Gewürzkorn (sgl.) / die Gewürzkörner (pl.) – allspice

der Pinkel – special sausage made from bacon, groats, and spices

das Hammelfleisch – mutton

der Gänsebraten – roast goose

der Entenbraten – roast duck

der Putenbraten – roast turkey

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Achim Siegfried Triebel:

    Very nice. I am born in Germany and grew up there. One of the greatest things in winter time was Gruenkohl. We had it at home and we had it at Christmas Markets all over. There is nothing like a bowl of hot Gruenkohl. The region where I am coming from though serves it with smoked sausage and/or smoked ham mostly. Now living in Florida we do not cook it to often. As a matter of fact, we had it one time. It is nice to see the recipe. Thank you.

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