How to cook Swiss chard

I’m standing in line at the grocery store and the cashier starts ringing up my basket. He has to look up every single code on the produce, save bananas.

He’s young.

When he picks up the Swiss chard, he says, “what’s this?”

I tell him it’s spinach on steroids. A light bulb goes off in his head.

And then he asks me what I do with it. Cook it, I say. Oh, he says, followed by how?

Now, he’s maybe 16, so I know he’s not going to go home and cook a batch of Swiss chard, but I tell him anyway, just in case. I mean, I’d like to think that the young ones are interested in cooking.

The first thing I do is trim the stalks from the stems. You can cook the stems, if you like, but they need more cooking than the leaves, and I don’t like the texture, so I discard them (to the compost pile if you have one!)

Cutting the stem is like cutting a “V” from the leaf. Once the stems are removed, I fold the leaves in half, lengthwise and roll them up. Then I just chop them a few times.

Next, place them in a bowl and cover with cold water to rinse off any grit.

If the chard seems particularly dirty, give them another bath.  Swish around the chard with your hand and then let them rest, so any dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Gently grab a few handfuls at a time and place them in a salad spinner basket.

What? You don’t have one? Why not? It was going to be No. 11 on my top ten list of best kitchen gadgets, but then it wouldn’t have been a top ten list.

I like the OXO salad spinner, with the hand pump on top. Let’s you get out a bit of aggression. They have two sizes, but the larger one is the most useful. I’ve given it as a gift to some of my favorite people.

I don’t like the brands that have a pull string to spin the basket. Maybe I’m too rough with it, but I usually end up ripping the darn string out. The pump style is much more durable for people like me.

Back to the chard, the reason it needs to be dry is because we’re going to saute it in a skillet with a little olive oil, maybe even a little garlic, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

If it’s not dry, then the water droplets will hit the oil and make it splatter. Messy.

Now, this pan looks ridiculously full. It is. And that’s only about 2/3’s of the batch. Pour about a tablespoon (or teaspoon if you’re using a non stick pan and watching your girlish figure) into a pan and heat over medium heat. Add as much Swiss chard as you can fit, and it’s OK if it mounds up higher than a kite.

Let it cook a couple minutes, then with tongs, gently start to turn the chard, pulling the leaves on the bottom up to the top. Soon, right before your very eyes, it will shrink. (And darken to an very unattractive shade of green, which is why I usually hide it underneath the rest of the meal.) As the chard wilts, add any extra that didn’t fit in the pan.

Once it is all wilted, you can add some minced garlic and cook that in with the chard for flavor. Minced shallots, too, if you’re feeling frisky.

It only takes about 7 to 8 minutes to fully cook. You know it’s done when you taste it and it’s tender but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper and call it a day.

I debated long and hard about whether or not to include this last picture. Cooked, chard isn’t really all that attractive (hence, the hiding underneath, say beautiful sweet potatoes, or a saffron scented rice pilaf, for example).

Swiss chard is in season now and it’s so good for you – full of those antioxidants the experts say we need (vitamins A, C and E) – plus a ton of vitamin K (good for blood clotting and bruise-healing) and a bunch of B vitamins to boot.

Despite the health benefits, I think it really tastes good.

Like spinach, on steroids, only better.

53 replies
  1. Linda
    Linda says:

    Thanks so much for the info. I planted swiss chard in my herb garden because of its beauty. I didn’t know it was edible, too! I can’t wait to try your recipe. I love sauteed spinach with a drizzle of lime on top once it is cooked.

    Reply
  2. Joreatha
    Joreatha says:

    I knew I had eaten swiss chard as a child when my siblings and I spent summers in Poughkeepsie, NY. My grandmother cooked it with greens, a mixture of collard, turnip, mustard, and dandelion. Because I thought the swiss chard was just another green I simply strayed away from it. I must have 30 plus cook books, not one of them I learned explained how to cook it. I’m going to try it this time your way, next time with other greens. As with the dandelion greens it has to be added the last 5 or 6 mins before the cooking stops that much I do remember. lol

    Reply
    • Joreatha
      Joreatha says:

      Well as I promised I’m back to tell you what happen with the Swiss Chard. I prepared it as instructed except I added onion powder, course ground pepper, and sea salt to taste. It was w/o a doubt screaming..I’ll be eating it more often.

      Thanks again.

      Reply
      • chefgwen
        chefgwen says:

        Joreatha! I’m so late in getting back to you but thanks for coming back. I love a gal who stands by her promises!

        I love the addition of onion powder. Smart thinking! Glad it turned out well for you.

        Reply
  3. Simone
    Simone says:

    I think you should’ve added the picture I think that look delicious. I do love spinich and on some occasions my mom put swiss chard in things I just never learned how to fix it (too busy talking and playing with dolls). Now that I am an adult I would like to make it. I have some from a friends garden and I will use your instructions.

    thanks

    Reply
    • chefgwen
      chefgwen says:

      Simone… hi! Thanks for stopping by. Glad you think the picture looks good, but have to say I still think it looks dull-army-green boring, ha!

      Swiss chard and spinach can be used interchangeably. So your mom was trying to pack in some extra nutrition. Smart lady!

      Reply
  4. Carrie
    Carrie says:

    I cannot believe you toss the stems!!! Maybe you’ve had old chard? The stems take longer to cook and they are so sweet and delicious…and nutritious…you might want to give them another try! Cook the stems first until tender, then add the leaves and cook for about 4 minutes…trust me!

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Kathy… thanks for commenting! As you can see in the comment above, Carrie suggests also cooking the stems. Waste not, want not!

      Reply
  5. Karen
    Karen says:

    I found that lightly steaming the leaves for a short time seems to preserve the green color and I am told, the nutrients also.

    http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=65

    Steaming for 2-3 minutes is the method we highly suggest. Not only will this method help to retain nutrient content, but will provide you with a vegetable bursting with taste, great texture and bright color.

    Reply
  6. mimi
    mimi says:

    The secret ingredient is bouillon. I used chicken. I also sauteed bacon pieces along with my garlic and onions before adding the chard. Delicious!!!!

    Reply
  7. Joy
    Joy says:

    I tried Swiss chard for the first time. I used chicken bullion along with garlic and olive oil. I prefer it over cooked spinach. It was delicious!!
    Thanks

    Reply
  8. Betsy
    Betsy says:

    My optometrist told me that this leafy green along with spinach, kale and any other deep green, leathery leafy vegetable should be eaten several times a week. It is 85% effective in avoiding macular degeneration. how is that for a fabulous reason to enjoy this power food!

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Wow, Betsy… that’s a powerful reason to eat chard. Lots of health benefits but I didn’t know about the eye health. Thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  9. Vicki
    Vicki says:

    This looks like a very good & easy recipe. What is supposed to be put into the pan that I am watching my girly figure for? I am assuming olive oil but it doesn’t say. Please advise. I know I’m like 2 years late but I didn’t see the questions asked. :-)

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Vicki, I put a little olive oil in the pan, maybe a tablespoon … but you could use vegetable oil or if you really want to, bacon grease. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  10. ande
    ande says:

    Thanks! I went to the market today and this was the only green vegetable that wasn’t already wilted from the summer heat. I made it to accompany an eggplant, potato, onion, red pepper and garbanzo curry (making due with what’s at the store.) Yummy!

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Thanks for commenting. I was taken aback at first by your comment about the summer’s heat, then I realized that you are from Argentina, and it is summer there now. Your eggplant-chard curry sounds wonderful!

      Reply
  11. DriverBrian
    DriverBrian says:

    Trying to turn over a “new leaf” (I thought of that myself) I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen with more and different greens. Kale, chard, spinach are so good for your health in so many ways. Favorite chard is under chicken in Chicken Dijon replacing spinach. Sautéing with salt, pepper, and garlic then using as bed under floured and browned breast. Dijon mustard, sage, white wine, chicken stock reduction in pan after removing chicken deglazing pan.

    Reply
  12. LEIGH
    LEIGH says:

    Hi Chef Gwen,

    I too ate the Red steamed Swiss Chard as a girl growing up. Although I have a good excuse for not learning how to cook it. I was a very sick child. I was in and out of the hospital more times than I was at school. Which was great till later years when homework became a pain. But I just bought some and looked up how to cook it, found your site. I really like the way u explain everything. It’s not grade school ABC, but neither is it so over the charts that people would need interpreters to understand what it was u said. I appreciate this level. I am going to try to steam the Swiss Charrd, but I don’t think I’m ready for the stalks. Maybe I’ll try a few pieces before adding to a soup, both leaves and stock. Thank you again Chef Gwen.

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Thanks, Leigh… I really appreciate your kind words. If you do decide to cook the stems, just remember they take a few minutes longer than the leaves. Stay healthy & happy!

      Reply
  13. soretta
    soretta says:

    Thanks for the recipe I cooked swiss chard for dinner and it was absolutely delicious! Actually one of my favorite dishes now.

    Reply
  14. TexNanny
    TexNanny says:

    I planted some Swiss Chard earlier this year, it is beautiful in the garden. Going to try some tonight with your suggestions, so many cookbooks do not include how to cook Swiss Chard? Oh well, I guess not everyone wants to eat healthy. Thanks for suggestions.

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Thank you for sharing! I’ve never grown it. I can cook, but I don’t garden, save a few herbs. I bet your chard tastes garden fresh.

      Reply
  15. Kiki
    Kiki says:

    Incredible! I had never tried Swiss chard and used this recipe for first time. Didn’t even need salt or pepper. We are on paleo eating style and this is ridiculously easy quick and tasty dish.

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Hi Mike… I didn’t like it either as a kid, but now, as long as I have some onion or garlic (or both!) it’s grown on me, too. Raw? Depends. I don’t think I would care for it because it’s slightly bitter. Only way to find out if you like it is to try it. Slice off a bit and taste it. I do like the walnut idea, and I might sprinkle some on my sautéed chard next time.

      Reply
  16. carol
    carol says:

    i cook the chard, then quickly toss in a wok with spring onions, garlic and some cooked bacon bits. try it!
    and the stems are FANTASTIC in a casserole.

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Carol… both those suggestions sound fantastic. The minute you mentioned wok, I immediately thought “maybe as splash of sesame oil or fish sauce, too.”

      Reply
  17. Nancy Zahra
    Nancy Zahra says:

    I couldn’t resist a bundle of red swiss chard at the market this week but really didn’t have a clue about making it. Thanks for the ideas, I’m combining several ideas…steaming, vinegar, spices, bacon. Can’t wait to try it.

    Reply
  18. Frank Gomez
    Frank Gomez says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I do have a question. We are vegan and I would like to try the Swiss chard since I am growing it in my garden but your recipe calls for oil. What can I use instead of it?

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Frank, unless I’m missing something, olive oil is vegan friendly. I am assuming, since you are vegan, that you cook with some kind of non-animal fat, either vegetable oil or coconut oil. What kind of fats do you get in your vegan diet?

      Reply
  19. Sherri
    Sherri says:

    I have inoperable spinal tumors as well as tumors everywhere you can name due to a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis. I have a neurogenic bowel and bladder and keeping things moving is a challenge (same as a spinal cord injury) So many vegetables cause problems for me but this looks doable. I have had Kale and Chard before, and I’ve cooked beet leaves as well (can’t do the beets anymore) Thanks for the recipe!!

    Reply
  20. Mary manning
    Mary manning says:

    I’m 60 year sold found out about Swiss chard in the 1970s it’s great with anything you can even over spagetti. I love it sautéed with garlic and cherry tomatoes . Rainbow is so pretty and they all taste the same. Don’t over cook it then all the great vitamins will be gone. Keep the stems crunchier then ad to wilted leaves. Also try to stuff them delish!

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] this summer I wrote about how to cook Swiss chard and collard greens. Now I’m tackling beans — green […]

  2. […] this summer I wrote about how to cook Swiss chard and collard greens. Now I’m tackling beans — green […]

  3. […] cut a “V” just like I did here on Swiss chard, and roll the leaves into a cigar and then cut them into strips, just like I blabbed […]

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