Japanese Kale Kobachi (Side Dish)

Japanese kale kobachi (side dish)
Japanese kale kobachi

Judy Ung

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 10 mins
Serving: 1 to 2 servings

Japanese kale kobachi is an easy to prepare, small side dish, of sauteed kale lightly seasoned with traditional Japanese ingredients mirin (sweet cooking sake) and soy sauce. The flavor profile of this dish is very simple, yet because of the use of these two ingredients, it makes the kale notably Japanese in comparison to kale that is perhaps cooked with just olive oil and garlic.

Japanese meals are known to be comprised of multiple small dishes, rather than a large main dish as is the custom with American meals. For this reason, cooking just a small portion of this kale kobachi (side dish) adds a healthy, yet impactful vegetable to your Japanese style weeknight meal. Try making a larger portion and saving the leftover to add to your bento lunch the next day. 

There are two main types of kale that are often found available at the grocery store. The first is curly leaf kale. Its image might be associated with the same decorative kale that is often seen at salad bars. The second type is lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale, which resembles large leaves in texture and darker green in color when compared to curly leaf kale. For this recipe, we recommend lacinato kale.

The stem of the lacinato kale is noticeably thick and hard, which is why it is important for this recipe to chop the kale into small strips across the stem. Alternatively, the leafy part of the kale may be removed from the stem, but the stem adds fiber and texture that we feel works well in this dish.

Enjoy this quick and easy Japanese kale kobachi as a vegetable side dish to any meal.


  • 1/2 bunch of organic lacinato (dinosaur) kale (about 3 cups chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking sake)
  • 1 to 11/2 teaspoons soy sauce (to taste )
  • Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Wash kale well and discard the bottom of the stems.

  2. Chop the kale by stacking a few leaves together and cutting perpendicular to the stem from top to bottom. Make small bite size strips of kale.

  3. In a small pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add chopped kale. Saute for about 2 minutes until the leaves begin to wilt slightly.

  4. Drizzle mirin over the kale and saute for another minute, cooking off the alcohol from the mirin.

  5. Next, add soy sauce and a pinch of salt to taste. Continue to saute until the kale is more tender, yet still firm. About 2 minutes. If desired, feel free to cook the kale longer if you prefer the kale to be more tender and well done. Another 3 minutes.

  6. Serve immediately in small individual servings dishes.