Swiss chard has earned a reputation as the “chicken of the vegetable world” due to the fact that—much like chicken thighs and breasts—its stems and leaves cook at very different rates. This, of course, makes incorporating the entire vegetable into a dish challenging. Leave the stems attached when you chop the leafy greens and you're left with too-crunchy stems or overcooked leaves.
This often leads many cooks to simply chop the stems from the leaves and discard them. I am here to beg you: Please don’t do this! By discarding Swiss chard stems, you’re throwing away the part of the vegetable that contains the most concentrated flavor, not to mention a crisp, succulent texture.
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So what’s the solution? It simply takes a little bit of "cheffery" while prepping the vegetable. By separating the stem from the leaves and then roughly chopping it, you create smaller pieces that can easily be thrown into a simple one-pot recipe without fiddling with the temperature. Cook the chopped stem first, and then add the leaves once the stem is softened, as in our Sautéed Swiss Chard with Pancetta and Caramelized Shallots.
Our Swiss Chard and Kale Gratin uses a similar method to bulk up a cheesy, crunchy gratin (and pack it with plenty of nutrients). And in our comforting Turkey Rice Soup with Mushrooms and Swiss Chard, we simmer the chard stems in stock before adding the leaves, giving them a head start on softening up.
Swiss chard is available year-round and comes in several varieties: the classic white-stemmed, white-veined kind is the most popular, though “ruby” or “rhubarb” Swiss chard, with its vivid, deep-red stalks, can also be found. The variety gaining the most popularity in recent times is rainbow chard, otherwise known as Bright Lights. If you need any other reason to incorporate this vegetable into your next meal, this bouquet of hues, from yellow to pink, white, and crimson, gives any dish a pop of mesmerizing color.
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