Easy Lentil, Kale, and Fennel Skillet with Orange
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lentil kale orange skillet header

When I post a picture of salad on my Instagram account these days, I’m often asked how I manage to enjoy salad in the winter. I get it: when temperatures plummet, most of us crave hot, hearty, and starchy foods. I love salad year round, but I don’t crave it quite as frequently as I do when it’s warm outside.

So, how do we get our our greens in when it’s freezing out? You can steam greens, of course, or saute them. But if you’re craving the same sort of variety, color, and texture contrast that a salad affords, you can try a simple skillet. Start by sauteing whatever vegetables you like in a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Add some cooked legumes, grains, or potato, if desired. At the very end, add a few tablespoons of vegetable broth or water, and add a heaping portion of greens. Cover the skillet and allow the greens to wilt a bit, and then gently mix them around until they’re cooked through.

If you’re craving the crunch of salad, you don’t have to saute the vegetables for very long. Even a minute or two in the pan will warm them up (and, later on, warm you up), but a short cooking time will allow them to retain some of their crispness. This delicious lentil, kale, and fennel skillet is only one example of the many delicious combinations you can whisk up.

lentil kale orange skillet side

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Easy Lentil, Kale, and Fennel Skillet with Kale

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Yields: 2 servings


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel sliced very thinly
  • 1 cup cooked brown or green lentils
  • 4 heaping cups finely chopped kale chard, or collard greens
  • Water or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup orange segments cut into small pieces
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste


  • 1. Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet. Add the fennel, and give it a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Saute till the fennel is browning lightly and soft (about 8-10 minutes).
  • 2. Add the lentils, and heat them through (about 2 minutes). Add a few tablespoons of water or vegetable broth, and then add the greens. Cover them with a lid and allow them to wilt down. Then stir them around in the pan until they're cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Feel free to add any herbs you like (thyme, rosemary, parsley, etc.).
  • 3. Divide the skillet contents onto two plates. Sprinkle each with half of the orange, and serve. A little avocado would make a great topper, too!

There’s so much wonderful texture to this dish:

lentil kale orange skillet close uplentil kale orange skillet top

And the orange, by the way, doesn’t only add brightness and flavor. It also gives this dish a nutrient boost! Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, can enhance absorption of non-heme iron (which is the type of iron found in plant foods). (1) Iron can be a tricky nutrient to source in a vegan diet, and non-heme iron is thought to be less easily absorbed than heme iron (found in animal foods). For this reason, it’s a great idea to pair foods that are rich in Vitamin C, like the citrus and the fennel in this recipe, with iron rich foods (like dark leafy greens and legumes). I remember a time when I, lured in by the idea of food combining, religiously avoided pairing fruit with other kinds of food, including legumes. Little did I know that eating fruits along with other foods can be a kind of nutritional symbiosis–the foods are more valuable together than they are on their own!

I hope this recipe inspires you to test out some tasty skillets of your own. Think of these as a kind of wintertime salad–and know that they’re every bit as easy to adapt to your tastes!


1. Hallberg L, Brune M, Rossander L. The role of vitamin C in iron absorption. Int J Vitam Nutr Res Suppl. 1989;30:103-8.

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Categories: Recipes, Salads, Side Dishes
Method: Stovetop
Ingredients: Kale, Lentils
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan

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Recipe Rating

  1. Mmm mmm! LOVE this recipe! So easy and delicious in addition to how healthy it is, thanks for sharing it

  2. Can fennel be combined with any foods? or does it ferment easily with other foods? thank you.

  3. Here’s how I tackle the challenge of wanting more warm food in cold weather, & less salad: I make a potatoe, onion & garlic soup, turn the heat off & blend it up with my stick blender…I let it cool off to hot but not scalding, then add a massive amount of raw organic greens & some more garlic & stick blend again. This way, my greens are wilted but not too cooked. Also, I make an awesome salad dressing that adds some of the heaviness to my food that I am wanting in the cold weather…it sticks to the leaves & makes them heavier & more filling….for the dressing I blend lots of organic lemon juice with garlic, nuts/seeds & dates…I make it a yogurty consistency…I can eat a lot of greens this way & actually get full…it is a great combination of tangy, sweet & creamy. If I need more carbs, I make a USA grown,organic brown rice with lentil combo on the side. yummy!

  4. Fennel and lentils make such a great combination. And of course kale, but that goes with anything.

  5. I love the balance of flavours in this salad! Utterly sound from a nutrition perspective – with referencing! I am impressed by your evidence-based growth 🙂 Great job, Gena!

  6. This recipe looks great, beautiful colors! Thanks for the info on oranges, I’ve been trying to use up ones from our tree!

  7. Gena,

    This dish looks beautiful. I have long been a fan of fennel paired with fruits, ever since a shaved fennel-apple salad I enjoyed (at a since-forgotten restaurant in downtown Manhattan) changed by view of fennel for years to come. I keep meaning to pair it with citrus, so thanks for the reminder and inspiration. I also love your pragmatic approach to nutrition, so keep the valuable info coming!

    your fan (and fan of fennel),

  8. This skillet is basically a variation of what I make for dinner all the time. One of my favorite combinations is bell peppers of all colors, black beans, plantains, chipotle chile powder, collard greens, and a little bit of coconut milk. It’s so easy and tasty, but it’s also visually appealing and nutritious. Also, thanks for the info on iron; I didn’t know that before!

  9. I love salads, so this warm salad is like music to my ears! Kale does require a bit of chewing when its fresh out of the fridge, so a light steam would be really nice when your jaw doesn’t feel like a work out. Thats exciting about the food combining, I’ll have to look more into that. Thanks!!

  10. I love these kinds of skillet dishes and warm salads in the winter. I’ve been having dinners solo a lot lately, and find that sauteeing a big pan of kale, then adding whatever cooked vegetables and legumes I have around is the perfect low-fuss winter dinner (plus the leftovers make a great lunch the next day!)

  11. I’m fairly new to fennel but have loved it when I’ve used it. It does work wonderfully with orange, and lentils and kale are both favourites of mine!

  12. Hi! Wonderful, simple recipe, love it! I just wanted to point out that your recipe title includes “kale” twice, but doesn’t mention the orange…

    • And that is yet more proof that I should not blog while I’m exhausted. Thanks Julie! I fixed it.

  13. It’s funny how when the weather switches, so do my preference for warm salads instead of mostly raw creations. I simply steam a bunch of veggies and add them to my greens, cover the whole thing in hummus and go to town 😉

    • I could cover anything in hummus, and enjoy it. Your creation sounds particularly good!

  14. Thank u for this great salad idea! I can’t eat a lot of raw veggies so definitely going to try this out.
    As for the food combining, I realize that I can’t eat fruits with other foods because I become reeaallyyyy gassy :/ Do you have any tips on how to overcome this issue?

  15. Thank you so much for this amazing looking recipe! I love healthy recipes and I will look forward to trying it out and sharing it with my followers at TianaGustafson.com. As Arnold says “I’ll be back” 🙂 Thanks again!

  16. As a scientist and a vegan, I can’t say how much I appreciate having a citation following a health claim! I love it! And I love this skillet too – I do a lot of bulk cooking on the weekends, so this seems perfect.

  17. I adore fennel and kale together! I must add orange slices the next time I make a salad with both.