Sautéed Swiss chard with lemon zest

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Lemon Zest

Swiss chard is amazing when sautéed. There’s just one problem…

Swiss chard is probably the most commonly used leafy green for sautéing. And that’s for good reason: Swiss chard is incredibly delicious when wilted and it adapts itself to many different types of dishes.

One drawback though, is that its stems are fibrous and firm, and need a longer cooking time than the green leaves. So most of the time, the leaves are torn from the stalks and used on their own.

How to cook Swiss chard stems

Although I always save the discarded stems for making stocks, I also love cooking with them because they’re actually quite flavorful. It requires a two-step process: cubing (or slicing) the stems and sautéing them on their own until tender; then adding the green leaves to the pan and sautéing them until just wilted.

This method of cooking Swiss chard guarantees that both parts of the vegetable are cooked to perfection and brings a delicious twist to a simple dish. The cubed stems add a bit of texture to the dish, the wilted leaves impart their inherent earthiness and the lemon zest brightens every mouthful.

Sautéed Swiss chard with lemon zest

serves 4
active time: 20 min

  1. 1 1/2 lbs (680 g) Swiss chard
  2. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  3. peel of 1/2 lemon (use a vegetable hand-peeler) – cut crosswise in 1/16″ slices
  4. 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  5. 4 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
  6. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  1. Step 1:camera icon Rinse the Swiss chard leaves and pat them dry. Trim 1/2″ from the bottom of the stalks. With a paring knife, cut the leaves off along each side of the center stalk. Cut the green leaves in 2″ pieces and place in a bowl. Then cut the stalks in 1/4″ cubes and place in a separate bowl.
  2. Step 2:camera icon Heat a wide heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, cubed stalks, lemon zest and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the lemon zest is golden and the chard stalks have softened. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds, until the garlic releases its flavor (but don’t let it take on any color). Add half the Swiss chard leaves and toss until wilted. Add the balance of the Swiss chard leaves and continue to toss until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, toss quickly, transfer to a serving platter and serve as a side dish.

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Swiss chard leaves

side vegetable, Swiss chard, lemon


  1. They indeed taste the best when sauted! I love to use lots of garlic and chili pepper to make them. Yours with lemon zest sounds and looks just as great!

  2. I finally tried this recipe last week. There were only limes in the fridge, so I decided to substitute, following everything else exactly. As always with your recipes, it was balanced and delicious. The lime zest added an unexpected component that elevated the entire dish. Next time, lemon zest. This is now my go to swiss chard recipe!

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