Kale Mallung (Sri Lankan Kale with Coconut)

by on August 17, 2011
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Kale Mallung

On vacation this summer, my family and I had the pleasure of eating at Source, a vegetarian restaurant that opened in San Francisco earlier this year. The entire meal was delicious: E had the lasagna, of course, and I had a chickpea-stuffed rice pastry called Borek. But the the stand-out was the special of the day that D ordered, a tasting plate of 6 or 7 different Sri Lankan curries and vegetables. Each sample was just a few bites, and since it was D’s dinner, I didn’t get to taste enough to remember many of the details, except for one simple dish–kale cooked with fresh coconut. Simple but sublime.

I came home determined to recreate the dish. It took me a few weeks, but on Sunday I finally remembered to start defrosting the package of shredded coconut I bought at the Asian market. I did a little research and found that a mixture of greens and coconut cooked in a dry skillet is a traditional Sri Lankan dish called “mallung” or “mallum.” In Sri Lanka, it’s often made with the leaves of plants not found in our American grocery stores, but the internet abounds with recipes using collards and, especially, cabbage (see the links at the end of the recipe).

A great thing about mallung is that the greens are cooked without any oil, so the only fat comes from the coconut. I strongly recommend using fresh or frozen rather than dried coconut (and definitely not sweetened coconut) because the flavor and texture of fresh coconut is so much better. But if dried is all you have, I suggest using about half as much and rehydrating it in a little hot water beforehand; pour off the water and save it to use as needed when cooking the kale.

I hope you’ll like this dish as much as D and I did. Each bite of kale is infused with the taste and aroma of coconut, cumin provides a sultry background note, and fresh lime juice brightens the flavors. We ate it warm from the stove, but it also makes a great cold salad, and it keeps well so that you can enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day. With 4 grams of fat per serving, mallung is not something I will be eating every day, but served with one of my almost fat-free curries or soups and a whole grain, the percentage of calories from fat for the entire meal falls to below 15%.

Kale Mallung (Sri Lankan Kale with Coconut)

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Arielle (Your Vegan Girlfriend) August 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Mmmmm this looks amazing! Can I use just one chili if I’m not into the heat? Thanks S!


2 Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) August 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm

It’s like you read my mind! I need to use up a big box of washed and chopped kale before it goes bad, and I have been totally crazy excited about experimenting with fat free vegan Indian dishes right now. If I have time, I’m going to make this tonight! Thanks Susan.


3 Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) August 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm

made it, it was great!


4 SusanV August 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm

So glad you liked it!


5 rachel August 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Yes! My mom is from Sri Lanka, so I love it all. Thanks for sharing!


6 Haley August 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Oh yum!!! This looks right up my alley and I can’t wait to try it!


7 Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary) August 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I really love the colors in this dish Susan. Just beautiful. What a great way to get more kale in my diet too. Always looking for new ways to prepare it.


8 Get Skinny Go Vegan August 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Oh my gosh, I have had Kale nearly every way, SO I thought.
Love the coconut twist. Sounds great. Have a square foot garden full of Kale & Collards and Mean Snails. Selfish Snails.


9 Mel August 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

This sounds delicious, I adore Sri Lankan food. I would really like to make this but want to ask whether the coconut is predominant in this dish? I only enjoy coconut when the flavor is subtle. Thanks Susan.


10 SusanV August 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I think at 1/2 a cup, the coconut is more than subtle, but if you reduce it to 1/4 cup, you may enjoy it.


11 Kankana August 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm

I have heard how much people love Kale but somehow I find it little bitter in taste. Looking at this I feel like trying again.


12 Laina August 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Susan, that looks yummy beautiful. And I love that bowl! Is the kale 12 oz after you remove the stems or before? Thanks! :)


13 SusanV August 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Thanks, Laina! Good question! The kale is 12 ounces before it’s stemmed and about 8-9 ounces afterward. With kale, though, it doesn’t really matter much; it always cooks down to so much less.


14 Laina August 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Ok, great, thanks! Just happen to buy 2 bunches today so this will be perfect!


15 Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner August 17, 2011 at 10:59 pm

This looks wonderful! What a great pairing!


16 Sra August 18, 2011 at 7:43 am

Your mallum looks really good! We don’t get kale in India, not that I know of. And I saw bok choy just once after that mallum I made with it. Thanks for the link love!


17 Kim August 18, 2011 at 9:47 am

WOW, coconut with kale. What a wonderful thought!!! Absolutly gorgeous photo too.


18 Maya (The Keen Kitchen) August 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Yum! I am always looking for ways to jazz up kale. And put coconut on anything (vegan!) and I’ll probably eat it! Looking forward to trying.


19 Andrea August 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

This looks like a really delicious way to eat kale. I normally just juice it to get the nutritional boost, but I think next time I’ll give this a try :)


20 Gena August 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Any kale recipe is a friend o’ mine. Delicious Susan!


21 Angela @ Mylk 'n Cookies August 20, 2011 at 10:48 pm

This looks great and I love coconut, will have to make soon!


22 akilah August 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Recipe was excellent made it for the family today, we really enjoyed it. Thank you


23 Pig in the Kitchen August 22, 2011 at 6:14 am

Ooo, this does sound delicious. not sure if I can get fresh coconut in the UK?! Does it come already shredded in the STates? Don’t tell me I have to do the sawing a coconut in half trick? Yummy.
Pig x


24 Ross August 23, 2011 at 2:57 am

Vegan is the way to go! I’m loving it especially with great receipes like this!


25 Maija Haavisto August 23, 2011 at 5:02 am

Pig in the Kitchen: You should be able to buy various kinds of coconut products, including frozen coconut meat, in Asian stores.


26 MegSmith @ Cooking.In.College August 23, 2011 at 9:26 am

Wow this sounds simply delicious! I can only imagine kale and coconut are made for each other. This is a combination I will have to try very soon!


27 Art August 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I am always looking for new and interesting recipes that don’t have any sugar or grains in them. I’m assuming the 1.3g of sugar eor serving in the Kale Mallung is from the coconut.
Any ideas you can send my way from your recipes to other websites that would fill my dietery choices would be wonderful.


28 Greg August 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

Looks good SusanV. Keep up the great posts!


29 Alaiyo Kiasi August 27, 2011 at 6:55 pm

What lovely pictures, and the recipe looks simple and elegant. I love that you also included nutrition facts! I love reading your blog.



30 Vegiegail September 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm

OMG, I love you, Susan! Kale and coconut are my two weaknesses.


31 ms_min November 1, 2011 at 1:49 pm

This was very tasty using about 3 tablespoons of dried coconut, and dried chilis instead of fresh. It was a big hit with my family! Always looking for new ways to prepare kale and this is a winner!


32 Joy December 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I absolutely loved this dish! I’m always looking for different and tasty new ways to eat my greens, and this one was fabulous. I made a few changes (and posted them on my blog–along with a link here for the original version) because, as always, I didn’t have the right ingredients on hand, but it was still delicious. Thanks so much and I’m so excited to read more of the archived recipes.


33 surrealchereal January 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm

This looks so good! I’m going to try this this week.


34 karenM May 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Do you think this would be good using collards instead of kale? Thanks


35 Kelsey July 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm

WOW! I just made this. AMAZING. Absolutely delicious. I meant to make it for a group of three, but I may have a hard time saving some for the others ;) I actually substituted chopped collard greens for kale since I didn’t have kale on-hand. I will definitely be making this again with kale and collard greens. Thank you so much for sharing! I would have NEVER thought to combine all those flavors.


36 Dinesh Perera January 16, 2013 at 6:44 pm

A very really nicely put together recipe! I’ll be trying it this evening. I did wish to mention that including cumin must be regional. I usually add turmeric and Maldive fish. Of course, the latter makes it a non-vegan recipe! Thank Susan for visiting our site and posting a link to my Collard Mallung recipe.
Cheers! Dinesh, The Spicy Gourmet


37 Jeannie August 17, 2013 at 11:20 am

That is exactly the same recipe a Sri Lankan friend of mine uses! You get a star for authenticity!


38 Usha Shivakumar August 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm

A south Indian variant of this dish :
Grind shredded coconut , cumin seeds and hot pepper to a gravy like consistency and add to Kale.Cooked mung beans can be added to kale.


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