A simple recipe for sautéed Swiss chard with garlic, onions, tomatoes and lemon. Garnished with some optional fresh parmesan cheese and easily made in a pot or skillet. It’s a low-calorie, vegetarian healthy side dish packed with all the nutrients from fresh leafy greens.
This post was originally published in September 2011. I’ve updated the text and pictures.
You know how certain songs bring you back in time or a certain smell will immediately transport you to a distinct memory of your past?
Swiss chard is the food version of that for me.
It brings back summertime in the late 80s, running around outside with my best friend Keri, dancing to Madonna songs on my portable pink radio, “practicing” soccer in our yard and swimming in our pool next to my mom’s garden.
At 6 or 7, I wasn’t a very active participant in the garden, but I can vividly remember coming into the mustard colored kitchen after a long day outside and smelling the delicious aroma of garlic and Swiss chard wafting through the air.
Olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes and Swiss chard. That was my food memory of my childhood summers.
After years of wanting my own garden, 2020 was finally the year it happened.
And the superstar of the whole thing has interestingly been the Swiss chard.
Although the dandelion greens aren’t too far behind.
Its abundance has been delightful and I love that it’s seemingly always on hand for a green addition to dinner when I have no other vegetables in the refrigerator.
So this simple sautéed Swiss chard recipe from my childhood has been playing on repeat for months now and I have zero complaints about it because besides how delicious it is, it’s also incredibly nutritious.
Let’s dive into some details on this great leafy vegetable!
WHAT IS SWISS CHARD?
Swiss chard (or sometimes just “chard”) is a leafy green vegetable. The plant is related to beets but milder in flavor.
Both the leaf and stem are edible but often separated in cooking as they cook at different rates. The hardy stems need to cook longer than the soft, tender green leaves.
Chard comes in an array of colors.
The stems can be found in white, yellow, orange, red and purple. Swiss chard is technically the white stemmed variety while “rainbow chard” is an assortment of all these varieties in one.
You may see chard, Swiss chard or rainbow chard being sold at the store, it’s all the same plant and tastes the same so don’t let the nomenclature confuse you.
And to be clear, the vegetable is not from Switzerland. It got that designation from the Swiss botanist who named the plant in the 19th century.
HOW TO COOK CHARD
Swiss chard can actually be eaten raw, especially the tender baby leaves. They’re a great addition to salads.
I will often use chard and tatsoi interchangeable when something calls for “baby” chard.
Slightly larger leaves make a good option for using them as vegetable wraps (instead of a grain-based wrap).
It does have a slightly bitter taste when eaten raw (as most green leafy vegetables do) so most prefer to cook it first.
My favorite way to cook it is to sauté.
It’s one of the simplest methods out there and lends itself well to pairing with other flavor enhancers like the onions, garlic and tomatoes in this easy sautéed Swiss chard recipe.
For a more basic sauté recipe – check out my easy sautéed greens recipe which can be made with almost any leafy green of your choice, including Swiss chard!
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SWISS CHARD
Like any leafy green, chard is high in fiber.
Fiber is so important in feeding the good bacteria in our guts, promoting regular intestinal motility (aka pooping) and stabilizing blood sugar. It truly doesn’t get enough attention and love in our diets!
Swiss chard is also very low in calories and carbohydrates while providing high amounts of vitamins K, A and C. 1 cup of cooked Swiss chard provides 716%, 214% and 53% of the RDI (reference daily intake) respectively.
It also has moderate amounts of magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron.
Swiss chard is also packed with lots of antioxidants. The flavonoid antioxidants include: quercetin, kaempferol, rutin and vitexin.
HOW TO PREPARE SAUTÉED SWISS CHARD WITH ONIONS, GARLIC & TOMATOES
- Wash and prep the Swiss chard to start. I use my salad spinner when prepping leafy greens like this to thoroughly soak and dry the produce. I like to cut off the stems from the leaves from the beginning and wash each separately. I then cut the stems into about 1″ pieces and keep them in a separate pile from the leaves. Roughly chop the washed and dried leaves, they will cook down and wilt a lot while sautéing.
- Using a large sauté pan (one with high sides is best if you have it) or a large pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium-low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and let them cook and soften for a couple of minutes before adding the Swiss chard stems and minced garlic. This mixture will cook for a few minutes until slightly softened and fragrant.
- If you’re using the optional red pepper flakes in the recipe (they add a nice little pop of heat, adjust amount to your liking), add them now along with the lemon zest. Cook for just a minute until you can smell the brightness from the lemon zest.
- Add the leaves from the Swiss chard now along with the diced tomatoes. Cover the pan (or pot) and let this simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. The Swiss chard will cook down and cook in the juices from the tomatoes.
- Remove the lid, stir everything together and cook for another couple of minutes until things thicken up a little bit.
- Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice right at the end and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot and with a sprinkling of fresh parmesan cheese if desired.
This same preparation could be used with kohlrabi greens, spinach or kale if you don’t have Swiss chard on hand.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SIMPLE SAUTÉED SWISS CHARD
This easy, nutritious, leafy green vegetable side dish goes with so many dinner options and makes a great addition to your dinner plate. Here are some of the recipes I’d pair it with:
BBQ Lamb Ribs are a great summer meal that this Swiss chard would be a nice accompaniment to.
For a vegetarian meal, serve the sautéed Swiss chard alongside these Italian Black Bean Meatballs.
The ingredients are simple but the flavors bold. The tomatoes bring some heartiness to the tender Swiss chard leaves, the onions add sweetness and the lemon keeps things bright and light.
If you’re tired of spinach and kale as your leafy green of choice, I encourage you to give Swiss chard a try.
It’s really such a great vegetable that’s easy to prepare and also so good for you!
MORE CHARD RECIPES TO TRY:
Simple Sautéed Swiss Chard
- 2 large bunches of Swiss chard or rainbow chard
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (or 2 large shallots)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- zest of 1 lemon
- pinch red pepper flakes, optional
- 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, or 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- salt & pepper to taste
- freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish, optional
- Wash Swiss chard and trim off stems from the leaves. Chop the stems into 1" long pieces. Roughly chop the leaves.
- Heat olive oil in large pot with lid or sauté pan with high sides on medium heat.
- Add sliced onion and cook until just slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the Swiss chard stems and garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the red pepper flakes (if using) and the lemon zest, stir to combine and cook 1 minute.
- Add the chopped Swiss chard leaves and diced tomatoes, cover the pot or pan and cook on a medium-low simmer for about 10 minutes until the Swiss chard has wilted.
- Remove the lid, stir to combine and let cook an additional 3-5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with a garnish of parmesan cheese if desired.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.