Can I eat Swiss chard stems raw?

Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that is closely related to beets. It has large, wide green leaves with thick, crunchy stems that can range in color from white to red to yellow or orange. Both the leaves and stems of Swiss chard are edible and nutrient-dense. However, some people prefer to cook the stems before eating them.

Quick Answer

Yes, you can eat Swiss chard stems raw. The stems have a mild flavor and crunchy texture that make them a good addition to fresh salads or vegetable platters. However, some people find the raw stems to be too fibrous or tough to chew. Lightly cooking the stems can help soften them up.

Nutrition Content of Raw vs Cooked Swiss Chard Stems

Below is a comparison of the nutrition content of raw vs cooked Swiss chard stems:

Nutrient Raw Swiss Chard Stems Cooked Swiss Chard Stems
Calories 10 per 100g 19 per 100g
Protein 1g per 100g 1.4g per 100g
Carbs 2.4g per 100g 3.8g per 100g
Fiber 1.6g per 100g 1.5g per 100g
Vitamin A 10% DV per 100g 11% DV per 100g
Vitamin C 30% DV per 100g 25% DV per 100g
Vitamin K 550% DV per 100g 444% DV per 100g
Calcium 3% DV per 100g 4% DV per 100g
Iron 8% DV per 100g 10% DV per 100g

As you can see, raw and cooked Swiss chard stems are both low in calories and high in vitamin K. Cooking reduces some of the vitamin C content but increases the calcium and iron availability. Both provide benefits, so it comes down to texture and personal preference.

Benefits of Eating Raw Swiss Chard Stems

Here are some of the top benefits of consuming raw Swiss chard stems:

  • Higher vitamin C content – Vitamin C is sensitive to heat and degrades during cooking. Raw stems retain more of this immune-boosting vitamin.
  • Crunchy texture – The crisp, juicy bite of raw stems adds interest to salads and platters.
  • Mild taste – Raw stems have a subtle earthy and grassy flavor.
  • Low in calories – Raw chard stems are very low in calories, making them a nutritious snack option.
  • Convenience – No cooking required, just rinse and slice the stems.
  • More oxalates – Oxalates can provide antioxidant benefits but should be limited if you have kidney issues.

Potential Downsides of Eating Raw Swiss Chard Stems

There are a few potential downsides of consuming Swiss chard stems raw, including:

  • Tough, fibrous texture – The crunchy stems can be too hard or stringy for some people to chew and enjoy raw.
  • Mild flavor – Some people find the taste boring or bland when raw.
  • Gas or bloating – The high fiber and oxalates may cause gas or bloating in sensitive individuals.
  • Higher oxalates – Anyone with kidney problems should limit high-oxalate foods like raw chard stems.
  • Lower iron and calcium absorption – Cooking makes these minerals more bioavailable.

Tips for Eating Raw Swiss Chard Stems

If you want to eat your Swiss chard stems raw, here are some tips to improve texture and flavor:

  • Slice stems thin – Thinly slicing stems makes them easier to chew.
  • Massage with lemon – Squeeze fresh lemon juice over slices and massage lightly to soften.
  • Pair with dips – Hummus, ranch dressing, or nut butter make great dunking sauces.
  • Blend into smoothies – Add a few raw stem slices to fruit or veggie smoothies.
  • Pickle or marinate – Quick-pickle with vinegar or marinate in oil and herbs.
  • Sauté briefly – A quick sauté for 1-2 minutes softens stems while retaining crunch.
  • Boil for 2 minutes – Blanching tenderizes texture while preserving nutrition.

Preparing Raw Swiss Chard Stems

Proper storage and preparation of raw Swiss chard stems helps maximize freshness and flavor:

  • Store unwashed in refrigerator – Keeps for 3-5 days when stored whole and unwashed in a plastic bag.
  • Discard if slimy – Check ends and discard any stems that are slimy or brown.
  • Cut off very bottom of stems – The last 1-2″ of the ends can be fibrous.
  • Rinse under cool water – Wash stems just before eating to remove grit.
  • Pat dry with paper towel – Drying prevents diluting flavor and crispiness.
  • Slice thin – Aim for 1⁄4 inch slices for easiest chewing.
  • Keep raw slices refrigerated – Sliced raw stems only last 1-2 days.

How to Cook Swiss Chard Stems

If you find raw Swiss chard stems too tough or fibrous, cooking is a simple way to soften them up. Here are some easy methods for cooking the stems:

  • Sauté – Slice stems and sauté in olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Roast – Toss sliced stems with oil, salt, and pepper then roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.
  • Steam – Place stems in a steamer basket and steam for 2-3 minutes until just tender but still crisp.
  • Boil or blanch – Boil stems in lightly salted water for 1-2 minutes to soften texture.
  • Pickle – Simmer stems briefly in a vinegar brine to pickle.
  • Microwave – Place sliced stems in a microwave-safe dish with 2 tbsp water. Microwave for 2 minutes.

The stems cook faster than the leaves, so remove stems first when sautéing or steaming. Cooked stems will keep refrigerated for 3 to 5 days.

Are Red Swiss Chard Stems Different?

Red Swiss chard has bright crimson stems instead of the white stems found on regular green chard. The red color comes from antioxidant plant pigments called betalains.

Aside from the eye-catching color, red chard stems are nearly nutritionally identical to green ones. They have a very subtly earthier, more beet-like flavor when raw. Their texture is also slightly more tender.

Both green and red Swiss chard stems can be enjoyed raw or cooked. The red stems make a pretty garnish for serving.

Best Ways to Use Raw Swiss Chard Stems

Here are some fun and delicious ways to enjoy raw Swiss chard stems:

  • Slice thin on top of salads – Scatter over mixed greens, grain bowls, or veggie-packed bowls.
  • Dip slices into hummus, guacamole, or tzatziki.
  • Add to coleslaw, slaws, and chopped salads.
  • Garnish tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, and Mexican dishes.
  • Skewer as part of raw veggie platters.
  • Blend into green smoothies, juices, and gazpacho soup.
  • Top open-faced sandwiches instead of bread.
  • Toss into pasta salad, quinoa salad, or tabbouleh.
  • Layer into wraps, sandwiches, lettuce cups, and collard wraps.

Recipes Using Raw Swiss Chard Stems

For additional inspiration, here are some tasty recipes highlighting raw Swiss chard stems:

Storing Leftover Raw and Cooked Chard Stems

Properly stored, both raw and cooked Swiss chard stems will keep for several days in the refrigerator:

  • Raw stems – Store unwashed whole stems in a perforated plastic bag for 3-5 days. Sliced raw stems keep for 1-2 days.
  • Cooked stems – Place cooked stems in an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-5 days.

For longer storage, blanch chopped stems for 1-2 minutes then freeze for up to one year. Frozen stems are great to toss into soups, stews, and casseroles as needed.

Discard any leftovers that smell bad or look slimy.


Swiss chard stems are entirely edible and provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants whether enjoyed raw or cooked. Raw stems offer more vitamin C and a satisfying crunch, but cooking softens stems to make them easier to chew and digest.

Cut raw stems into thin matchsticks and massage with lemon or serve with flavorful dips for the best texture. Sauté, steam, or boil for just 1-2 minutes to get tender-crisp cooked stems. Raw and cooked stems both make nutritious, versatile additions to salads, tacos, bowls, sandwiches, smoothies, and more.

Leave a Comment