Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira


Easy sugarfree carrot kinpira is one of the most popular recipes here on Just Bento. And no wonder - it’s a snap to make, healthy, and spicy.

While kinpira is traditionally made with carrots and burdock (gobo) in Japan, you can use the kinpira method for any crunchy vegetable. What’s more, it’s a great way of using up parts of vegetables that you might normally throw away. Not only will your tastebuds and tummy be happy, your wallet will be too.

Broccoli stalk kinpira


Do you just cut off the florets of broccoli and throw away the thick woody stems? What a waste! Broccoli stalks are perfect for kinpira.

  • 2-3 broccoli stalks (resulting in about 2 cups of matchstick stalks). You can add the leaves too.
  • 1 Tbs. dark sesame oil
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. black or white (light brown) sesame seeds

If the broccoli stalks are very hard and woody, peel off the skins with a vegetable peeler or knife, and cut off the dried hard end. Slice into thin matchsticks.

Heat up a frying pan or wok with the sesame oil. Add the broccoli stalks and toss around until crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes depending on how skinny the matchsticks are. Add the red pepper flakes and toss some more. Add soy sauce, toss toss. Add the sesame seeds near the end. (You may notice this is identical to the way carrot kinpira is cooked.)

Curry flavored cabbage stalk and ribs kinpira


The thick stalk part inside a cabbage is also an unloved part of this most versatile vegetable. Sliced into matchsticks, it too makes great kinpira. Here I have given it spicy curry-like twist, but you can make them in the standard kinpira way (see broccoli stalk recipe) too. You can get the spices at any Indian or South Asian market.

  • Cabbage stalk and ribs/leave resulting in about 2 cups of cut up cabbage
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. kalonji or nigella (‘black onion’) seeds

Cut the cabbage stalk and ribs into thin matchsticks.

Heat up a frying pan or wok with the oil. Add the cabbage and toss around until crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the spices and salt, and toss around until well coated.

Celery stalk kinpira


A lot of people never think about cooking celery stalks, unless it’s to add to a soup or chowder. Cooked celery is crunchy and delicious as it’s full of umami. This is a very simple kinpira where the flavor of the celery and the olive oil really shines through. You can use the tougher outer stalks that might not be suitable for salads.

  • Celery stalks resulting in about 2 cups cut up
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • salt

Cut the celery on the diagonal into thin slices.

Heat up a frying pan or wok with the oil. Add the celery and toss around for just a couple of minutes. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Some other vegetables you could use for kinpira

  • Peppers
  • Daikon radish
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
  • Rutabaga
  • Kohlrabi
  • Swiss chard stalks

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Celery stalks

Curious comment about cooking celery. A lot of people used celery stalks sauted or stir-fried with other items, not just raw in salads.

I never cook celery so

I never cook celery so it’s good to be reminded that you can cook it! Thanks Maki!

I’m just amazed at how you

I’m just amazed at how you can make stir fried broccoli stalks look so appetizing! I have a huge bunch of broccoli at home, I can’t wait to try the stalk kinpira!

I make broccoli stem stir

I make broccoli stem stir fry all the time, because I can’t bring myself to throw the stem out after eating the crowns. I never thought to make kinpira though! Thanks!

I used them only in soups...

I also can’t bring myself to waste the stalks of broccoli, so I clean them, dice them and freeze them: I use them in vegetable soups (“minestrone” means “big soup”, after all…where everything can go in) or in stews… but WOW! this one is nice: I’ll try tonight ;-)

Love your veggie recipes!

Yesterday I made the kinpira, the namuru, and the veggie cups (I think I put too much mayo though). It was so easy. Thanks for providing the impetus for me to clean out my crisper and start eating the healthy stuff. I think I’ll try the celery kinpira out on some celery that’s about to go limp on me.

Maybe I’m just weird, but

Maybe I’m just weird, but those are my favorite parts on the broccoli and cabbage! I’m also a BIG fan of cooked celery so these will be excellent additions to my bentos! Thank you!

maki i made the celery w

maki i made the celery w lots of black pepper today for my bento. it as soooo delish!!!! looove your blog ^_____________^

what a healthy and cheapy

what a healthy and cheapy recipe!

I love kinpira… I’m all

I love kinpira… I’m all about the gobo by itself. The texture is like nothing else.

Great recipe!

I tried the broccoli kinpira recipe and both my son and I loved it! Thanks!

mm kinpira

Fortuitously, the day I read this I was making broccoli, so I made sure to keep the stalks. I just made kinpira out of ‘em, and it’s delicious. Thanks to this post, kinpira will assuredly be a frequently revisited addition to my repertoire.

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

hi maki!

i was just wondering how long roasted vegetables can keep. would you have any idea?

i plan on roasting a bunch of veggies tomorrow and want to take some to work the following day. how should i "reheat"them and will they still be good for the following day?

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

It really depends on how you roasted them, how much you salted them, how cool your refrigerator is, and so on. If you use more oil and/or salt they will keep longer; cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) tend to go 'off' faster, and so on. Trust your nose and your tongue (taste a bit) - if it smells, tastes or looks off then be safe and throw it out. One way to make leftovers as safe as possible is to actually re-heat them (in a dry frying pan is the fastest way), and let cool down again to room temperature before packing in your bento. Don't close your bento while the food is still warm, because it can condensate in a closed bento box and get soggy.

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

I've been attempting to expand my palate lately, and since that carrot kinpira of yours is one of my favorite foods, I figured other vegetables must be good too. I mixed chopped radishes and celery, cooked with olive oil, ground black pepper, very little salt, and a shot of soy sauce at the end. I ate part of it for dinner and the rest is waiting in the fridge for tomorrow.

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

Hi Maki, I made this tonight from broccoli stalks and carrot for my husband and I. We both loved it :) and it tasted very authentic. DH thought the broccoli stalks was asparagus.

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

I've always used broccoli stalk, especially if it's garden fresh. Since it's very tender fresh, I just wash, cut it up and cook it with the rest of the vegetable. It's better to peel the stem if you got it from the grocery store or if the stem seems too firm.

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

I was making some cauliflower curry and decided to finally use the broccoli stalk I was saving and try your kinpira recipe. I just had a little taste (hot off the wok) and was floored! Its so good I'm tempted to eat it as a stir-fry rather than toss it in my bento stash.

I am curious though, is it possible to freeze kinpira? Or does it loose its texture too much?

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

This is such a great recipe! I happened to see some pre-cut broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and matchstick carrots being sold as a "slaw" in the grocery store very cheap. I dumped it all into the pan and used your recipe - it's delicious!

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

Mmm! I just made this recipe with broccoli stalks, and it's wonderful! I barely can believe I'm eating a vegetable! Such a great recipe, I can't wait to try it with other veggies!

Re: Bento fillers: Forgotten vegetable kinpira

I just made this with broccoli and cucumber for dinner and WOW! So delicious, thank you!

Alternate celery seasoning

Hey all!

Just tried my hand at some celery kinpira (as I love the stuff, but wanted a different topping from peanut butter as a between-meals snack), and I decided to mix things up on a whim. Instead of going with the salt and pepper topping, I used a modified kojuchang mix that I liked from the Spicy Broccoli and Tofu recipe I found on JustBento.

I used about a little less than a tablespoon of sesame oil to coat the pan (all of my measurements are approximate), and added a little black pepper to the celery when it was in the pan. Then I mixed up these ingredients in a separate bowl and added it to taste:

1 tablespoon kojuchang
1 tablespoon red miso paste
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sake

It turned out really good! Add more or less of the aforementioned ingredients to your liking, and taste it as your adding it to the celery to make sure it doesn't overwhelm it. Finish with some toasted sesame seeds for fun.

Thanks for all the inspiration and lessons Maki! Gonna be ordering the cookbook soon so that I can have even more stuff to add to my bentos :)

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