14 Whole Foods That Start With K

Looking for an extensive list of foods that start with the letter K? 

Look no further, we’ve got you covered!

Browse this list of 14 foods that start with K to get some new cooking inspiration, learn more about where each food comes from, and understand the health benefits of each food.

Let’s dive in!

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Kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) cut in half on white wooden background

1. Kabocha squash

Kabocha squash is a small, round winter squash with dark green skin and lighter green stripes and spots. It is also called Japanese pumpkin because it originated in Japan.

It has sweet yellow-orange flesh that tastes similar to sweet potatoes or acorn squash. The inside is filled with flat, cream-colored seeds.

Like other winter squash, kabocha is especially high in carotenoids, such as beta carotene, which act as antioxidants and can be converted to vitamin A in the body (1, 2).

Kabocha squash can be found at some grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and Asian food markets, or you can grow your own.

It can be used to replace other winter squashes (pumpkin, acorn squash, etc.) in recipes and tastes especially delicious simmered with soy sauce and dashi, a Japanese soup stock made from kelp and dried fish.

Two leaves of green curly kale one a white backgroun

2. Kale

Kale is a member of the Brassica (cruciferous) family along with broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts (3).

The most common varieties are curly (found in most grocery stores), and lacinato (AKA dinosaur or tuscan), which has a darker, blue-green color and a unique, crinkly texture.

Like most dark, leafy green vegetables, kale is very nutrient-dense and has recently grown in popularity as a “superfood” (3).

One cup (118 grams) of cooked kale provides 77 mcg (19% DV) of folate, 172 mcg (19% DV) of vitamin A, 21 mg (23% DV) of vitamin C, and 494 mcg (412% DV) of vitamin K (4, 5).

At 5880 mcg per cup, it’s also one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, two types of carotenoids (antioxidants) that are important for eye health and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness (6, 7, 8).

Raw kale can be rather tough and chewy, but massaging the leaves with oil for a few minutes helps to break down the plant’s cell walls and results in a softer, more pleasant texture. 

Try adding kale to salads, soups, stir fries, and pestos, or toss it with olive oil and salt, then bake in the oven (or air fryer) at a low-temperature to make crunchy kale chips. 

Close up photo of one kalette on a white background

3. Kalettes

A kalette (also called kale sprouts or flower sprouts) is a hybrid plant that was bred by crossing kale and Brussels sprouts.

They have open, flower-like florets about the size of a Brussels sprout, and their leaves look similar to kale — dark green with purple streaks.

Kalettes taste similar to their parent vegetables, but milder, sweeter, and slightly nutty.

Depending on your location, kalettes might be difficult to find, but they are often available at Trader Joe’s. You can also grow your own from seed.

To prepare them, toss kalettes with olive oil and salt, then roast in an oven at 400°F until lightly browned and crispy.  

Cup of kefir on a wooden table

4. Kefir

Kefir (pronounced “kuh-feer”) is a yogurt-like drink produced by fermenting milk with kefir grains that contain a mixture of bacteria and yeast (9).

There is also another version, called water kefir, which is made by combining sugar with water and kefir grains and typically has added fruit or fruit juice for flavoring (9).

Milk kefir is acidic and sour with a creamy consistency and slight yeasty taste, while water kefir tends to be more carbonated (like sparkling water) with a sweeter, fruity flavor. 

During the fermentation process, the microorganisms break down the lactose in milk kefir into simple sugars, making it safe for people with lactose intolerance (10, 11).

Both milk and water kefir can be found at most grocery stores and health food stores, but you can also make your own using fresh milk and kefir grains (available online).

Use milk kefir to replace yogurt in smoothies, salad dressings, marinades, frozen desserts, overnight oats, or even baked goods.

If you want to cut back on soda, try water kefir instead — it has about 9 grams of sugar per cup (depending on the brand), compared to 24 grams in an 8-ounce soda (12, 13).

5. Khorasan wheat

Khorasan wheat (also called Kamut) is an ancient form of wheat that was obtained from an Egyptian tomb in the late 1940s and made its way to the United States (14).

In order to be labeled as Kamut (a registered trademark), khorasan must be certified organic and meet high standards for purity, nutrition, and quality (14, 15).

Compared to modern durum wheat, regular consumption of khorasan lowers LDL cholesterol, improves blood sugar control, and reduces inflammation (16, 17, 18).

Khorasan wheat is higher in protein, with 10 grams in one cooked cup, and contains 10 times more selenium (55 mcg per cup) than modern wheat (19, 20).

You can purchase whole grain khorasan or khorasan flour at health food stores or online, and some grocery stores may carry it as well.

Use khorasan flour to replace regular wheat flour in breads, cookies, and other baked goods, or cook whole khorasan grains to add to soups and salads.

Raw beef kidney on white background

6. Kidney

Kidneys are lean, edible organ meat (also called offal). The most common types are beef, veal, lamb, and pork.

This organ’s main role in the body is to filter out waste from the bloodstream to be excreted in the urine. Kidneys also help maintain proper fluid and electrolyte balance, regulate blood pressure, and convert vitamin D to its active form (21).

Like most organ meats, kidneys are incredibly nutrient-dense. A 3-ounce portion (cooked) provides more than 100% of the daily value for riboflavin, selenium, and vitamin B12 (22).

They’re also high in other nutrients, including protein, choline, iron, zinc, copper, vitamin A, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folate (5, 22, 23).

Kidney meat can be difficult to find but may be available at some grocery stores, specialty meat stores, and online.

Try pan-frying kidneys along with some sliced onions, or use them to make steak and kidney pie, a popular dish in British cuisine. To mellow out their strong flavor, try soaking kidneys in milk or saltwater for about 30 minutes before cooking.

Pile of raw kidney beans on a white background

7. Kidney beans

Kidney beans — named after their kidney-like shape — are a variety of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). 

The two most common types are red kidney beans, known for their strong, earthy taste, and white kidney beans (also called cannellini beans), which have a milder flavor.

Both types are packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. One cup of cooked kidney beans provides 15 grams of protein, 13 grams (46% DV) of fiber, 5 mg (28% DV) of iron, 80 mg (19% DV) of magnesium, and 230 mcg (53% DV) of folate (24

Eating raw or improperly cooked kidney beans causes severe nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, due to high levels of a compound called phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) (25).

To reduce PHA to a safe level, it is recommended to soak the raw, uncooked beans for 5 hours, then boil for at least 10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked (26).

Although slightly more expensive, canned kidney beans are a convenient option for those who don’t wish to soak and cook dried beans on their own.

Kidney beans hold up well to long cooking times, making them perfect for soups and chilis. They also make a great addition to pastas, salads, and rice dishes.

Kiwano fruit cut in half lengthwise to show the green inner flesh.

8. Kiwano

Kiwano (also called horned melon or African horned cucumber) is a fruit native to South Africa and a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with cucumbers (27, 28, 29). 

Interestingly, this unique fruit has been featured in several sci-fi movies, including Star Wars, due to its bizarre, almost otherworldly appearance.

The outer rind starts off dark green but eventually turns bright yellow-orange when fully ripe and is covered in sharp, spiny horns (thus the name “horned melon”) (29).

Inside the fruit are hundreds of bright green, jelly-like sacs — each one holds a single (edible) seed that looks similar to a cucumber seed (29).

This inner pulp tastes slightly sweet and sour, with a flavor that has been described by some as a cross between cucumber and kiwi.

Unlike most fruits, kiwano is relatively high in protein, with 4 grams per cup, and also provides a good amount of magnesium (23% DV), iron (14% DV), and potassium (10% DV) (5, 30). 

It can be purchased online from specialty produce stores and enjoyed fresh (simply scoop out the pulp with a spoon) or added to smoothies, yogurt, and other desserts.

Pile of whole kiwis on a wooden backdrop with a few sliced open to reveal the bright green flesh

9. Kiwi 

Kiwis (also called kiwifruit or Chinese gooseberry) are small, egg-shaped fruits with fuzzy brown skin and bright green flesh filled with hundreds of tiny, black seeds (9).

There is also a yellow-fleshed variety (called SunGold kiwi) with a sweeter, tropical taste and smooth, hairless brown skin (32).

Both varieties are loaded with vitamin C — just one cup of green kiwi provides 134 mg (149% DV), while an equal portion of SunGold kiwi offers 291 mg (323% DV) (5, 33, 34).

Green kiwis are available year-round at most grocery stores, but the SunGold variety can be more difficult to find. You may be able to find them online or at specialty produce stores.

Add sliced kiwi to yogurt parfaits and fruit salsas or blend whole, peeled kiwi into smoothies, sorbets, or popsicles.

Kiwis also make a perfect snack — cut them in half and scoop out the sweet, tart flesh with a spoon. The skin is edible (and full of fiber) but not super pleasant due to the fuzzy texture.

Whole green kohlrabi with stalks on a white backgrounf

10. Kohlrabi

Although it looks like a root vegetable and is sometimes called “German turnip”, kohlrabi is actually a member of the Brassica (cruciferous) family (35)

It has long, green leafy stalks that can be chopped and used in stir-fries, and a large green (or purple) bulb with tough skin that is typically peeled before eating (36).

The flesh of the bulb is white and crunchy and tastes like a cross between broccoli stems and turnips, with a hint of sweetness.

One cup of raw kohlrabi provides 5 grams (18% DV) of fiber, 84 mg of vitamin C (99% DV), and 472 mg (10% DV) of potassium (5, 37).

Kohlrabi can be seasoned and roasted with olive oil, julienned and air-fried like potatoes, or grated into latkes and fritters.

Slice or julienne raw kohlrabi and toss into salads and slaws — it pairs especially well with apples, carrots, and cabbage.

Kokum fruits in a large woven basket

11. Kokum

Kokum (also called wild mangosteen or red mango) is the fruit of the Garcinia indica tree, a member of the mangosteen family (38, 39).

It is small (about the size of an apricot) with a purplish red rind and soft, white pulp on the inside, along with several large seeds that can be processed to make kokum butter (38). 

This sweet and sour fruit is native to India, where it is added to curries, dals, vegetable dishes, desserts, and beverages (40).

It is also used in kokum sherbet (or “sharbat”), a popular summer drink in southern India, made by mixing kokum fruit syrup with water and spices (41).

Fresh kokum typically isn’t available in the United States, but you can purchase the dried fruit online or at Indian food markets.

Rectangular pieces of dried kombu on white background

12. Kombu

Kombu (Saccharina japonica) is an edible kelp (a type of seaweed) popular in Asian countries (42).

It has a salty, umami (savory) flavor, due to its high concentration of glutamic acid, an amino acid also found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products (43).

Kombu is one of the richest sources of iodine, with 1330 mcg (887% DV) in a single 3-gram serving, which is actually 230 mcg higher than the tolerable upper intake level (UL) (44, 45).

You can purchase kombu at most Asian food markets or online — it is typically sold dried, in strips that can be broken down into smaller pieces for cooking.

Kombu is most commonly used to make dashi, a Japanese broth, but it can also be simmered with beans and grains to add extra flavor.

After simmering, the kombu can be cooked with rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin to make kombu tsukudani, which is used as a flavorful topping for rice.

Kombucha probiotic beverage in a glass and pitcher on white background

13. Kombucha

Kombucha is a beverage made by fermenting tea (usually black tea) and sugar with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) for 7-10 days (46).

It tastes slightly sweet, a little fruity, and very tangy — kind of like sparkling apple cider, but with a splash of vinegar.

Kombucha is packed with probiotics, inflammation-fighting antioxidants, and organic acids like acetic acid, which may help stabilize blood sugars (47, 48, 49).

Although some alcohol is produced during the fermentation process, commercially sold kombucha contains no more than 0.5% alcohol by volume according to US federal law (50). Alcoholic varieties are available for purchase for adults over 21 years old.

Learn to make your own kombucha at home or pick up a bottle at the grocery store — just be sure to check the nutrition label, because some brands include a lot of added sugars.

This fizzy drink is delicious on its own but can also be used to make vinaigrette salad dressings, meat marinades, cocktails, and even ice cream floats.

Pile of kumquats on a wooden background with one cut in half crosswise to reveal the juicy orange segments and small seeds

14. Kumquats

Kumquats (Citrus japonica) are small, orange citrus fruits that are native to South Asia but also grown in the United States (51).

They are the smallest of all the citrus fruits — about the size of a large grape — and have sour, juicy pulp with smooth, edible peels that taste slightly sweet (52). 

One cup (about 9 kumquats) provides 12 grams of fiber, 81 mg of vitamin C, 115 mg of calcium, 37 mg of magnesium, and 344 mg of potassium (53).

Depending on your location, kumquats may be difficult to find at the grocery store or farmers market, but they’re also available online from specialty produce stores.

Fresh kumquats can be eaten whole as a snack, added to salads, or used to make jellies, jams, and marmalades.

Final Thoughts

From kabocha squash to kumquats, there are plenty of delicious foods that start with the letter K.

We hope this list has inspired you to be adventurous and try some new foods, or to gain a new appreciation for some of the foods you already eat every day. 

Comment below to let us know which of these foods are your favorites, and how you use them in the kitchen!

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