I grow vegetables.
People eat snack food.
I teach people how to turn vegetables into snack food. People eat more vegetables and vegetable farmers take over the world.
I have a lot of work to do.
The first task is to let you know that you can’t make kale chips in 30 minutes or less.
And the good news is that you can use all the different hearty, dark green, leafy vegetables to make chips.
Making vegetable chips works with turnip greens, rutabaga greens, and all the varieties of kale.
My favorite is the thicker greens like collards. Currently, we are stripping the large side shoots from the Brussels sprouts plants. These shoots are like a paddle about 6–8 inches in diameter. The leaves grow up the stalk in between the sprouts.
Low and Slow
My kale chip journey started with a dehydrator. Prior to the dehydrator, I never was able to produce a decent kale chip. I don’t have the patience to babysit something in the oven.
I never like to recommend making a purchase, but I started making amazing kale chips after I owned a dehydrator.
I now have a newer oven that will maintain low temperatures. This works too, so hopefully, you don’t have to run out and buy a new appliance.
Rule #1: Don’t try to make kale chips above 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
It doesn’t work. Maybe if you allow yourself to think a little bit of browning is okay and you’re really hungry. But it isn’t.
Kale chips and all vegetable chips are better when they aren’t browned. Don’t believe any recipe that tells you otherwise.
The problem with my oven is that I only have two racks, which means two pans. In the dehydrator, I can use 5 racks that are almost the same size.
So this brings us to…
Rule #2: Place the leaves in a single layer.
It’s okay for them to touch but avoid overlapping.
I guess here you can also babysit and turn and move the leaves around. It will take longer, but is that what you want to do with your time.
Keep the leaves in a single layer and set it and forget it.
Rule #3: Dry the leaves.
The oil and seasoning won’t stick if the leaves are wet.
Start with dry leaves, or as dry as you can get them. I don’t usually wash the greens unless I can see dirt.
If you do wash them, dry them thoroughly and ideally put them in a bag with a paper towel and wait a day to make the chips. There is no instant gratification.
Rule #4: Massage the Leaves
This isn’t a task for those that don’t like to get their hands dirty. You can wear gloves.
If you don’t do the massage you end up with dry kale.
Adding Flavors to Your Kale Chips
The point of kale chips is the seasoning.
I have recently started using leftover salad dressing. These are always homemade, sometimes mayonnaise-based. You can check out my Ranch Dressing recipe.
Most of the fancy kale chip recipes use some combination of oil, a nut or seed butter, and a little acid in the form of lemon juice or vinegar. Experiment and don’t be afraid.
Basic amounts for one bunch of kale:
- 2 tablespoons oil or mayonnaise or nut butter
- 2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, curry powder, paprika, and/or cumin
The nutritional yeast in most vegan recipes is a bonus, use 2–3 tablespoons if you have it.
Remember to massage the seasonings well.
If you have eaten all of your kale chips and you notice a lot of the seasoning mix at the bottom of the bowl, make sure to save this and put it on top of something you are going to eat. Or just lick your fingers.
The seasoning is why you make kale chips in the first place.
Here is my recipe for plain kale chips.
- 1 bunch curly kale, Brussels sprouts greens, or turnip greens
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Remove the stems from the kale. In a large bowl, drizzle on the olive oil and sprinkle with salt, massage the kale with the oil. The kale will change color from dusty green to dark green when the oil is rubbed in. Place the kale in a single layer in the dehydrator at 135 °F, for 8–12 hours. Or cook in the oven at 175–200 °F for about 2 hours. Remove from the oven or dehydrator and enjoy right away.
Eat Your Vegetables
Making snack food with your vegetables is the perfect way to start the day.
Remember, to use dry leaves, massage the seasoning in, and don’t let the leaves overlap. And never try to make kale chips over 200 degrees F.
Your patience will be rewarded with crispy, salty love.
Julie Moreno is a chef and writer, now trying to get more people to cook their own food and understand where it comes from. She lives in the middle of California, where she’s learning to landscape with fruits and vegetables. Find her on her blog Food Demystified, Twitter @juliehouse, and Facebook @fooddemystified