Healthy Snacks

crispy baked kale chips

seriously better than potato chips ::::

Rewind a few years ago: Minneapolis, wintertime, visiting a college friend of Eat’s, we stopped by a grocery store to gather snacks for the weekend. As we gathered some fine cheese, baguette, and some rich desserts, Eat’s friend Amanda told me the virtues of kale, gently cooked with oil. We passed the vegetable bins, not too interested to pair most of what we saw with our bread and cheese. Kale was a hearty vegetable, she explained, bitter but softened with cooking, healthy, nothing could surpass it. I tried it, that gentle stir-fry, leaves whole, and was unsatisfied and disappointed with the outcome. After some research, I realized that I needed to remove the tough center ribs, as even cooking them wouldn’t make them any more palatable than if raw. And the taste: not to my liking. However else I cooked the kale in that time (stir fry? braise?)  just didn’t pass my muster. I gave up, perhaps a little quickly.

It was years later when I noticed a thread of kale recipes appearing on food blogs of various stature, specifically for baked kale chips. That intrigued me, the ability to turn that dark leaf into a crispy chip, something that seemed forever destined to be wilted and usually pushed aside on my plate. And the reviews were surprising: this wasn’t a typical goody-goody I’m-fulfilling-my-greens-for-the-day quota with a decent presentation of vegan-favored recipe, this was something you could put in front of veggie haters and they’d actually eat it by the handful.

You can find kale chips in various farmers’ markets and grocery stores these days, but what’s the point? They often have preservatives. This recipe just calls for olive oil and what ever seasoning you want. While it took some research to find my favorite recipe, I finally came down to this permutation, best in my oven, for the crunch and crackle I want. And when you call them chips, just about anyone will try them, especially children. If I put these on the table before dinner is ready, the kids will inhale them in minutes. If I were to serve a stir-fried kale (even with stems removed), they wouldn’t touch it. This may be your saving grace recipe to turn your family away from potato chips. You will never see kale the same way again!


Some tips:

– Try all sorts of seasonings other than the typical salt and pepper: sesame seeds, garlic powder, cumin, sesame seeds, cayenne, you decide.

– Any variety of kale works here but I’ve found that the curly kale bakes up with the best crispiness. I also like the crunch of the ruffly edges when I bite into them.

– Make sure you let them become very dry, like crispy autumn leaves. Watch carefully while doing this, as any browning will make the chips taste bitter. You need to bake these chips, watching the oven like a hawk near the end of bake time to prevent the burning.

One year ago: no-knead pizza dough (it really is the best!)

Two years ago: sun-dried tomato savory biscuits

crispy baked kale chips
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale (but can scale up)*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (an estimate -- see my instructions below)
  • Sea salt, to taste (or other spices - onion, powder, garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika, anything you want - experiment!)
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Rinse and dry the kale, then remove the stems/tough center ribs.
  2. Cut or tear into bite-sized pieces that are about the same size, toss with olive oil in a bowl then sprinkle with salt (or other spices). When I use the olive oil, I drizzle it over the kale, then gently massage it into the leaves so each looks shiny. You may need more or less of the oil to do this depending on the amount of kale you use. The leaves don't need to be dripping with oil to cook up okay.
  3. Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet(s). I've tried lining the sheets with parchment or silicon mats but I don't think the kale crisps enough. Use NAKED baking sheets, NO parchment or silicon.
  4. Bake for 8 minutes (this may depend on your oven), then check: poke with your finger (hot!) to see if they feel like dry leaves/paper. Probably not quite yet. Set the timer for 2-3 more minutes and check again. Watch carefully: don't let them brown or they will become bitter tasting. AND: if you don't totally crisp them in baking, they won't stay crisp later and seem chewy. When they feel like dry leaves but still green (not brown) they are done. You may even hear some sizzling.
  5. If you don't eat them all at once, store in an airtight container for a few days, after they are totally cool. They will stay crisp. UPDATE: Since moving from drought-stricken California to humid Georgia, I amend this last sentence. In humidity, even in a cool air-conditioned home, they will stay crisp only minutes, the warm time when just out of the oven. Humidity may help your skin glow, but it turns a crisp bowl of kale chips into chewy ones.
  6. These are great eating on their own, crumbled over salads or popcorn, or an interesting addition to a hamburger or sandwich.
* While any variety of kale is good, I find the frilly edges of the curly kale crisp up the best to my tastes. If using the red kale, checking for doneness is a little more tricky: you may miss the browning due to the darker color of the leaf. Unless you are looking for a bitter flavor, I'd stick with the green kale for these chips.

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