Crispy, light, addictive kale chips are easy to make for a healthy snack that satisfied those cravings for something crunchy and salty. Full of vitamins and good fiber. (Skip to recipe.)
What four letter food word makes people either wrinkle their noses in disgust or lick their lips and say 'I can't get enough of it' ?
That would be kale.
It's kind of a love-it or hate-it food. In the past, it suffered as a much ignored vegetable, being seen as cabbage's rougher and tougher cousin, but kale has been quietly muscling its way forward into the mainstream of culinary awareness. It often appears on the menus of trendy restaurants, either used raw to add a pleasing heft to salads or quickly sauteed to add a chewy bite to savoury dishes.
Those two methods of serving kale: raw or quickly sauteed, have opened up a whole new world for me. As a kid, the only way I ever ate kale was the way my mom cooked it - simmered for hours with a bit of buckwheat and pork rind, until it was a dark gray-green mass that, while edible (the pork rind was the best part), did not inspire any kind of food rhapsodies or even requests for second helpings. We ate it because we knew it was good for us (and because we'd get 'the look' from dad which made us quickly gobble it up without complaint).
Now that I have come to the realization that I'm allowed to eat kale without cooking the dickens out of it, I've discovered a whole new food. I can see what all the buzz is about. This is one four letter word I like to say. Kale. Mmmm.
Kale is considered a superfood for its impressive nutritional profile - extremely high in vitamins K, A, and C, good source of calcium and minerals, and amazing anitoxidant and anti-cancer properties, to name just a few. How to get more of this wonderful vegetable into our family's bellies?
Kale chips are a fun, tasty, and quite addictive way to start a slow love affair with kale. (My family is crazy for them - Raymond told me I can make kale chips any time I want, and Andreas pops them into his mouth every time he walks by, until the bowl is empty.) It's hard to believe how those tough leathery leaves can be transformed into feather-light, crispy, salty chips that shatter when you bite into them and make you reach for more. Kale's slight bitterness is totally tamed and lingers only as a pleasant aftertaste to the more complex 'veggie' flavours that hit your mouth first.
What a way to eat your greens.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: The most work involved in making kale chips, is in washing and drying the kale leaves. It is very important to have the kale as DRY as possible, so that the chips crisp in the oven, rather than steam. My time-saving trick is to wash the leaves the day before, by spreading apart each leaf under running water, then shaking off as much water as you can. Lay the leaves out flat, horizontally, on a clean kitchen towel or length of paper towel. Roll up the towel, making sure the leaves stay flat (of course you can't flatten the ruffled edges of the kale leaves).
Store the rolled up towel in a sealed plastic bag overnight, or for several days, in the fridge. The towel will absorb much of the moisture, and it is quick work to make a batch of kale chips. If you have cleaned and dried kale in the fridge, you can have kale chips any time the craving strikes.
However, if you haven't planned ahead or don't have time to store the kale in the fridge overnight, just squeeze the rolled towel gently from all sides to dry the leaves and use them immediately. The leaves may not be quite as dry, but will still work. Pat any wet bits dry with the towel or give them a good spin in a salad spinner.
The central core of kale leaves is bitter and tough. Remove the outer part of each leaf by slicing it off the stem with a knife (hold the leaf stem-side-up and slice downward on each side of the stem) or kitchen shears, or by simply tearing it off with your hands. Discard the stems.
Any type of kale is good for kale chips. I like curly kale, because the ruffled edges get especially light and crisp, but the more smooth and leathery cavolo nero, also known as Lacinato kale, Tuscan kale, or dinosaur kale, also works well, as do other lesser known varieties, if you grow them in your garden (like red Russian kale).
Once you get the hang of kale chips, feel free to experiment with other flavour additons - a light dusting of onion or garlic powder, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, cumin, chili powder . . .
Kale chips can be baked at lower oven temperatures (275 - 300°F) for longer times or higher temperatures (350 -375°F) for shorter times. I like a lower temperature because it is less likely to overcook the kale chips. They go quickly from beautifully green and crisp to oh-oh-too-dark. They become bitter if they get too brown, so you want to catch them at just the right moment, for addictive kale chip perfection.
It's hard to show the light, crispiness of the chips in these photos - you'll just have to try a batch to see for yourself.
- 1 bunch any type of kale, about 6 oz/175gms, or 5 to 6 large leaves if using curly kale, more for other types
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt, or less, to taste
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds or finely grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Wash and dry the kale well. See tips for how to do it above. (Store in fridge at this point if you are cleaning leaves a day ahead.)
Preheat the oven to 300°C.
Remove the kale stems by slicing or tearing off the leafy parts, and discard the stems. Tear the leaves into potato chip sized pieces. Place them into a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. It's important not too add too much salt as the saltiness intensifies as the chips crisp up. Use less than a ¼ teaspoon to start. You can always sprinkle on a bit more after they are baked. If using parmesan cheese, use a very light touch with the salt.
Now get in there with your fingers and 'massage' the oil into the leaves, making sure all the leaf surfaces are covered with oil.
Sprinkle with the sesame seeds or parmesan, if using, and massage lightly again to distribute the seeds amongst the leaves.
Lay the oiled and seasoned leaves in a single layer onto 1 large or 2 medium-sized cookie sheets, spreading them out so they aren't overlapping too much. Bake them in two batches if you have more than will fit on the cookie sheets.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, turning any thick or wet-looking leaves at about 8 minutes. Start checking the kale chips at about 10 minutes, as they can get too brown very quickly. You want the chips to be dry and crispy around the edges, with a few of them just starting to turn brown in spots. A few chips may still be slightly moist and pliable in the centers, but that's better than the whole batch being burnt.
Every oven is different so you will need to figure out how much time it takes in your oven to get those perfect crispy chips.
Once you've figured that out, I bet your kale-chip-love-affair will be on its way, and you'll find yourself craving them or fantasizing about them at the most unexpected moments.
Don't blame me if your family starts asking for kale.
Yield varies, but 1 bunch kale is generally a good snack for 2 to 4 people.
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