Ah, kale. I really love kale. We add kale to our green juices, enjoy it sauteed with caramelized garlic and onions, add it to soups, and the list goes on. But without a doubt, my kids’ favorite way to eat kale is to bake it into crunchy chips.
So why is kale so awesome?
Kale is truly a powerhouse of nutrition and is one of the most nutrient dense foods available (meaning the most nutrients available per calorie). It is loaded with antioxidants and is an excellent source of important vitamins and minerals. A cup of kale provides more vitamin C than an orange(!) and contains seven times the recommended daily dose of vitamin K.
[A little side note here: Although the symbol for potassium on the periodic table of elements is a K, potassium is not the same as vitamin K. While both are essential micro-nutrients, potassium is a mineral, not a vitamin, and serves different functions in the body than vitamin K.]
The best part about kale chips? How hard [actually, impossible is the operative word here] would it be to get a 2 and a 5-year old to sit down and eat an entire bunch of cooked kale? Yep, not going to happen. But if it’s been baked into crispy little savory pieces? The whole bunch literally disappears!
Initially, it required several rounds of trial and error, ending up either end of the spectrum between soggy, chewy kale to completely scorched leaves, before I settled in on the getting them just right.
Here are some tried and true tips to getting perfect baked kale chips
Tip #1. Wash the leaves well and remove them from the stems.
The stalk of the kale leaves is tough and doesn’t get dried up and crunchy at the same rate as the leaves. So my first step after washing the kale is to trim the leaves from the stalk, keeping the leaves in big pieces. Remember, they will shrink down considerably as they dry out.
Tip #2. Dry the leaves
Be sure to get the leaves really dry by running them through a salad spinner if you have one and then patting them dry using paper towels. This step is key or else any remaining moisture will steam the leaves, giving them a chewy texture. Remember, the end goal is crispy.
Tip #3. Don’t add “wet” ingredients
Some recipes call for tossing the leaves with liquids such as vinegar or Bragg’s liquid aminos for desired flavor. I’ve found that these liquids in effect steam the leaves (see tip #2 above).
Instead, toss the dried kale with a small amount of olive oil (or other healthy oil, like coconut or avocado). Usually less than 1 tsp per baking sheet is plenty. I mix whatever seasonings I choose to use with the oil and then toss the leaves well, making sure they are all well coated.
Using too much oil will inhibit the leaves from drying out adequately and using too little will cause them to stick to your baking sheet.
Tip #4. Lay your kale out flat, not overlapping, on the baking sheet.
If the leaves end up all piled on top of one another, they will not dry out completely and never become crispy. Yes, it may take 2 to 3 rounds to bake all your kale but trust me, the difference is well worth it.
Tip #5. Bake at a relatively low temperature, around 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
The recipes I started with suggested higher baking temperatures (~400 degrees F/200 degrees C). However, I found this led to blackened edges with a chewy center. Not appealing.
The key is to bake at a lower temperature for a longer period of time to get the leaves evenly dry and crispy. What has worked best for me is 300 degrees F/150 degrees C for 10 minutes. I check them at this point and flip them over to ensure both sides dry completely. Another 5 to 10 minutes and they’re done!
The exact baking time will vary from oven to oven. The trick is to watch them carefully after about 15 minutes to ensure they don’t go from perfectly crispy to burnt.
Tip #6. Serve within a few minutes
In climates with high humidity, like here on the coast, the chips will quickly re-absorb moisture and become chewy again if they’re not eaten within the first 30 minutes or so. If saving for later, let them cool for a couple of minutes and then store them in an air-tight container at room temperature. You will probably need to reheat them for a few minutes at a low temp to get them crunchy again.
That’s it! Really simple actually. And here’s the proof that they’re delicious–my son’s 8 year old friend who claims he doesn’t like veggies, just gobbled up a plateful!
Here’s the basic recipe
1 bunch of curly kale (better texture for making chips than a flatter version like lacinato)
1 tsp olive oil (or other healthy oil such as coconut or avocado)
1/4 tsp of salt (fine grain sea salt preferably)
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
- Wash and remove the leaves from the stems, keeping the leaves in large pieces.
- Dry the leaves thoroughly.
- Mix oil and salt (and/or any other dry seasonings you wish to add) and then toss the leaves coating them completely.
- Spread out the kale on a large baking sheet, keeping pieces from overlapping.
- Bake for 10 minutes and then flip the pieces and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the kale becomes crisp. If it’s still not crisp, then bake for a few minutes longer. Usually a total of 20 minutes works for my oven.
- Let the kale cool for a minute or so and then ENJOY!
- Load up another baking sheet and repeat the baking process to use up your bunch of kale.
Some optional ideas
Here are a couple of ways to spruce up the recipe:
- Mix and match your seasonings. Some dry seasonings that work great are garlic powder, onion power, cayenne pepper, paprika, and the list goes on.
- Sprinkle with seeds: sesame seeds are a really tasty option.
- Add some zest with a drop of lemon essential oil mixed in with your oil. Of course, be sure you are using a therapeutic grade essential oil that is safe for consumption (I get my essential oils HERE)
- If you’re fortunate enough to have an overabundance of kale, you can make up some extra batches of kale chips and grind them into a powder to sprinkle over food for an added boost of nutrition. Use within a couple of days and be sure to add some dry rice grains into your shaker to absorb any moisture.
A note to Ecuador readers: Most unfortunately, kale it is not a food that is available here in our little Ecuadorian beach town. I attempted to change this by growing some from seed last year but quickly learned that it favors a cooler climate. And, whatever little plants that did come up, were eaten in a single night by a couple of big snails! For those of you who live here in coastal Ecuador, organically grown curly leaf kale IS usually available at the Supermaxi grocery store in Manta. Yay! And I know it’s available in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca stores as well.