Kale chips 8 ways

Kale chips are great with just olive oil and sea salt, but new and exciting seasonings make them even better. Try seasoning them with garlic and onion jam, maple balsamic vinegar, or an experimental flavor combination of your own.

Garden of Eating
Start with a basic recipe for kale chips and get creative with the seasonings you choose.

The ragged jack kale plants we grew from seeds from our local Hudson Valley Seed Library just keep on giving. I feel like every time I look out the kitchen window, their slender purple stems have sprouted another full set of lush, silvery green leaves and it's time to head out to the garden with a pair of scissors and the biggest bowl I can find. 

In addition to making salads galore, I've blanched and frozen enough bags of kale to fill an entire compartment of our chest freezer and am now officially out of freezer space. Time to make some kale chips. My most recent harvest yielded so much kale that I decided to experiment with a bunch of different flavors, filling every single tray in the food dehydrator.

I tried:
1. Sesame soy - sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds
2. Garlic & onion - Stonewall Kitchen's roasted garlic & onion jam, olive oil and sea salt
3. Plain - olive oil and sea salt
4. Sesame - olive oil, sea salt and sesame seeds
5. Sriracha lime - olive oil, sriracha and lime juice
6. Italian - garlic powder, olive oil, dried oregano and sea salt
7. Cheesy Italian - Parmesan, garlic powder, dried oregano, olive oil and sea salt
8. Maple balsamic - Tubby Olive's maple balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt

My taste testers and I liked all of them except for the sriracha lime combo which was too spicy and bitter. But I still think sriracha has promise – next time I will use a little less of it and add a bit of the complex and sweet roasted garlic and onion jam instead of the lime – could be good!

The two clear winners were the garlic & onion (#2) and the maple balsamic (#8) with the cheesy Italian (#7) and good old plain (#3) also earning rave reviews.

I want to note that the two flavors I liked best made use of rather pricey pre-made ingredients from Stonewall Kitchen and the Tubby Olive that may not fit into your budget or be something you can find at your local grocery store. The good news is that you can make roasted garlic and onion jam at home for next to nothing – here's a recipe and you can also browse through these listings at Punk Domestics to find one that appeals to you. As for the maple balsamic, you can get similar results with a simple mixture of maple syrup and balsamic vinegar – I'd try maybe 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar but that is just a guess so taste it and see what you think.

Just writing about this is making me want to make kale chips again and I'm kicking around the following flavor combinations for next time: garam masala and garlic, miso paste with sesame oil and soy sauce, brown sugar and coconut oil, smoked paprika and sea salt, and sun dried tomato and Parmesan cheese.

The recipe below is pretty basic to allow you to pick your seasonings. I've included directions for how to prepare these in an oven or in a food dehydrator. The dehydrator is more fool-proof since it allows you to cook them at a very even, much lower heat but you'll get great results in the oven, too, you just need to check them more often to ensure that they're not burning and to move the trays around if your oven heats unevenly like mine does. Happy crunching!

Kale chips
Makes enough for 4 people to snack on happily

1 bunch of kale, washed and fully dried
Oil of your choice (1-2 tablespoons)
Seasonings of your choice

1. If you're using your oven, preheat it to 250 degrees F., (if your oven does not go down to 250, use whatever the lowest temperature it offers and check the chips earlier since they'll cook more quickly). If you're using a dehydrator, set it to 115 degrees F., or check the manual for your machine to see what setting it recommends for kale. Remove the leaves from the center rib of the kale and tear them into large pieces. Place leaves in a large bowl, drizzle with the oil, add the other seasonings and toss until the leaves are evenly coated.

2. If you're using your oven, divide the kale leaves between two heavy-duty baking sheets and arrange in a single layer – no need to grease the sheets or use parchment paper – the oil on the leaves should do the trick of keeping them from sticking quite nicely. If you're using a dehydrator, do the same thing with however many trays you need to arrange them in a single layer, probably between 2-4, depending on the size of the trays and the amount of kale you're working with. 

3. If you're using your oven, bake for 15-25 minutes, or until crisp – the cooking time will depend somewhat on the thickness of the leaves and the size of the pieces. Start checking them at 10 minutes in and rotate the trays if they look to be cooking unevenly. You can eat them as soon as they're cool enough to grab. Feel free to adjust your seasonings after they're out of the oven, too. If you're using a dehydrator, let them go until you're happy with the texture – depending on the type of kale, the wetness of the seasonings you're using and the level of crispness you like, this can take anywhere from 2-4 hours or potentially even longer – it's up to you! 

Related post on Garden of Eating: Grilled coconut kale

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