Some would say that kale chips are the latest trendy food, or even more dismissive, that they’re a fad that floundered and has come and gone, but I disagree on both counts. I think kale chips are largely unknown, generally misunderstood, and possibly the snack of the future – destined for every checkout aisle at every grocery store on the planet. Or better yet, that we’ll all have giant dehydrators so we can make our own at home.
Don’t ask Google. Ask me.
If you look up ‘kale chips’ online, you’ll find loads of recipes, most of which are disgusting, akin to stuffing your face full of the autumn foliage that you rake up under a tree. Those food bloggers are mostly well meaning, though a little confused. If you really want a source for info (besides this blog) check out raw foodist discussion forums. That’s where you’ll find the folks who’ve been through the trial and error process and they’re not just into kale chips for the novelty of it. They’re in pursuit of a perfect food and you should follow them (at least on this one adventure – not necessarily the giving up bread and cheese thing).
Free market. Expensive filler.
Good kale chips are not for sale. Sure, I’ve put a few bags out there that I’m proud of, but my point is that the real deal is usually a batch that someone made for themselves and their friends. And if they were good, they didn’t last a day and if intended for resale, they probably got eaten on the way to the farmers’ market. Seriously though, the kale chips at healthfood stores are made by people who realize that plain and baked versions are a nasty experience. So, they weigh them down with nuts and zesty spices. That’s because fiber needs fat and bitter needs brightness. But the store-bought kind are rarely very fresh, and the the flavors are usually less than inspired (note blah blah brand’s ‘American flavor’ – actually kinda genius if it’s a cynical statement on the intersection of consumerism and low-information voters). Anywho, you generally pay $8 for 2.5 ounces of kale chips in the store, but they’re a strange product. The kale is smooshed into what looks like little cow patties, and the bulk of the product is nuts instead of kale making up the weight.
What’s so special?
Real kale chips are dehydrated, not baked. Have you had baked kale chips? Depending on the temperature they were baked at (and the amount of ventilation) you might have decided to never eat them again. Real kale chips are a raw food, meaning they’re dehydrated at less than 119 degrees, so the nutrients don’t break down chemically, due to the heat. This preserves their multivitamin benefits, but it also preserves the flavors of the kale and the other ingredients. With raw kale chips, the flavors will pop with bright freshness. If raw ingredients like garlic, onions, or ginger were used, you’ll know it and your mouth will remember for minutes after eating a chip. Dehydrating also turns the leaves from tough and chewy to brittle and crunchy. All of this makes them a fun energizing food. But, I’m not a purist. Roasted garlic is sometimes my secret ingredient (not so secret now, I guess). Sauteed onions contribute savory and sweetness, even creaminess. And roasted red and yellow peppers help round out a vegan cheese sauce in ways that most hippies would have never guessed to try. As long as the kale is not cooked, and the coating is relatively light, we’re still talking about ‘raw kale’ chips.
How do I do it myself?
I don’t know if I can answer that for you succinctly. The first thing to do is to find a dehydrator. For ten years, I was happy with my four-tray Excalibur (about $100 on Amazon). But the idea that it was basically a shoe-box with a fan and a heating element always kinda nagged at me. Alton Brown did a bit on his Good Eats show about turning your oven into a dehydrator without even turning it on. There was a mini-fan involved and an aquarium heater or a light bulb, I think. But what’s stopping you or me from making the same contraption on a larger scale, like say a guest bedroom with an open window, a box fan and a ceramic heater? Part of the answer is geography. The humidity of the south. But, I digress. Just toss some kale in some sauce and stick it in a dehydrator. Eat when crunchy. I guess that could be said succinctly after all.