"Oven-Dehydrated" Kale Chips (no dehydrator needed! oil-free!)

I've had a problem.  A kale chip problem.  I have been buying too many packages of dehydrator-made-deliciously-expensive kale chips.

Why not make them myself?  Well, I don't have a dehydrator, which truly makes the best kale chips.  I've made them in the oven before, but guess what?  They lose that gorgeous vibrant green color and get grayish, or burn in spots and taste bitter.  The taste is just not the same.  It's not fresh and clean, but rather bitter and sulphurous.

Here's why: most recipes for kale chips in an oven have the setting WAY too high, usually around 400 degrees.  But even recipes that bake chips at a lower oven temp for longer (ex: 300 degrees for 30+ minutes), your kale chips will "cook" rather than "dry".  A dehydrator is so effective because it dries the foods, it doesn't cook them.  That's why the chips taste so fresh and the greens taste more sweet than bitter.

As I've said, I don' t have a dehydrator (hint, hint Excalibur). ;)  But, that didn't stop me here, because I'm stubborn passionate and persistent. :) I started experimenting, to get these crunchy-munchy bites of deliciousness.  And this is what I discovered...

The trick is to mimic dehydrating in your oven.  To do that, you need to use the lowest temperature setting possible for your oven, and then alternative turning the oven off and on.  For my trials, this took about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  The result?  Crispy, yummy kale chips!

Wait!  Before I give you the recipe, we haven't talked about seasonings.  Many kale chip recipes either use oil and simply salt to season... or they are heavily overseasoned. My recipe gives you an oil-free 'dressing' for the chips.  And, it is flavorful, but not spicy.  I have bought too many varieties of kale chips that are so darn spicy I could not eat them.  Disappointing (particularly at $8 or more a pop).  I give you flavor in these seasonings, but not heat - and also not too much salt.  Remember that the kale becomes smaller, more concentrated with this drying.  So, use a conservative touch with salt.  You can always taste test when they are almost ready and add a touch more if you think they need it.  Try the recipe as-is first, then add your spices to personalize the next time round (see note about seasoning).

And finally, this 'dressing' uses some nooch (nutritional yeast).  I promise it tastes good.  It's the combination of the ingredients together.  So, give it a try, even start with a touch less at first to get the idea.

Oven-dehydrated kale chips using dino kale!

“Oven Dehydrated” Kale Chips gluten-free, oil-free soy-free option (RECIpage link to print/share)

Kale is quite the buzz word in healthy eating, and kale chips have become incredibly trendy.  The best kale chips are made with a dehydrator, since it slowly dries the leaves - as opposed to an oven which can cook the leaves and make them taste burned and bitter.  Yet, most home cooks do not have these large and expensive dehydrating machines.  I don’t myself!  And, after spending far too much money on premade kale chips (which were delicious but breaking my bank!), I decided to create this unique recipe.  See, here, the kale chips are placed in the oven on the lowest setting possible - which for most ovens is 170 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then, the oven is turned off to let the chips continue to dry without any oven heat, alternated with one shorter last period with some oven heat.  The result is fantastic!  The chips slowly dry and become crunchy and tasty, without getting browned or burned.  And, the marinade for these chips is tangy and cheesy - and made without oil - delicious!

1 bunch fresh kale (curly or dinosaur/lacinato kale; I used dino kale in these photos)

2 tsp tahini

2  tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp tamari (or coconut aminos for soy-free version)

1/2 tsp pure maple syrup

2 1/2 - 3 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/8 tsp (scant) sea salt

First prepare kale.  Fully wash kale leaves by submerging bunch of kale in a sink of cold water.  Agitate to release any debris (and bugga-buggas)!  Strip the leaves from the stems and place leaves in a salad spinner.  Spin several times to remove AS MUCH water as possible.  If leaves are still a little damp, then use a kitchen towel to blot and dry kale leaves.  You want the leaves AS DRY as possible before using. Then, turn oven to lowest setting possible.  For most ovens this is 170 degrees (it won’t take long to preheat, see note).  Get two large baking sheets ready, by lining with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the tahini, lemon juice, tamari, and mape syrup.  Stir or whisk through until fully smooth in the bottom of the bowl.  Add kale leaves and toss through with your hands, gently incorporating all of the tahini sauce, and working it gently through all the leaves.  Add the nutritional yeast, and continue to work through the kale leaves.  Transfer the kale to your two baking sheets, spreading them out to give the leaves space to dry - the more space you give them, the better.  Sprinkle the leaves with the salt.

Place baking sheets in oven on two racks.  Bake at 170 for an 45-60 minutes (rotate trays once during baking).  Then, turn off oven, rotate trays again, and then let the trays sit in the oven for another 30-40 minutes.  After this time, turn oven on again at 170, and let bake for another 15-20 minutes.  Check kale, if it is completely dry and cripsy, remove from oven.  If not, turn off heat and let sit in the warm (but turned offf) oven for another 30-40 minutes (or longer - can vary with the volume of kale in your bunch and thereby how much marinade on the leaves).  By then, the kale should be crispy, and also still fairly vibrant green!  If not fully crips, continue to let sit in the oven.  (See note to "recrisp" leftover chips.)  Munch ‘n crunch and enjoy!

Oven Note: If your oven can go lower than this setting - do so!  It will take longer, but you’ll get there.

Seasoning Note:  If you like heat, feel free to add a few pinches of chili powder or other seasonings you like.  Note not to add much extra wet seasonings or it will make the leaves soggy.  Stick with dry seasonings, and also remember that the flavor intensifies once the leaves are dried - so go easy to start!  It’s best to make this recipe first as is, then adjust the next time with seasonings you like, just to get the idea of how the leaves transform into chips.

Recrisping Note:  IF you have kale chips leftover, store in a paper bag or a container with a lid.  They may lose some of their crispness within a day or two (especially if you live in a damp/humid climate).  To recrisp, simply place back in oven at 170 degrees (or turned off after slightly warming) for about 15-20 minutes until nice and freshly crisp again!

Enjoy, and remember to subscribe to my posts for more crazy-good plant-powered recipes!  I'll be returning with the Plant-Powered Kids Series soon.

Have you made kale chips?  What was your experience?  Are you going to give these a try?! 

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