Healthy, delicious snack of spicy kale leaves baked until crisp.
I hit a carb wall over the weekend. Not that I don’t love all the cake, cookies, candy, and scones I've been gorging on mind you. I can make a breakfast out of a swirl of warm cinnamon rolls draped with icing as eagerly as Paula Deen. But after a long weekend of traveling back east for a beautiful family wedding, I found myself thinking about kale chips somewhere between grab-n-go airport food that satisfied my hunger and little else, and my second indulgent helping of wedding cake capped with a thick layer of fluffy frosting.
I don't think I'm alone. When I mentioned my kale chips over the weekend, people's eyes lit up. Or maybe that was just the glow from my sugar high. Regardless, I knew as soon as I got home, they would be the first thing I would make.
Kale is grown year-round but it’s at its best in the winter, which is just the opposite from what you might think. Summertime heat and drier conditions conspire to produce a more bitter, tough leaf; whereas the colder, more damp conditions of the winter support a more tender leaf with milder flavor. So we’re in prime kale season now, which is why it will start to pop up on January food magazine covers.
There are a few kinds of kale typically seen at the markets this time of year: the beautiful Red Russian kale, which shimmers with purple highlights on its silver-green leaves; dinosaur kale, with its prehistoric look of pebbly, dark forest green leaves, also known as Tuscan kale, cavolo nero, lacinato, or dino kale; and curly green kale, with its frilly, green leaves. All are packed full of nutrients, making this one of the healthiest greens you can ingest.
Spicy Kale Chips
- 2 bunches curly green kale central stalk removed, torn into bite-size pieces
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder optional
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika I use Pimenton de la Vera (optional)
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese finely grated
- Preheat the oven to 275° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (see Cook's Notes).
- Wash and completely dry the kale. Set aside, sandwiched between paper towels, while you make the dressing.
- Place the rice vinegar in a small bowl. Add the salt and spices (if using them) and whisk a few times to dissolve the salt. Slowly add the olive oil, while whisking to get a good emulsion. Take a kale leaf and dip it into the dressing and take a bite. Adjust the seasoning to your own taste.
- Place the dry kale leaves in a large bowl and pour half of the dressing over it. Toss thoroughly with your hands and add more dressing as needed.
- Lay the dressed kale leaves on the prepped baking sheets in a single layer. The leaves can touch each other, but if the leaves are overlapping too much, they’ll steam and never get crispy.
- Grate the Parmesan cheese over the leaves.
- Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until crispy.
- These chips are a great entry point to kale for kids and adults alike, but I suggest eliminating the spices for kids.
- I've made these kale chips successfully with both dino and curly green kale, but prefer the shape of the latter.
- The center stalk of each leaf should always be removed when cooking kale; it’s very tough and no amount of cooking is going to significantly soften it. Think thick floss.
- You can cut the kale into bite-sizes pieces if in a hurry, but you’ll get prettier shapes if you tear them; although I should add that kale chips are not the prettiest type of chip you’ll probably ever make.
- I wash kale by tossing it in a bowl filled with ice water, spinning dry in a salad spinner, and laying out on paper towels. If the kale is a little limp coming out of the refrigerator, soaking it in a bowl of ice water is a great way to perk it up!
- It's important to line the baking sheet with parchment paper, otherwise the kale leaves will stick to the pan as they bake and crumble when you try to remove them.
- Eat like a potato chip or crumble over soups, salads, baked apples, pizza or popcorn.