Friday, February 17, 2012

"Cheesy" Kale Chips

I love salty, crunchy snacks. I would sooner give up chocolate than french fries or tortilla chips.  (I know that some of you are now thinking I'm bonkers, but it's true.)  I am well aware that most salty, fried snacks aren't particularly good for me, and I've reached an age where I'm conscious of the effects of food on my heart health, so I'm always on the look-out for something a bit healthier that will fill my salty-crunchy cravings. I keep trying new and different snack foods at the local health food stores. Most of them are "ok" but don't really fulfill my cravings. They are too bland or have a texture like cardboard or are dirt-flavored. We tried one snack and my 7 year-old announced that they tasted just like mulch, and I'm pretty sure he knows what mulch tastes like. Not wanting to give up, we keep trying new things. Corn puffs with spinach flavoring, rice crackers with "bbq" sauce, dried flavored seaweed. And finally I found it- "cheesy", vegan, raw kale chips that are divine.  I can munch away on these like I am eating cheesy puffs or nachos, except they are healthy- kale, nuts, red peppers. Perfect!  Except they are expensive. $8 for a little package is not in my food budget.  So I did what any other self-respecting-foodie-mom-on-a-budget would do, I searched the Internet. I found a number of recipes that sounded promising and I tried them all and kept tinkering with them.  After a few failed attempts, I think I've found my perfect recipe. Salty, a hint of spice, and a nutty-cheesy thing happening. Now when I want something to much on, besides popcorn which is a standard in our house, I grab these.

Kale Chips
2 bunches of kale
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 sweet red pepper, seeds and core removed
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
dash of cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

Place the nuts and seeds in a bowl of warm water for at least 4 hours to soak. No more than 6 hours or the cashews will get slimy. Strain the nuts, discarding the water.

Remove the tough stems from the kale and discard. Rip the kale into big pieces- these will shrink quite a bit so they don't have to be very small.  Wash the kale well and shake off excess water.

Place all ingredients, except the kale, into a food processor and mix until a paste is formed.  Using your hands, rub the mixture into the kale leaves, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies of the kale.  Spread the kale onto 3 baking sheets or on dehydrator trays.*

If using an oven, bake at a very low setting (150F is great if your oven goes that low, but 200F is fine) and bake for a few hours, stirring every hour or so, until the kale is crisp and the coating is dry.  Four hours seems to be the norm. If you have a dehydrator and would like to make "raw" chips, dry them at 105F for at least 10 hours, according to your machine's instructions. Allow to cool and store chips in an air-tight container. They will last for several days although they don't tend to stay around my house that long.

These trays were overflowing when I put the them in the dehydrator.

A few notes:
*I'm not an advocate for raw foods, but I have some friends that are. Recently, I was given a dehydrator and have been playing with it. It's nice to be able to free up my oven to make these chips that my raw-foodie friends will eat.
*Nutritional yeast can be found in natural food stores. It gives these chips their "cheesy" flavor and is full of B vitamins and 18 amino acids. This is NOT brewer's yeast. Nutritional yeast is thought by some to be a "superfood",  unfortunately some brands form high levels of naturally formed MSG when heated during processing.  Look for a light yellow color, which indicates low temperature processing. I use the Frontier brand.
*If you want a spicier treat, you can add more cayenne to give it a kick.  I've also been tempted to try to add some garlic. I'll let you know how that goes.
*Feel free to play around with the nut ratio or skip the sunflower seeds altogether. These measurements are a very rough guide.
*I'm a big believer in soaking nuts and grains.  It makes them easier to digest and allows more of the nutrients to be absorbed by our bodies.  Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morrelli is a great resource for information on soaking nuts and grains.


  1. These were SO delicious! Kate packed me a bag of them for the plane ride home but they didn't even make it to the airport :) I definitely will give them a try - thanks for the recipe!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed them. They are really easy to make. I was lovely meeting you at Dragonfly Fibers!