How to make Crisp and “Cheesy” Kale Chips in Oven (or Dehydrator)

Before we can talk about how to make a crispy and “cheesy” kale chips in oven or dehydrator, first we need to chat about the appliances.

As a rule I don’t like owning a lot of large space-hogging appliances. For example, part of my decision to buy an Instant Pot was giving away my slow cooker. My food processor is also my blender. Wherever possible I will choose one multi-functional item over multiple specialty appliances that only do one thing.

I’m not a true minimalist by any stretch, but I try to keep the Acquisition of Things under control. It’s an anti-hoarding measure, if you will.

One of the exceptions to this rule is my dehydrator. It’s huge by appliance standards. And I don’t use it for THAT many things. But the things it does, it does so dang well that it’s worth the extra storage space. Kale chips, dried fruit, and jerky are so good and so easy in the dehydrator! I love things that I can walk away from and know they won’t burn even if I forget them for an extra hour.

If you do not have a dehydrator, don’t worry. I've done these in the oven in the past so there will be options for all.

When you want to make fresh kale chips in oven or dehydrator, start by washing kale and removing leaves from stalk.

My big beautiful bouquet of kale!

Let’s talk about kale!

Kale is part of the cruciferous family along with broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. It gets its superfood status because it’s loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre which provide health benefits from the second you start chewing to the exit at the far end of your colon. These nutrients can help prevent cancer and guard your bone density.

On the other hand, kale also often gets nose-wrinkling status because, like the other cruciferous veggies, it contains bitter compounds which some people taste more strongly than others. The trick to cooking cruciferous veggies well is to counterbalance that bitterness with other flavours: salt, high quality fats (such as olive oil), umami flavours (cheese, bacon, etc), sweetness (dried cranberries), and/or acid.

In this recipe we are using a salt-fat-sweet-umami.

Does it matter what kind of kale I buy?

Not really, as long as it’s fresh and green without too many yellowed edges indicating it’s getting older. I used lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale) because the big flat leaves are easy to make chips out of, but I have used the curly kale in the past as well... just make sure to place the curly edges down so they flatten and stay put.

Washing and prepping the kale

Give your kale a quick rinse under the tap or swish it in a sink of cool water. Gently rub off any dirt and remove any insects you may have accidentally transported in. Don’t worry too much about cleaning the long part of the stem as you will be removing the central rib. Pat the leaves dry with a clean kitchen towel. Slightly damp is fine, you just don’t want actual droplets going into your mixing bowl.

Pull the leaves off of the stems, and discard or compost the stems. They are not a pleasant texture to eat. Tear the leaves by hand into bite size pieces (around 1-2 inches; demo in the video). If you are using the oven method you will want to keep the pieces as uniform as possible so they don’t burn. It’s less important for a dehydrator.

Massage and season

Ingredients to make crispy and cheesy kale chips in oven or dehydrator using nutritional yeast.

The seasoning squad is in town! (Gorgeous oil decanter by Québec ceramist Stéphanie Blanchet)

When all of your bite-sized pieces are in the mixing bowl, you’re going to start with oil, salt, and a massage! For the kale, not you. Sorry. But hey, book yourself a massage for later too. You deserve it!

Massaging the oil and salt into the kale does two things:

1. It evenly coats the kale with the oil which is key for nice, even, caramelized crispiness AND getting your other seasonings to stick to the kale.

2. It tenderizes the kale a bit and works the salt into the leaves. Massaging is less important for cooked kale, but is absolutely key in salads. I’m convinced that a lot of people’s bad experiences with kale start with poor prep.

When the kale is softened, massage in the other ingredients as well. I start with everything liquid and then mix in the nutritional yeast flakes in batches so that the “cheese” is evenly distributed and doesn’t clump. Your hands are going to get absolutely coated here. I tend to use one hand to massage and the other to slowly add the ingredients. (Feel free to lick your fingers when you are ready to wash up. Mmm umami fingers!)

A cautionary note on the syrup and nutritional yeast:

More is not more! Overkill on the syrup makes the chips stick to the dehydrator tray which is a pain to clean and the extra sugar increases the risk of burning in the oven. It’s also a good idea to remove the chips from the dehydrator before they fully cool to minimize sticking.

Too much nutritional yeast starts to taste weird. You can probably get away with an extra tablespoon or two, but more than that will put you into the umami overwhelm zone. It’s not awful, but also not an improvement. Trust me, I have gotten carried away many times or gotten wild with dumping without measuring...

What the heck is nutritional yeast?!

Firstly, this is NOT the same as bread yeast, which is alive and can grow. That’s not what we’re talking about.

Nutritional yeast, sometimes shortened to ‘nooch, is a deactivated yeast that has a cheese-like umami flavour which makes it a popular cheese substitute in vegan and dairy-free recipes. It’s also a complete protein, and a great source of B-vitamins and iron, especially if it’s fortified. This makes it a valuable nutritional addition to a plant-based diet. You can find bags of the yellow flakes in almost any grocery store or bulk food store.

Is nutritional yeast the same as brewer’s yeast?

Well, yes and no. These two products are made from the same strain of organism, but they have different nutritional and flavor profiles because of the way they are grown.

Brewer’s yeast, as the name suggests, is grown on malted barley or other grains in the production of beer, which makes it bitter unless further treated, so is generally consumed in capsule form. In contrast, nutritional yeast is grown on a substrate of beet or cane sugar molasses, and has a cheesier flavor, so can be used as a recipe ingredient or condiment. Brewer’s yeast is denser in minerals while nutritional yeast is higher in B vitamins and antioxidants.

Dry/bake, chomp!

Onto the recipe! This quantity is enough to fill my large dehydrator. If you have a smaller dehydrator or just want a single sheet pan of chips, cut the recipe in half.

Mealtime conversation starters

Cartoon blackberry as an icon for conversation starters between people of all ages.

A recent article by StudyFinds Research, titled Having deep conversations with strangers can improve your well-being, cites a new study on how small talk improves your well-being.

Research suggests that going deeper than just small talk is a good thing. It helps connect with others in deeper, more meaningful ways, which tends to make people happier. Yet, people struggle to have conversations with strangers because of the awkwardness that arises when people mistakenly think a stranger may not care to know anything more than surface-level information with another stranger, so how do you create more meaningful conversations?

Start small - ask better questions. Instead of asking, “What do you think of the weather today?” as questions that allow the other person to give a bit of insight into who they are and what is important to them.

Here is such a question:

Would you rather live for 24 hours in the past or in the future?

PS. We would love to know how this conversation went. Tell us all about it in the comment section below.

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Homemade crispy and cheesy kale chips in oven or dehydrator, ready to eat
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5 from 5 votes

Crispy and "Cheesy" Kale Chips in Oven or Dehydrator

Whether you crisp these up in a dehydrator or the oven, you will love eating these savory bites so much you might even forget that they are healthy!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time28 mins
Cooling time5 mins
Total Time48 mins
Servings: 8 cups
Calories: 91
Course: Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American, Vegan, Vegetarian

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Ingredients

  • 2 bunches kale (roughly 8-10 cups, loosely packed)
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • cups nutritional yeast flakes
  • ¼ tsp sea salt (finely ground)
  • 2-3 grinds black pepper

Instructions

  • Wash kale and pat dry. Remove the central stem and discard. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  • Place the torn leaves in a medium mixing bowl. Add in the oil, syrup, salt and pepper and massage it into the leaves with your hands. Add the nutritional yeast a bit at a time and continue to mix in (reduces clumping). Continue massage-mixing until the leaves are all coated with oil and seasonings (no dry leaves!)
  • Lay the leaves in a single layer on the dehydrator trays or your lined baking sheets. Make sure they don't touch or overlap to ensure even crisping.

For Dehydrator:

  • Once filled, turn on the dehydrator at 145 F for an hour.
  • Turn down to 115 F for another 2 hours, or until desired level of crunch occurs.

For Oven:

  • Preheat oven to 325°F
  • Bake for 28 min, flipping the chips at 14 minutes.

After drying or baking:

  • Gently remove the leaves from the trays and place into a good-quality sealing container (so they stay dry and crispy). You may need to let them cool for 5 min before you put the lid on

Hand Size Portions

Nutrition Facts
Crispy and "Cheesy" Kale Chips in Oven or Dehydrator
Serving Size
 
1 cup
Amount per Serving
Calories
91
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
7
g
11
%
Saturated Fat
 
1
g
6
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
5
g
Sodium
 
85
mg
4
%
Potassium
 
208
mg
6
%
Carbohydrates
 
5
g
2
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
1
g
1
%
Protein
 
2
g
4
%
Vitamin A
 
3248
IU
65
%
Vitamin C
 
39
mg
47
%
Calcium
 
52
mg
5
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Hand Portions

Some handy advice:  You can use your hands to practice calorie control without weighing and measuring.

Using hand position size is an alternative way to decide how much to eat visually. It gives you a way to quickly estimate what's on your plate, using protein, vegetables, carbohydrates, and fat. It's an alternative to counting macros which generally has you weighing and reading nutrition labels to count protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

To learn more, read How to Get Started with Hand Portion Sizes.

Health Ninja Jeanette Marcotte is a health coach and professional geologist, who is obsessed with helping fellow professional women reclaim their time and energy by weaving healthy choices into their daily lives.

When she is not coaching or looking at rocks, you can find her hanging out in her garden with her dog, collecting new hobbies, and/or reading far too many books at once.

Find other articles written by Jeanette on her coach profile. Hang around for mindset strategies and micro-habits that will transform your health & confidence so that you feel like a Health Ninja, too!

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