Cheesy Vegan Kale Chips
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I’m in love with kale chips! More specifically, I’m in love with my cheesy vegan kale chips! They are addictive, crunchy, and very good for you. They make a wonderful replacement for potato and corn chips as well as an alternative for anyone on a gluten-free or paleo diet. Kale chips are high in fiber, vitamins, and low in calories compared to potato chips and the like.
Now, I’m sure you have seen them around your local grocery stores and delis. No doubt you’ve seen how expensive they are too! Between the price and the wasteful packaging, what is a zero waster to do?
Make them yourself! It’s a pretty straightforward project and even easier if you use a dehydrator. Unfortunately, I can’t say that they are quick to make. These bad boys take some time to prepare so they aren’t something you should try to do with a tight schedule.
However, they make a wonderful weekend project and the results are so worth it! In fact, the only real complaint I have about kale chips is that I tend to gobble them up faster than I can make them! Not only do I eat them as a snack or a side to my lunches but I put them in my sandwiches and on my salads too!
When I came up with this recipe it was inspired by two things: Doritos and kale chips from my last job in Austin. I was first introduced to kale chips at that local smoothie shop I worked. They kept a whole kiosk of different snacks and vegan dishes for their customers. And among the awesome food items they had were these wonderful kale chips that they made in house.
I had a rough idea of the ingredients and set to work to come up with my own. Here (4 years later) you see the results of those experiments. They have become a family favorite in this house. Even my 2-year-old loves them! I think you will too!
Tips for Making Kale Chips
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As I stated earlier, any kale chip recipe is pretty straightforward and simple albeit rather slow. Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years with kale chips that get good, consistent, and crispy results.
Curly kale or another variety with frilly leaves like Redbore or Red Russian kale is what I recommend using. For a beautiful and colorful presentation, use a few varieties in a batch.
I prefer cutting my kale with a parer knife than tearing off the leaves for a few reasons. One, tearing kale tends to leave stringy bits which just look unattractive to me. This also causes me to tear the kale leaves into smaller pieces than I prefer as well. Trust me, laying a few large pieces of kale on the trays goes much faster than having to place a lot of small pieces. This is the most time consuming part so anything that speeds up that process is a winner in my book.
The easiest way I’ve found to cut the kale leaves from the stems is to lay it flat on the cutting board top part down. I hold the leaf flat with one hand, cut along the side of the stem on both sides and cut the top where the stem tapers off (like illustrated in the photo).
This cheesy kale chip recipe calls for using my vegan queso recipe. If you’ve not made a cashew base queso before, you really need a high-performance blender like my Vitamix (affiliate link) or a really good food-processor to make it. Basically, any tool that will make the sauce smooth as silk will do.
Most recipes tell you to completely dry the kale before baking (or in this case, dehydrating). With this recipe it isn’t necessary. After you wash the kale, shake as much water off as you can and spread it on a baking tray with dish towels. Let it dry while you work on everything else. By the time you are ready, your kale should still be slightly wet or damp but not dripping. It is good to use by that point as the water from the kale will help the queso coat the leaves properly. Just be mindful it isn’t dripping water. That might be too much and thin out the queso. If your queso is pretty runny, then you’ll need to completely dry the kale.
Most recipes I find call for using an oven but like with my fruit leathers and crunchy chickpeas, I prefer to use a dehydrator. And there are some really good reasons for that.
- Dehydrators can maintain a constant temperature and airflow. They are made for this specific job so you expect to have high quality dried foods consistently. When you bake kale chips, you have to be very mindful that they bake evenly and not everyone has great success with that. Also, not every oven has a convection setting which is really what you need.
- You have to coat the kale with oil when using an oven. With a dehydrator you can skip it and the extra calories.
You be welcome to try this recipe using an oven but I have no personal experience baking them. And I’m not sure how well the cashew queso will stand up to the higher temperature so I wouldn’t recommend it.
If you plan to make this recipe (or other kale chips for that matter) regularly or are transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle, you might want to consider a dehydrator as a worthy investment. They are such a great and easy way to make snacks at home and reduce your impact on the environment.
Lastly, spread the kale onto the trays in an even layer with very little overlap. This ensures that the kale gets proper airflow and even drying.
A Quick Note About Dehydrators
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If you are a budding zero waster, a dehydrator would be invaluable for you to own. When it comes to food packaging, snacks and desserts are the biggest culprits (just think about all those plastic wrappers, clamshells, and bags). When I started transitioning my family to zero waste, this has been the biggest challenge. Plus, making your own snacks is just plain healthier too.
There are a ton of dehydrators out there and the prices vary greatly (from under $100 to almost $1,000). If you are like me and don’t have a ton of cash then I’d recommend the Nesco Snackmaster Pro (affiliate link). It runs for around $60-80 depending on where you buy and while it’s not the best dehydrator out there, it does a good job. It is the dehydrator I used to make the kale chips you see in the photos.
The other one I would recommend is an Excalibur Dehydrator (affiliate link). It’s like the Cadillac of dehydrators. I want to buy one of these as soon as we can afford to. The prices vary from $200 – $1000 depending on how many trays and options you want (like a timer). This is the one to look into if you are turning into a dehydrating fiend like me.
I think that’s it, folks! Now let’s make some cheesy kale chips!
v – vegan
If you give this recipe a try, I’d love to see your awesome creation! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to hashtag a photo on Instagram #sustainablesauceresses!
Or if you have any questions or feedback, you are always welcome to leave me a comment below. I’d really love to hear from you!
Cheesy Vegan Kale Chips
- 4-qt. Mixing Bowl (or larger)
- Half-Sheet Baking Pans or Cookie Sheet
- Cloth towels
- 1 cup vegan queso
- 4 qt. fresh kale, washed and loosely packed (approx. 1 bunch)
- 1½ cups raw cashews (soak in warm water for 2 or more hours)
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup sweet peppers (red, orange, or yellow), chopped
- 1 tsp. pink himalayan or sea salt
- 1 ancho chili
- 1 guajillo pepper
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- Cut or tear the kale leaves off the stems.
- Wash the kale and spread on a tray with cloth towels to dry.
- Prepare queso by adding all ingredients to a blender and just enough water to make a thick sauce (about ½-¾ cup). Please see my vegan queso post for more details.
- In a 4-qt. or larger bowl, coat the damp kale with 1 cup of queso.
- Lay the kale on the dehydrator trays as flat as possible with no overlapping pieces to ensure even drying.
- Dehydrate kale at 135 for 4-5 hours or 125 for 6-7 hours or until the kale is completely dry to the touch and easily breaks.
- Gently pull the kale off the trays and store in a sealed container. Should last up to a week if stored well.
Did you give this recipe a try?