Many years ago, I remember my mom buying kale in order to try making kale chips. If you think I’m a picky eater now, back in those days, I’d barely even touch lettuce. So, a darker, leafier, more bitter version of lettuce was way out on a limb for me. I agreed that I’d try it after it had been chip-ified.
Well, that agreement was made before it sat in the oven. Because once it did, the stench of warm leaves filled the house, and I distinctly remember running out the front door to escape the stank. Needless to say I did not wind up trying those kale chips, although my mom insisted they were “to die for”, as she so often does.
So this week, some 10 years after that fateful day, I decided to redeem myself and make some kale chips of my own. The recipe was simple enough: a bunch of kale, a couple teaspoons of olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt went into a 300° oven for about 12 minutes.
Just a few minutes later, I had crispy, salty kale chips. And my kitchen STUNK. One whiff of that brought me right back to my parents’ driveway, attempting to escape the funk (and perhaps exaggerating just a bit). But after a short pep talk, I put on my big girl pants and popped one in the ol’ kale-hole.
The taste wasn’t bad at all. It actually reminded me of my favorite part of roasted broccoli, when some of the smaller florets burn just a little and caramelize on the edges. For a second, I even fooled myself into thinking the chips were “good.”
But then I kept eating. It wasn’t that they were bad. They were just okay. It took me a few chips to put my finger on the problem: they were bone dry. As in, hours after eating them, I still couldn’t quench my thirst.
Now, everything I read online emphasized that after washing the kale, I should throughly dry it in order to ensure it could get crispy in the oven. Getting crispy was not an issue, people! I was chewing sharp shards of kale with every bite!
I’m not sure if I overcooked the chips or just really dried that kale before cooking, but I definitely couldn’t have more than a couple at a time without reaching for some water. Eating them on the side of a far superior, juicy cheeseburger may also not have been fair to the kale—it never had a chance.
I can imagine that a more interesting seasoning would’ve made these kale chips more appealing—maybe Old Bay? A squeeze of lemon juice as they came out of the oven might’ve helped as well. But I’ll be honest: I think that as far as salted kale chips go, the ones I made are about on par with the best there is. And that’s not because I made incredible kale chips (clearly). I just think that the ceiling for kale chips is pretty low.
And I think anyone who disagrees with that statement is blinded by the fact that kale chips are healthy. I can accept that this is a mediocre healthy snack. But kale chips aren’t that good, guys. Please accept them for what they are.
Will I make these again? Honestly, probably not. But I would definitely eat them if someone else went through the trouble. I wouldn’t even run out of their smelly house either!
You might be wondering, “Bethy, what about kale in other forms?” Well, if I had thought of it before making the chips, I might’ve saved a leaf or two just to try on its own. Of course, I also might’ve talked myself out of it for various reasons like lack of salad dressing or phyllophobia or something equally valid. But, alas, I didn’t even think of it, so I guess we have no way of knowing what might have been. I definitely won’t rule out raw or sautéed kale in the future, though, since the real problem with these chips had nothing to do with the flavor of kale.
The point is that kale chips are certifiably “okay.” And that’s it.