EASY Vegan Smokehouse Cheddar Kale Chips
March is here! I particularly love this month because things are really starting to warm up here in the South and it's the first sign of spring. It's also the month of my birthday. :) Whether you're having friends over to watch the game for March Madness or hosting a girls birthday brunch, there are many reasons to gather and snack right now. This is also the time of year people start talking about spring break or "summer around the corner". With those things in mind, your friends may be trying to eat lighter/leaner to get that beach bod ready. In order to accommodate but still serve a tasty treat to satisfy the snack attack, you can serve these easy vegan smokehouse cheddar kale chips.
OH. MY. GOODNESS. These are uh-mazing kale chips. Just like making your own homemade almond milk, they are much easier to make than you would think. 3 ingredients for simply salted kale chips and to dial up the flavor profile, you can add my 5-ingredient smokehouse cheddar seasoning. Shoo mercy, y'all, they're tasty. If you like smoky, cheesy, and savory flavored crunchy snacks, you will LOVE these chips. The total time to make these babies are around 30 minutes including the bake time.
My first few times making kale chips did not go as I had planned. I wish I had taken photos of these epic "Pinterest fails" to show the difference in how far I've come in learning to master the baking method. They would either turn out too crispy and instantly break when trying to pick up a chip, or end up as steamed kale with no crisp whatsoever. However, with some experimentation, I found the baking temperature and timing that consistently delivers great results for me, and I hope for you too.
What I would call "simply salted" or "classic plain" kale chips really only requires 3 ingredients: kale, oil, and salt.
With these ingredients and the right technique, you can create a kale chip that even the pickiest of eaters will give a try because the crunch is irresistible!
Here is how I do it-
Preheat your oven to 310 º F and measure 6 cups of kale pieces. I buy the large bagged kale in the grocery store instead of the individual large kale leaves that require washing, drying, and chopping because it's so much faster and easier. If you're planning on making kale chips with the large kale leaves, you must wash and thoroughly dry them. If there is any moisture in the kale when baking they will "steam" instead of baking crispy. You also have to tear smaller chunks of kale apart from the stem which takes time and I'm all about efficiency in the kitchen so I can spend more time with guests (or some may call it laziness ;) ).
When you buy kale already washed (or often triple washed) then you can be sure it is clean and it saves time. I do actually try to go through my kale and tear the leaves apart from large stems that are in the bag, since they do not bake as crispy. This doesn't take nearly as much time, though.
Place kale into a large bowl and measure a tablespoon of oil to massage into the leaves (yes, massage). You see, something magical happens to kale when it's massaged with oil. It no longer is dry and coarse, but soft and succulent. I liked kale before I started massaging it for salads, chips, side dishes, but I LOVE it now that I've figured out what "massaging" the kale can do. Just like people, kale is always more relaxed and rejuvenated after a good massage. Don't be shy, just drizzle the oil over the bowl of kale and start working the oil on all the leaves - about 3-5 minutes.
Once the kale is refreshed from your oil massage, spread out the leaves onto 1 large baking sheet, or 2 (depending on size on pan) lined with parchment paper. Another key tip I learned about baking kale chips: try to spread them out so that they aren't overlapping and have plenty of room. If you crowd the kale, that's when the danger of "steaming" them can happen and they won't bake as crispy. After you've laid them out, sprinkle with sea salt.
To keep the recipe as "simply salted" or plain, classic kale chips, skip down to the baking directions and timing.
To take these to the next level of vegan smoked cheddar bliss, combine nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper in a bowl.
Mix well so that you get a dark yellow/slightly orange color from the mixed paprika. Sprinkle this mixture all over the kale chips to prepare for baking.
Pop kale chips into the oven long-ways and bake for 10 minutes.
Then, rotate the pan so that they are horizontal towards the oven door and set timer for another 10 minutes. Note that if using 2 pans you may have to put a pan on a top rack then the other on a middle rack if your racks aren't long enough to accommodate both pans. I had to do this and they still turned out crispy and cooked evenly. I found that the baking temp of 310 º F with 10-12 minutes per rotation delivers consistently crisp (but not too crisp) results.
Once they come out of the oven, allow them to cool for 5 minutes before taking a spatula and gently transferring to final serving platter or bowl for folks to dive in. These also are a great traveling snack to take with you to a soirée. They stay the most fresh in air-tight container, so I like using one of the million mason jars we have around the house.
Warning! These have been known to disappear in mere minutes because they are so cheesy and crispy. However, they're kale for heaven's sake so you won't feel bad about eating an entire pan and serving the other to your guests (at least, I didn't). If you want to turn up the heat on these, you could throw some cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes as well to satisfy the spice fiends.
I hope you enjoy making these kale chips for yourself or friends to snack on. Do you have any special tricks to making your homemade kale chips or special seasoning? Comment below and let your fellow healthy hostesses know!