Even Your Mother Will Approve Of Vegetable Chips

We know we need to eat more vegetables. The challenge is to do it with flavor and variety. So we've become creative.

Put all your vegetables in a blender, pulverize and serve. There's a booth at my local farmers market dispensing cups of green slop to devotees of that religion. I've tried it. I haven't converted.

Another approach is to chop up whatever you find in your vegetable drawer and put it on lettuce. This is more viable but looks and tastes an awful lot like salad, something that's been around for a while.

Or, take a mandoline to your vegetables, toss with olive oil and a dash of salt and serve them hot alongside a sandwich as chips. This vegetables-as-chips innovation has gone viral and can be found in grocery stores, restaurants and food trucks across the country. I've leapt onto this bandwagon with both feet. (If you don't have a mandoline, use a sharp knife.)

If you're like most Americans, you love chips, particularly potato chips. We eat more than 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips per year (about 6 pounds per person), making them our nation's favorite snack. Despite their gloriously crunchy appeal, potato chips aren't that good for you.

Veggie chips, in contrast, are practically a health food in comparison, especially where they're tossed with heart-healthy olive oil and baked, not fried. I've tried a range of veggie chips from paper-thin, crisp kale and spinach chips to more muscular taro and beet chips. They're all winners — tasty, colorful and fun to make. The best part is that you need no technology more sophisticated than a sharp knife.

About The Author

Susan Russo is a food writer in San Diego. She publishes stories, recipes and photos on her cooking blog, Food Blogga. Her latest cookbook is Recipes Every Man Should Know. When she isn't writing about her Italian family back in Rhode Island or life with her husband in Southern California, she can be found milling around a local farmers market buying a lot more food than two people could possibly eat.

You can buy veggie chips at just about any major supermarket, but if you make them yourself, you decide what goes in and what stays out. Want to keep the peel on the beets and sweet potatoes for extra fiber? Your choice. Want to keep the sodium in check? Use less salt, or try a low-sodium version. Want to reduce the fat content? Use monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and apply to vegetable slices with a pastry brush. Want something zesty or spicy? Toss the vegetables in chili-lime salt or chipotle powder. Sweet? Try cinnamon or allspice.

So the next time you get an attack of the munchies, make a big batch of seasoned baked veggie chips. Then give your mom a call, and tell her you're taking her advice and eating more vegetables.


Chips Tips

  • Make sure vegetables are completely dry. The more moisture, the less crispy the chip will be.
  • A mandoline (a cooking tool that slices vegetables) will create uniform paper-thin slices that are perfect for crisping. If you don't have a mandoline, a very sharp knife will work just fine.
  • Coat vegetable slices in oil to produce the crispest chip. I prefer the flavor and health benefits of olive oil, but other oils such as canola and peanut work well, too. You can use flavored oils such as walnut or sesame, but remember that they'll impart a stronger flavor onto the chips, which may or may not be a good thing. To use the least amount of oil, use a pastry brush to apply the oil to the vegetable slices. Otherwise, just toss them in oil in a large bowl.
  • Add spices before baking the chips.
  • Oven temperatures ranging from 325 to 400 degrees are best for baking vegetable chips. Much lower, and the chips don't crisp as well; much higher, and they burn around the edges.
  • Place the vegetables in single layers on baking sheets, or they won't crisp evenly. If you'd like, you can turn vegetables once midway through the baking process, though it's not essential.
  • Serve hot. Baked veggie chips are at their best hot from the oven. If you want to store your chips, allow them to cool completely before transferring to a metal container. Plastic will soften them too much. If they're still too soft when you remove them from the container, crisp them up in a warm oven for a few minutes before eating.

Seasoning Suggestions

While I encourage you to play around with spice combinations, below are a few flavor pairings and dipping sauce suggestions to inspire you:

  • Sweet potato chips: Smoked paprika, chipotle powder and lime zest, Cajun spices, hot curry, allspice. Dipping sauces: habanero, tomatillo salsa, low-fat ranch, edamame guacamole.
  • Beet chips: dried French spices, dried chives, smoke salt, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Dipping sauces: hummus, harissa, guacamole.
  • Plantain chips: chili-lime, Cajun spices, adobo seasoning, smoked or sweet paprika, dried oregano or parsley. Dipping sauces: mango salsa, tomatillo salsa, black bean dip, guacamole.
  • Carrot and parsnip chips: hot curry, garam masala, mesquite powder, cumin, smoked paprika. Dipping sauces: hummus, low-fat ranch, white bean dip.
  • Kale chips: olive oil, sea salt, black pepper; olive oil, sea salt, crushed red pepper, grated Parmesan cheese; lemon-pepper, hot curry. Dipping sauces: Romesco, guacamole, low-fat ranch.

Kale Chips

The grand dame, kale chips are among the healthiest and tastiest of all veggie chips. Be sure that the washed leaves are completely dry before baking or they'll steam and turn limp and soggy.

Kale Chips i i
Susan Russo for NPR
Kale Chips
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes 4 servings

1 bunch of kale, preferably Lacinato or "dinosaur" kale (pre-chopped, bagged kale works, too)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For easy cleanup, line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the tough center ribs from the kale and cut into large pieces. Wash and rinse and add to a salad spinner to remove all the water. If the kale is wet when you place it in the oven, it'll steam and turn soggy.

Place leaves in a large bowl and, using your hands, toss with olive oil, salt and black pepper until coated. Arrange leaves in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the leaves are crackly when touched yet still dark green. Remove from oven and eat while they're hot.

Smoked Paprika Carrot And Parsnip Chips

Since carrots and parsnips are naturally supersweet, they appreciate the heat from the black pepper and smoked paprika in this recipe.

Smoked Paprika Carrot And Parsnip Chips i i
Susan Russo for NPR
Smoked Paprika Carrot And Parsnip Chips
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes 4 servings

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal, paper-thin

2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced on the diagonal, paper-thin

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For easy cleanup, line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place vegetable slices in a large bowl and, using your hands, toss with olive oil and spices until coated. Lay in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and starting to crisp around the edges. Remove from oven and eat.

Curried Sweet Potato Chips

The hot curry lends generous heat that is tempered with the cinnamon sweetness of garam masala. These sweet potato chips are addictive by themselves but go nicely with cooling hummus.

Curried Sweet Potato Chips i i
Susan Russo for NPR
Curried Sweet Potato Chips
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced paper-thin

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon hot curry powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. For easy cleanup, line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place sweet potato slices in a large bowl and, using your hands, toss with oil and spices until coated. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from oven and eat.

Simple Salted Beet Chips

With their inherent sweetness, beet chips are especially tasty dunked in spicy dips such as harissa or chili-spiked hummus. Use red, gold, chiogga or a combination of beets.

Simple Salted Beet Chips i i
Susan Russo for NPR
Simple Salted Beet Chips
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes 4 servings

2 medium beets of your choice

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For easy cleanup, line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place beets in a large bowl and, using your hands, toss with oil and seasonings until coated.

Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven and eat.

Chili-Lime Plantain Chips

Because of their low moisture content, unripe plantains will crisp easily, so keep an eye on them. Once they begin to brown, they harden a lot, at which point you can toss them to your dog for a chew toy and start a new batch.

Chili-Lime Plantain Chips i i
Susan Russo for NPR
Chili-Lime Plantain Chips
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes 4 servings

2 medium unripe plantains (they should be hard and green), thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or Mexican/taco seasoning)

1/4 teaspoon salt

The zest of 1 small lime

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For easy cleanup, line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place plantains in a large bowl and, using your hands, toss with oil and seasonings until coated.

Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from oven and eat.

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