How to Dehydrate Kale 3 Ways:
Make Crispy Kale Chips

How to Dehydrate Kale 3 Ways:
Make Crispy Kale Chips

It's time to learn how to dehydrate kale: it's not just for rabbits anymore!

kale on a dehydrator tray, with a bowl of powdered kale

Dehydrating those bulky dark green raw kale leaves takes it from a fridge-filler to a flavor powerhouse, thereby saving space and transforming it into a potent green powder providing nourishment.

Make crispy kale chips for snacking while watching TV - far fewer calories and fat than regular potato chips! Grinding the dehydrated kale to make kale powder and adding it to smoothies is a great way to add an extra nutritional boost.

Crispy Kale Chips in a bowl

TOP Frequently Asked Questions:

How to dehydrate kale?

How to dehydrate kale in a dehydrator is a top question, and on this page, you'll learn three ways to dehydrate this nutritious green leafy veggie!

How to make dried kale chips?

Further down the page, you'll find our "Homemade Kale Chips Recipe for Best Kale Chips!"

Why do people add nutritional yeast to kale recipes?

There are two main reasons why nutritional yeast is occasionally mentioned alongside dehydrating kale:

1. Flavor enhancer: Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy flavor that some people enjoy adding to dehydrated kale chips or powder. It can offer a savory boost without relying on salt or artificial flavorings. This is particularly popular with individuals following vegan or plant-based diets who might miss the "cheesy" element in snacks.

2. Nutritional boost: Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of yeast. It's a complete protein source, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Additionally, it's rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12, making it a valuable source of these nutrients, especially for vegans who might be prone to deficiencies.

However, it's important to note that:

  • Adding nutritional yeast is entirely optional for dehydrating kale. It doesn't affect the drying process itself.
  • Not everyone enjoys the flavor of nutritional yeast. It has a distinct taste that some might find strong or unappetizing.
  • There are other ways to boost the nutritional profile of dehydrated kale, such as adding spices, herbs, or seeds.

Ultimately, whether or not to add nutritional yeast to your dehydrated kale is a personal preference and depends on your taste and dietary needs. Experiment and see what you like best!

How long does it take to dehydrate kale?

It varies depending on which method you use to dry kale. Read our three ways further down the page.

Kale Nutrition Info.

VITAMINS: Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Folate.

MINERALS: Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Iron, Phosphorus, Sodium, and Zinc.

Kale is one of those fantastic anti-aging foods, and Linda Robison shares the top food "skin loving" contenders here, plus read about the benefits of kale here.

Fresh Kale Varieties

Fresh kale comes in a surprising array of varieties, each boasting unique flavors, textures, and appearances. Here are nine types of kale: 

  1. Curly Kale: The most common kale variety, known for its deep green, tightly curled leaves. Its bold, peppery flavor shines in chips, stews
  2. Lacinato Kale (Dinosaur Kale): This Tuscan native features long, dark green, flat leaves with a bumpy texture resembling dinosaur skin. Its milder, sweeter flavor makes it perfect for salads, pastas, and pestos.
  3. Red Russian Kale: As the name suggests, this kale has flat, reddish-purple leaves with a sweet, mild flavor. Enjoy it raw in salads, stir-fried, or steamed.
  4. Redbor Kale: Similar to Red Russian kale, but with darker purple leaves and a slightly stronger flavor. Use it in salads, smoothies, or sautéed with garlic and olive oil.
  5. Scarlet Kale: This vibrant kale boasts red-veined, green leaves with a slightly spicy, peppery flavor. It's delicious raw in salads, roasted, or sautéed.
  6. Siberian Kale: A cold-hardy kale with flat, blue-green leaves and a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Perfect for salads, soups, and stir-fries.
  7. Prizm Kale: This unique kale has tightly ruffled, parsley-like leaves with a mild, sweet flavor. Enjoy it raw in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish.
  8. Black Kale: Not truly black, but with deep green leaves edged in purple, this kale has a slightly sweet, earthy flavor. Use it in salads, soups, or smoothies.
  9. Winterbor Kale: Another popular curly kale variety known for its cold tolerance and slightly sweet flavor. Excellent for salads, chips, and smoothies. 
female kale smoothie

Different Ways to Prepare Kale

Whichever fresh kale variety you use, let's get busy making dehydrated kale chips for easy-to-make tasty healthy snacks.

There's no single "best" way to prepare kale, as it ultimately depends on how you intend to use it! Here's a breakdown of different preparation methods and their benefits:

Big Pieces:

  • Benefits: Retains more texture and fiber, good for stews, soups, braises, and massages (yes, really!).
  • Drawbacks: Can be tough and chewy if not cooked long enough, less surface area for seasoning absorption.

Small Slices:

  • Benefits: Cooks faster and more evenly, absorbs flavors better, great for salads, stir-fries, and chips.
  • Drawbacks: Can lose some texture and become slightly mushy if overcooked.

Thin Shreds/Julienne:

  • Benefits: Cooks very quickly, melts into dishes like soups and quiches, adds subtle textural contrast.
  • Drawbacks: Might turn mushy easily, not best for dishes where you want to retain kale's distinct texture.

Crumbles:

  • Benefits: Good for adding a subtle kale flavor and nutrients to salads, smoothies, and baked goods.
  • Drawbacks: Doesn't offer much textural enjoyment.

Whole Leaves (raw):

  • Benefits: Perfect for kale massages, maximizes nutrient retention.
  • Drawbacks: Requires thorough massaging with oil and other ingredients to break down tough fibers and improve palatability.

Ultimately, the best way to prepare kale depends on your desired outcome:

  • For maximum texture and chew: Keep the pieces larger.
  • For the fastest cooking and flavor absorption: Slice them small.
  • For delicate incorporation: Shred or crumble.
  • For raw food consumption: Massage whole leaves thoroughly.

Dehydrating Different Kale Varieties

Not all kale varieties dehydrate at exactly the same rate and there are a few factors to consider:

Thickness and water content: Thicker leaves like Curly Kale will take longer to dehydrate than thinner leaves like Prizm Kale. This might require adjusting drying times for each variety.

Texture and desired outcome: For crispy chips, slice thicker leaves thinner; for powder, thicker leaves might work better. Delicate varieties like Prizm Kale might be better suited for powder as they are already thinner and might burn easily for chips.

Flavor: Different varieties have different flavors. Some might need seasoning adjustments once dehydrated. For example, Red Russian Kale is sweeter and might need less salt for chips than Curly Kale.

All varieties can be dehydrated using the same methods (dehydrator, oven, sun) but might require slight adjustments in drying time, slicing thickness, and seasoning based on their unique characteristics.

Additional Drying Time Tips for Kale

Here are some additional tips for dehydrating these kale varieties:

  • Curly Kale: Slice thin for chips, crumble for powder. It can handle longer drying times and higher temperatures.
  • Lacinato Kale: Similar to Curly Kale, but might require slightly less drying time due to its thinner leaves.
  • Red Russian & Redbor Kale: Slice thin for chips, leave larger for powder. Might burn easily, so use lower temperatures and monitor closely.
  • Scarlet Kale: Similar to Red Russian Kale, but can handle slightly higher temperatures due to its thicker leaves.
  • Siberian Kale: Similar to Curly Kale, but might require slightly less drying time due to its thinner leaves.
  • Prizm Kale: Delicate, best for powder. Don't use high temperatures to avoid burning.
  • Black Kale and Winterbor Kale: Similar to Curly Kale, but might require slightly less drying time due to its thinner leaves.

Dehydrate Kale 3 Ways

1. An electric dehydrator: Set it and forget it

2. A regular oven: Need to keep a careful eye and turn the leaves often

3. Sun: Keep a watchful eye on it too, for insects and strong breezes!

kale on a round white dehydrator tray

How to Dehydrate Kale in a Dehydrator

My dehydrator choices are the Nesco and Excalibur dehydrator brands, but new dehydrators are hitting the market all the time; check them out on Amazon et al - read the reviews.

1. Wash kale and pat dry using a few sheets of paper towels. Consider using a salad spinner for drying.

2. Chop into pieces following the advice given regarding big, small, thin shreds, crumbles, and whole leaves.

3. Arrange the kale on your food dehydrator trays, in a single layer.

4. For kale chips: Set the temperature to 135°F and dehydrate for 4 - 8 hours. For kale powder, use the same temperature (135°F) but aim for 6 - 10 hours because we want the kale pieces to be very dry. 

  • Kale chips: They should be crispy and brittle, snapping easily when bent.
  • Kale powder: It should be dry and crumbly. Check the moisture level by rubbing the leaves together - they should fall apart and crumble easily.
dried kale on Nesco dehydrator tray

How to Dehydrate Kale in a Regular Oven

Drying kale in a regular oven takes less time than using a dehydrator, and it's a readily available option. Here's what you need to know:

Preparation:

  1. Wash and dry the kale thoroughly. Remove any tough stems and tear or chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces (smaller for chips, larger for powder). The thickness significantly affects drying time.
  2. Oil the kale lightly. Use a thin layer of olive oil or avocado oil to help crisp the leaves and prevent them from drying out unevenly. You can skip this step for kale powder.
  3. Seasoning is optional. Sprinkle your desired seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic powder, or spices before placing the kale in the oven.

Drying:

  1. Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature possible setting. Ideally, this should be around 140°F but may vary depending on your oven. If your oven doesn't go that low, use the lowest setting available.
  2. Line a cookie sheet/baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the kale in a single layer. Don't put too much kale on it to avoid overcrowding the baking sheet as this can trap moisture and prolong drying.
  3. Leave the oven door slightly cracked open. This allows moisture to escape and prevents the kale from steaming instead of drying. You can use a wooden spoon or oven mitt to prop the door open.
  4. Stir the kale occasionally every 30-45 minutes. This ensures even drying and prevents burning.
  5. The drying time can vary significantly, ranging from 1-3 hours for chips and 3-5 hours for powder. Monitor the kale closely and check for doneness every 30 minutes.

Doneness:

  • For chips: They should be crispy and brittle, snapping cleanly when bent, with no visible moisture. Do not overcook, as they can quickly burn at low temperatures.
  • For powder: The leaves should be completely dry and crumbly, with no moisture clinging to them when rubbed between your fingers.

Tips:

  • Rotate the baking sheets halfway through drying for even browning.
  • Start with a small batch to get familiar with your oven's drying time.
  • Check the kale more frequently towards the end of drying to avoid burning.
  • Turn off the oven and let the kale sit inside with the door cracked open for an additional 30 minutes to further dry and crisp up.

Remember, even with following these guidelines, drying times can vary. Be patient, monitor closely, and adjust the process as needed based on your oven and the desired outcome.

How to Dehydrate Kale in the Sunshine

Lastly, how to dry kale harnessing the power of the sun!

While dehydrating kale in the sunshine offers a natural and potentially cost-effective option, it's not necessarily the best way due to several limitations:

Longer drying time: Sunlight's intensity varies, so complete drying can take anywhere from days to weeks depending on weather conditions. This poses a risk of mold growth due to prolonged moisture exposure.

Uneven drying: Sun exposure might not be consistent across the leaves, leading to uneven drying and potentially burnt patches.

Insect and dust contamination: Open-air drying leaves your kale vulnerable to insects and dust particles, compromising hygiene.

Limited weather suitability: Sunny, dry days with consistent temperatures are crucial for success. This excludes rainy or humid seasons.

Preparation:

  1. Wash and dry kale thoroughly. Similar to oven drying, remove tough stems and tear or chop leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Blanch the kale (optional): Dipping the leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds then plunging them in ice water helps deactivate enzymes and retain color. This step also reduces drying time but isn't mandatory. Learn more about blanching here.
  3. Seasoning (optional): Sprinkle desired seasonings like salt, pepper, or spices for flavor.
  4. Optional Drying: String the kale pieces onto clean thread or fishing line, ensuring adequate spacing to prevent clumping. Hang the thread under direct sunlight in a well-ventilated area protected from dust and insects.

Monitoring:

  • Regularly check the kale for mold growth and move the kale around when the sun moves.
  • Bring the kale indoors in the late afternoon, or (obviously!) during rain to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Drying time can vary greatly, so monitor closely and test for doneness frequently.

Doneness:

  • Chips: Should be crispy and brittle, snapping cleanly without moisture. Consider removing them individually as they dry to avoid over-drying others.
  • Powder: Should be completely dry and crumbly with no moisture clinging when rubbed.

Remember: While feasible, sun-drying kale requires vigilance and careful monitoring due to the various risks involved. Dehydrating with an electric dehydrator or oven offers more controlled and consistent results.


Crispy Kale Chips in a bowl

Homemade Kale Chips Recipe
for the Best Kale Chips!

Here is a  great recipe that utilizes your dehydrator for perfectly crispy and customizable kale chips:

Dehydrated Kale Chips: Flavorful & Crunchy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch curly kale, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional Flavor Twists:(Choose one or combine!)

Spicy: 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

Mediterranean: 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Sesame Ginger: 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

Lemon Pepper: 1/4 teaspoon dried lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

How to Make Delicious Dehydrated Kale Chips:

  1. Prepare the kale: Remove stems and tear or chop leaves into bite-sized pieces (smaller for crispier chips).
  2. Season: In a large bowl, toss the kale with olive oil, salt, pepper, and your chosen flavor twist ingredients (optional). Ensure all leaves are lightly coated.
  3. Dehydrate: Spread the seasoned kale in a single layer on your dehydrator trays. Avoid overcrowding.
  4. Set the temperature: Crispy chips: 130°F (54°C) for 4-6 hours. Soft chips: 115°F (46°C) for 6-8 hours.
  5. Monitor and adjust: Check the chips periodically. Start flipping them halfway through drying for even browning. Adjust drying time based on thickness and desired crispness.
  6. Test for doneness: A fully dried chip should snap cleanly when bent without showing any moisture or flexibility.
  7. Cool and enjoy: Let the chips cool completely on the trays before storing them in an airtight container at room temperature. They will stay crispy for up to 3 days.

Storing Dehydrated Kale

Whether you've made kale powder or kale chips, consider using food vacuum sealer bags, and/or Mason jars to store your kale in. Remember to add a 100cc oxygen absorber into the bag or jar before drawing the air out.

Rehydrating Kale

Dried kale offers versatility, but rehydrating it requires the right approach to restore its texture and flavor. Here are some tips:

For Dried Kale Chips:

  • Soaking: The simplest method is to soak the chips in warm water in a large bowl for 10-15 minutes. This works best for adding them to soups, stews, or stir-fries, where they soften further during cooking.
  • Microwaving: Place the chips in a microwave-safe bowl with a sprinkle of water and heat on low power for 15-30 seconds, stopping to check the texture every 10 seconds. This method is quicker but might result in uneven rehydration.
  • Oven Steaming: Wrap the chips loosely in aluminum foil and steam in a preheated oven at 300°F (150°C) for 5-10 minutes. This preserves more texture and is suitable for larger quantities.

For Kale Powder:

  • Water: Mix the powder with water in a bowl to form a paste. The amount of water depends on your desired consistency. Use this paste in smoothies, dips, or salad dressings.
  • Broth: Rehydrate with hot broth instead of water for added flavor. This works well for incorporating into soups, stews, or sauces.
  • Yogurt: Mix the powder with yogurt for a protein-rich dip or spread.
  • Baking: Add the powder directly to baked goods like muffins, breads, or pancakes for a nutritional boost without affecting texture significantly.

General Tips:

  • Start with small amounts of liquid and gradually add more until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Rehydrated kale will not have the same crispness as fresh kale, but it will regain its characteristic flavor and nutritional value.
  • Use rehydrated kale within a few hours for optimal taste and texture.

Additional Notes:

  • Rehydrated kale chips might not be suitable for snacking due to their softer texture. They are best used in cooked dishes.
  • For a stronger flavor, soak the kale chips in seasoned water or broth before using.
  • Use your preference and recipe requirements to determine the most suitable rehydration method.

Thanks for stopping by to learn how to dehydrate kale!