Shatteringly Crisp Kale with Sea Salt and Red Chile

Even if you only try this recipe for the novelty of shatteringly crisp kale that falls apart into a thousand pieces in your mouth, it’ll be worth it. This kale is such a far cry from the traditional soul-food pots of kale or other greens simmered until tender (a.k.a mushy). These crunchy, salty leaves feel more like very thin potato chips in the mouth. They are a fun healthy snack (and a way to get some leafy greens into your diet) but would also be a nice accompaniment to any especially soft dish, like a long-simmered stew of meat or beans.

I’ve had crispy fried kale, a single leaf presented as a crunchy garnish atop silky fish, but I never made it in my own kitchen. I hate deep-frying at home; the oil always winds up spattering just enough to give the floor a sticky coat and my ridiculously designed ventilation system (microwave with vents over the stove) means that the interior of my microwave winds up dripping with oil droplets. Besides, why negate the fact that kale is so freaking good for you by dousing it in oil?

This roasting method calls for an entire bunch of kale and only a tablespoon of olive oil. As for the salt, If you’ve got flaky sea salt, use it. If you have kosher salt, that will work well too. If you only have regular table salt, well, fix that! Regular table salt, with its super-fine crystals and slightly off taste, just won’t do here. (Do a salt taste-test and you’ll see what I mean.)

I haven’t tried any other greens yet but I’d be thrilled if any of you can report back on the success of chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, or any other of the “tough” greens that can likely stand up to this treatment. When my local farm stand returns from winter hiatus with bunches of “spicy Asian greens”, whose varied and esoteric names always escape me, this is going to be my first recipe to try.

I chose to heat my kale with a sprinkling of red chile flakes, but the possibilities are numerous–you might try sesame seeds, a post-cooking shaving of parmesan, or perhaps even Indian spices like cracked mustard seed, curry powder, or garam masala. Or just stick with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let me know if you try any seasonings that work well!

Crispy Kale with Sea Salt and Red Chile
Shatteringly crisp slow-roasted kale warmed with a touch of chile heat. The texture alone makes this recipe worth trying. Adapted from Jacques Pepin’s TV Show “More Fast Food My Way”.

Serves 3-4 as a snack or side dish.

1 bunch kale
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste (or substitute kosher salt)
dried red chile flakes

Heat oven to 250F.

Pull kale leaves from the tough main stems. Discard stems. Wash leaves and spin dry. Turn leaves out onto a kitchen towel and blot dry–any moisture will keep kale from getting crispy.

Toss leaves with olive oil, salt, and chile flakes. The kale will shrink when it cooks; go a little easy on the salt.

Spread in an even layer on a baking rack set over a baking sheet. (See picture.)

Bake for 20 minutes or until crispy. Some pieces on the edges may get crispy before those in the middle–just pull them off the sheets and put the pan back in the oven for a few minutes to finish.

Serve immediately. Stored kale will lose its crispy texture.


7 responses to “Shatteringly Crisp Kale with Sea Salt and Red Chile

  1. I made a version of roasted, crunchy kale recently after I saw a recipe in bon appetit. It’s delicious and addictive! What a great way to get your greens.

  2. I had crispy fried parseley atop fries in San Francisco recently and I adored it. I pictured having to fry greens and herbs in a vat of oil and I despise doing so for the same reasons as you. So, I’m naturally thrilled to see how easy and tasty this looks. I’m trying it very, very soon. I may use a bag of mixed southern greens from Trader Joe’s so I’ll report back on the success if I go that route!

  3. Mary

    I made this the other night, and liked it (and amazingly, so did my kids). One thing I found was that, contrary to what seems to be shown in your photo above, the kale had to be in a single layer to cook. If one leaf was on top of the other, the bottom one just got soggy. I used dinosaur kale, which must be different from the type you used, because the leaves are not ruffly like those pictured. (I shop at the same farm stand as you, BTW.)

  4. darla

    Mary: Thanks for the heads-up! It’s possible that your kale was more tender than mine, or maybe a little more damp. But the reason is moot anyway — it’s probably better to err on the safe side and just stick with a single layer, all the time. No reason to risk waste.

    BTW, I tried the mixed Asian greens from Angel Valley and found that the more tender leaves got soggy instead of crispy. But turnip greens were great.

  5. Riz

    Thanks for the simple recipe – I oversalted and overoiled my batch but still loved them to bits. Can’t wait to make this one again.

  6. Richard

    I’ve tried roasting all kinds of greens. They all work, but kale remains my favorite. Chard takes a little longer, perhaps due to its higher water content. Next up: collards. Everyone I’ve served these to has been amazed that they’re eating kale. It’s a great technique.

  7. I thought this kale was unbelievably delicious. I could eat a pound of it. It’s amazing. Nobody likes kale. And you made it awesome.