The Kale Chip Challenge: Kale vs Collard, Turnip, and Mustard Greens

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(I promise those are the actual chips, not leaves I picked up and put on platters. From left to right: turnip, kale, collard and mustard in the right hand corner.)

Kale chip recipes have been pretty popular for a year or two now. Earlier this week I was pondering, how come people always use kale? There are plenty of other good greens out there. Is there some reason kale makes a particularly good chip?

I made a bunch of green chips to find out if kale really is the best. I tested the kale against mustard, collard and turnip greens. Here’s the process I used with each batch of greens:

  • Tear off pieces of leaves and discard the stems. (I did this until I filled up my salad spinner–a little over 3 cups of well-packed greens.)
  • Dry the greens thoroughly.
  • On a large cookie sheet, mix with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt (this was likely too much–see note below).
  • Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 17 minutes.

Then Mike and I had a chip tasting.

My first impression was that, while I could taste a difference between the different types of chips, the differences were pretty subtle and not anything I could describe.

Mike thought they all tasted the same, although he did note texture differences: Turnip greens were the flakiest, mustard greens were the softest, and the kale chips were the chewiest. I thought the collard greens had the most chew and the mustard greens were the crispiest. (Your choice, are you going to believe me or Mike? :P)

After further tasting, I determined that the turnip greens were the most bitter of the bunch, but only slightly. The collard greens had the earthiest flavor. Even though I baked all the greens for the same amount of time, the mustard greens ended up with more browning than the others–which unfortunately meant the predominant flavor was more of a burnt taste. :( (I had such high hopes for the mustard greens. They have that mustard bite, which I hoped would come through in the chips. No such luck.) And eventually I determined that the kale chips were slightly sweeter. Maybe that’s the secret as to why kale has the lock down on the chip category: chewier and sweeter than most?

From the prep work, I can tell you that the collard and turnip greens were much easier to clean. All those folds of the mustard and kale are really good for trapping grit. Granted, you could get flat-leaf varieties of each. On the other hand, I felt that the kale and mustard greens had a saltier flavor, which I imagine has to do with all the folds doing a better job of holding the salt.

For the amount of greens I was using each time (~3 cups), 1/4 teaspoon of salt was probably too much. I wanted to make sure I was using the same amount on each batch, and that was my guess for a decent amount. It definitely got to be too much after a while.

I should also note that 17 minutes is not some magic number for baked chip awesomeness. That’s just how it worked out in our oven. Anywhere in the 15-20 minute range will do. I’ve seen some recipes with the temperature around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which baked for 30-45 minutes. And I’ve seen some with the temperature around 425 degrees, which baked for only 5 minutes.

After all this taste-testing, I can conclusively say, you can make chips out of any green and no one will be able to tell what it is. (You could feed people collard chips and tell them they are kale chips. Suckers!) Maybe kale is the best? The seasonings are probably more important than the actual green you use.

If you haven’t tried kale chips yet, give them a try. They’re easy to make, and a fairly healthy snack to have around.

This recipe is being shared in Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Simona from Briciole.

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Comments

  1. I always make kale chips, and I make them at 250F for 25 min.
    I like you side by side testing! Thanks for all the work! I would not have thought of that, great idea!

  2. I love kale chips. I never used the others because I can’t find them whole at my local store. I bet mustard greens tasted good though. I love the heat they have. YUM!

  3. @Lili: Thanks, and are they still crispy?

    @Sarena: As I mentioned above, a lot of the heat got lost in the cooking. I wonder if the mustard greens got baked less (like Lili mentions maybe?) the heat of the mustard would come through.

  4. Thanks for doing these different greens. I had wondered, but not done the work to compare.

  5. What an interesting test! I must admit I had never asked myself “why kale and not other greens?” I would expect the turnip greens to have a bit more bitterness and the collard greens a bit more chew, based on their characteristics when raw. I’ll try what you did when I make chips next. For me the choice of kale is actually dictated by the fact that it is in my little vegetable garden. Thank you so much for your contribution to WHB!

  6. I love that you compared all these greens. :) You guys ate so many chips that day, for sure!! :) I agree, that the flavourings matter the most, so it is good to know any base green will do. :)

  7. A million “THANK YOU”s for this post! I’ve been an orphan since kale has disappeared from the market, right after I discovered – all too late – the pleasures of kale chips. I was so shocked I did not even consider getting a substitute – and now you come along and do all the hard work for me! Really, thank you.

  8. Glad you all enjoyed the post.

  9. Kalinda
    Yes they do dry up and get nice and crispy, they do not get brown at all. I got this recipe from Jacques Pepin. I’ve been making them this way for a long time. I did try the high heat, but I had to watch them closely so they would not burn. I like low and slow better. There is a lot of moisture coming out of the oven, so I do open the door a couple of times to get the humidity out. Hope this helps!? I will try other greens this summer when my garden starts producing!

  10. thank you so much – very enlightening

  11. kristen says:

    i just did mustard greens myself. normally i bake my kale chips at 275 for 20 mins but i was in a hurry so i did end up baking them at 400 and they browned on the edges a little. i really didnt mind that much. some of mine were a little softer in the middle and i did not taste the mustard “bite” that you were hoping for. pretty much tasted exactly like kale chips for me. :) im glad to know i have options. doing collard tonight as well.

  12. Here’s another vote for low heat. Enzymes and nutrients start to die around 105-110 degrees (depending on who you ask), so if you want to preserve the incredible nutrients of the greens (and why not), use low heat. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use the ‘warm’ setting on your oven or just turn on the light. If you have neither, use the lowest setting and prop the door open to allow heat to escape.

  13. Great article, I’ve been struggling to figure out the ‘perfect’ leaf chip recipe, been using just kale until now. My bf just called me from grocer’s and he said there was no kale so I freaked out and found your blog LOL. Glad to know there are other options for yummy chips! Going for mustard leaves this time.

  14. Another vote for low(er) heat. I was constantly vexed by burnt edges. Started cooking chips at 250 for 20-30 minutes, depending on variety (Kale, surprisingly needs less time at this temp than mustard). Also: at the lower temp the bite of mustard does show thru, tho not nearly as much as when raw.

  15. When I first went Vegan I tried these great Kale Chips from Julie Daniluk. I’ve been hooked ever since. She tosses the Kale with interesting ingredients like sweet potatoes and nutritional yeast which initially had me wondering. They turned out great though. If you’d like to see the recipe try the link below. I can’t wait for the Mustard greens I just planted in the garden to grow so I can try them as chips. Thanks so much for sharing the results of your experiment.
    http://www.juliedaniluk.com/recipes/krispy-kale-chips.html

  16. I like beet greens best, actually. They do taste a bit different. Not as bitter as the others. And my wonderful friend, Bekki, taught me that if you marinate in a little bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil before baking, the chips aren’t as bitter.

    Today, since it’s a heat index of 110 out, I’ll be grill-baking (on cookie sheet) green chips from beets, turnips, kohlrabi, and kale. All from my garden. You are definitely right that they all taste the same…except for the beets.

    • I like this idea, it seems that all the grocery stores I go to only have beets available with leaves and I never know what to do with them. This is a good way to make sure they don’t go to waste.

      • Maryann says:

        Exactly. I’m trying to use up as many bits of my garden as I can. I’ve been told you can even boil squash leaves and that the stems taste like green beans. I haven’t tried that though.

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