Don’t tell anyone, but we had some potato chips around here for Thanksgiving. I wanted to make that French Onion chip dip again that is coming in Better Than a Box in January, and I’m telling you: they were good.
It really is far too easy to overeat things that are crunchy, salty, and a little greasy. Even if you know they’re bad for you!
As we head into a month of great food temptation, allow me to share a recipe to combat the munchy crunchies, one that will also help you preserve some of the last root veggie produce that may still be local in your area.
Not only are Veggie Chips munchy, crunchy, salty, and good for you, they’re also gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and egg-free – which can be hard to come by in a snack food!
I say something similar about the crispy roasted chickpeas in the new edition of Healthy Snacks to Go – the many spice varieties are super fun to experiment with. When I made some recently, my husband wandered in to the kitchen to see what goodness he was smelling and said, “Oooh, you haven’t made these in a while. Those are good!” Love that! This is Cool Ranch shown below:
But I digress.
On to the veggie chips!
Kitchen Experiments on Veggie Chips
As you might imagine, I’m pretty immune to just about all of the checkout lane temptations in a grocery store, but I totally splurged on a box of bulk “dried vegetable chips” at a local market last winter. They were packed in bulk and had the following ingredients: carrots, squash, sweet potato, taro, green beans, canola oil, dextrin, salt.
Other than canola oil being a newfangled thing (see my baseline fats chart for what I do with fats and oils) and dextrin a random additive, those are pretty pure ingredients! I quite enjoyed the munchy crunchies and immediately started wondering if I could replicate them.
Since then I’ve tried a great many ways to make vegetables crunchy – and also edible, preferably tasty.
Veggies I’ve dried:
- sweet potatoes
- green beans
How I prepared:
- cut in sticks
Techniques I’ve tried:
- dehydrating raw
- dehydrating after:
- oven roasting
- deep frying (using my lazy French fry trick)
As it turns out, I’m fairly certain the snacks I purchased would have been more accurately labeled “fried and dried vegetable chips,” but they wouldn’t have appealed as well to most of the healthy foods crowd.
Would you like to know the results of all my experimenting?
Trying Sliced “Root Chips”
Beets, turnips, and sweet potatoes all act very similarly when dehydrated, so we’ll lump them all together here.
I dried sliced root vegetables in the following ways at 155F (since the food was mostly cooked already anyway; enzymes die at 150F):
- deep fried (about 7-8 minutes until just barely tender)
- sliced, then roasted for 20 minutes at 350 or 400F (until crisp tender)
- roasted whole until tender (like a baked potato), then sliced
The crazy thing is that all four preparations have just about the same result after 17ish hours in the dehydrator: They’re pretty tough and inflexible, a snack you have to really want to eat as opposed to being drawn to it and addicted by it.
The photo above is the raw sliced test. I cut them by hand, fairly thinly, and they’re edible, but not great.
Thus far my homemade sliced root chips have been like a hard candy, or maybe a firm taffy, in efficacy – something to suck on, chew a little bit, and keep your mouth busy. I can’t say I truly enjoy eating them…but when I just need something to munch on for whatever reason (please tell me I’m not the only one who eats to stay awake sometimes!), these are perfect since they actually nourish while distracting my mouth rather than break down my systems like good old white sugar.
The two important takeaways from this section for you are:
- It doesn’t seem to matter how you prepared sliced vegetables for dehydrating. Therefore, if you want round “chips,” just toss them raw in a little oil and salt, since that’s by far the easiest method.
- You can make a root chip that is more crispy like what we imagine as a “chip,” but you’d need a very thin-slicing mandolin. My food processor slices were far too thick, and cutting by hand is too variable.
Don’t worry, I’m not writing this post just to give you a mediocre snack. I had greater success with other methods!
How to Dehydrate Vegetable Chips
If you do want to try root chips, which are a great way to preserve extra on-sale produce or garden/CSA bounty, you’ll want to follow these instructions:
- Slice as thinly as possible.
- Toss in a little oil, any kind, and salt.
- Dehydrate at about 135F (preserves some enzymes) for 6-24hours. (The thickness makes a big difference here.)
- To test if they’re done, allow a few to cool for 30-60 minutes. The chips always firm up once cooled. (Once I let them go 48 hours just to see if they ever got crispy like a chip. No. They became hard like a hard candy but without the dissolving factor. When warm, they were still flexible at 48 hours, but once cool they were horribly hard.)
- Fully dehydrated vegetables will store for many months at room temperature. Break one in half and squeeze it to see if you got all the moisture out, or store a few warm ones in a plastic bag, and if there’s condensation on the inside of the bag, they need more time to dry.
One last note: I don’t recommend bothering with carrots, which turn into shriveled up little balls of toughness.
Trying Dehydrated Sweet Potato Fries
Although frying and then dehydrating sliced sweet potatoes had some tooth-breakingly disappointing results, the same vegetable in the traditional French fry shape, deep fried for about 7-8 minutes and dehydrated, are amazing.
I know you can’t tell in the photo if they’re crispy or just like oven fries, but take my word for it: dehydrated veggie sticks crunch just like a commercially produced potato chip. They are De. Lish. Us.
I know you can buy sweet potato chips nowadays, but they’re always fried in questionable fats, not grassfed beef tallow and organic coconut oil like I was able to use, and the Real Salt makes them dangerously addictive.
But there is definitely a catch.
The time investment is massive.
Washing, cutting and deep frying sweet potatoes (I use my lazy French fry method), draining on a paper towel and salting, arranging on dehydrator trays, then dehydrating quite simply takes a long time.
It’s even quite important to hover a bit while frying, because the sweet potato sticks can go from not quite ready to browned in a minute – and any brown at all tastes quite abrasive on a sweet potato.
See the browned ones at the back? They were pretty yucky.
It’s worth it, but it’s not something I could do regularly for snacks like I do the grain-free muffins and kid-friendly beef jerky from Healthy Snacks to Go.
Trying Crunchy Veggie Shreds
When I realized that the slicing blade on my trusty food processor wouldn’t make root chips thin enough, I was inspired to see what happened if I shredded something and dehydrated it.
I sent a raw, peeled beet through the shredding attachment, which is closer to a julienne, really, than a find shred.
After 8 hours (maybe even less), the shreds were all crisped up, crunched like a chip, and would make a fantastic crunchy salad or casserole topping! I could totally see myself munching them plain, too. Why I didn’t take a photo, I don’t know…
How do They Taste?
Before I share the best option I found, I wanted to make sure you don’t think this process is a magic bullet that will make beets or sweet potatoes palatable for people who do not like them.
My husband, who despises beets, tried a beet chip.
It was torture.
His initial reaction was, “Terrible. It took a while for the dirt to kick in, but then at the end it’s like, yep, that’s dirt.”
Then, five minutes later, he was sticking his tongue out and shaking his head back and forth like a dog after swimming, saying in disgust, “Blalalalalalala!”
“There are pieces in my teeth or something, and when they come out it tastes like dirt! Blech!”
It just reinforces the fact that you can’t hide beets.
The One You’ve Been Waiting For
I’ve shared an easy snack that’s only sort of fun to eat.
I’ve shared a tasty snack that’s a lot of work.
What about a snack that doesn’t take a lot of investment time but tastes great?
The golden napkin award goes to the green bean.
I tried dehydrating green beans raw, from frozen (blanched), sauted and deep fried.
The very best, crunchy like a chip snack is actually Costco’s organic frozen whole green beans, tossed in oil and salt right out of the bag and dehydrated for 6-8 hours at 135F.
You could likely recreate that by lightly steaming fresh green beans for about 3 minutes, then plunging into cold water to stop the cooking, then laying out to dry a bit before tossing in oil.
You can also deep fry them about 10-12 minutes and dehydrate for 8 hours with excellent results, but more work. Pull the beans from the oil before they are crispy, as soon as a bit of brown tinge starts to show up.
My husband even said these dehydrated green beans snacks were better than the ones I had succumbed to in the checkout line that started the whole story! My 4-year-old referred to them as “French fries” when asking for more the first time I offered without telling her what she was eating.
(Pats self on back.) I love being better than the store.
It turns out I should have just waited until January when the new GNOWFGLINS eCourse starts – it’s all about dehydrating!. I just watched the promo video, and I’m totally amazing, like knock-your-socks-off shocked, at how many things Wardeh and her family dehydrate! I bet she knows exactly how to make even beet chips tastier. I even learned some things just skimming the lessons included – check it out!
I haven’t tried it yet, but since my mom has success making dried apple chips in her oven at the lowest possible temp, I’m thinking you could do the same with veggie chips. Watch them more closely for burning, however, since most ovens don’t go below 170F nowadays. You can bake with the door slightly ajar if you don’t have young children running around.
More Snack Ideas
How to dehydrate fruits (much easier to make tasty!)
If you are a fan on Facebook, you have access to a gluten-free lunch and snack idea printable (under “Freebies”) – stick it to your fridge for when you’re losing inspiration!
85% of the recipes in Healthy Snacks to Go are gluten-free and 2/3 are grain-free. You’re sure to find a favorite!
What’s your favorite on-the-go healthy snack? Best way to get veggies in?
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