Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

A Real Food Alternative to Potato Chips: Munchy, Crunchy, Salty, and Nourishing!

November 30th, 2012 · 46 Comments · Do It Yourself, Recipes

Veggie Chips in the dehydrator - beets, sweet potatoes, turnips, and the BEST green bean sticks :: via Kitchen Stewardship

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

fried and dehydrated veggie snacks green beans sweet potatoes beet 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
  • beets
  • turnips
  • carrots

How I prepared:

  • sliced
  • shredded
  • cut in sticks

Techniques I’ve tried:

  • dehydrating raw
  • dehydrating after:
    • oven roasting
    • deep frying (using my lazy French fry trick)
    • sautéing
    • steaming

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”

fried and dehydrated veggie snacks green beans sweet potatoes beet 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):

  • raw
  • 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.

cut root chips beets turnips

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

fried and dehydrated veggie snacks green beans sweet potatoes beet 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.

fried and dehydrated veggie snacks green beans sweet potatoes beet chips

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. fried and dehydrated veggie snacks green beans sweet potatoes beet chips

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?

fried and dehydrated veggie snacks green beans sweet potatoes beet chips

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

fried and dehydrated veggie snacks green beans sweet potatoes beet chips

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.

Snack Success!

fried and dehydrated veggie snacks green beans sweet potatoes beet chips

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. Smile

Lesson Learned

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!

No Dehydrator?

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 Veggie don’t go below 170F nowadays. You can bake with the door slightly ajar if you don’t have young children running around.

Or, you can buy one. Excalibur even offers stainless steel trays now for those of you who are squeamish about using plastic in the heat.

More Snack Ideas

How to dehydrate fruits (much easier to make tasty!)

You can make fruit rolls in the dehydrator or oven, too – one of our favorite to-go snacks! We always have strawberry and apple cinnamon in the van.

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!

Almond Power Bars

Homemade Granola Bars 

Quinoa Oat Bars

What’s your favorite on-the-go healthy snack? Best way to get veggies in?

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46 Comments so far ↓

  • Chris

    When we make mashed potatoes we peel the skins a little thicker on purpose and lay the skins on a baking sheet, season, and bake until dry and crispy. Not raw but makes a great chip substitute very frugal.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Chris,
    Yes, I totally do that too! In fact, it’s even a recipe in my snacks book, although barely a recipe because it’s so simple. :) Katie

  • Chris

    We also love sweet potatoes sliced thinly and baked until crisp. They make delicious chips. Another chip alternative is kale chips. Surprisingly, my kids devour these!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Chris,
    I wish my family liked kale chips! For whatever reason, they never went over..
    Katie

    Connie Nixon Reply:

    I use a mandolin to slice sweet potatoes and then layer on my dehydrator trays. I usually let them go about 4-6 hour and I have a nice crunchy snack that not only I like (no salt) but also my 2 dogs/puppies like as a treat for tricks/training.

  • Mal

    I found Okra Chips at the store and oh my word are they good. They are kind of pricey and contain dextrin, so I am anxious to figure out how to recreate them. The internet has been no help so far. Maybe the green bean technique would work?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Mal,
    It’s definitely worth a try! Okra seems light and hollow enough…
    :) Katie

  • Katie

    Yum! I love veggie chips, these would be a great snack to keep on hand. Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

    - Katie @ modernnourishment.wordpress.com

  • cory

    I would SO eat more veggies if I had these around! Love the tips!

    I’ve had good luck making homemade kettle chips with both white and sweet potatoes. They are sooo good! But very labor intensive…it takes me an hour to fry up enough for dinner. Maybe if I wasn’t so cheap and bought enough palm oil to fill a larger pot, it’d be less time-intensive. In any case, I do it without a mandolin, and just eat the ones I cut too thick as I go.

  • Judith via Facebook

    If you want REALLY thin chips, use a Japanese ginger slicer! You can almost read through a sweet potato chip.

  • Adrienne

    can’t wait to try the green beans – thanks!!!

  • Suzanne via Facebook

    Kale chips are the best, and are so simple! I just tear into bite size pieces, single layer on a cookie sheet, drizzle melted coconut oil, shake some sea salt on them, and cook at 150 in the oven for about 30 minutes. Watch them–they are yucky browned, yet best crisp.

  • Judy H.

    I’ve been a fan of these dried green beans for years! My local organic food store buys them in bullk and packages them for sale, in too small packages in my opinion and for a long time, they didn’t list the ingredients in a way I could try to replicate them. Thanks for this post, I’m definitely going to try making them for the holidays!

    PS- I’ve converted several coworkers to making their own yogurt by sending them to your website!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Awesome, Judy, keep ‘em coming! ;) Katie

  • Leah G

    Wow .. I never would have thought to have dried green beans and right now my two lil ones are in love with them and demanding more. they love dried kale, zucchini, banana, apples. I’ve done oven carrots with some success. not so well in the dehydrator though. have to try sweet potatoes next. I did try snap peas and they cam out very very chewy but I like them

  • Kristin

    A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I am a long time reader, and very infrequent commenter because I seem to have such difficulty just keeping up with working full time, raising two awesome little men, and seeking a “real food” kitchen. I just wanted to say thank you though for this “recipe” for green bean chips. I have been searching for this technique for years, and could never find it! And I have now heard words never uttered at our kitchen table before, “More green beans please”, coming from our 2 year old. Like I said, amazing!

    Your blog has made such a difference for our family, and I am so grateful! Blessings on your Christmas season!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Kristin,
    Thank you so much! Comments like yours totally make my month. :) Katie

  • Sheila

    I love sweet potato chips, but I’ve never made them because they seem so labor-intensive. (Also, sweet potatoes are really hard to cut!) But then I saw this recipe. I haven’t tried it, since I don’t have a dehydrator, but it sounds really easy. I’d love to hear how it goes if you try them:

    http://www.joyfulabode.com/2012/06/24/homemade-baked-lays-potato-chipsbut-better/

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Sheila,
    I checked out that recipe – how cool! I have to try it…after the Christmas dust settles. Thanks! :) Katie

  • Amy Carter

    Katie
    I love this recipe. I made them last night. I wondered though some of them are not crispy but chewy. Do I dehydrate them a little more or do some just not crisp up? Do I need more oil? My coconut oil/butter mix congealed on the cold beans and didn’t spread well. THoughts?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Hi Amy,
    Sorry I missed your comment for so long – it came in just before I launched my book and I was swamped!

    On the beans, I only used olive oil, and it definitely makes a difference in how they dehydrate. Your beans were frozen/blanched? Also important. Usually when dehydrating, if something is chewy, it could use more time if you’re shooting for crunchy. I would recommend trying them every 2 hours so you can learn how the different stages feel/taste, and yes, go longer to get crispy. I hope that works for next time! :) Katie

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  • Rebecca

    Supprised i didnt see zuchinni chips those are super easy and yum. Just dehydrate raw slices that have been tossed with a little salt, oil is u want. They get super crispy like a chip my kids devour them and they go fast in the dehydrator maybe 6 hrs or so. This year i am trying them with spices too, as i crave chips the worst way during pms time.

  • janet

    I have attempted these twice and they were chewy both times. My six year old will eat them, but I was really looking forward to crunchy! Any suggestions?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Janet,
    Depends on the veg you’re using – with green beans, for me, they’re always crunchy. For the root vegs, you really do need to get them THIN for them to work. Sometimes it takes 24-36 hours to actually get to crunchy. Hope that helps! :) Katie

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  • Ellen

    Thank you for this recipe. I’m making my third batch right now.

    The first time I tried these most of them were chewy not crunchy. To get to crunchy, I had to leave them in the dehydrator over 12 hours (may have been 18!) I also found that using the french green beans I got at Trader Joes worked better than the regular green beans from Costco as they were much thinner. Also I found it helps to be generous with the olive oil and salt.

    Not quite there but I’ll keep experimenting until they are perfect! Thanks again.

  • Devin

    I tried the dehydrated green beans. I think I did it as you wrote it. The only thing is some had thawed by the time I got to them to the dehydrator (maybe that’s it?). I’d say only 1/3 were crispy and the rest were hard to chew. Also, a few of the beans inside turned rock hard which was a shock to bite into. They ones that were crisp were AMAZING and we all loved them, especially the 3 year old. I want to recreate those. Do you have any tips to get that snappy, crisp green bean consistantly?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Devin,
    That’s a really good question! I do let all mine thaw before dehydrating so they’re even. I know making sure the oil is evenly distributed is also important. Other than that, I’d do spot checks regularly and see if you can pull the ones that are done earlier. When mine get chewy, I can “revive” them by crisping up in the dehydrator for an hour or two again, so the ones of yours that are tough to chew may be underdone rather than overdone. Do some experiments and take notes about timing and location in your dehydrator, which may make a difference too. Good luck! :) Katie

  • Michael

    Katie,

    Thanks for doing this research! I tried the recipe myself this week, using Costco frozen green beans, and they ended up bout 80% chewy and leathery, with a few good crunchy ones in there (usually the smaller pieces). However, I tried one other thing, which made them all super crunchy: I toasted them *after* they were dehydrated. You have to be careful and use low heat, because if they blacken, they’re terrible. But if you can get them to brown just a little, they’re great.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Michael,
    Awesome! That’s great to know! I have a bunch that went back to chewy, so they need a “retoast” – maybe I’ll do oven instead of dehydrator and see how I like them. :) Thanks! Katie

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  • Bel

    Just oiled salted and peppered my blanced french breans. In the dehydrator it goes… Mmmmm cant wait!

  • Alyssa

    Hello! I was so excited to try this recipe for green beans since a small tub of them at whole foods is $8 and I love them so much. However, I tried both frozen (trader joes) and steamed and they both turned out rather mushy and tasted like dirt. I followed your directions precicely so I’m not sure what I did wrong…I am hesitant to fry the beans because I prefer healthier treats and was really hoping to find that in these. I’d love any advice on how to make a better bean! Thanks!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Uh oh! Dirt is no good…Did you use at least some oil? That’s important…or if you fry them in a healthy fat (tallow, coconut oil) then they’re still good for you – our bodies need fat to assimilate some vitamins in veggies anyway.

    By mushy do you mean chewy? I think maybe you didn’t dehydrate long enough if that’s the case…I hope it works better next time! :) Katie

    Alyssa Reply:

    I used olive oil and a little sea salt just like the recipe said. I did two different batches because I thought the first time I maybe used too much oil. They dried out, but they were all shriveled and hard – not crunchy, but I’m pretty sure they dehydrated all the way…
    I just don’t know! Maybe I will try frying….honestly, I’m afraid of the process of frying more than I am of the “unhealthy” factor of something fried.
    Thanks for your advice! I’ll try again. I was just hoping for an easy solution to $8 tubs from Whole Foods! :P

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Huh…bummer. :( I recommend just frying in hot oil in a pan – don’t worry about temperature, super deep oil, or anything. Just try it! :) Katie

  • Bel

    My beans turned really oily (i think i put too much on) and really hard, but still good. (I used fresh beans steamed for a couple of minutes) The ones I couldnt eat I ground to a powder and used as a salad sprinkle!

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  • Mary Jo

    How much oil do you use with the green beans? I really want to make some of these (like, today!). They look great! :)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Mary Jo,
    Just enough to cover them – I drizzle a Tbs. or so on a mixing bowl of beans. It just adds a bit of flavor. :) Katie

  • Bel

    In my experience, I would say as little as possible. For 500 gr beans maybe just a teaspoonn or so.

  • Erica

    I’ve been making kale chips in a dehydrator with a little bit apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and course gray sea salt… yum! However, what do you suspect the shelf life of these items are if they are fully preserved with olive oil? I have put mine after cooled in a storage jar and they are still crunchy some time later although I see others putting them in storage bags and not lasting a day…

  • Karen

    I tried drying green beans for the first time but I way oversalted them! Yuck! Can I just rinse them off and dry some more? They didn’t get crunchy either in 8 hrs. What did I do wrong? Put too much coconut oil and salt on them? Thanks for the help! Karen

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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