The Search for Portland’s Best Kale Chip

A taste-test of our city’s latest vitamin-packed obsession.

By Benjamin Tepler June 19, 2013

At some point during Portland’s ongoing kale frenzy, amidst the shaved dinosaur salads and grilled fans of curly-leaf, someone discovered that kale chips could be a marketable product. No longer the domain of health nuts and hardcore vegans, they have become the city’s go-to alternative snack. Tiny green confetti flakes sticking to children’s faces and wedged between the crevasses of couches offer proof that we are in the midst of full-on kale chip craze.

DIYers can make their own batch at home: olive oil, salt, pepper, 350-degree oven, 15 minutes—voila! Crispy, fresh chips. For everybody else, we’ve ranked Portland’s top kale chip brands. Each uses some combination of kale, cashews, and lemon juice. The baking method, inventiveness of ingredients and balancing of flavors are what elevate dried vegetation to a snack worth munching.

Most can be found at places like Whole Foods, New Seasons and Zupans; click the links for store locations.

1. The Kale Company: This was our favorite all-around kale chip. Each leaf retained its full shape thanks to clamshell packaging and heavy “saucing.” The cloak of even-keeled dressing, from truffle oil to Thai spice, brought a serious flavor-quotient and excellent structural integrity. 

Best Flavor: Black Truffle Rosemary, $6.99

2. Bibi Kale Chips: Remember the part during Beyoncé’s Superbowl halftime show when an afro-wearing punk rocker came onstage and shredded a flaming guitar to the tune of “Crazy In Love”? That was Portland local Bibi McGill. Her recipe is appropriately spicy for a rock star of her magnitude, inundated with cayenne pepper, crushed pepper flake, and an intense citrus kick.

Best Flavor: Just the one, “Original Recipe,” $9

3. Freshly Wild Kale Joy: The most snackable of the bunch, these frilly chips pack a serious crunch akin to potato chips. The mustard-powdered variety was one of the best we tasted all day. But avoid the “Original Recipe,” which our tasters described as “sour and generally flavor-deficient.”

Best Flavor: Jazzy Sweet Mustard, $5

4. Pacific Northwest Kale Chips: Our main complaint with these was the texture. One tester equated it to “chewing on dried leaves.” Pacific Northwest earned points for proliferation of flavors—Stumptown Original, Glacier Peak, Cheezy Crunch, and Cascade Ranch, though each left a strange aftertaste and lingering mouthfeel.

Best Flavor: Glacier Peak with cilantro/lime/jalapeno, $7.99

Did we miss your favorite local kale chip brand? Do you have a favorite kale chip recipe you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

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