Chips are great party food. Perfect for sharing and snacking, they’re reliable crowd-pleasers that can be much more versatile, healthful, and interesting than Frito-Lay might have you believe.
Making chips at home lets you play way outside the tortilla/potato box (ain’t nothin’ wrong with that box, mind you; it is so very comforting and tasty!). And your guests will really be wowed when they learn your chips didn’t come out of a bag.
Almost all chips start with thin-sliced veggies, usually roots or gourds. They all make colorful and flavorful snacks, some better than others (yucca, for instance, can be a little starch-heavy). Having a mandolin is helpful, but you can achieve that thin slice with the right blade on your food processor, some knife skills, or even a veggie peeler.
There are three basic ways to crisp up your homemade chips:
Baked chips are lower in fat than their classic fried counterparts and are generally the easiest to make. Sliced vegetables are tossed with a light coating of oil and spices and baked on a sheet pan in a single, even layer for 10 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through.
Specific baking times and temperatures will vary depending on the type of chip you’re making. Today’s recipe for Cumin Baked Tortilla Chips with Pumpkin Seed Salsa uses corn tortillas, which take about 10 to 12 minutes; taro and sweet potato can take up to 15, and white potatoes up to 30. If you’re experimenting and can’t find a reference bake time/temperature, default to 350˚F, and just watch your chips closely until they’re browned on the edges and beginning to curl.
- A single, even layer really means a single, even layer here. Don’t be tempted to try and squeeze a big batch onto one pan—your chips will stick together wherever there’s overlap and won’t crisp up correctly in those spots.
- Let your chips stand undisturbed for a few minutes after they come out of the oven—they’ll still be a little soft at first touch, but will harden as they cool.
Did you know that most veggie chips sold at the store and marketed to be better for you are deep-fried? Fried chips are the most common, and while much quicker than baking, take a lot more active work. Sliced vegetables are fried in 1 to 2 inches of high-smoke point oil at about 360˚F for a few minutes, then removed to drain on paper towels and sprinkled with salt/spice(s).
As with baking, specific fry times vary. Fried chips often come out crispier than baked, but they don’t preserve as much of the veggie’s original flavor and essence. You’ll have to do a side-by-side taste test and decide which method you like more.
- Remember to fry in small batches. Too many at once will cool your oil down, and the extra time your chips spend frying will make them (and your fingers) greasy.
- Potato slices should be soaked in cold water for about 30 minutes to release some of their starches, which can cause sticking and other unpleasant frying obstacles. Make sure they’re completely dry before they fry.
The gentlest chip-making method is to dry your veggie slices at a very low heat for one to several hours. This is best done in a dehydrator but can also be achieved in your oven or toaster oven at the lowest temperature. As with baking, your slices should be tossed with a light coat of oil and spice before they cook.
At around 200˚F, chips should take one to two hours, depending on the vegetable’s original water content. Check in and give them a little poke to see if they’re crisp and dry or still a little moist.
Dehydrating takes the most forethought and lead time, but it’s worth it—the chips you’ll end up with are the closest in flavor and nutrient content to the raw vegetable itself.