Papa Lena's Vegetable Chips
No one will refuse to eat his or her veggies when they taste this good! Photos by Naheen Choudhry.




Category Main Page
Articles & Reviews



Main Nibbles

Main Page
Articles & Reviews Of Foods From A To Z



Product Reviews

Main Page
Food, Beverages, Books,
News & More







KAREN HOCHMAN is a Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.



January 2007

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Vegetables

Papa Lena’s Vegetable Chips

Like Calling The Caterer For Exotic, Natural Veggie Chips



CAPSULE REPORT: We’ve enjoyed Terra Chips for years, but when a reader from Chicago recommended Papa Lena’s vegetable chips—freshly made by a specialty business—we hastened to try them. They’re the type of vegetable chip one enjoys from fine caterers and chefs—a real treat. For those who like it spicy, Poblano Chips will light another fire.

When Chicagoans Danny and Marie Lena chose their second careers, their “recipe for success” was homemade, healthy vegetable chips that Danny’s family had served for three generations. Beginning in 2005, the Lenas sold at farmers’ markets and developed an enthusiastic following (one taste will explain why). In 2006 they opened their own storefront, and made their delicious chips available to fans nationwide via their online store.

Made with just the vegetable, olive oil and sea salt, Papa Lena’s Vegetable Chips (named for the grandfather who taught Danny how to make the chips many years ago) are the type of ingredient gourmet snackers and creative chefs long to find. If we had the time and the skill, we’d like to make them ourselves, but because we can buy them from Papa Lena, we can spend our time inviting guests, concocting recipes and figuring out the rest of the meal.

Varieties & Serving Suggestions

We’re in love with three of the four chips, and certainly give a hug and a kiss, if not our eternal devotion, to the fourth.

Roasted Red Pepper Chips

These chips look gorgeous and taste just as good. Three-inch-long fingers cut from juicy red bell peppers, they have an intense roasted red pepper flavor and look exotic and enticing wherever they are placed.

  • As hors d’oeuvres, plain or with a dip.
  • As vegetable “wafers” with omelets, sandwiches, soup and salads.
  • As architectural towers on a dinner plate (we love anchoring them in the center of the dinner plate in mashed potatoes, and arranging the other foods around it.
  • The color alone makes this a festive food for all “red” holidays: Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Independence Day.
Roasted Red Pepper Chips
Roasted Red Pepper Chips.

Spicy Hot Poblano Chips

Some like it hot, and they will love these poblano chips. A smoked poblano is an ancho, and while these are roasted rather than smoked, the flavor is “close enough.”

  • Serve with a cool dip, like yogurt-cucumber.
  • Crumble them to add excitement to foods from mashed potatoes to pork chops.
  • Serve them with beer.
  • Crumbling them and sprinkling on a pizza or in pasta, instead of cracked red pepper, is a gourmet experience.
  • Ditto for any Mexican food application. We served them with a variation of Mole Poblano sauce as a dip*. Instead of putting the poblano inside the sauce, it was the dipper. We bet it’s an experience no one has ever had before.

*Unsweetened chocolate, almonds, tomatoes, raisins, tomatoes, raisins, cloves and cinnamon.

Poblano Chile Chips
Spicy Hot Poblano Chips.

Beet Chips

For all of the times we’ve loved the beet chips served to us at fine restaurants, we’ve thought to pull out our deep-fryer and make them at home. But beets are one of those labor-intensive foods, so we never found the time.

Thank you, Papa Lena, for making these. Aside from the joy of snacking, the beautiful burgundy and yellow color is beautiful plate decor, serving as a crown atop other vegetable purées, as the base for goat cheese hors d’oeuvres, and to add flavor, color and crunch to frisée and endive salads. We could find a new way to use these chips every day of the month...the least of which is in our homemade beet ice cream. (For those ice cream-makers among you: Beet ice cream in of itself is magnificent, a scoop of red beet and a scoop of yellow beet will wow them, and the latter with one of these beet chip crowns will generate applause).

Papa Lena's Beet Chips
Beet Chips can crown anything from mashed potatoes and turnips to beet ice cream.

Sweet Potato Chips

These sweet potato chips look beautiful and have a nice sweet potato taste, but were a tiny bit grainy on the finish. This might have been a batch-specific issue: We liked them enough to try them again. They are much more of a vegetable chip than the North Fork Sweet Potato Chips, that we adore, which are starchier and more of a gourmet potato chip.

  • They’re a hit as snacks, with any soft or hard beverage.
  • If you love sweet potatoes, are a vegetarian or have vegetarian guests, consider a “trio” or “quartet” course of a baked sweet potato, mashed sweets, candied sweets (try glazing with one of Moosewood Hollow’s infused maple syrups) and these chips.
Papa Lena's Sweet Potato Chips
Sweet Potato Chips.

The Difference Between Sweet Potatoes And Yams

To understand the difference between a sweet potato and a yam (aside from “about 20 cents a pound,” as the old joke goes):

  • Sweet potatoes, indigenous to Central America, are a totally different plant family from yams. Sweet potatoes are smooth, with thin skin, short and blocky, with tapered ends. Their flesh is moist and sweet. Sweet potatoes are a member of the genus that contains morning glories, and when the plant is in flower, the flowers look like morning glories. There are 7 varieties of sweet potato, and the flesh can be white, yellow, orange or purple. The skin can be orange-brown, red, purple or white.
  • Yams, indigenous to Africa, have rough, scaly skin and are long and cylindrical—some with a split bottom creating "toes.” Their flesh is dry and starchy.
  • The confusion began in the Antebellum era. There were two types of sweet potatoes, a starchier, less sweet variety and the sweeter, deeper-colored form. The African slaves called the starchier variety nyami, which became shortened to yam, since it reminded them of their native tuber. At that time, the African yam was not known in America. In the latter 20th century, the import of “real” yams created the confusion.
  • To help with the confusion, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the label “yam” always be accompanied with the words “sweet potato” when referring to a sweet potato.
  • The sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato, which is indigenous to Peru.
Sweet Potato
Sweet Potato.
The "Real Deal"

The Difference Between Chiles, Peppers And Pepper

Sweet bell peppers and hot chiles are cousins, both members of the Capsicum species. And, they are fruits—as identified by carrying their seeds on the inside. They have no relationship whatsoever to peppercorns, which are the unripe berries of the pepper plant, a flowering vine. The berries are dried, the fruit around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer around the seed. White pepper is the seed only, with what we think of as the “hull,” actually the dried fruit, removed. Pepper gets its spice and heat mostly from the piperine compound, which is found both in the dried fruit and the seed. Refined piperine, milligram-for-milligram, is about one per cent as hot as the capsaicin in chiles.

Snack, hors d’oeuvre, garnish or recipe ingredient, these vegetable chips are special. For your next party, order a bunch and watch your guests exclaim with delight. (Just put a “hot” sign in front of the poblanos).

Beet Chips, Roasted Red Pepper Chips, Spicy Hot Poblano Chips, Sweet Potato Chips

  • Roasted Red Pepper Chips or
    Poblano Chips
    3 Clam Shells
  • Beet Chips or Sweet Potato

    3 Clam Shells

Buy online at

Papa Lena Vegetable Chips
The glamorous vegetable chips come in plain clam shell
packaging...but arrived safe and sound from Chicago
to New York.

Prices and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional.


Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved.  Images are the copyright of their respective owners.