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Stinging Nettle Chips (vegan, gluten-free)

Make these savory stinging nettle chips that are not only a delicious snack, but are also packed with nutrients that nourish and cleanse your body!

nettle recipe


While stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is mostly banished to corners of unused fields these days and is regarded by many as a noxious plant to be eradicated, humans had a strong connection with nettles for thousands of years. When you get to know nettle, you will soon understand why, and realize how incredible the plant is.

Stinging nettle offers many good things to us humans, and we have been using the plant for many purposes for thousands of years: as an important source of food, as plant medicine, and to create many things including cordage, fabric, carpets, fishing nets, and fertilizer.

nettle recipe

Stinging nettle leaves are a very flavorful green on our plates. Their rich, earthy, spinach-like flavor is wonderful in soups, hummus, pesto sauces, smoothies, or to make nettle chips like we are doing in this recipe. Nettle leaves are also a nice addition to many dishes where you would otherwise use leafy green vegetables. Even more so because nettles are extremely nutritious! Did you know they provide us with even more nutritional benefits than kale, spinach, and asparagus? Nettles don't only contain high concentrations of vitamins and minerals (like iron, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin A and C), are packed with protein (all essential amino-acids), and omega 3 fatty acids, they also contain important detoxifying and blood purifying plant substances.

Our dear nettle also has a long history of medicinal use. In medieval Europe, people used the plant to treat arthritis, joint pain, and as a diuretic (to rid the body of excess water). Research now shows that nettles have many more health benefits, including that they help reduce inflammation, treat urinary problems, high blood pressure, gout, and prostate issues, and help the body to control blood sugar levels. They also support heart and reproductive health.

nettle recipe

Offering great benefits to humans, nettles play an essential role in the ecosystems they grow in as well. With their long roots, they help their plant neighbors by mining minerals from deeper in the soil, which they later distribute on the surface when their leaves decompose. They also assist surrounding plants in their defense against pest and diseases. Stinging nettle is a host plant to many insects, including the caterpillars of many different butterflies.


If you are new to foraging, stinging nettle is probably one of the easiest wild plants to start your wild food journey with! While they have their origins in Europe, parts of temperate Asia and western North Africa, they can now be found almost anywhere in the world. This means there is a good chance they will also grow near you!

Stinging nettles start to appear in the spring when the ground starts to warm up after the cold of winter. They will continue to grow and can be harvested throughout the growing season, and can reach an impressive 1.8m (6ft) in the fall!

You can find stinging nettles growing in thickets near stream banks, in disturbed soil, as well as in rich, damp soils. They tend to like to grow near us humans. There is therefore a good chance you will find them around settlements, old historical sites, and homesteads.

When you think you have encountered stinging nettles, there are ways to make sure you have indeed found this nutritious friend, and not a lookalike. The most straightforward (and courageous!) one to identify stinging nettles is... to touch them. If you brush them against your arm or leg and don't feel anything, you probably found another plant species.

nettle recipe

You can also identify stinging nettle by inspecting the plant visually. Look closely to see if there are small hairs (called trichomes) on the stems and leaves of the plant. These are what make stinging nettle sting! The sharp hairs are made of silica, and when they break off in your skin they release a mixture of plant chemicals that are irritating. The stem is square and hollow, and has opposite leaves that are shaped like an oblong heart. They will have sharply toothed edges. Stinging nettle is dioecious, which means plants can have either male or female flowers. These tiny flowers that hang down the stems and look a bit like catkins.

Stinging nettle has several non-toxic and sting-free lookalikes that include wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), slender nettle (Uritica gracilis), purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum), and Clearweed (Pilea pumila). It is important to always consult quality guidebooks or experts to ensure proper identification.


When you have found stinging nettles, look for tender young plants. Especially when you are planning on eating the nettle leaves (versus for example making a tea or tincture), it is best to eat them when they are fresh and young. Harvest the nettles by only cutting off the top with 4-6 leaves of some of the plants, and leave the rest. Whether with nettles or anything else in nature, it’s important to walk softly on the Earth and to forage with care. We are guests and receivers of gifts from wild lands and forests, so please consider how you can do this respectfully and only take what you need. Perhaps you could even offer a little gift like a few words of gratitude for what the nettles are giving you. In this way, we can practice to not only take when we are in nature, but to also offer something back in return.

As we have seen, the sting you feel on your skin when touching a nettle is caused by thin hairs that are called trichomes. These grow on the plant's stem and the underside of the leaves. For many people including myself, the tingling sensation only lasts for 15-30 minutes, but for others some people, it can last for up to 24 hours. Because of the sting, most people harvest stinging nettles wearing gloves, and these surely can make the job a lot easier! You could also try harvesting without them. This can provide an interesting and more mindful experience, where you really have to observe the plant and take your time.

nettle recipe

If you want to harvest nettle without using gloves, when clipping, try to position your basket or bowl underneath the plant, pulling the tip of the plant above it with your scissors. In this way, when clipped, the tip falls straight into your basket. If you want to use only your hands, touch the plant gently and use your fingertips. Your skin is thicker there, and because of this you're less likely to feel the prickly sensation.

Of course we want to make sure there is no more sting before we start eating the nettles! Luckily, this is very easy to achieve. People use different methods for this. The nettle tops can be blanched, cooked, or steamed for a few minutes until soft. When you dry the fresh plants for later use, the sting will also disappear during the drying process.

Now that you have learned all about the stinging nettle, let's make some delicious chips!


You can find the ingredients and a description of the steps to make the nettle chips in the recipe card at the bottom of this page. Below there is a little visual overview so you can already get a sense of what to expect.


Disclaimer: Every year there are some people that are poisoned or experience other negative health effects from eating inedible wild plants or mushrooms that resemble edible species. For this reason it's essential to ensure proper species identification and to consult multiple quality sources for doing this. It's also important to always check and follow all local foraging regulations before you harvest anything in nature.


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