Whether you’re an experienced prepper, new prepper, or not even into prepping, you’ve probably heard that some people dehydrate foods. Maybe you know why it’s important to know which foods you can dehydrate and you’ve finally decided to give it a try.
But in case you aren’t aware of all the great reasons to dehydrate foods and which foods you can and can’t dehydrate, we’re going to spell it all out for you in this article.
What Are the Benefits of Dehydrating Foods?
Why should you even bother with the process of dehydrating food? What are the benefits and does it make sense for your family? Below are just a few of the reasons, you may discover some additional benefits once you try it for yourself:
- Longer shelf life of food
- Save space in cupboards, backpack or bug out bag
- Add flavor to meals
- Save money by extending shelf life of food
- Dehydrated foods are typically lighter which means you can carry more food for a hike or when bugging out.
- Reduced food waste because food doesn’t go bad because you didn’t eat it quickly.
Ways to Dehydrate Food
There are multiple methods you can use to dehydrate food. This means that no matter what your budget or skill level, you can find at least one method that will work for you. Some of the ways to dehydrate food include:
- Using an oven
- Buying an electric food dehydrator
- Purchasing a solar dehydrator for your food
- Making your own solar food dehydrator
- Hanging food to dry in a protected area
Some foods can be dehydrated without any pre-treatment other than cutting the food into thin slices or uniform pieces. Other foods may need to be blanched, soaked, or “prepared” prior to dehydrating in order to preserve color, texture, or flavor.
It’s important to follow the proper instructions to dehydrate each different food to ensure the result is healthy and still flavorful.
What Are Some of the Easiest Foods to Dehydrate
There are a multitude of foods that can be dehydrated the way they are or with little preparation other than slicing the food into thin pieces. If you’re new to dehydrating food, it’s a good idea to start out by trying your hand at dehydrating foods such as:
- Citrus Fruits sliced
- Berries (strawberries, cranberries, etc.)
- Fruits (bananas, apples, cherries, grapes, Rhubarb)
- Vegetables including potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, squash
Potatoes are super easy to dehydrate and they are incredibly handy to have available. To get started simply peel and boil potatoes like you do to make mashed potatoes. Next, mash the potatoes but don’t add milk or butter, just mash the potatoes.
Spread the mashed potatoes on your food dehydrator tray and let dry per manufacturer directions. Can take up to 24 hours to dry completely. Once dry, transfer mashed potatoes into a blender and pulse several times until mixture turns to powdered flakes.
Store in airtight container in cool, dry place. When ready to use simply rehydrate by adding powdered potato flakes to boiling water or milk. Season to taste.
Strawberries are a great fruit to start with if you are new to dehydrating. Simply slice the berries into thin pieces and spread onto your tray. Let dry per manufacturer instructions, up to 6 or 7 hours typically in a store bought dehydrator. Bananas are easy too. To preserve color and keep bananas from turning brown, dip in lemon or lime juice before drying.
Believe it or not, eggs are fairly easy to dehydrate too. Scramble the eggs into a bowl making sure they are thoroughly mixed. Cook in a nonstick pan as you would if you were making breakfast. Do not add milk or seasoning.
Once scrambled, eggs are cooked through, break up into small pieces and spread onto your dehydrator tray. Dry per manufacturer instructions, typically medium setting for approximately 4 hours will suffice. You can pulse in a blender and then store powdered eggs in an airtight container for up to one year this way.
Reconstitute 1 tablespoon powder to 2 tablespoons water when ready to use. This is great for hikers, bug out bag supplies, or even just to cut down on cooking time on busy mornings.
Why Can’t You Dehydrate All Foods?
While a good portion of foods can be dehydrated somewhat successfully, you can’t dehydrate all foods. There are some foods that just aren’t worth the effort. Other reasons you can’t dehydrate some food include:
- Loss of nutritional value
- Becomes inedible or loses flavor
- Can make you sick or go rancid
- Texture changes to an unappealing consistency
When it comes to butter and cheese, dehydrating just doesn’t make sense. Pickling olives is a better option than dehydrating them. Avocados don’t do well either.
Turn them into guacamole and then freeze for better results. Nuts can lose their flavor when dehydrated, freezing is a better option for long term storage.
Which Fruits Can You Dehydrate?
When it comes to fruits you can dehydrate just about all of them. The thinner you slice your fruit pieces, the quicker they will be completely dehydrated and the easier it will be to get them crispy.
Sprinkle with cinnamon or pre-soak in 1 cup water with ¼ cup lemon, pineapple, or lime juice before dehydrating. If available, you can use a steamer basket to steam your apples slices for 3-5 minutes, then rinse in cold water and blot dry before dehydrating.
Apples that are steamed prior to dehydrating come out less chewy and lighter. 6 to 12 hours depending on method used.
Simply slice into thin, small pieces and dry 6 to 12 hours at 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Dehydrating in an oven will take less time. Set oven to lowest setting and check frequently after 4 hours until completely dry.
Peel mangoes and slice into small, thin pieces. Mix equal parts lemon juice and honey in a bowl. Mix thoroughly or until honey dissolves completely. Dip each piece of mango into the mixture and place on your dehydrator tray. Dry at approximately 135 degrees for up to 9 hours.
Slice into small pieces. If visual appearance is important, soak pieces in lemon juice for 10 minutes. Spread on tray and dehydrate at 135 degrees Fahrenheit until the pieces feel a bit like leather.. Typically 7 to 10 hours. Let cool at room temperature 10 to 15 minutes before packaging for storage.
Slice and dip in lemon and water mixture to minimize browning. Drain pieces well. Place on tray and dehydrate at 135 degrees Fahrenheit until the pieces feel a bit like leather.. Dry longer if crispiness is desired.
Other fruits to try include:
- Watermelon (remove from rind)
Vegetables You Can Dehydrate
Getting kids to eat enough vegetables can be a struggle. Even some adults don’t like to eat vegetables, yet they are a critical part of a balanced diet. Did you know that you can dehydrate vegetables and add them into meals to make them less noticeable to kids and picky adult eaters?
The majority of vegetables need to be immersed in boiling hot water or blanched as part of the dehydration process. Blanching vegetables eliminates enzymes that can contribute to loss of color, texture, and flavor over time. Blanching times vary according to the vegetable. Immerse vegetables in cold water or ice immediately after blanching. Below are just some of the vegetables you can dehydrate:
Soak overnight in cold water, drained, and then cover in cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer beans until soft, drain again and let cool before dehydrating.
Remove shells, wash and then steam until they appear slightly dented. Rinse peas with cool water and let completely air dry before placing on the dehydrator tray.
Cut tops off and slice into small pieces or slivers depending on how you want to reuse the carrots later. Blanch carrots, cool as described above, and let dry prior to dehydrating.
This vegetable is one of the super foods due to significant levels of potassium, beta-carotene and other nutrients. The high water content in pumpkin results in significant shrinkage during dehydration.
Slice pumpkin in larger pieces to allow for this shrinkage. Peel your pumpkin and remove the stem. Smaller pie pumpkins are typically better tasting than the large ones grown for decoration.
Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and stringy insides. Shred the pumpkin using a food processor or dice into small chunks if using for soups or stews later. Spread onto tray and dehydrate up to 24 hours at 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
To make pumpkin flour, use a blender to turn the dried shredded pumpkin pieces into powder. Add pumpkin powder for use in baking or reconstitute with hot water for puree.
Other Vegetables You Can Try Include:
- Broccoli (steam first)
- Corn (Blanch and remove kernels from cob prior to dehydrating)
Meats You Can Dehydrate
Contrary to what many people think, meat jerky can be difficult to do properly and the shelf life for homemade jerky isn’t that long. If you’re going to attempt to dehydrate meat, stick to lean cuts of meat and avoid meat with a lot of fat or excessive marbling.
Fat takes much longer to dehydrate and results in an increased chance of the meat going bad. The leanest meats will be quicker to dehydrate and will have a longer shelf life.
No matter what meat you use, remove as much of the fat as possible prior to starting the process. Dehydrated meat can be eaten like jerky or used in stews or other dishes.
- Chicken (skinless)
- Turkey (skinless)
- Corned Beef
What to Know About Dehydrating Dairy Foods
Although it may be difficult to get by without butter, especially if you’ve come to depend on it for baking, dehydrating butter just isn’t worth it. The high fat content makes the process time consuming and extremely tricky to get right.
Smart preppers will stockpile powdered butter or use an alternative that is easier to dehydrate.
Although it’s possible to dehydrate cheese, it takes a long time due to high fat content and it can go bad if not done properly. It’s safer to buy store bought dehydrated cheese.
Although you can dehydrate milk, the processing removes much of the nutrients and makes it just not worth it. Try stockpiling powdered milk or use one of these long-term milk options instead.
- When dehydrating foods, it’s extremely important to follow the instructions for your dehydrator, if you are using one.
- Make sure you follow a trusted recipe and know how to properly check each type of food to ensure it’s thoroughly dehydrated.
- Keep in mind that adding seasonings and other ingredients can change the amount of time needed to dehydrate a meal. If dehydrating meals that require cheese, it’s better to take the cheese separately and add it when you reconstitute.
- Use the appropriate temperature for the food you are dehydrating. Some foods require lower temperatures and longer drying times in order to thoroughly dehydrate.
- Know the shelf life for dehydrated foods. Refer to a trusted resource such as the National Center for Home Preservation or your local cooperative extension office.
- When in doubt, throw it out. This is especially true for homemade dehydrated meats which can go rancid and typically only last about a week or so.
- Store dehydrated foods in airtight containers to keep them away from moisture. Any type of moisture can negatively impact your dehydrated foods including condensation.
Have you tried dehydrating your own foods yet or are you new to the technique? Do you have a favorite recipe for dehydrating foods to share with others? What’s your main reason for dehydrating your own food? Share your experiences in the comments below.