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My mom always had these mason jars in her pantry full of colorful dried fruits and vegetables. Apart from the dried mango slices, which I used to gnaw on as a kid and up till now, I never knew why and how she dehydrated all this food.
It turns out food dehydration is a smart preservation practice that provides healthy snacks, preserves produce for extended periods of time, and helps add a nice touch of flavor to some recipes.
In this article, I’ll tell you why you should start dehydrating food, and I’ll walk you through 12 types of foods that are perfect for dehydration.
Food dehydration is an old practice that our ancestors developed to preserve food. Later on, we kept following this ritual because of its health and financial benefits. Here are some of the reasons why you should dehydrate food.
Dehydration is a method of food preservation, only with a twist that it doesn’t retain the food’s form and taste. Yet, it keeps its nutrients. So, you’re eating natural food without losing any of its nutritional value, and you’re 100% sure it’s free of additives or chemical preservatives. Imagine how good this is to your health in the world of processed food we live in now.
Dehydrated food like beef jerky, mango slices, or dehydrated apples serves as perfect on-the-go snacks for people on the road. When you don’t have the luxury of cooking and packing your own food, dehydrated food can be your savior.
Given that you dehydrate the food well, you’re granting that it’s safe from bacterial contamination or fungal growth.
Foodborne infections thrive in wet environments. By dehydrating food, stripping it of its moisture, and storing it in air sealed jars, you’re eliminating the possibilities of contamination.
When you start adopting the concept of food dehydration, you can plan your grocery shopping better. You can bulk up on fresh produce without worrying about its spoilage since you’ll be refrigerating some and dehydrating the rest so that you can preserve them for a long time.
You’ll get to know how beneficial these dried food are when you’re stuck in a recipe missing an ingredient and some dehydrated veggies save your day!
Intuitively, food dehydration cuts down your waste from spoiled food since you’re lowering the chances of food spoilage in the first place. Instead of throwing out spoiled produce that’s been sitting for a month at the bottom of your refrigerator, you’ll be preserving it efficiently and using it through a long interval of time.
Dehydrated fruits are delicious and nice to have around as healthy snacks. Besides, dehydration is a smart way to preserve produce if you have more than your need, where dehydrated fruits will stay a whole lot longer than frozen fruits. This way, you can make use of them before mold and rot get to them.
Bananas go bad quickly, and banana chips are a perfect crunchy option to snack on during the day. Kids love them!
Get some fresh, ripe bananas. Peel them and chop them into thin disks. If the bananas are too mushy to chop, firm them up in the fridge for a couple of hours before slicing them.
A nice tip I learned from my mother is to soak the bananas in diluted lemon juice after chopping them to protect them from browning. Ten to fifteen minutes would suffice.
Next, spread the banana slices on the dehydrator’s rack so as not to touch each other. Your crunchy bananas will be ready in two hours or so.
Dried strawberries aren’t any less tasteful than fresh ones. Yet, a lot of people don’t succeed in drying strawberries because they do it in large chunks. A whole strawberry or even one that’s cut in half won’t be as sweet as a regular strawberry. To get the best results, chop the strawberry really thin, 1\4 inch thick or so, and then place them in your dehydrator or oven.
Typically, strawberries will take somewhere between 4 to 8 hours to dry out. Check up on your dried strawberries every two hours or so.
These go great with granola to add some taste and color to your breakfast.
Dried mango slices taste like heaven, and their tropical look adds to their allure as well. You can easily dehydrate mango at home. All you need is to peel the mango, then slice it into long thin sections, and toss them in your dehydrator.
Mango is versatile when dehydrated. You can sprinkle some ground cinnamon, brown sugar, or red chili pepper ground on top of your mango slices before dehydrating them for different tastes.
It’ll take about four to six hours for mangos to dry out.
Not only are they among the healthiest fruits, but also apples can take different forms as dried or semi-dried snacks.
All you need to do is get the apples and chop them. Peeling them is optional. Personally, I prefer them unpeeled. Preheat the apples in citrus water before placing them into the dehydrator or oven.
Control your dehydrator’s temperature to determine the end result of your apples. You can dry them out like any other fruit or get them out when they reach a chewy texture. Lower the heat after an hour for best results.
You can add a fancy touch by coating apple slices with a thin layer of caramel. You can sprinkle some cinnamon or nutmeg and enjoy them as a winter snack.
Apricots are super sweet after they’re dried, which is why they appeal to many who’re on a sugar quitting quest as an alternative for sugary desserts.
You wash the apricots, cut them in halves, and put them in the dehydrator. There’s no need to flip them over.
Dehydrated grapes are how raisins are made. You can use the grapes as a whole if they’re seedless or split them into halves and remove the seeds if there are any.
Then, dehydrate them in the dehydrator for one or two days at 135 °F. During the lengthy process of dehydrating grapes into raisins, they’ll release their sweet sticky liquids, which might mess up the dehydrator and stick to the tray. That’s why you should shuffle the grapes now and then to prevent this (every six or eight hours would be fair).
Although they have less water content than fruits, vegetables take longer to dehydrate because they contain less acid. Typically, we dehydrate vegetables to produce chips that are healthy to snack on. Another possible use of dried vegetables is to use them with soup. They enrich the soup they’re added to, and they enhance its nutritional value.
Lastly, dehydration strips vegetables of their taste, so they might appeal to people who’d like to eat them for their health benefits, but they’re not big fans of their taste.
The rule of thumb is to blanch the vegetable before dehydrating it to retain its color and to prevent foodborne infections.
Potato is arguably the most popular vegetable in the world! We love potatoes because they’re flexible and available all-around the year. Think potato chips, wedges, french fries, mashed potatoes, cooked potatoes. Endless possibilities!
Potatoes are great candidates for dehydration too. You can make dehydrated potato chips for they’re convenient as an on-the-go snack. Plus, they’re less greasy than the regular chips. On the other side, you can prepare dried potato flakes to integrate into many recipes like meatloaves and the like.
To prepare potato flakes, you start with peeling a medium-sized potato, cut it into four quarters, and boil it in water for 15-20 minutes. Afterward, drain the potatoes and start mashing them into the well-known texture of mashed potatoes. We need to make sure that there are no lumps here. Dehydrating potato lumps won’t be exactly pretty!
Spread out the mashed potato paste onto your dehydrator’s fruit leather and put it in the dehydrator at a high temperature. Leave the potatoes to dry out for as long as they want (this can reach up to 20 hours or something). It’s better to do this overnight.
After your potato paste is dried out, break up the potato sheet into manageable crispy chunks and put them in the blender to get your potato flakes ready.
As for dried potato chips, you treat potatoes like any other fruit. Wash, peel, and slice, then put the sliced potato chips in water immediately to prevent their oxidation.
An important step is to blanch the potato chips in boiling water for about five minutes till they’re a bit tender. If a fork can stick to your potato chips, they’re ready for the next step.
Place the tender chips on the dehydrator’s tray without overlapping and let them dry out at 135 °F. The process will take about ten hours.
Rarely do we find someone who loves eating beetroot, probably because of its potent earthy flavor. Yet, it’s known for being a powerhouse vegetable, where it’s rich in fibers, iron, and folate.
Lucky for you, you can dehydrate beetroot to make savory beetroot crisps that are tasty and full of nutrients. They’re overall more beneficial than potato chips.
Bonus: They look amazing!
You start by thoroughly cleaning the beetroot and cutting the stem and all the leaves. Then, you peel it and slice it into thin chips. A mandolin or a peeler would yield better results than a regular knife here. Also, beware when you’re doing this, beetroot stains.
Place the beetroot chips on the dehydrator’s rack without overlapping them and prepare them for a long 10 to 12-hour journey there. A temperature of 125 °F would be convenient. You can use sea salt seasoning with beetroot chips.
Dried onions go well with all types of soup. You peel the onions, then -sadly- chop them and put them in the dehydrator. One of the merits of dehydrated onions is that you’ll do one long session of onion chopping, then you’ll rely on your dry onion stock for a long time. How smart is that!
Onions will require three to nine hours in the dehydrator, at a temperature ranging between 120 °F and 130 °F.
A perfect addition to pasta, dried tomatoes can elevate your dish to a whole new level.
Remove the top of your tomato and slice it into 1\4 inches thick. You can do the same with cherry tomatoes if you like, just cut them in halves. Spread the tomato chips on the dehydrator’s tray and put them in the dehydrator at a temperature of 200 °F. The process will take around five to nine hours.
Here’s a table of common vegetables to dehydrate, alongside their dehydration and blanching times.
|Vegetable||Blanching Time||Dehydration Time|
|Broccoli||3-5 minutes||10-14 hours|
|Green Beans||4-5 minutes||8-14 hours|
|Cabbage||2-3 minutes||10-12 hours|
|Beans||2 minutes||8-14 hours|
|Celery||2 minutes||3-10 hours|
|Asparagus||4-5 minutes||5-6 hours|
|Zucchini||3-4 minutes||7-11 hours|
|Carrots||3-4 minutes||6-10 hours|
Who doesn’t enjoy some beef jerky on holiday?
Lean meat is a perfect candidate for dehydration when it’s cut into fine slices, marinated well with salt and vinegar, then dehydrated in an electric dehydrator or an oven.
Beef jerky isn’t greasy, and it keeps the meat’s nutritional value. It’s worth trying!
Nuts are good candidates for dehydration. In fact, there’s an argument that suggests we should soak nuts then dehydrate them to get their maximum benefits.
To do this, soak the nuts overnight in saltwater in a covered bowl. After 12 hours, rinse the nuts with fresh water and spread them over the dehydrator’s tray. The process will take about 12 to 24 hours at a temperature of 150 °F.
Dehydration is worth a try, whether to preserve food or to try new tastes. I hope our list has inspired you to try out to dehydrate some foods!
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