What foods do you dehydrate?

jennieboyerAugust 29, 2014

Hi All -
I recently received a dehydrator and have been running it almost non-stop - I'm in love! I have done bananas, apples, mushrooms, and okra so far.

Wondering what else to do - I don't really want to do meats, and I don't have a fruit leather screen/tray. So, for now, it's basic stuff. I'm thinking sweet potato chips - any thoughts on seasoning to use? Zucchini chips?

What types of fruits dehydrate well?

Interested in what you have done, and what seasoning, if any, that you used. TIA!


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bumping. I'm really interested also.

I tried sweet potatoes, making for my dog who turned her nose up at them.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 8:50PM
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The dehydrator is my main source for preserving food these days since it's so cost effective. I teach dehydrating classes several times a year, and the trick is to learn how to safely prepare, store and use it in a timely manner.

Used for snacks, apple pie filling, applesauce, added to baked goods and trail mix. Get an apple peeler, slicer, corer machine ($15 at Menards) if you do a lot of apples. Once Jonathan apples are available, I dehydrate apples almost every day for 2 months. Most are plain, but I do add cinnamon/sugar to some of my sliced apples.

If you don't have an apple peeler, slicer, corer machine, at least get a cutter that cores and cuts the apple into 8 slices. You can cut each section into 3 slices with a paring knife, and this one gadget will save time.

If you are terribly frugal (like me), save your apple cores and peelings, if you remove them, and use them to make apple jelly.

Another option is to use a cutting mandolin(e) - spelled both ways) and slice the apples from the top to the bottom - whole - to make apple rings. You will have a nice "star' in the center of the slice where the seeds were. Don't bother removing any seeds that stick to the apple slices, they usually fall out during dehydrating. Occasionally I will use a toothpick and poke any remaining seeds out of a slice once they are done.

As with all foods you dehydrate, place like-sized pieces together so they dehydrate in approx. the same amount of time. Try not to mix small, med., and large pieces. The small pieces will tend to get over-dried, while the large pieces may be under-dried. When you dry bananas, for instance, place the smaller end pieces on one tray, or on one half of a tray, the larger pieces on another tray, or the other half of the tray. I have a banana slicer (check amazon.com for a couple styles) which makes quick work of slicing a banana; and as with all foods you dehydrate, having an even thickness works best. That's why a cutting mandolin is a dehydrator's best friend. You can adjust the thickness for thin slices for those zucchini chips and potatoes, but you also get slices that are the same thickness for even drying.

-CRANBERRIES (I buy them after the holidays when they drastically cut the price.) FYI - You need to drop cranberries (and blueberries) in boiling water for 30 seconds to split the skins in order to properly dehydrate them. You can also use a honey dip for the cranberries, before dehydrating, for added sweetness, but it's not necessary.

-CANDIED FRUIT (used in fruitcake)


You don't say what brand of dehydrator you have, but if it happens to be a Nesco American Harvest, I suggest investing in some Clean-A-Screen sheets for drying sticky fruits like pears and pineapple, as well as using for small items that would fall through the regular trays.

I use the fruit leather sheets a lot for both fruit and vegetable leather. Fruit leather is a good use for less-than-perfect ripe fruit and fruit blends. They freeze well (vacuum-sealed in a bag) and have other uses besides snacks. Fruit leather can be used to make a fruit sauce (just add a little water or fruit juice and heat over low heat). Add a fruit roll up (cut into smaller pieces) to applesauce made with dried apples for a new flavor. We especially like peach or apricot applesauce. Vegetable leather (mixed vegetable, tomato or tomato sauce) can be added to soup.

1/2 c. dry lentils (you can use sprouted and dried lentils)
1/4 c. dried carrots
1/4 c. dried onions
1/4 c. dried celery
2" square of tomato leather
To make soup: Add 5-cups boiling water and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 40-minutes). Season to taste.

-SWEET POTATO POWDER: Cook sweet potatoes (bake or boil - your choice) and mash (do NOT add any milk, butter or seasonings). Spread as thin as possible - I use a small offset stainless steel spatula) onto the fruit leather sheets and dehydrate until they are set enough to peel off the sheets. Place the sheet of sweet potatoes back onto the regular drying tray and finish drying until crispy dry. Allow to cool to room temperature and store in a glass canning jar with a lid. To make INSTANT mashed sweet potatoes, pulverize the sweet potatoes in a blender until it is a powder. Place the powder in a bowl and add hot water to the powder and mix until it is the consistency you want. Add butter and seasonings to taste.

-I sprout a lot of lentils and use them in all kinds of recipes. I always sprout more than I can use and I dehydrate the leftovers. Sprouting increases the nutrition and now they cook even faster. You can dehydrate all sprouts.

SPROUTED LENTIL SNACKS: I sprinkle the sprouted lentils with A seasoning mixture and a little salt (optional) and dehydrate them on the Clean-A-Screen sheets and use them for snack food. Go easy on the seasonings with nearly everything you dehydrate because the foods reduce in size when dehydrated and the seasonings intensify if you added too much. We like Mrs. Dash Salt-Free Southwest Chipotle and Mrs. Dash Salt-Free Fiesta Lime seasoning blends. We use the Southwest Chipotle on zucchini chips. For that bbq chip flavor, use McCormick Grill Mates Barbecue seasoning (a little goes a LONG way - so use a light hand when sprinkling this seasoning).

-SOAKED AND DEHYDRATED NUTS: Nuts are easier to digest, the nutrients more readily available, and they will keep longer if you first soak them in lightly-salted water 8-12 hours, then dehydrate them until they are crispy dry. (Source: "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon) I soak and dehydrate: pecans, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and skinless raw peanuts.

If you like sugared pecans, this is a great way to make them in a dehydrator.

(source: http://savoringtoday.com/2011/01/20/sweetly-spiced-crispy-pecans/ - with my changes)

4 c. raw pecans
2 t. sea salt (added to the soaking water)
Filtered water to cover pecans + 1-2 inches more.

Mix together:
4 (I use 5) T. coconut palm sugar
1-2 t. cinnamon (I use 1 t.)

Soak pecans in a large bowl with filtered water and salt for 8-12 hours. Pour off water and allow to drain well (in a strainer/sieve), 5-10 minutes. [My variation to the recipe: Place the drained pecans back into a large bowl and add the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Mix well. The original recipe has you do it in 2 batches, which is unnecessary in my opinion.] Arrange on dehydrator trays (in a single layer). Dry at 150-degrees F for 16-18 hours, or until pecans are crisp. [Grainlady note: I start them at 145-degrees F for 1-hour, then turn the dehydrator down to 135-degrees F until crispy dry. I think 150-degrees is too hot and the pecans "bake" instead of dehydrate at that high temperature.) In order to test a pecan, allow it to completely cool before snapping it in two with your fingers to see how crispy it is, then do a taste test. (Start checking after 8-hours.)

I use these pecans for snacking, topping fruit, added to granola and baked goods.....

Toss together: 2 c. oatmeal (old-fashioned or quick), 1 c. Sweetly Spiced Crispy Pecans (or crispy pecans - which have been soaked overnight in salted water and dehydrated).

Mix: 3 T. coconut oil (melted), 2 T. warm honey and mix it into the oat/pecan mixture and place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Bake in a 400-degrees oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the oats are nicely toasted, stirring once after 5-minutes. Cool to room temperature and add 1 c. dried sweet cherries. Makes approx. 4-cups.

-FROZEN VEGETABLES: When I find a great bargain on frozen vegetables, and don't have room for them in my refrigerator freezer, I'll dehydrate them. The nice thing about frozen vegetables is that they have already been through a heat process, so you don't have to steam or water blanch them. They go directly into the dehydrator.

-I absolutely love DEHYDRATED KALE!!! (or other greens) It's so easy to add to all kinds of things (meatloaf, soup, casseroles, pasta sauce, sloppy joes). Treat it like you would dried parsley.

-DEHYDRATED TOMATOES - It's amazing how many dehydrated tomatoes can go into a quart jar!!! Remove the skins using the boiling water treatment, but don't toss them in the trash or compost, you can dehydrate the skins and use them to make tomato powder. Tomato powder + water + tomato paste or tomato sauce.

Place the tomato skins in a single layer on a drying tray and dry at 125-130-degrees F. They dry quickly. Once they are crispy dry, place them in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. When you need to make tomato powder, place the dehydrated tomato skins in a coffee/spice mill to purverize into a powder. Use: 1:1 ratio with water for tomato paste and 1:2 ratio for tomato sauce (or thickness you like). DO NOT make into a powder until needed. Because there won't be any ingredients in the powder to keep it free-flowing, it will become a compact "brick" of tomato powder. You can make a quick pizza sauce with tomato powder, water, small amount of sweetener and vinegar, pinch of salt (optional) and pizza or Italian seasonings. I also add a little coconut oil or olive oil (optional).

-Dehydrated "cereal" using almond pulp from making homemade almond milk. I use a lot of "raw foods" recipes that utilize the dehydrator.

That's enough for now.... Be sure to check out the information found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation link below if you haven't already found it. There are new food safety guidelines for preparing dehydrated food you may not be familiar with.


Here is a link that might be useful: NCHFP - How to Dry

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 8:41AM
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grainlady, How can I thank you enough for this posting?!

Jennie, isn't this fab?

The tips about using tomato skin is great. I'm calling a friend to see what she still has available. Wow.

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 9:22AM
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I do tomatoes in mine. This time of year I can't think of enough ways to preserve tomatoes!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 9:33AM
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Melon. Incredible things happen to even mediocre melons when you slice them thin and dehydrate them.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 11:56AM
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By stretching a sheet of thin produce bag over a frame, you can dehydrate a lot of watery and sticky stuff like fruit leather. Interesting that nothing sticky to those plastic bags.


Dehyrate longer and hotter, leather becomes crispy fruit chips

Fruit chips can be made into fruit powder

You can even make whole slices of watermelon into crispy watermelon chips

If you have a silicone mold, you can make fancy fruit leather for gifts

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 2:55PM
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Thanks everyone!! I'm interested in the melon concept - what is the best way to cut the melon? What size? What is it like when dry? Leathery and pliable or crispy? What is the best melon to use? Would the same rules apply to pineapple?

In terms of using the plastic bags for fruit leather - my dehydrator is a round one with the air flow in the middle - could I just cut a hole in the bag to let the air circulate?



    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 8:06PM
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Oh - and new question - is there a mandolin slicer that is adjustable, but fairly inexpensive? I got one from work, but it is not adjustable. I am wanting to do sweet potato and zucchini chips, and I know the one I have will make slices that are too thick.

What do I need to look for in finding one that will do various thicknesses, including very thin? Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 9:25PM
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There are lots of ways to do melon, and you can do something with pretty much any kind of melon. If you google around there are lots and lots of different ways to do watermelon and cantaloupe. Most other melons would follow the cantaloupe recipes.

For watermelon, it's often called "watermelon jerky", although you can make melon leathers, too, as dcarch explained above.

Random link to advice on dehydrating melon:

Here is a link that might be useful: drying watermelon and cantaloupe

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 10:14PM
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Jennie, there are $10 mandolines, but they're not safe enough to do a lot of processing on because at some point, one inevitably loses focus and the guard goes off and blood ensues. :( I love my Kyocera paddle mandoline, which has four settings. It's made to balance on a bowl's edge, so you don't have to hold it up. It's well designed and much safer than the real cheapies. OXO makes a number of styles that range from $35-70 and are decent quality for the price. I have a very fancy DeBuyer angled V-cut, which has an crank to set it at the most precise thickness. It was a present and I don't even want to know how much it cost. It's fantastic! But not nearly as easy to use as the Kycera for smaller batches. It does have a long pusher, which is good for full length cuts of zucchini and things like that. The Kyocera is so handy it might be worth starting with, even if you eventually decide you want something more (because I predict you'll still use it).

Which leads me to a question about dehydrators. At the store they have locally made dehydrated mushrooms, green beans, pineapple, etc., which aren't much shrunken and very crisp. Kind of like building foam in texture--open, thick and dry. Can that kind of thing be done in a dehydrator? Or is that a freeze dry or something?



    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 10:27PM
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I have a Benriner Mandoline that I like, and it will do very thin slices as well as julienne, which is what I normally use it for. My Cuisinart FP has an adjustable slicing blade, and I use that if I want a lot of thin slices, but the mandoline will do the same job - just more slowly.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 10:33PM
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" -----In terms of using the plastic bags for fruit leather - my dehydrator is a round one with the air flow in the middle - could I just cut a hole in the bag to let the air circulate?---"

That will take some doing. The idea is to make a tray so that the liquid you are trying to dehydrate will not drip down. In other words, you will need to make a round tray with a hole in the middle. It is possible. BTW, the plastic trays made can be used many many times.

I also make yogurt in my dehydrator. Very easy.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 8:10AM
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It sounds like you are describing freeze-dried food, which unfortunately, CAN'T be duplicated in a dehydrator. Freeze-drying is a commercial technique that forms a vacuum while the food is freezing. Stored properly, freeze-dried food has a much longer shelf-life than home-dehydrated, and freeze-dried foods are much higher in nutrients than those made at home, and freeze-dried foods rehydrate in a fraction of the time as home-dried foods. I store and use both home-dehydrated and freeze-dried.


Home\-dehydrated foods need to be used fairly quickly because they don't have any preservatives, and the nutrients degrade quickly \- even if they still "look" fine, and may even taste fine, after years on your shelves. Recommended storage times for home\-dried foods range from 4\-months to one year because the quality is affected by oxygen, temperature, and light. Most dried fruits can be stored for one year at 60\-degrees F, or six months at 80\-degrees F. (room temperature is considered 70\-degrees F.). The cooler the storage temperature, the longer the shelf\-life, and this is true for all stored foods. For each 10\-degrees above room temperature (70\-degrees F) the faster food degrades (nutrients are lost, color and texture may change). 

Because home\-dehydrated vegetables don't have as much natural (or added) sugar as fruit does, vegetables have about half the shelf\-life of fruits. I consider home\-dehydrated foods pantry foods which need to be rotated and used quickly. 

Unless you are 100% sure a home\-dehydrated food has 10% moisture or less, don't vacuum\-seal it because if any bacteria is present, it could potentially grow into a toxin \- even in the oxygen\-free container. In order to know the amount of moisture, you have to weigh the food before and after dehydrating. For more specific information on the subject, I suggest getting the book "How To Dry Foods" by Deanna DeLong. You can often find this book at the library and used book stores. 

As a general rule fruits dried at home normally have about 80% of their moisture removed and vegetables \- 90%. Only a small percentage of foods dehydrated are done until they are crispy dry. I do crispy apples for snacks (which store longer), and leathery apples for cooking/baking, which get used quickly. In my case, unless the dehydrated food is being used, they are stored in a dark, cool, food storage room in the basement. I always try to store enough apple slices for a year, but that's the only item I plan on doing that. 

Even foods that seem bone dry can still have some moisture in it. Each time you open a container of dehydrated foods, it will reabsorb moisture from the air, so make sure you don't leave the lid off a container any longer than needed, and use more small containers (pint and quart jars). 

The same problem of reabsorption occurs after the dehydrated food is done drying. Once the food is dry, allow it to come to room temperature, then place it in a container/s and be sure to condition it (an important step many people skip and find they have moldy food) before placing it in storage. If you pack warm food into a jar, moisture will continue to be expelled from the warm food and can be trapped in the jar, causing the food to mold. I would avoid using a timed dehydrator because it is possible for the food to sit for a long period of time after the timer has gone off, and it will most certainly have reabsorbed a lot of moisture, especially in a place where there is high humidity. 

I typically don't store home\-dried foods in large batches \- especially potatoes which are notorious for molding. Crispy apples destined for snacking I place in a snack\-size zip\-lock bag, then place the bags of apple slices in a quart jar. This way each time the jar is opened there is less chance any of the apple slices will reabsorb moisture from the air. 

There is an alternative method called dehydrofreezing where only about 70% of the moisture is removed, however, these foods MUST be stored in the freezer to prevent microbial growth. There are some advantages to dehydrofreezing \- the food has better flavor and color than traditional drying, and they reconstitute in about half the time it takes for traditionally dried foods. They also take up less space in the freezer than fresh\-frozen food. 

If you don't have plastic fruit leather sheets you can use plastic wrap to cover the trays, or you could try a produce bag with some cutting required to make it cover the round trays (both will require some over\-lapping). Caution \-\-\- do NOT place the food on the printed side of the bags because the ink is NOT food\-grade. I will also bet once you use a plastic bag or plastic wrap for this process, you will find the stiff plastic fruit leather sheets much easier to use and well worth the money. 

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 10:33AM
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I have an inexpensive mandolin (Mouli, I think?) that does 2 different thicknesses of slices, a matchstick/julienne & a "french fry cut... snap in triangular shaped parts. I KNOW it wasn't $20, have had it for years and still nice and sharp... I always use that spiked guard thing when remotely close to end of stuff I'm cutting.

My dehydrator is NOT a fancy, high-end appliance. Bought at Rite-Aide for $9.99 on a whim. No temp adjustment. Adjustable vents on bottom, but instructions are LONG gone.

I've done a few dehydrator things that I consider just plain FRUGAL!?! Back when people actually did "crafts", you'd see a lot of wreathes with thin slices of dried oranges... almost stained-glass in appearance. Small bag of slices were NOT cheap in craft stores. Bought a bag-o oranges from discount produce bin of supermarket. Sliced on mandolin and into dehydrator for... no idea how long... till "done". Ended up with a big zip bag full for next to nothing.

Another time worked well with jalapenos. I had bought a bag at a no-frills (but GREAT) produce place... like 2 lbs for $3... that's a LOT, especially for someone not particularly into HEAT!! It quickly dawned on me that most would go bad before I ever used them up. I just washed off, cut off stem ends, sliced length-wise and put in dehydrator till "done"... dry/brittle/crispy?!? Then into food processor till relatively fine powder... nice alternative to cayenne. WARNING!!: Do NOT whip the lid off food processor as soon as done! Let stuff SETTLE down first! I recommend putting damp paper towels over top of lid while processing, too. That fine powder, flying around kitchen, will induce serious coughing/sneezing... lesson learned.

Was getting ready to make a BIG batch of real lemonade. As I was getting ready to juice 10-12 lemons, thought... boy, I wish I had a need right now for lemon zest!?! SIL had given me a Pampered Chef apple peeler/corer/slicer when she got out of doing those demos. It can be adjusted just to peel, so I stuck lemons on and ended up with a MOUND of perfect zest ribbons. Into dehydrator will dry/crispy and then ground up into kinda chunky powder. REAL lemon pepper that doesn't have SALT as first/main ingredient. Dehydrator not really needed for zest... it'll dry out nicely just spread out on a flat surface for a few days.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 11:14AM
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Want to say I'm really glad I bumped this. So much great info. Thanks to everyone!

Love the latest tip re lemon pepper. Now hoping to find some lemons at a reasonable price. Limes cheap, lemons outta sight. Think I'll try with the limes TODAY.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 12:17PM
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I never thought of doing tomatoes too! This changes everything...

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 5:49AM
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I make almost tomato "candy". Works nicely with plum varieties. Sliced length-wise and squeeze out most of watery seeds. Sprinkle of salt (I like Kosher or some kinda coarse salt), pepper and sugar (turbinado is nice), then into dehydrator till "bendy" like fruit leathers. Can be done in oven... on rack over sheet pan, LOW temp (like 250) for several (??) hours.

BE WARNED! You may find that you just eat them ALL right off the rack!?!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 10:42AM
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