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How to Dehydrate Your Own Food

Audrey is a cook who loves creating new flavors by tweaking recipes to include healthier ingredients.

How to Dehydrate Your Own Food

How to Dehydrate Your Own Food

Food Prep and Drying Foods

There are many different ways to prepare food. However, one very unique way to prepare food is to use a food dehydrator. I have recently rediscovered this wonderful kitchen appliance and have been drying fruits, vegetables and herbs. I've found that it is a great way to make sure I stay "honest" and use all my produce. This way, I end up saving money because there is no waste.

If I think I have too many apples, for instance, to use up before they might be less than fresh, I can quickly and easily turn them into dried apples. The same goes for bananas, tomatoes and mushrooms, to give but a few examples. I even dried garlic to make my own garlic powder because I had a large Costco bag of garlic I was afraid would never get used up. Let's take a look at some of the great ways that you can dehydrate your own food, save food, and save money.

Drying Veggies, Like Tomatoes

Drying Veggies, Like Tomatoes

Drying Vegetables

Drying vegetables is a great way to use up your vegetables and thus save money. It's also a very convenient way to have vegetables on hand. You can dehydrate other vegetables besides the ones listed below but this gives you an idea of just how versatile dehydrating is.

  1. Some vegetables, if they are quite dense, require a blanching period. You merely blanch, wipe dry, and then slice into designated sizes.
  2. Dry the vegetables at 125 degrees unless you're drying mushrooms. Mushrooms need to be dehydrated at 90 degrees for 2 to 3 hours and then have the temp increased.

Dehydrated vegetables can be added to soups or stews, or turned into a powder, like onions and garlic. Add to soups directly or rehydrate them for a few minutes before adding to allow them to plump up. You can dry just about any vegetable. For instance, dried sweet potatoes make excellent dog treats.

Vegetables You Can Dry in a Food Dehydrator

Food

Prep

Drying Time

Artichoke

Cut hearts in 1/8" strips

6–12 hours

Asparagus

Cut into 1" pieces; blanch

3–10 hours

Beans

Cut into 1" pieces; blanch

6–12 hours

Beets

Steam /cut into 1/2" pieces

3–10 hours

Broccoli

Wash, cut, blanch

4–10 hours

Carrots

Slice in 3/8" slices, blanch

6–12 hours

Cauliflower

Wash, cut, blanch

6–14 hours

Garlic

Separate/peel cloves

6–12 hours

Mushrooms*

Brush clean, slice in 1/4" pieces

4–10 hours

Onions

Slice 3/8" thick

6–12 hours

Peas

Shell, wash, blanch

5–14 hours

Peppers

Seed, cut in 1/2" pieces

5–12 hours

Potatoes (white)**

Peel, slice 3/8" thick, blanch

6–12 hours

Tomatoes

Wash, slice 3/8" circles

6–12 hours

Zucchini

Wash, slice 3/8" thick or grate

5–10 hours

Most Fruits Can Be Dehydrated

Most Fruits Can Be Dehydrated

How to Dehydrate Fruits

Fruits are delicious when you dehydrate them. You can eat most dehydrated fruits "as is" without rehydrating. For instance, dehydrated apples or bananas go great in a steaming bowl of oatmeal, as do cranberries or blueberries. You can rehydrate apples for applesauce or for a pie. You can also mix and match so to speak and dry apples and pears at the same time for a delicious combination. You can even dry canned fruit!

Another possibility is making your own fruit leather with your food dehydrator. It's about as simple as preparing the fruit, whirring it in the blender and pouring it onto the trays. When my kids were little, I made this all the time.

I buy organic apples so I scrub them really, really good and leave the peel on when I dehydrate them in the food dehydrator. They turn out fantastic, and I love that the extra fiber from the peel is still there. You can pretreat fruits to retard browning and give a longer shelf life. Pick up ascorbic acid mixes at the supermarket or you can use natural pretreatments like lemon, lime, pineapple or orange juice. Soak 5 minutes and place on trays. Dry fruits at 130 to 140 degrees.

Fruits You Can Dry in a Food Dehydrator

Food

Prep

Drying Time

Apples

Cut in 3/8" slices

4–10 hours

Apricots/Peaches

Cut in quarters

6–16 hours

Bananas

Cut in 3/8" slices

6–12 hours

Blueberries/Cranberries

Dip in boiling water to crack skin

10–18 hours

Citrus Fruits

Slice 3/8" thick

6–12 hours

Coconut

Slice 3/8" thick

3–8 hours

Grapes

Remove stems

6–10 hours

Lemon or Orange Zest

Zest of rind from peel

8–12 hours

Mangos

Slice 3/8" thick

6–16 hours

Pears

Cut 3/8" to 1/2" thick

6–16 hours

Pineapple

Cut 3/8" to 1/2" thick

6–12 hours

Strawberries

Halve or slice 1/2" thick

6–12 hours

How to Use Your Dehydrator

There are many more ways that you can put your food dehydrator to use as well.

Here are just a few:

  • When prices are low for herbs or you have an overabundance of home-grown herbs, put your food dehydrator to work and dry your own herbs.
  • Dry your own spices.
  • Make your own dried flowers.
  • Dry nuts and seeds.
  • Meats and fish can also be dried but at higher temperatures.
  • Use your food dehydrator to make jerky.
  • Make fruit leathers and roll-ups.
  • Use your food dehydrator to dry things for craft projects.
Herbs Work Too!

Herbs Work Too!

How to Dehydrate Your Own Herbs

If you have a garden, make full use of your herbs by drying them during the season and especially towards the end of the growing season. If you don't have an herb garden, you can still make use of your food dehydrator by buying herbs that are in season. Stock up and "grow" your own herb and spice collection by drying them for later use.

I routinely buy several flourishing basil plants for use in the kitchen during late spring and summer and as the plants start to fade off, I pluck off the leaves and dry them for later use. It is much easier than air drying or oven drying to use a food dehydrator!

Tip: Remember that 1 teaspoon of dried herbs = 1 tablespoon of fresh.

For drying herbs, there is little to do but pick the leaves (or stems and leaves if drying parsley), wash in cold water and pat dry. Put them in the food dehydrator at 90 to 100 degrees for the designated time and voila! You have dried herbs to add to any dish you prepare.

Herbs You Can Dry in a Food Dehydrator

Herb

Prep

Drying Time

Basil

Use leaves near top of plant

20–24 hours

Chives

Chop, rinse, pat dry

20–24 hours

Cilantro

Rinse, pat dry

15–18 hours

Dill

Rinse, pat dry

1–3 hours

Garlic Clove

Cut in half, pat dry

6–12 hours

Ginger Root

Slice 3/8", grate, pat dry

2–5 hours

Marjoram

Rinse, pat dry

1–3 hours

Mint Leaves

Rinse, pat dry

20–24 hours

Oregano

Rinse, pat dry

15–18 hours

Parsley

Rinse, pat dry

20–24 hours

Rosemary

Rinse, pat dry

20–24 hours

Sage

Rinse, pat dry

20–24 hours

Tarragon

Rinse, pat dry

20–24 hours

Thyme

Rinse, pat dry

1–3 hours

There are many reasons for learning to dehydrate your own food. Most importantly, if you learn to dehydrate your own food, you'll be putting money back into your pocket. If you think of the potential "return" on not wasting food, you will quickly see that learning to dry your own foods is really a bonus.

Yes, there is an initial outlay of money for the dehydrator itself but it will pay for itself quickly. You also have the added benefit of drying pesticide-free or organic produce of your own growing if you are lucky enough to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Another added benefit is "putting food up" as they did in times past. In winter months, if you've dried things like fruits and vegetables, you will be able to enjoy the bounty of your food preparation efforts. Drying fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats and fish is definitely on a par with canning and freezing foods.

As a savvy shopper, you can also take advantage of sales and buy to your heart's content then turn your purchase into a food bonanza by using your food dehydrator. What about the nutritional value of dried foods? Foods that are dried retain all their nutrient properties except for a slight loss in vitamin C. Otherwise, calories remain the same, fiber remains the same and vitamins and minerals remain the same.

In short, using a food dehydrator and learning to dehydrate your own food is a great way to maintain a healthy diet and save money. You save money simply by using up what you have before it goes bad and you avoid what we all hate to do which is throw away food.

Worried about storing food that has been dehydrated? Most foods are easily stored in airtight containers. The beauty of storied dried foods is that they take up little to no space.

There are also many delicious recipes out there for use with a food dehydrator.

Some of my favorites:

  • Dog treats
  • Fruit roll-ups
  • Creamy mushroom soup
  • Energy bars
  • Granola
  • Turkey jerky
  • Chili powder
  • Caramel corn
  • Dried apple wreath—not to eat but how lovely!

If you're looking for a way to save money and also a way to make food from scratch, investing in a food dehydrator is a sound investment. Learning to use your food dehydrator is both fun and informative. The foods you can dry and the recipes will keep you busy for a long, long while.

I've only given you a hint at the many uses for a food dehydrator and hope you will discover for yourself how to dehydrate your own food. If you invest in one, I think you will be pleased you learned how to use a food dehydrator because it is a tried and true process of food preparation that has been around for centuries.

If you have favorite recipes for how to use a food dehydrator, please share them with us in the comment section below.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is there a difference between top rack and bottom rack placement when dehydrating food?

Answer: No, since the air circulates.

Comments About Using a Food Hydrator

Bob Bigelow on August 14, 2017:

Harvested a bushel of white onions, about half done. Two electric jobs and two solar. I'll crumble when dry and store,..Wife likes crumbles instead of powder. Next, a kid's wagon load of red potatoes, then whatever of a lug of peaches are left..then green beans, and next year's seed corn. Busy time of year.

HLAngel on September 19, 2011:

We have been cutting out the sugar in our diet as well as the kids diet, but they always get upset when they see other kids eating candy. We dehydrated many different fruits and they think they are eating candy because they still taste so sweet. We have also dehydrated canned fruits too. Great way to cut out the sugar and save money.

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on September 02, 2011:

Hey Robbie - I just use the trays - unless it is really mushy fruit it should be fine. If mushy, then I'd use the plastic liners.

On the herbs just make sure they are spaced well apart and if they are small and crumbly, might want to use plastic liner sheets. I did mine with branches of herbs though and they stayed intact in the dehydrator, then I crushed them into ziploc bags when completely dried. It worked just fine without liners.

Enjoy!

Robbie on September 01, 2011:

did you have to use the fruit sheet to do dog cookies? also- what about the herbs, did you need a herb sheet, or can I just use the trays without purchasing the added accessories? I am new to this, getting my first ever dehydrator!

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on June 06, 2011:

Thanks for stopping in, Vitamin Monkey - it's the only way to go to save on food and save food!

Vitamin Monkey from San Francisco, CA on June 05, 2011:

wow cool info. i think i might buy one of these. the dehydrated food looks yum!

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on May 15, 2011:

RT - Thanks for stopping by and for the tip!

RTalloni on May 15, 2011:

Thanks so much for this info and the charts. I've dehydrated herbs and fruits, but not veggies before. Figs make a wonderful dried snack!

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on May 09, 2011:

Thanks, Prasetio as always for the kind comment!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on May 09, 2011:

Amazing..... Audrey, you always amaze me with your talent in sharing useful information like this one. Thanks for writing this. Again... I learn much from you. Rated up!

Prasetio

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on May 06, 2011:

Hanna - How neat! That sounds so delish!!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on May 05, 2011:

I remember my grandmother laying out apples, pears and plumbs to try then used in the winter for deserts with custard or rice pudding.

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on May 04, 2011:

Crewman - you are always too kind!

Crewman6 on May 04, 2011:

Thanks for the answer, Audrey. As always, you write about the neatest things, and make them interesting.

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on May 04, 2011:

Thanks, Nellie - have to check it out~!

Crewman6 - They can just be kept in air-tight containers. Use at your discretion and just make sure you keep an eye on them but usually storing in cool, dark places in air-tight containers preserve them for a long, long time!

Crewman6 on May 03, 2011:

Love the idea, had one question. Maybe I just missed it, but do the dried foods need to be kept cold or frozen, or just in the pantry?

Nell Rose from England on May 03, 2011:

Hi, this was great, you certainly come up with some good ideas! by the way, you are in my latest hub! ha ha

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on May 02, 2011:

Bethany - Glad to be of help - I just remembered about this again myself this year and had a V8 moment!

Bethany Culpepper on May 01, 2011:

My parents used to dehydrate food - it was delicious! Thanks for reminding us of a great way to save money and eat healthy.

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on April 30, 2011:

JDB - Me, too - although mine are still waiting to be able to be let loose in the gardens (containers) since it is so blasted cold!

TajSingh - Thanks so much for adding that because that is certainly the truth!

Super Erin - What a fantastic thing to do!

Erin Eisenman from Montana on April 30, 2011:

We are dehydrator junkies! Good job on the hub...great information and good details! We make the garlic powder and sell it at the local farmers' market...we sell out every time! Good stuff!

TajSingh from United Kingdom on April 30, 2011:

Great hub. A food dehydrator not only lets you store food longer it also allows you to save money.

JD Barlow from Southeast US on April 30, 2011:

Excellent hub, thanks for all the great information. Hopefully I planted enough in my garden to use one this year.

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on April 29, 2011:

LLW - I agree - I have been planting so many herbs especially that this was a great investment for me this last year!

L.L. Woodard from Oklahoma City on April 29, 2011:

So glad I ran across this hub. I've planted a large garden this year and have been pre-planning what method(s) to use to preserve my planned bounty. Dehydrating seems perfect to me.

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on April 29, 2011:

BJ - Thanks for the read and "dry" humor as always!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on April 29, 2011:

I get dehydrated all the time all by myself, Audrey, so I don't need a dehydrator . . . Yet.

Caramel corn in a dehydrator? Well I never!

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on April 29, 2011:

Taaduh - thanks for the read! Sounds like a great idea.

taaduh from San Diego, Ca on April 29, 2011:

Wow, so much great information! My dehydrator has been in the closet for years, time to break it out!

Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on April 29, 2011:

Thanks for stopping by, Pamela - glad you liked.

Irbis - I totally agree and thanks for the rating up, ladies.

irbis on April 29, 2011:

Excellent hub, my family has been drying wild mushrooms for decades, they last then for years if kept in cool place, and dried fruits are so nice as snacks. Rated up because it is such a useful information!!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 29, 2011:

I like this hub as dehydrated foods are a great way to store food over a period of time. This hub is very helpful with all the instructions. Rated up.