Dehydrating fruit is such a great option for long term storage without filling your freezer. Most make great snack foods and can stay in your diaper bag or desk drawer for a long time! Dehydrating apples has become my new favorite fall pastime. If you don’t have a dehydrator, I explain how to make applesauce rolls in the oven in the eBook Healthy Snacks to Go, but often I find dehydrating much simpler.
Continue scrolling for other fruits, including strawberries, bananas, and cranberries PLUS a homemade fruit leather video.
I’m certainly still a dehydrating rookie myself, but I did try a few different ways to “pre-treat” some fruits, like apples. When buying dried fruit, you’ll notice that some packages claim “sulfate free!” while other have “potassium sulfate” in their ingredients list. Some fruits need to be pre-treated before dehydrating in order to make them taste better, look better, or last longer.
Generally you want to avoid potassium sulfate, just because it’s one more chemical you don’t need. For home dehydrating, I didn’t want to have to seek out any fancy ingredients. Luckily I read in the book Making the Best of Basics (a great resource on traditional foods, even though it’s aimed at preparing for emergencies) some alternative pre-treatment options using ingredients I had in my kitchen.
I tried dehydrating sliced apples without any pretreatment when I was first dabbling with my friend’s dehydrator, and I was so disappointed. The end result was very chewy and not at all tasty to eat as a snack.
UPDATE: a bit of cinnamon makes a big difference, or my tastes have changed. I now find I often skip the pretreatment part.
From the Excalibur drying guide and Making the Best of Basics , I tried two different, simple pretreatments:
- Steam for 3-4 minutes. This was so easy to do with a steamer basket, and the end result was very light, less chewy than the other version, and a very fun snack that my whole family liked. Just be sure to rinse with cold water when the time is up and blot dry before arranging on the dehydrator tray.
- Soak in lemon or lime or pineapple juice and water, 1:4 ratio . Also easy to do; I used the same pretreat liquid, 1/4 cup lime juice and 1 cup water, for apples and bananas since I wasn’t drying a big quantity. These apples are more dense and chewy, but I didn’t notice the flavor of the citrus fruit coming through too much, so that was a good thing. The steamed apples are on the right, soaked on the left. Strawberries prepared two different ways as well.
My apples were finished in either dehydrator in less than 6 hours, even though the book said it might take up to 12. This gives you an idea of the dried apple. The citrus juice treated apple is shown; steamed ones actually almost break in half when bent like this.
How do you tell when the apples are finished dehydrating? If you can’t squeeze any moisture out when you pinch the fruit, that’s a fairly accurate sign of being 100% finished. If you’re still unsure, put the apples into a plastic bag, box or glass jar right away while warm, and if condensation forms on the inside, you need to dry them out a bit more.
UPDATE 1/12: If you slice your apples thinly and evenly (try using a mandolin or apple corer/peeler/slicer), you can get amazing apple chips after about 24-30 hours with a full dehydrator. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on the apples before drying for a special treat.
How to Dehydrate Bananas
My kids didn’t like the dried bananas! So sad. My husband can’t get enough of them, but for the kids and I, the flavor gets really concentrated and the bananas are very chewy, and it’s just not our thing. My son initially said, “It tastes like banana pancakes,” then on the second taste decided “Yuck.”
Pretreating does help them not get so brown, so it’s worth a try on one banana while you’re dehydrating other things, just to see if your family likes them.
UPDATE 1/12: They’re ugly without the lemon juice, but my husband likes them, so I skip that step now!
Pretreat with a citrus soak as described above for apples. Stop dehydrating when leathery. You can also continue dehydrating until you get banana chips if you slice them thinly enough, which would be a different texture to experiment with.
Dehydrating took about 10 hours. Chips would likely take 15-20 hours. With a full dehydrator, expect longer times, like 15 hours for dried bananas. If you go too long on accident and don’t like the tough texture, keep going until you get to crunchy “chips” as long as you sliced thinly.
Here the strawberries and apples are done and the bananas are getting there.
How to Dehydrate Strawberries
Couldn’t be simpler: slice and dry. Making the Best of Basics recommended steaming for a minute, but in a side-by-side test with untreated berries, I found the results to be exactly the same. Skip the pre-treat for strawberries.
Mine generally take about 6-8 hours, but if you go overboard, they’re still tasty, just a little more chewy/crunchy. Unless you are a perfectly consistent slicer, you’ll probably have to remove some strawberries before they’re all 100% finished. Your berries may take longer than mine, too, if you slice them thicker than 1/8-1/4″.
*Fruit rolls: Particularly if you’ve been lucky enough to pick strawberries, you’ll have some that are getting mushy before you can process them. A fruit roll or fruit leather is a perfect way to be able to use up on-its-way-out fruit, and the preparation is generally easier than any other method of preservation. After an hour of washing, hulling, and slicing strawberries for dehydrated chips or frozen fruit, you’ll be glad to simply toss some fruit in a blender, pour the liquid onto a dehydrator sheet or parchment paper, set your dehydrator to 135F, and walk away for 4-12 hours.
Cool trick: You can even leave the leaves on. I’m not kidding. Just wash the berries, throw them in the blender, get ‘em mashed to a pulp so you can’t see the green stuff anymore, and pour carefully onto parchment paper. Just don’t drip strawberry puree all the way down your carpeted stairs like I did last week! I highly recommend pouring next to your dehydrator instead of carrying the full trays…
The sheets available for the Excalibur are called Paraflexx, and they are coated with Teflon to be non-stick. I spoke with the company on this, and they were quick to point out that it’s a non-chemical Teflon that has no adhesive involved; it’s apparently the adhesive that off-gasses when talking non-stick pots or pans. This will never flake or scratch off.
Excalibur also sells a vegetable-based parchment paper that is renewable and compostable as an alternative option. I was very impressed by their status as a “green” company. You can just tell when talking to someone if they understand how to be eco-friendly, and Excalibur certainly has a handle on that.
How to Dehydrate Cranberries
- Add to boiling water and boil for 30 seconds, then dip in cold water. Although Making the Best of Basics instructions only called for 30 seconds of boiling, I found that the cold water bath didn’t pop them for me. The berries really need to be boiled until the skins crack, which takes a little longer for all of them to pop. Any cranberries that are not cracked simply swell and stare at you in the dehydrator, unwilling to dry out because all the moisture is trapped under the tough skin. I had to use a paring knife and puncture each cranberry individually, which made me very glad I was only testing one small bag!
- Freeze. This one simply doesn’t work. More individual knife popping! Note: That’s a dumb Katie option. I just reread Basics, and it says to freeze, THEN drop into hot water just before dehydrating. Perhaps that works great!
See how they are drying at all different rates? The cranberries took about 20-24 hours. You really need to watch this fruit closely, because if they get too dried out, they’re completely hard and have zero taste. If they get slightly overdone, they’re chewy – like eating waxed paper – and have almost no taste. And if you try to compensate and assume that a dried cranberry that looks about like a raisin is “good enough”, this might happen to you: It about killed me to throw away two whole boxes, about 3 bags, of cranberries because I messed this up! You may need to take some of the home dried cranberries out while the others catch up. Which leads me to this all important tip:
How to Know if Food is Fully Dehydrated?
As you can tell by my sad, sad photo above, I didn’t always know this tip. When you think a food is finished drying out, put a few pieces in a plastic baggie and fold it over. If there’s any condensation on the inside of the bag after a few minutes, keep drying them out! Once you package the food for storage (I use glass jars as often as I can, but I do rely on plastic bags, too), keep an eye on it over the next day. If you see any moisture collecting on the inside, get it back in the dehydrator, stat! You can check to see if the pieces come apart after being pressed together tightly. If so, they’re done.
How to Dehydrate Cherries
Since cherries are already a bit complicated to prepare because you have to pit every one individually, it’s nice that they need no pre-treatment for drying. Simply halve, pit, and arrange the cherry halves, skin side down, on the trays. Mine took about 20 hours to finish drying. They weren’t as good as the Traverse City dried cherries that we get every year for Christmas from my grandparents, but those are tart cherries, and I only had black cherries. You could add a sprinkling of sugar or sweetener if you so desire.
UPDATE: We picked cherries and this time, they were finished and delicious in 12 hours. I added sugar to two of the five trays, but I really didn’t need to now that I taste the finished product. See a photo of my results here. Like cranberries, cherries are another fruit you’ll want to watch very, very closely and use the bag test for doneness. Chewy is great, crunchy…not so much.
Can I Dehydrate Different Fruits at the Same Time?
You bet. Since fruits don’t have much of a permeating odor, feel free to put many different fruits together in your dehydrator. If it’s new to you, this is a great way to try a variety to see what your family likes. All fruits dehydrate at 135 degrees F. Start the first hour at 145F to get thing moving along faster without killing any enzymes.
What about other fruits? Here’s a page with really great step-by-step dehydrator how-to videos for the rest of the known world of produce that I don’t tackle, including how to dehydrate tomatoes into leathers and then into paste. Honestly, I need to watch these videos! I never feel like I have the time.
Want more? My other how-to posts:
- How to Dehydrate Vegetables
- How to Make Crispy Nuts
- Crispy nuts update – using a dehydrator
- More tips on using an Excalibur Dehydrator after having it for a year…and loving it more!
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This post is entered in Frugal Friday at Life as MOM.