Sick of paying a fortune for a small bag of dried fruit? Curious how to dehydrate fruit at home? It’s easier than you think!
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 food 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.
When I was learning how to dehydrate fresh fruit I tried 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 others 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 about some alternative pre-treatment options using ingredients I had in my kitchen. Wildly Organic doesn’t have any harmful additives in their dried fruit.
I tried dehydrating sliced apples without any pretreatment when I was first dabbling with my friend’s food dehydrator, and I was so disappointed. The end result was very chewy and not at all tasty to eat as a snack.
Over time, I found that sprinkling a bit of cinnamon on the apple slices makes a big difference in the flavor, even if you don’t do anything else to pretreat them.
Two different, simple pretreatments:
Steam for 3-4 minutes
This was so easy to do with a steamer basket (this is my favorite 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 food 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 food 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.
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 food dehydrator. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on the apples before drying for a special treat.
How much to use? For apple chips/dried apples, you only need about 3-4 large or 5-6 small apples to fill an entire tray (on an Excalibur, less for round machines), if you’re slicing thinly like I can with my peeler/corer/slicer, which I LOVE. For applesauce rolls, you can pour them rather thick and probably fit about ten apples per tray. I like to stick the blender in the fridge and try to make another batch as soon as the first is done without washing anything in between! #timesaver
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.
They’re ugly without the lemon juice, but my husband still likes them, so I often skip that step.
Pretreat with a citrus soak
Just like you would for apples, like I described above. 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 food 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.
How much to use? It takes about 6-8 bananas to fill a tray, although this all depends on how thinly you slice them. With apples, it’s amazing how fast your tray fills up. With bananas, it’s incredible how many you can fit!
How to Dehydrate Strawberries
Couldn’t be simpler: slice and dry. My source 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″.
Particularly if you’ve been lucky enough to pick a bunch of 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 unbleached parchment paper, set your food dehydrator to 135F, and walk away for 4-12 hours.
How much to use? You can fit at least half a quart of strawberries to fill a tray when slicing (again depends on thickness) but my favorite because it’s SO fast and easy, is definitely the fruit rolls. Expect to use about 2 quarts for every 3 trays (these don’t usually pour as thickly as applesauce).
Cool trick: You can even leave the leaves on the strawberries when you dehydrate them. 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 unbleached 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 food 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
Pretreatment for cranberries is absolutely necessary.
Freeze, then drop in boiling water for 30 seconds, then dip in cold water.
Making the Best of Basics instructions calls for freezing the cranberries, then 30 seconds in boiling water, then a cold water bath. The point is to get the skins to crack so that the moisture can be released in the dehydrator.
I didn’t read the instructions well the first time I dehydrated cranberries and didn’t freeze them before boiling them and it didn’t work. I had to use a paring knife and puncture each cranberry individually, which made me very glad I was only testing one small bag! Any cranberries that are not cracked simply swell and stare at you in the food dehydrator, unwilling to dry out because all the moisture is trapped under the tough skin.
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 and they molded! 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 food 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.
One year, we picked and dehydrated cherries and that time they were finished and delicious in 12 hours. I added sugar to two of the five trays, but realized after tasting the finished product that I really didn’t need to. 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.
How much to use? It will take about 8-10 pounds of cherries (3-4 quarts) to fill 5 Excalibur trays.
Dehydrating U-Pick Cherries
Our family picked cherries at a farm that is not organic but practices integrative pest management and works to be eco-friendly. (They’re on my local resources list.) We paid $1.50/pound, and after two hours pitting cherries to fill five dehydrator trays, I’m thinking I’d rather buy already picked and pitted cherries for a few quarters more a pound!
My husband points out that it was a good experience to be out in the cherry orchard, and he’s right. I’m all about one-time experience on this one, though. 😉
If you’ve never dehydrated anything, allow me to amaze you with how much the foods actually shrink in size. Dehydrating is truly a great way to conserve space for food storage! The photo below shows all the dried cherries I made sitting in my colander. They started out as two completely full colanders, about 8-10 pounds, I’m guessing, as we picked 15 pounds total.
Those are not quart-sized bags, but little, tiny 3″x3″ snack baggies. They’ll make great on-the-go snacks, but I’m always shocked at how little is left when the water is all gone! I doubt there’s much more than a pound, maybe two, when all is said and done.
I’ll keep these guys in the fridge for long-term storage. Even though I know the condensation trick to make sure they’re done, I wanted them to be chewy and not tough/crunchy, so I’m always afraid I pull them a little early like my sad cranberries.
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 food 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 things moving along faster without killing any enzymes.
What about other fruits? Here’s a page with really great dehydrated fruit recipes for the rest of the known world of produce that I don’t tackle here.
Want more? Here are some of my other how-to posts:
- How to Dehydrate Vegetables
- Crispy Dehydrated Green Beans and Root Vegetables – this makes pseudo “chips” that are great snacking foods!
- How to Make Crispy Nuts
- Crispy nuts update – using a food dehydrator
- More tips on using an Excalibur Dehydrator after having it for a year…and loving it more!