Last Updated on July 26, 2021
When purchasing your new food dehydration device, the first question you will likely ask is, “what can you put in a food dehydrator”. These useful tools are ideal for creating all kinds of healthy snack options, from dried fruit and fruit leather to potato chips, jerky, and more.
Dehydrated food is wonderfully easy to make and versatile too. Once you find a handful of dehydrator recipes, you’ll be ready to jump in creating things like zucchini chips, crispy orange chips, and even your garlic powder for seasoning.
Today, we’re going to look at just some of the products you can put in a food dehydrator and how you can make sure you get the right results.
What Can You Put In a Food Dehydrator?
The best foods for dehydration are often various forms of meat, vegetables, and fruits. Some foods will dehydrate better than others, like green beans, or certain fruits, like oranges. However, the more you experiment with other foods, the more you’ll discover what you can do with your food dehydrator.
Here are some options to get you started.
There are so many things you can do with meat. It is one of the first ingredients most people experiment with when investing in food dehydrating. If you want to create a protein-packed snack for life on the move, there are few dried food options with more impact than homemade jerky.
The meats that dehydrate best are usually those without a huge amount of fat, as fat can suffer during the dehydration process. You can also use dehydration with meat as a way to preserve food for longer shelf life. Remember, start by boiling your meat, and mixing a sauce of your choice. After that, you need to bake your meat at a low temperature to create the jerky you love.
As mentioned above, dehydration is perfect for all kinds of fruits. You can make fruit leather, fruit chips, and so much more with fresh fruit. When it comes to dehydrating fruit, it’s important to remember that fruit juice can cause some products to take longer in your dehydrator than others. You might need to be patient, depending on what you want to make.
One great option is to use your over-ripe bananas to create banana chips. All you do is slice up your bananas and add some lemon juice to make the perfect banana chips for your granola and other light snacks. Apples are another great choice for homemade recipes with your dehydrator.
Coat your apple slices in honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a delicious autumn-style treat. You can even combine banana slices and apples for a sliced fruit trail mix. Fruit leather is best when you’re worried your smoothie ingredients might not have long left in your fridge. You can blend these with honey and lemon juice and spread them over a baking sheet for the perfect dehydrated fruit strips.
3. Nuts and Legumes
Yes, you can dehydrate nuts, legumes, and other “dry” products. Dehydrated sweetcorn and beans can create fantastic healthy snacks, especially when you coat your mixture with the right herbs and spices. You can also dehydrate nuts to make them even crunchier than usual. For instance, all you need to do to create some dehydrated peanuts is soak a few cups of nuts in warm water with a tablespoon of sea salt, then rinse them and place them in your dehydrator for around 12 hours.
Dehydrating sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other similar products can also make them excellent for long-lasting snacks. Remember, if you’re dehydrating beans, watch for signs of splitting. This could be a sign that your beans are over-done.
Just like fruits, vegetables are fantastic for dehydration. You might have noticed a few different kinds of vegetable chips and crisps in your grocery store lately, alongside fruit leathers. Although these dehydrated veggies can look a little weird at first, they’re an excellent choice if you want to experiment with different flavours while staying healthy.
After dehydrating nuts and fruits, you’ll find it easy to create crisps out of sweet potatoes, beetroot and more. You can even work with standard potatoes too. Transforming your fresh produce into crisps is healthier than buying the food pre-packaged. You can even make things like cauliflower popcorn to add to your trail mix.
5. Other Unique Products
If you were shocked to find that you can dehydrate nuts, you’d probably be even more impressed to discover that there are countless ways to use your dehydrator – beyond making fruit leathers and snacks. You can create your food for camping and trekking, but you could also create your mason jars full of safe dog treats for your pooch, made with high-quality ground beef.
You might decide to make your herbs if you can get the right canning jars and pots. Dehydrating various herbs and substances like garlic or onion makes it simpler to create your flavour powders for your meals.
What Foods Can You Not Dehydrate?
There are plenty of different fruits and vegetables, among other fresh food choices, which are excellent for dehydration. However, as you continue to experiment with your dehydrated foods, you’ll also notice that some products aren’t as well-suited to drying as others.
For instance, nut butter is far too high in fat and moisture to dehydrate. You won’t be able to make your peanut butter powder, for instance. Other foods very high in fat are difficult to dehydrate too. Foods with a lot of fat don’t evaporate moisture easily. This means that most substances will burn onto your dehydrator trays and give you a big mess to clean up.
If you want to dehydrate food safely, make sure you avoid:
• Fatty foods like olives and avocados
• Store-bought condiments and sauces
• Dairy products (due to a higher risk of poisoning)
• Eggs (due to an increased risk of food poisoning)
If your food processor and dehydrator come with instructions, they might also give you an insight into what kind of foods aren’t suitable for food dehydration.
How Do You Prepare Food for Dehydration
Dehydrators are excellent when using your homemade recipes to create healthy snacks from fruits and vegetables. You can even use frozen vegetables and left-over fruit that would otherwise go to waste. Food dehydrators are great for creating long-lasting food too. Drying is a great tool for food preservation. Snacks like beef jerky can last for months or years at a time.
Before you start dehydrating, it’s worth making sure the food you want to work with is suitable for your dehydrating device. Check the instructions, and make sure you’re not using any ingredients the manufacturer expressly asks you to avoid. You should also check the instructions for basic information on how to prepare your food dehydrator for use and how to clean it.
Ensure your kitchen station is thoroughly cleaned and clear of anything that might get in the way, and look at cutting your products into uniform pieces. This is particularly useful if you’re going to be dehydrating beef jerky or dehydrating fruits. Cutting everything into slices will ensure you end up with reasonably uniform snacks.
Another way to prepare for the dehydration process is to consider pre-treating your food items. Not all fruits and vegetables (alongside other foods) will require pre-treatment. However, using this method can help to retain the colour and flavour of your finished food. Soaking fruit in ascorbic acid and vitamin C solutions helps to prevent browning, for instance.
All you need to do is place one teaspoon of ascorbic acid into two cups of water and soak your slices of fruit before dehydrating.
If you don’t have specialist products at home, you can use fruit juice high in citric acid, like limes, lemon juice and oranges. Again, make sure you soak for around 3-5 minutes before you begin the dehydration process.
For vegetables, it’s helpful to blanch them before the dehydration process begins. Blanching means you dip the vegetables into hot boiling water and then into cold water quickly.
How to Dehydrate Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are usually the top choices when people are wondering what to put in their dehydrator. Fortunately, it’s very easy to dehydrate these products.
Start by steaming or blanching the vegetables you wouldn’t eat raw. These are usually the tougher or more fibrous vegetables, like green beans, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. Soft veggies won’t need the same blanching treatment. For your fruits, make sure that you consider a citric acid mix or something similar to maintain the fruit slices’ colour and flavour.
Slice your fruits and vegetables into thin pieces to help them dehydrate quickly. You could also consider using pre-sliced and frozen fruits and vegetables. You won’t need to defrost these products first. Just place them in your dehydrator until they’re hard and crisp.
Remember, it’s usually a good idea to thoroughly wash any fruits you will be drying with the skin on. Many fruits, like apples, have a waxy coating to protect them from bacteria. It might even be worth blanching some products with their skin, like grapes and cherries. This is to promote a better dehydration process. The blanching will often crack the skin a little to make things easier for your dehydrator.
You’ll know your fruit is ready when it’s no longer sticky and takes on a tough, chewy texture.
Dehydrating Grains, Legumes, Pasta, and Meat
Dehydrating precooked rice, grains, legumes, and lentils is a great way to cut down on the amount of weight you need to carry if you’re heading off on a camping trip. It would help if you cook your grains and rice in hot water as normal and then place them in your dehydrator at temperatures of around 125 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. For beans and lentils, canned options are generally the best choice.
Dehydrate your beans and lentils until they’re hard or crunchy. This will usually take around 6 to 12 hours, and you may end up with split beans and peas during this process. If you’re dehydrating pasta, you can cook it as normal, drain the pasta, spread it across your dehydrator trays as evenly as possible, and reduce overlap. Dehydrate until your pasta is dry and brittle.
There are a few ways to dehydrate meat, depending on the kinds of products you’re working with. Lean meat will often be suitable to dehydrate after being cooked to a safe temperature. You’ll need to use the leanest meat possible if you want to dehydrate ground beef. If you want to rehydrate the product later, consider mixing in round oats and breadcrumbs, along with some herbs and spices for flavour.
You’ll still need to cook any ground meat before dehydrating it, so make sure you do so thoroughly, break it apart in the pan, and then spread it over your dehydrator trays as evenly as possible. You can also blot the meat with paper towels during the drying process to re-absorb any surfacing fat.
Meats like chicken and turkey require extra caution when dehydrating. Pressure-cooked chicken often delivers the best results from a dehydrator. You can also use canned chicken, spread evenly over your dehydrator sheets. Make sure you blot the meat with a paper towel to remove fats. The same rule applies to turkey and ground turkey.
Tips for Dehydrating Your Food
Once you get the hang of dehydrating fruits and vegetables and you’ve explored a few different kinds of dry food, you’ll want to keep experimenting with new recipe ideas. There are many options out there for today’s dehydration fans, including gluten-free cracker and crouton options, to homemade recipes for all kinds of lean jerky and vegetarian jerky.
Dehydrating food can be a lot of fun when you get the hang of it, particularly when your family discovers some delicious recipes which become family favourites. Remember, you’ll also need to store your food correctly after dehydrating it to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Vacuum sealed jars will keep your dehydrator recipes from going bad for as long as possible.
Most dehydrated food and dried fruit should last a decent amount of time when stored in an area with minimal excess heat, moisture, and sunlight. Keeping your dehydrated food in the right location, like a pantry or cupboard, will ensure it can last.
The average lifespan of various dehydrated foods can differ. However, here’s what you can expect from most dehydrator recipes:
• Vegetables and fruits: Between 6 months and a year when dehydrated fully and stored at temperatures under 60F. Ensure that you invest in vacuum seals for dried fruit and vegetables, as this will improve lifespan.
• Fruit leathers: Dehydrator recipes for fruit leathers often involve dehydrating the fruits a little less than usual to create a chewy texture. These products will usually last around a month at room temperature, but they may be suitable for freezing too.
• Meat: Usually, you can safely store dehydrated meat for around one or two months at room temperature. However, your meats will last longer when vacuum sealed and frozen for storage.
• Rice grains and beans: Usually, these products will last anywhere up to a year. However, it may depend on what kind of products you use to season your grains. Check your dehydrator recipes for more insights.
Make the Most of Your Dehydrated Foods
Dehydrated foods are excellent for storage purposes, life on the go, camping, and interesting snacks. There are all kinds of dehydrator recipes out there to discover. The more you experiment with dehydrating food, the more you’ll find that the world is full of delicious flavours to explore.
Just remember, when drying fruits, meats, and other products, it’s crucial to follow recipe instructions carefully. Ensuring your dehydrated food is stored correctly will also help to protect you from any food poisoning issues.