Just the thought of dehydrating food can be a bit overwhelming. So why go through all the trouble? Well, it turns out this process is pretty simple once you give it a chance and has a long list of benefits. Here are a few of the reasons why I dehydrate and my current favorite recipes!
The practice of dehydrating food has been around for thousands of years. It’s actually how all our ancestors preserved their food without the handy technology we have today. And although I love being able to store food in the refrigerator, as a mom it is always nice to have the reassurance of food stored away if the power goes out.
There are a lot of benefits to dehydrating your own food. So many in fact, that it’s actually kind of hard to list them all out. Here are a few reasons why my family chooses to dehydrate food:
- Nourishing Food. I love the ability to preserve bulk food that we’ve picked from our own garden or bought from the local farmer’s market.
- Extend Shelf-life. You can make your fresh fruit, vegetables, or proteins last you up to one year just by dehydrating.
- Save Money. Buying in bulk and in season definitely will save you money and reduce your food waste.
- Emergency Prep. I think it’s always good practice to know food preservation techniques and have some food stored away for a rainy day.
So, how does it work?
Dehydrating your food reduces its moisture content to 5%-20%. Within that range, the bacterium that causes food to decay can’t survive. By removing moisture from your favorite foods, you’re also extending their lifespan. Bada bing, bada boom!
There are a lot of different types of food dehydrating out there. I think that it’s important to note here that some methods are more efficient and successful than others. I have tried everything from sun-drying to electric dehydrating. Here are some of the common methods used today!
There is not a simpler way to preserve food than sun drying. All you need is a sunny window. This method takes several days to dry out the food thoroughly, works best in places with a minimum temperature of 86°F and relative humidity of 60%.
Fun Fact: My family used this method to preserve the wild mushrooms we picked together and would later add them into our soups when they weren’t in season.
Air drying is another ancient method of dehydrating food. The main difference is that it usually takes place in the shade. That’s because this method helps preserve anything that needs protection from the sun’s rays.
Oven drying was actually one of the methods I used during the experimental process of creating the Meat and Veggie Bars for Wild Zora. If you are looking to dehydrate some food but are looking to avoid the hassle of buying another appliance this is a great method to start with. Just check to make sure your oven goes low enough, anything over 140°F will cook your food instead of drying it.
My Excalibur Electric Dehydrator is among my favorite kitchen appliances. Thank you modern technology! These machines are extremely efficient and result in almost no spoilage.
Most electric dehydrators also come with a temperature gauge and adjustment dial. This helps to speed or slow drying time depending on what you’re making. This is my preferred method!
Easy Recipe Ideas
There are really so many things that can be dehydrated, it’s incredible! Here are a couple of easy recipes to help get you started. I made the first recipe with my electric dehydrator and the second recipe using my oven.
Dehydrated Kale Chips
Personally, I love kale chips. My family tends to have a love/hate relationship with this veggie because it’s most often a side dish. But more recently, my family has discovered their love for this healthy alternative snack. This kale chip recipe is simple, easy, and tasty!
If you do not have an electric dehydrator, not to worry -- you can use your oven to adapt and make a baked kale chip recipe instead. Give this recipe from JoyFoodSunshine a try!
Prep time: 10 min
Drying time: up to 3-4 hours
1 large kale bunch
1 Tbsp of olive oil
3/4 tsp of sea salt
1/4 tsp of roasted garlic powder
- Wash the kale and cut out the thick stems.
Tip: Use the stems in a soup or discard into your compost!
- Dry the kale leaves in a salad spinner.
- Tear the kale into chip-sized pieces.
- Toss the kale with olive oil, sea salt, and garlic powder.
Tip: If you are not strictly AIP, you can try salt and pepper.
- Spread the leaves on the dehydrator trays.
- Dehydrate for 1 hour @ 155°F.
- Reduce heat to 120°F and keep dehydrating for another 2-3 hours until crispy dry.
- Transfer to an airtight container if the kids have not eaten it all immediately after it came out of the dehydrator!
Baked Zucchini Chips
Now, maybe your family doesn’t necessarily like to eat kale. If that is the case, this is a different recipe for you to try out! This recipe calls for simple ingredients you most likely already have at home.
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 2 hours
3-4 large zucchini, evenly sliced 1/8 inch (3mm) or even thinner at 1.5mm
2 Tbsp of olive oil
- Preheat the oven 235°F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Wash zucchini and slice using a mandolin very thinly. (I tried 1.5 mm and 3mm (1/8”) .
Tip: I tried 1.5 mm and 3mm (1/8”). The thinner slices got done a bit faster, but they were tiny. 1/8” slices are the best.
- Lay the zucchini sliced on a paper towel, cover them with another paper towel, apply light pressure and squeeze out some of the moisture.
- Lay the slices on the parchment paper, brush them lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and dill.
- Bake for 1/ 1/2 - 2 hours until crisp and golden. Keep checking the oven so they do not burn.
- Let the zucchini slices cook and put into an airtight container or bowl with plastic wrap on top.
Other Recipes to try out
- Sweet Potatoes. Now, if you’re new here, you will soon learn about my love and appreciation for these amazing veggies. There are so many ways to cook sweet potatoes. You can make a baked sweet potato, a sweet potato pie, and now one of my new favorites is this dehydrated sweet potato recipe from The Healthy Family & Home.
- Fruit Leather. Another favorite of mine to make in my dehydrator is homemade fruit leather. Now for this one, you will need a blender or food processor and some time but trust me the results are so worth it! Give this recipe from Fresh Off The Grid a try!
- Plums. And last but not least, try your hand at making this dehydrated plums recipe from Simple Homemade Life. I promise, these are not your mother’s prunes. These fruits are not only delicious but they will give you a nice source of saturated fat as well!
Don’t let the thought of dehydrating food make you feel overwhelmed! It’s a great way to provide nourishing food for your family, reduce your food waste, and save money. Give it a try and if you have any questions send me an email.
-Zora Tabin (Founder, Mom & Healthy Snack Enthusiast)
P.S. If you're looking for other dehydrated snacks with veggies in them, check out our meat and veggie bars! This sampler is the perfect way to try each of our bars!