Have you ever wondered what foods you can and cannot dehydrate? Here’s a practical list from Mom with a PREP.
Have you ever wondered if you could dehydrate something as wonderful as avocados? I have. I love them, and they have such a short lifespan. So, I want to preserve their awesomeness…but can I actually dehydrate them? As with every food preservation safety list, there are foods you should, and foods you might not want to. Also, foods you shouldn’t preserve.
Why Do We Need to Know What to Avoid to Dehydrate?
We’ll talk about those methods as they pertain to dehydrating here. So, you have a good understanding of the dehydration process. And even though a food may appear on my do not dehydrate list, it doesn’t mean it can’t be dehydrated. The time, effort, and long-term storage options are not worth doing it if you’re looking to build a PREPared pantry. One-time shots for the fun of it are a completely different idea.
And before we get to the list, I’m sure we’re going to hear a chorus of, “Oh, I dehydrate milk all the time and I’m just fine!” And that’s fine for you and how you choose to provide food for your family. But a general consensus, especially for folks new to the dehydrating method of food preservation for long-term storage is that there are some foods you shouldn’t tackle, and I’m sticking to my story.
If you’d like a list of foods that you can dehydrate and methods on how to do so, check out my 101+ Recipes for Dehydrating.
Do NOT Dehydrate these Foods!
- Avocados – Sure you can, but you don’t really want to. Foods super high in fat don’t dehydrate well at all, and they go rancid very quickly. So just eat it then and there.
- Olives – Another of those “sure you can do it, but ICK!” This may be completely personal, but I’ve tried it and I really DO NOT like it. Nor did my family! You can’t keep it for long-term storage anyway, so just don’t do it.
- Store-bought condiments – There is a technique of taking whatever you can dehydrate and reducing it to its simplest terms to make it easier to store. I can see the appeal in dehydrating a bottle of ketchup, powdering the leather, and having ready-to-serve ketchup available at the drop of a hat in one large container as opposed to 15 bottles sitting on your shelf. I admit the desire to run out and do that now!
However, you really need to look at what is IN the store-bought condiments that will make them not so great to have (sugar, chemicals, fats from oils) that might make them risky to store on the shelf. So these are just good to stay away from. But I’m curious…have any of you tried dehydrating mayo?
- Juices, water, soda – You wouldn’t believe how often “can you dehydrate water” comes up in a google search, or how many times the dehydrated water in a can meme shows up on Facebook groups and forums. But generally, liquid drinks are best canned or jellied for food preservation.
Besides being really messy, even if you had a great tray container, the amount of time and effort in dehydrating even the most reduced down to its minimum orange juice is best done if made into jams, jellies, fruit leathers, frozen or canned.
- Non-lean meats – They take a long time because fat doesn’t like to be dehydrated, and they can’t be stored for more than a week or two.
Do Not Dehydrate Dairy!
- Butter – Butter is largely fat. And with fat comes a whole mess of issues with dehydration. While some people do dehydrate butter on their own, the safest and fastest method for the home PREPared pantry is to invest in commercially preserved powdered butter. Or learn to use beans as a fat replacement.
- Cheese – Yes, you can dehydrate cheese. BUT, and there’s a big but about it. It’s a high-fat content food, that tends to go rancid much more quickly, and shouldn’t be used for long-term storage. Better to buy commercially dried cheese to make sure you’re safe.
- Milk – I’m just going to type – read above about dehydrating milk. While you’ll see tutorials out there about doing it, unless you’re doing it with 1% or non-fat milk (which at that point, there is little to no nutritional value in it any longer, anyway between the ultra-pasteurization and removal of the good fats) why bother. Here’s a powdered whole milk option for you.
What Foods You Should Not Dehydrate*
*This food list comes with a BIG caveat. Don’t try this at home unless you have studied the proper procedure and storage techniques for these foods. Most of the foods here can be dehydrated but are not recommended for long-term storage.
- Meats – Yes, you can take lean meats and make beef jerky from them. But home dehydrated jerky is tricky to make safely and does not store for long-term, and there are better options like canning and smoking. The key is to use VERY lean meats. Fats go rancid quickly and tend not to dehydrate well, so remove all fat from lean cuts of meat before attempting.
- Eggs – In general, eggs dehydrate well when you create a slurry. They can be re-hydrated for scrambled eggs, but not replaced in most baking/cooking needs. And forget trying to create a sunny-side-up egg or omelet from your home dehydrated eggs. A better option is to purchase commercially dehydrated eggs and store them.
- Nuts – You can dehydrate nuts and store them, but the fat content still makes them a short-term shelf item. You can store nuts long-term for food storage, but simply soaking them to help with their nutritional content, drying them, and then sticking them on the shelf for a few years isn’t going to work. There’s a process to follow after the fact.
- Fruit Leathers – Fruit leathers are not for long-term storage. And you should never make them using regular white sugar as it can crystallize in the process.
Dehydrated Foods that Need Special Care
- Leafy Greens – While I don’t follow what I’m about to say here, many consider steaming/blanching dark leafy greens before dehydrating to be more beneficial to get all of the nutrients from the greens.
- Apples, Bananas, and Pears – it’s a great practice to spray a little lemon juice on these before dehydrating to make sure they retain their color before coming fully dehydrated.
- Mushrooms – If you care about having light-colored mushrooms as your final product, make sure your mushrooms are dry before dehydrating them.
I rinse my mushrooms in water to remove the residual growing medium from them, and they tend to be dark upon dehydrating, but we’re okay with that because most of our dehydrated mushrooms end up within a dish or as a mushroom powder, so we don’t care that the final product isn’t a lighter color.
- Blueberries – While many might poke holes in all of the blueberries on their trays, Angela @ Foodstorageandsurvival.com has a better method to dehydrate blueberries without poking every. Single. Blueberry.
- Low-acid fruits and vegetables – Some common knowledge says that these foods are to steam or blanch before dehydrating. Because honestly…do you want a raw, dehydrated beet? I think not.
This list of dehydrating recipes is huge and is completely up to your comfort and taste level. I’ve not met many things that I wouldn’t dehydrate.
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Katy Willis is a writer, lifelong homesteader, and master herbalist, master gardener, and canine nutritionist. Katy is a preparedness expert and modern homesteader practicing everyday preparedness, sustainability, and a holistic lifestyle.
She knows how important it is to be prepared for whatever life throws at you, because you just never know what's coming. And preparedness helps you give your family the best chance to thrive in any situation.
Katy is passionate about living naturally, growing food, keeping livestock, foraging, and making and using herbal remedies. Katy is an experienced herbalist and a member of the CMA (Complementary Medical Association).
Her preparedness skills go beyond just being "ready", she's ready to survive the initial disaster, and thrive afterward, too. She grows 100% organic food on roughly 15 acres and raises goats, chickens, and ducks. She also lovingly tends her orchard, where she grows many different fruit trees. And, because she likes to know exactly what she's feeding her family, she's a seasoned from-scratch cook and gluten-free baker.
Katy teaches foraging and environmental education classes, too, including self-sufficient living, modern homesteading, seed saving, and organic vegetable gardening.
Katy helps others learn forgotten skills, including basic survival skills and self-reliance.
She's been published on sites such as MSN, Angi, Home Advisor, Family Handyman, Wealth of Geeks, Readers Digest, and more.
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