Freeze drying foods can be a lot of fun – but it’s also totally normal to wonder if what you’re hoping will freeze-dry will actually do so. Which foods can you freeze dry – and which won’t?
The foods that will freeze-dry best and store for years are those which are not too high in fat or sugar content. Foods that are too high in fat or sugar content are more difficult or impossible to store freeze-dry for long term storage. Here is a guide to what will work – and what will fail.
Ready to see what works – what doesn’t – and what might work if you learn the right tricks? Here’s everything I’ve learned by trial and error and loads of research.
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79 Foods You Can Freeze Dry (with Ease)
We’ve had our freeze dryer (click here to see which we recommend and why – or just go get a Harvest Right freeze dryer now) for several years now, and we’ve found that it’s possible to freeze-dry a ton of foods for storage. And it’s fun to try new things – and see how they turn out. Even so, I’ve also found that it’s a lot of fun to see what other freeze dryer owners are trying – and to see how they’re loving what comes out of their freeze dryers.
So, without further ado, here are 79 foods you can freeze-dry with ease – many of which we’ve done successfully ourselves. There are a few that we haven’t tried – but our research and chatting with other freeze-drying fans show that it works well.
- Mandarin oranges
- Leafy greens
- Sweet Potatoes
- Deli Meat
- Game Meat
- Ground Meats
Candy & Treats
- Gummy bears
- Ice cream
- Ice cream sandwiches
- Buah Merah
- Hamburger patties
- Keto meals
- Macaroni and cheese
- Tuna (or chicken) Salad
- Cream cheese
- Eggs (raw or cooked)
- Heavy cream
- Yogurt or Kefir
- Dog food and treats
- Sourdough starters
- Spices and herbs
Fruits are, by far, one of the most popular things to freeze dry. Why? Fruit is tasty and doesn’t lose any taste, deliciousness, or nutrition when freeze-dried.
So once they’ve been processed, they’re essentially candy – only it’s the kind of candy you won’t get in trouble for eating… unless you don’t drink enough water. Then you’ll have some digestive troubles, but it’s a self-correcting behavior.
- Mandarin oranges
Now, here are a few notes based on things I’ve learned freeze-drying these fruits or from friends who have.
Apples – Applies are best freeze-dried in slices or small pieces. They can be plain or coated with something like cinnamon or caramel.
Avocado – Not a fruit I’d put in every fruit salad, but it freeze-dries well. I add lemon before freeze-drying to minimize the discoloration that happens.
Bananas – Bananas are a popular freeze-dried option in slices. They can discolor easily, so you may want to pre-treat them with citric acid.
Blackberries – These are great for adding to shakes or eating as is.
Cherries – These will need to be prepped first, too, by being pitted and halved. Delicious!
Citrus – Citrus can freeze dry, but it takes extra effort to do so simply due to the sugar content and the design of the fruit and rind.
Grapes – Freeze-dried grapes are better than candy! They freeze-dry best when halved.
Mandarin oranges – These deserve a special mention because they’re the easiest type of citrus to freeze-dry. Especially if you do the canned ones.
Melons – Some melons freeze-dry better and easier than others – but all are delicious!
Peaches – Sliced peaches are amazing. You don’t even have to blanch them – just slice, freeze-dry, and enjoy. I love these on cereal – I’ll use milk or water to hydrate them, depending on how quickly I want to eat my breakfast.
Raspberries – More fruit candy! I love using these in shakes or on cereal. I just add extra milk to hydrate them.
Strawberries – These freeze-dry especially well when sliced or topped. This is another personal favorite for a topping on cold (or hot) cereals with milk.
Passionfruit – Sliced fruit candy!
Pears – Freeze-dried pears are delicious treats.
Pineapple – Cut pineapple into small pieces for best freeze-drying – then enjoy!
Just remember to drink a lot of water with that freeze-dried fruit! Otherwise, calling it a “tummy ache” won’t be an adequate description. Seriously. Drink plenty of water!
Oh, and most fruit reconstitutes decently well, although it can all be eaten as is. In fact, for some fruits (I’m looking at you, watermelon!) it’s just better to eat them as still freeze-dried. I haven’t had much luck reconstituting that without turning it into a melon soup. Others have had luck with that, though. Patience and a humid environment seem to be the key factors.
Want the complete how-to on freeze-drying fruit? I’ve got a new article for you that you’ll love! Complete Guide to Freeze Dried Fruit (with pictures).
I love freeze-drying vegetables. They’re easy, they work well, and most reconstitute just fine. There are a few that don’t reconstitute as well, but that’s okay.
Those can be powdered to add as a not-so-sneaky source of nutrition (and fiber) or added to a soup or stew. Or chili! A chili is a fantastic option and one of my favorite freeze dryer-based meals.
- Leafy greens
- Sweet Potatoes
In any case, here are how the various vegetables do – along with some notes.
Asparagus – This freeze-dries great. Just be sure to reconstitute it slowly and via humidity or it will get super soggy.
Beets – A veggie I haven’t tried but gets rave reviews in my research and from friends.
Broccoli – Cut up the florets into small pieces for optimal freeze-drying. If you’re impatiently reconstituting them as I do, just add them directly to a soup.
Carrots – Sliced carrots work best, though sticks would probably work, too.
Cauliflower – Some people say it’s like keto popcorn! I prefer it in soups.
Celery – A few people can reconstitute celery with success, but the rest of us just cut it into small bits and then powder it to add to our meals. I’ve heard it does better as part of a meal, like a tuna salad (made with a mayo replacement) than alone.
Corn – Remember to remove the corn from the cob – and those delicious pieces of corn should freeze-dry all right.
Leafy greens – Leafy greens freeze-dry fine – but do become majorly brittle and powdery once removed from the trays. So if you’re wanting them for a salad? It won’t end well. But if you’re okay with greens that are kinda powdered, then they’re a great option.
Mushrooms – Mushrooms are one of my favorite things to freeze-dry. Just slice them, freeze-dry them, and go. They are extremely versatile and can handle being reconstituted in a variety of ways – or being turned into powder.
Okra – Sliced okra does best.
Onions – Onions can be plain, diced, chopped, sliced, caramelized, or in a dish. Just know that the smell and flavor may affect any other food that’s in the freeze dryer – and for several loads after.
Peas – Peas freeze-dry fantastically – and you don’t even have to do much with them.
Peppers – Slice, dice, or chop them up. They work great! If you want my easier and quicker steps to freeze-drying bell peppers, I’ve got you covered in this article here.
Potatoes – Thinly sliced, parboiled potatoes make a great option for homemade, freeze-dried potato chips!
Sweet Potatoes – These are fantastic once freeze-dried, whether alone or added to a dish.
Just remember that each of these does reconstitute differently – some will need to be put in a bowl of water while others will need to be put in a humid environment and given plenty of time. Speeding those veggies’ reconstitution up will result in soggy vegetables that may have an off-putting crunch in the center.
Dairy can freeze-dry amazingly well, which is great – because it’s the only long-term storage option for dairy unless you want to get a milk cow (or goat). But by freeze-drying your dairy products, you don’t have to worry about remembering to feed and milk them.
So here’s how some common dairies work in the freeze dryer.
- Cream cheese
- Eggs (raw or cooked)
- Heavy cream
- Yogurt or Kefir
And now some notes on things I’ve learned freeze-drying dairy products.
Cheese – Cheeses turn into chips – and can be delicious as-is or reconstituted slowly in a humid baggy.
Cream cheese – This freeze-dries well in slices and is a fantastic substitute for mayonnaise in your food storage plans.
Eggs (raw or cooked) – Eggs freeze-dry amazingly – and can be freeze-dried raw, cooked, sliced, chopped, or in any way you want to do it. We keep several Mylar bags of raw, scrambled eggs on hand for cooking and general food storage. We’re also experimenting with separated yolks and egg whites for long-term, fancy baking food storage.
Heavy cream – This can be a lot harder to freeze dry, but it is possible. You may want to water it down to help it freeze-dry better. Once dried, it’ll be a powder that sticks – but can be scraped off of the trays for storage.
Milk – Milk freeze dries great – even whole milk. Whole milk won’t keep as long as skim milk will, but it’s nice to finally have a viable, long-term option for storing whole milk!
Yogurt or Kefir – Yogurt and kefir freeze-dry great. In fact, if you do little droplets of yogurt (or freeze them into small amounts in silicone mold), they’re like melts – and candy. My kids love freeze-dried yogurt drops!
Freeze-dried dairy products are amazing.
We love freeze-drying our chicken’s fresh eggs (if we have any extras) for long-term storage. If the idea of freeze-drying fresh eggs doesn’t appeal to you, and you want to read about more ways to store your fresh eggs safely, read my article on it here.
The freeze-dried yogurt is another favorite. In my research, I’ve found several examples and stories of people who were able to reconstitute the freeze-dried yogurt well enough that they could use it to make more yogurt. I haven’t personally tried it, but it was cool to read about as an option!
Remember that fattier products (dairy included) won’t store for as long as fat-and-sugar-free foods will. But you can still store your dairy products safely for up to 10-15 years.
Want to read more about freeze-drying dairy products? Pick your own adventure.
Being able to freeze-dry meat for food storage has been one of my favorite things. It’s a great way to save leftovers, plan for that zombie apocalypse, or just be prepared in case of a dinner where you thought you had that cut of meat on hand – only to realize you were mistaken.
Here are some of the meats we’ve freeze-dried, reconstituted, and the meats that I’ve found others have freeze-dried successfully in my research.
- Deli Meat
- Game Meat
- Ground Meats
Now for freeze-drying notes on each type of meat listed.
Bacon – Bacon is so fatty I wouldn’t have thought it would work. However, multiple people have said that they’re able to successfully freeze-dry bacon, though they don’t let it sit long before eating it because of the fat content and risk of it going rancid.
Beef – Beef can be freeze-dried in many forms. Full steaks don’t do as well unless cut up or given plenty of time to reconstitute, though. Some steaks can do pretty good if cooked with a sous-vide before freeze-drying.
Chicken – Sliced chicken (cooked or raw) freeze-dries well. I like to keep several bags of cooked, freeze-dried chicken on hand in case of a meal that needs protein fast. Some of the meat does powder, but then it’s great in soups or stews.
Deli Meat – The trick seems to be putting several slices together and using a tray liner. It’s not easy, though.
Game Meat – Game meat does great whether it’s sliced, diced, chopped, or in chunks.
Ground Meats – Ground meats are fantastic freeze-dried food! We prefer to cook it first, remove excess fat for better storage potential, and then seal it up. It’s great for last-minute chilis, soups, stews, or as loose ground meats for meals like a shepherd’s pie.
Jerkies – Jerkies can be stored longer if freeze-dried, but if you made them properly beforehand, freeze-drying them too is almost overkill.
A quick note about making jerky – you can’t really make jerky in a freeze dryer, but you can freeze dry already-made jerky. However, there’s some nuance to it. For more details on making jerky in a freeze dryer, read my article on it here.
Pork – Kalua pork is supposed to be especially tasty once freeze-dried, as are any other pork cuts or products. The sad truth: I’m allergic to pork, so this is all research-based.
Poultry – Poultry and fowl in general also freeze-dry well. We’ve freeze-dried turkey, chicken, and my research shows that pretty much any other poultry does great, too.
Sausage – Sausage does well in patties, separated like ground meats, or in links that aren’t covered in a heavy lining.
My favorite things to do with freeze-dried meats are to use them in soups, stews, casseroles, or chili. Other people have had great luck reconstituting steaks and then grilling them. In any case, freeze-drying doesn’t limit you much when it comes to your meats and proteins.
Want to read more about freeze-drying various meats? Here you go.
Whether you’re camping or just storing some meals for a busy day, full meals can be put into the freeze dryer and come out fantastic. Here are a few that I’ve tried or found in my research.
Here are some of the meals you can freeze-dry for another day.
- Buah Merah
- Hamburger patties
- Keto meals
- Macaroni and cheese
- Tuna (or chicken) Salad.
Now let’s go into what I’ve learned about freeze-drying these meals – or from friends who’ve freeze-dried them. Because my children are picky eaters, so let’s be honest – we don’t eat a ton of Kimchi or sushi in this household. Which is sad, really. Sushi is delicious!
Broth – Many people make their own broths and then freeze-dry them into a powder. Essentially, they’re making their own bouillon. Pretty cool, huh?
Buah Merah – In my research, several people said they’d successfully freeze-dried a meal they called Buah Merah – they didn’t provide any links, descriptions, or pictures, though, so I’m not sure how it would be different from the Indonesian fruit.
Casseroles – Most casseroles freeze-dry well. Depending on the ingredients, they may need to be reconstituted and enjoyed sooner than later. Read more about freeze-drying casseroles in my article here.
Chili – You can freeze-dry ingredients separately or together – add water and enjoy some fantastic homemade chili.
Guacamole – As long as you add some lemon or citric acid to your guacamole, it’ll freeze-dry and reconstitute great without turning odd shades of gray. Don’t forget the chips, though! You could use freeze-dried pieces of cheese as your chips.
Hamburger patties – Freeze-dried hamburger patties work well with either cooked patties or raw.
Keto meals – There are a ton of keto meals that freeze-dry really well – and reconstitute easily, too.
Kimchi – My research shows that kimchi is a popular option for freeze-drying.
Leftovers – Okay, so “leftovers” isn’t a dedicated meal, but it can be a great way to make sure you aren’t wasting any food. And if you’ve got enough for a full (or several) meals? Package them separately for easier reconstitution and use.
Macaroni and cheese – Homemade macaroni and cheese do better than the boxed stuff, although that works okay, too.
Pasta – Pasta alone can freeze-dry, though it generally does better in a casserole or dish.
Rigatoni – Another pasta dish that freeze-dries and reconstitutes well – and is super tasty!
Salsa – it isn’t a whole meal. Knowing you don’t have to give it up in an emergency is great. It freeze-dries and reconstitutes well. In my opinion, it would also do fine if powdered and then reconstituted. But my family disapproves of my chunky salsa, so there’s that.
Soup – Soups of all kinds can be freeze-dried for storage. Just add water to reconstitute, heat, and enjoy! Fattier or creamier soups won’t last as long, but they can still last 5-15 years.
Spaghetti – Spaghetti works well, though it works better if it’s a fully prepared dish or casserole, kind of like baked spaghetti. style
Stew – Stews also freeze-dry and reconstitute well. They are a personal favorite for camping!
Tuna (or chicken) Salad – My research says these can be a great freeze-drying option if you use a mayonnaise substitute – like cream cheese. It won’t work well if you use actual mayo.
Then, when you’re ready for dinner, grab your Mylar bag (or bags) of food, prep it for reconstitution, and go. It’s a great way to ensure you have ultralight meals for backpacking, too!
Candy and Treats
It’s totally possible to freeze-dry various candies and treats. Here are some of the most popular options – along with a few important notes from my experience and research.
Here are some candies and treats we’ve freeze-dried and/or tried.
- Gummy bears
- Ice cream
- Ice cream sandwiches
Now some notes on candies and treats. The key to freeze-drying candy and sweets is small pieces – and to pre-freeze the freeze-dryer so you can put the treats (on trays) in cold.
Caramels – These can be tricky to freeze-dry, but it’s possible if it’s cut into small bits.
Cheesecake – Cut the cheesecake into small pieces to be able to freeze-dry it. You can eat it that way or reconstitute it slowly in a humid area (like a Ziploc baggie).
Gummy bears – My research says it works – but we haven’t tried it because we aren’t a gummy bear family.
Ice cream – Use small scoops – and make sure you’ve got your freeze-dryer set up to go from a cold state or it’ll melt. Once freeze-dried, it’s delicious! Don’t forget to pre-freeze the freeze dryer, or the ice cream will melt.
Ice cream sandwiches – Make sure they’re cut into small pieces or they won’t freeze-dry as well. Also, a small bite goes a long way! This is definitely a time to pre-freeze the freeze-dryer before you insert the trays.
Jello – Use small jello cubes for the best results.
Marshmallows – You thought marshmallows were good before? Try freeze-drying them.
Skittles – Yup – skittles. These are amazing once freeze-dried.
If you freeze-dry a lot of candy, a word of warning: make sure you only eat them in small amounts. And drink plenty of water. The sugar influx will cause huge digestive issues if you don’t do both!
Ready to read more about freeze-drying candy and sweets? Gotcha covered with this article: How to Freeze Dry Candy and Sweets at Home. So go give that a read next!
Other foods, including bread, coffee, condiments, pet food, insects, and other items, can be freeze-dried.
Finally, let’s talk about a few other items and foods that can be freeze-dried successfully.
- Dog food and treats
- Sourdough starters
- Spices and herbs
Here are a few quick things I’ve learned about freeze-drying these foods.
Bread – Bread is easy to freeze-dry in small slices but can be hard to reconstitute if you’re wanting a sandwich or toast. It works great as croutons or for stuffing, though.
Coffee – This is a very popular freeze-drying option! Based on my research, it’s great to freeze-dry leftover coffee for camping or days when you realize that you’re out of grounds.
Condiments – Ketchup, BBQ sauces, and mustards can be freeze-dried – just water them down and mix really well first so it’ll work properly.
Dog food and treats – My research shows that people love freeze-drying various things as treats for pets – bits of meats, homemade dog treats, and more. You can read more about freeze-drying dog food in my article here.
Rice – Cooked rice freeze-dries well, though it gets quite mushy unless it’s only parboiled. But it also stores a good long while without being freeze-dried, so it’s your call. We like having some freeze-dried cooked (parboiled) rice on hand just in case.
Insects – You can freeze-dry all sorts of insects if that’s your thing. Here’s how to do it.
Sourdough starters – This is a great way to keep and store starts – and they reconstitute well enough to be viable as starts.
Spices and herbs – Any spices and herbs can be freeze-dried. From there, most will work best as powders. That’s because most herbs and spices are pretty fragile – so it’s easier to powder them than stress about getting little leaves off the trays.
Oh – but an important note about spices, herbs, and condiments – they’re pretty fragrant and potent. So if you are freeze-drying them, make sure you’re freeze-drying them with other foods that you don’t mind any cross-sharing or cross-contamination of smells and tastes.
For example, it was great when we freeze-dried some garlic and onion. Except for the raspberries we processed at the same time had an odd taste – and so did the next couple of batches that came out of the freeze dryer. So if you are going to do spices and herbs, make sure you’re sticking to savory foods – until you’ve been able to clean out the smell or for a couple more batches, anyway.
6 Foods that Can Freeze Dry – but Don’t Reconstitute As Well (unless you know these tips)
Okay, so there is some definite opinion in each of these foods and cases. But I think these foods are harder to reconstitute and/or don’t reconstitute as well, especially if you don’t do it right.
Even so, here is the list and some notes to help your experience go better than mine first attempts.
- Green Beans
Bread – Reconstitute slowly and with humidity, not soaking. The bread will develop an odd texture if you go too fast when reconstituting.
Broccoli – Small pieces of broccoli will do better when reconstituting, but they will still fall apart easily. It always works well in soups, though.
Celery – Celery is hard to reconstitute. Those who have done it successfully say that time, humidity, and lots of patience are key. That or having it as an ingredient in the dish already. When in doubt, powder it after it’s freeze-dried and use that.
Green Beans – Due to their shell, green beans need to be cut up small or shelled to freeze dry and reconstitute without being a soggy mess. I think it’s better to dry them. They are great for soups or powders.
Pasta – Don’t freeze-dry plain pasta. Freeze-dry it in a casserole or meal instead. Reconstitute it slowly.
Rice – Parboiled rice will do better than fully-cooked rice once freeze-dried and reconstituted.
Knowing about these foods should save you time, heartache, and a few oddly-textured meal experiments.
What Foods Can’t Be Freeze Dried?
Foods high in fats, oils, alcohol, and sugar don’t freeze-dry as well if at all.
Ready to see which foods can’t be freeze-dried? Here they are – along with some notes I’ve learned from experience and research.
- Oily and fatty foods
- Sugary foods
- Chai tea
- Heavy cream
- Peanut butter
- Jams, Jellies, and Preserves
Oily and fatty foods – Due to the nature of fat, it doesn’t freeze-dry well. It just goes rancid over time. Foods with fats in them can still be freeze-dried, but it’s smart to expect those foods to have a shorter shelf-life. You can read more about storing oils and fats in this article I wrote.
Sugary foods – Due to the structure and nature of sugar, it’s harder for them to freeze-dry. Always test super sugary foods for moisture before storing them in mylar bags. Candy can work, but it’s definitely in the “not as effective” group – but it’s still fun!
Alcohol – Alcohol doesn’t freeze dry at all. Attempts end in huge messes. However, if a dish has a small amount of cooking alcohol in it, it should be okay.
Bones – Bones don’t freeze dry. I haven’t tried them in our freeze dryer – apparently, I’m not as adventurous as other homesteaders because this idea/info came from someone else.
Butter – Butter won’t freeze dry on its own. It can work for short-term storage via freeze-drying if it’s an ingredient in something.
Chocolate – Pure chocolate won’t freeze-dry. If smaller pieces aren’t 100% cacao, then they may freeze-dry as an ingredient in something else.
Chai tea – I haven’t tried this, but others (who have tried it) assure me it doesn’t work – all it does is create a huge mess.
Heavy cream – Heavy cream, due to its high-fat content, won’t freeze-dry well unless watered down and/or first being frozen in an ice cube tray. Even then, it’s a shorter-term storage food.
Honey – Honey is too sugary and viscous to freeze-dry. Even crystallized honey won’t freeze-dry. However, honey lasts well for months or longer on its own, so attempts at freeze-drying it is probably going overboard anyway.
Mayonnaise – Proper mayonnaise is too fatty to freeze-dry and it becomes a greasy, nasty mess inside the freeze dryer chamber. If you want to store a mayo substitute, freeze-dry cream cheese instead.
Nuts – Whole nuts don’t freeze-dry well, though freeze-drying them can freshen stale nuts. If you want to freeze-dry baked goods that have chopped nuts in them, though, it should be just fine.
Nutella – Nutella doesn’t freeze-dry well because it’s made of nuts, sugar, and fat – the three things that don’t freeze-dry! It may freeze-dry okay as an ingredient in something, though.
Peanut butter – Peanut butter doesn’t freeze-dry well due to its sugar and fat content. It may freeze-dry all right as an ingredient of something, though.
Jams, Jellies, and Preserves – The sugar content of these foods makes them impossible to freeze dry. It’s better to freeze-dry the fruits in their original, sliced-up form – and then reconstitute those and make the jams/jellies/preserves when needed.
Soda – Soda is too sugary to freeze-dry well. You might be able to freeze-dry soda to some degree if it’s frozen first in an ice cube tray – but then you’d lose all of the carbonation. In any case, it would no longer be soda.
Syrup – Syrups are too sugary and viscous to freeze-dry. However, they do generally last a long time on their own, so freeze-drying syrup is probably overkill.
Water – Really. People have tried this. During the freeze-drying process, all the water gets removed, so really… why bother?
Okay, so in their pure forms, these foods won’t be able to be freeze-dried. But as ingredients? They may work just fine.
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Freeze Drying FAQs
Now, let’s ensure you’ve got all of your freeze-drying food-related questions answered – beyond the tips I’ve included in this post (make sure you check that section, too!). Here are some of the most commonly-asked questions I’ve asked, researched, or been asked by someone like you.
Oh, and if you don’t see your specific question (or answer) here or in the tips section below, please email me. I’ll try to respond to as many emails as possible and get your question added to this post. To find out how to email or contact me, click here.
How Do You Know that a Food is Properly Freeze-Dried?
Foods that are adequately freeze-dried are totally dry. We always test several pieces of whatever we were freeze-drying. We feel it and try to snap it in two. If it snaps easily, has no visible or tactile moisture, and tastes dry (yeah, we taste it), then we’ll move it from the trays directly to a large Ziploc bag.
Then, we store the freeze-dried food in a closed Ziploc baggie of an appropriate size (and we remove all the air humanly possible) for a couple of days on our counter. We do make sure we keep the food out of the sun, though.
Why leave it on the counter for a few days? We’re testing it for moisture content. If our freeze-dried food stays dry in the closed Ziploc baggie for a couple of days, it’s good and freeze-dried. We’ll then move it to a Mylar bag for long-term storage.
However, if we can see moisture in the bag, we know that the food wasn’t adequately freeze-dried for long-term storage and we don’t waste an expensive Mylar bag or food that spoiled unawares. But it will still be safe for immediate consumption – and we add it to our meal plan.
This way, we’re freeze-drying foods for long-term storage, making sure foods are properly freeze-dried, and not having any waste. It adds a step now, but it prevents a lot of future problems.
Can You Freeze Dry Fat?
Pure fat doesn’t freeze-dry well, no. Due to the structure of fat and the freeze-drying process, it just doesn’t mesh well. Foods that are pure fat (check two sections down on butter for example) will not freeze-dry well at all.
However, foods that have some fat can freeze dry – and they freeze-dry fairly well. These foods may only be shelf-stable for a few years, though, depending on the fat content.
Here’s a good rule of thumb for freeze-drying foods with fat:
The more fat a food has, the shorter the shelf-life it will have once freeze-dried.
This is because fat does go rancid – even if it’s freeze-dried. So if you are wanting to freeze-dry fatty foods, that’s fine. You can do so. We do it. Just don’t expect those fatty, freeze-dried foods to be the main staple in your decades-long food storage plan. In fact, it would be better if you rotate them far more regularly than that – no more than a couple of months or years in storage, depending on the dish and overall fat content.
Then, always be sure to check the foods when you’re going to use them for general safety with a sniff test. If it smells rancid or inedible, toss it.
Can You Freeze Sugary Foods?
Sugary foods are harder to freeze-dry, but not always impossible (with a few exceptions, as noted earlier in this article). The trick is going to be in both sugar content and how small the pieces of the sugary foods are. The smaller they are – and the more surface area that’s exposed for freeze-drying, the better it will work.
Oh, and the hardest part about freeze-drying sugary foods? It’s the mess. Sugary foods bubble up like crazy during the freeze-drying process. So expect to clean your trays, liners, or even the inside chamber of the freeze dryer, depending on what you’re preparing for long-term storage.
Can You Freeze Dry Butter?
Butter alone will not freeze-dry well, though it will freeze-dry well as an ingredient in other foods. Small pats of butter might be able to be freeze-dried and powdered, though it will go rancid well before 25 years.
However, butter does freeze pretty well. So if you need to store butter for a while, stick it in your fridge or freezer.
If your food or meal has butter as an ingredient, though, it should be able to freeze-dry. Just remember that, depending on the overall fat (and butter content), to adjust your expected shelf-life of the food to the shorter end of the spectrum. It probably won’t be good after more than a few years – I’d sure not expect it to last the 25+ years of other foods.
Freeze Drying Tips for All Foods
All right – now let’s go over a few tips I’ve learned (both the hard way of experiencing it myself and the easier way of reading about others’ experiences with freeze-drying). That way, you can save yourself the hours of time that I’ve spent figuring this all out.
The #1 Tip for Freeze Drying Food
Whatever you’re freeze drying, do it in small pieces. That might mean you need to cut up foods small. Small things freeze-dry better, faster, and easier than big servings of food.
For example, you could freeze-dry a whole ice cream sandwich. It would take several cycles, though – and even then it may not be completely freeze-dried. That would mean the center of your ice cream sandwich might be melted and gross – and all that work was for nothing (because a melty, not fully freeze-dried ice cream sandwich will need to be thrown out).
However, if you cut that ice cream sandwich into 1-inch squares, it’s going to do amazingly well in the freeze dryer. And then you’ve got lots of bite-sized treats to share – without having to worry about a mouthful of freeze-dried foods leaving you with a too-dry mouth.
This tip isn’t just for ice cream, though. It’s the best tip for all foods that you want to freeze dry. Keep the food pieces small.
The #1 Trick to Freeze-Drying Liquids (and the #2 Hack for all other foods)
Whether you’re trying to freeze-dry a liquid-based food or solid food, this hack will save you a ton of time and heartache.
Here’s the tip: freeze it first.
For liquids, use an ice cube tray (or a silicone mold) and pour your liquid into that. Then, stick it in the freezer and wait. A plastic ice cube tray or a silicone mold are fantastic options, though the silicone mold is usually easier for removing your little iced cubes.
You’ll freeze the liquid into small portions, which will freeze-dry better, faster, and easier – and you won’t be putting a tray full of liquid into your freeze dryer. I mean, you can do that – but it takes amazing skill to avoid spilling that all over the inside of your freeze dryer (trust me, I know!).
Cut your food into small bits for solids, line a tray, and spread the food out. Then, stick it in the freezer. This tip also works great for solid foods for a couple of reasons.
- First, it lets you shave some time off of your freeze drying process.
- Second, it lets you process food for second, third, and umpteenth batches of freeze-drying in the future.
- Third, freezing fresh foods is a good way to keep them safe and fresh for freeze-drying if they can’t wait – and you can’t freeze dry them right now.
So go ahead and get all that food cut up, frozen, and store it in a freezer-safe plastic bag until you can put it in the freeze dryer.
Personally, this is why I like having a second tray of Harvest Right freeze-dryer trays – that way, I can use one set for prepping the next set of foods to be freeze-dried while the other set is in the freeze dryer. That way, I’m not guessing at how much food fits on a tray – I already know.
The #1 Tip for Reconstituting Freeze-Dried Foods
Make a test batch when you’re ready to reconstitute freeze-dried foods first. Hydrate it in various ways – and go slowly.
Some foods, like mushrooms, will reconstitute just fine by being dumped in a bowl of water (no matter the temperature of the water). Other foods, like bread and pasta, won’t reconstitute well that way.
Other foods will need to be in a humid environment and given time to reconstitute. Bread, for example, does better in a humid plastic bag than in a bowl of water.
In any case, test everything before you assume it’ll be fine (it won’t – I learned that the hard way with multiple foods!). Go slowly. Try multiple ways to add water. Then, if you don’t think the food is reconstituted a particular way, try something else. Or you can use the next tip to still use foods that didn’t reconstitute as well.
How to Use Freeze-Dried Foods that Don’t Reconstitute Well
In my experience, there are two ways to use freeze-dried foods that don’t reconstitute well.
- If the food has already been partially (or fully) rehydrated or reconstituted, use it in a soup or stew (or chili). Soups and stews are, by nature, a lot better medium for these kinds of foods.
- If the food is still freeze-dried and you don’t like how it reconstitutes, powder it first. Then, use it to flavor, enhance, or add nutrition to the meal without worrying about weird textures.
You can use either of these tips on a one-time or regular basis.
My family doesn’t like the texture of mushrooms, but they love the flavor. So when I add freeze-dried mushrooms to meals, I powder them first. Then, we get all the flavor, nutrition, and taste – but none of the texture. But because I love mushrooms (and freeze-dried mushrooms reconstitute well), I may also reconstitute a few to add to my plate.
How to Freeze-Dry Fruits with Peels and Rinds
Freeze drying fruits with rinds or peels (like citrus) can be tricky. Generally, it’s best to remove the rinds or peels first and then slice the fruit into thin pieces.
Banana peels, for example, will not freeze-dry – they get all sorts of gross. So peel the banana – and then slice it up first.
Some types of citrus peels may kinda-sorta freeze-dry okay – if you slice the citrus into thin slices and poke some holes in the rind. Just keep in mind that citrus, due to the sugar content, will bubble up and expand in the freeze dryer. Personally, I haven’t had reliable success with unpeeled citrus just yet. Fully peeled and sliced citrus does better.
Watermelon rinds were another awesome failure. So go ahead and take those rinds off – and save yourself a failed load of freeze-dried fruits.
How to Prep Fatty or Sugary Foods for Freeze Drying
Some foods, even if they’re high in fat or sugar content, can still be freeze-dried. The trick is going to depend on which it is.
For fatty (or oily) foods, remove as much of the grease as possible. You can do this in several ways.
- Select the leanest option available.
- Cook the food and drain as much fat off as possible.
- Once done cooking, pat dry with a paper towel to remove even more of the grease.
This works fantastic with ground beef. We get the 90+% lean ground beef or turkey (when it’s on sale) and use that. Once cooked, drained, and patted dry, it freeze-dries great. And it reconstitutes great whether I want it as some sort of ground beef-based meal or in chili. All I have to do is add seasoning, water, and heat it up as needed.
For sugary foods, reduce the overall sugar content as much as possible. You can do this in any of several ways.
- Add water to reduce the sugar content.
- Pat dry to remove excess sugar.
- Add the sugary food as an ingredient in a meal.
- Slice the sugary food into smaller pieces and try freeze-drying as is.
For example, skittles are amazingly sugary. In fact, they’re pretty much pure sugar. They’ll bubble and expand some, but they’ll still freeze dry.
Condiments are another food that can be high in sugar. However, they can also freeze-dry well if you water them down sufficiently. Just make sure you mix it well!
Finally, just because fatty and sugary foods don’t freeze dry well doesn’t mean they won’t work at all. They won’t be as shelf-stable as the foods that can freeze-dry and store for 25 years. Depending on the food, they may only be good for a few months or up to a couple of years. So don’t be afraid to experiment with fatty or sugary foods – know that they may need to be eaten and enjoyed sooner than later.
Why Are Freeze Dryers so Expensive? Most freeze dryers are no longer prohibitively expensive but do have costs related to parts and labor. To read about making your own freeze dryer – or to find the one that’s the best deal, read this post about freeze dryer costs.
Can You Store Food Outside in Winter? Long-term food storage outside during the winter isn’t advised due to temperature fluctuations and melting points. For more information on when it could be okay to store foods outside in winter for a short time, read our article here.
Want to know which freeze dryer we use? We’ve got the medium-sized Harvest Right home freeze dryer and highly recommend it (click here to check current pricing on their site).