Freeze-drying is the best way to prepare food for long-term storage because it can last up to twenty-five years. However, freeze-dryers are incredibly versatile, and if we want to freeze-dry fruit correctly, there are some things to learn.
To freeze-dry fruit, prepare it correctly. Wash and dry it first to remove bacteria and slice it into chunks before putting it in the machine. Remove thick rind or peel because these do not do well in a freeze-dryer.
Freeze-drying fruit is pretty straightforward, but for the best results, there are a few vital steps people must follow. First, you’ll learn the best way to prepare fruit for long-term storage; I’ll tell you everything you need to know in this complete guide to freeze-drying fruit.
What is Freeze-Dried Fruit?
Freeze-dried fruit is fruit that has had all of the moisture removed in a vacuum, so it is much lighter than fresh fruit. Eat it as a tasty snack or reconstitute it with water to return it to its original taste and texture. The best way to freeze-dry fruit is with a freeze-drying machine.
A freeze-drying machine uses pressure and temperature to remove moisture from food without damaging its structure. It does this through a process called sublimation which happens in the main chamber.
First, the food is frozen quickly, so the water inside doesn’t have a chance to expand and damage its structure. Next, the machine gently heats the food under low pressure, and the ice turns into vapor and bypasses the liquid stage. The result is that it removes up to 97% of the moisture.
We can freeze-dry most food items, including fruit, which will retain up to 97% of its original taste, texture, and nutritional content.
Freeze-dried fruit differs from dehydrated because it undergoes a different drying process. A dehydrator gently heats it until the moisture evaporates and will only remove up to 80% of moisture, compared to 97% with a freeze-dryer.
The result is dehydrated fruit that lasts only one to 5 years, while freeze-dried fruit can last up to twenty-five years.
List of Fruits That Freeze-Dry Well
Most fruits can be freeze-dried, including strawberries, apples, and bananas. Some fruit will need to be peeled, cut, or sliced for best results. Some fruit can be freeze-dried with or next to their peels, but they freeze-dry best when separated.
Here’s a list of fruit that freeze-dries well, though they do best when sliced up.
- Coconut – Without the husk
- Pomegranate seeds
List of Fruits That Don’t Freeze-Dry as Well
Some fruits, such as citrus, will not do well if the peel is left intact. Fruit with the peels left on does not freeze-dry well and will prevent the fruit from freeze-drying. To freeze-dry citrus, remove the peel or cut the fruit into extra small slices. Cut segments of citrus in half for best results.
Freeze-dryers can also have difficulties processing sugar, so high-sugar fruit like pears, pineapple, and peaches might need more time in the freeze-dryer.
Here’s a list of the fruits that don’t freeze dry as well, though they do freeze dry.
- Citrus with the peel intact – Lemon, lime, orange, and mandarins will freeze-dry well if we remove the peel. Kumquats work, too. But only if you peel them.
- Any whole fruit. Seriously. Slice it up first.
- Round, small, whole fruits like blueberries and grapes must be sliced in half to freeze dry well. You can freeze-dry them whole, but then they take forever.
Here’s a list of fruit that freeze-dries well, but they may take extra time in the freeze-dryer, which is why they make this list.
- Grapes – slice them in half, and they’ll do just fine, but they’ll take a while.
- Peaches take a while to freeze dry because they are high in sugar. However, they freeze dry quite well if they’re fresh.
- Pears – Peaches are also high in sugar.
- Pineapple – It will also take longer because of the high sugar content.
- Watermelon – it freeze-dries fantastic, but it takes a while.
How Do I Freeze-Dry Fruit at Home in a Freeze-Dryer?
Before putting fruit in a freeze-dryer, wash and prepare it first. It is better to cut it into slices or chunks and remove thick skin or peel. Then, lay it out in a single layer on the trays and load it into the freeze-dryer.
Below, let’s look at the steps we must follow to freeze dry fruit at home in a freeze-dryer.
Step #1 – Wash the fruit
Wash the fruit and dry it thoroughly before putting it in a freeze-dryer. Washing it will remove any debris and bacteria. Ensure the fruit is dry before putting it in the machine because the extra moisture will affect the freeze-drying process.
Step #2 – Remove the peel or thick skin
First, we must remove the skin to freeze-dry fruit with a thick peel or rind, such as bananas, melon, or citrus. Thick peels or rinds won’t freeze-dry well and will prevent the rest of the fruit from drying correctly.
Some citrus peels are handy in the kitchen for flavoring, and we can freeze-dry them separately from the fruit – make sure to cut the peel into small pieces. To freeze-dry citrus with the peel, cut it into tiny pieces and pierce the rind to help it dry.
Step #3 – Slice and/or dice the fruit
The next step for freeze-drying fruit is to cut it up into chunks or slices between an inch and an inch and a half thick. The fruit will freeze-dry better if it’s in smaller pieces and is more convenient to use when it’s time.
Keep the pieces uniform to encourage even drying throughout the batch. We can slice or pierce small fruits with thick skin, such as blueberries and grapes, to help them dry better.
Step #4 – Pre-freeze your fruit (optional)
Some people like to pre-freeze their fruit before putting it in the freeze-dryer. Pre-freezing makes life a bit easier for the freeze-dryer because it will reduce the cycle time.
It also reduces the chance of bacteria growing because the fruit doesn’t spend time in the “danger zone” temperature. If pre-freezing the fruit – don’t let it thaw before putting it into the freeze-dryer.
Step #5 – Put the fruit in your freeze-dryer
Put the fruit onto the trays in a single layer. Don’t overload them because the fruit won’t freeze-dry properly. Use a liner on the trays – otherwise, the fruit will stick.
Once the machine is loaded, close the door and start the fresh or pre-frozen food cycle. Check-in occasionally to ensure it is running, but don’t open the door, and set the alarm to remind you when it’s ready.
If you are looking for the best freeze-drying machine possible, click here.
Step #6 – Store the fruit
End the freeze-dryer on a warming cycle – that way, you aren’t pulling cold, freeze-dried food out that will pull condensation into the fruit.
Then, test it to ensure it’s crunchy and freeze-dried all through.
We like to put the freeze-dried foods into a Ziploc bag for a day or two in a cool, dry location. We let it sit and make sure no condensation shows up inside the bag. Then, we put the freeze-dried fruit in a Mylar bag with oxygen absorbers and seal it up.
Keep the Mylar bags full of freeze-dried fruits in a cool, dry, light-controlled area (a pantry is perfect) for up to 25 years.
Open and enjoy it when needed!
Can I Freeze-Dry Fruit at Home Without a Freeze-Dryer?
While many websites claim to freeze dry fruit at home without a freeze-dryer, using dry ice or a standard freezer, my tests and experience prove the results aren’t as good as using a freeze-dryer. “Freeze-drying” fruit without a dedicated freeze-dryer will produce mushy fruit that will not have the same taste, texture, or nutritional value as machine-dried fruit.
If we freeze-dry food without a machine, there won’t be any guarantees about the bacteria levels in the food. The results are also inconsistent with DIY freeze-drying methods, and fruit won’t last near the twenty-five years we’ll get with a freeze-drying machine.
We have all kinds of information about how to freeze-dry all food. If this sounds good, read this article on how to freeze-dry your favorite foods: How to Freeze Dry and Store Your Favorite Foods: Guide with Pictures.
Nonetheless, let’s look at the standard methods people use to freeze-dry fruit at home without a freeze-dryer. But first, here’s the proof that I know what I’m saying.
My experiment – with video proof
Not long ago, I did an experiment with my children to compare freeze-dried fruit with dehydrated fruit. I also accidentally left some fruit in the freezer for so long that it met the requirements to be “freeze-dried,” according to many of the DIY, machine-free freeze-dry recipes across the internet.
You can watch the video here (or click the image below – both will take you to YouTube to watch the video in a new link), or I’ll summarize my findings below this image if you’d rather skip the video.
Here are my findings.
- Freeze-dried peaches taste great as-is. They also reconstitute great. They can be used in any recipe or however you want.
- Frozen peaches do great but don’t thaw well – they get mushy. They work best in smoothies or in baked goods.
- Peaches frozen and dried in a freezer taste the worst of all these options. No matter how well they are wrapped, they still manage to absorb the taste of some other strong foods from the freezer. They did not do well in any baked goods (as they had weird extra flavors), and they made even smoothies taste weird.
Fruit frozen and dried in a freeze dryer may be “freeze-dried,” but only in that they are frozen and dried from being left in a freezer for weeks. They aren’t yummy. They’re only marginally better than having no fruit at all.
Even so, if you can’t afford a freeze-dryer yet, having some stored food is better than none. So let’s dive into our other options for storing fruit beyond a proper freeze-dryer.
Bummed you can’t afford a freeze-dryer yet? Don’t be so sure. Harvest Right does some cool payment plans. Read about it in my article here: Can You Make Payments on a Freeze Dryer? Buyer’s Guide.
Method #1 – In a freezer
Some websites claim we can freeze dry fruit at home in a standard freezer by leaving it in the coldest part, uncovered, for several weeks. The result is usually freezer burn and mushy fruit when we thaw it out.
To freeze-dry fruit in a freezer, prepare it the same as for freeze-drying, in chunks or slices, and lay it out on a tray in a single layer. Leave the tray uncovered in the back of the freezer for two to three weeks – or until it no longer turns black and mushy when we thaw it.
Remember that if you leave it uncovered, it will absorb other smells and flavors from whatever else is in your freezer. Covering it will minimize that, but won’t prevent it.
Method #2 – With dry ice
Another common method people use to freeze dry fruit without a machine is dry ice and a large cooler box. Dry ice rapidly deep freezes items – the process takes around twenty-four hours.
To freeze-dry fruit with dry ice, cut it into slices or chunks, put it in a freezer bag and seal it. Place the bags into a large cooler box, at least double the size of the food you want to freeze.
Cover the fruit with dry ice, one pound of ice per one pound of fruit, and leave it for twenty-four hours.
Always wear long sleeves and protective gloves when using dry ice because it can burn your skin. Don’t put the lid on the cooler during the process – it might very literally blow the lid off when the gas evaporates and expands!
Method #3 – With a homemade freeze-dryer
If someone has a technical mind, a workshop, and lots of tools, they can make a homemade freeze-dryer. Several methods use vacuum chambers and a vacuum pump to create a homemade freeze-dryer.
Making a homemade freeze-drying machine can be risky, and there are no guarantees about its safety or even if it will work. On the other hand, if you’re willing to invest a bit of money and have the right tools and skills, you might be able to make a decent, functioning freeze-dryer at home.
Read this article I wrote for more details about DIY freeze-dryer pros and cons, as well as how to make your own at-home freeze-dryer.
How to Store Freeze-Dried Fruit Properly
The best way to store freeze-dried fruit is in Mylar bags, but we can also put it in mason jars. Then, place the sealed jars or bags in a dark place with low humidity and a consistently cool temperature.
Freeze-dried fruit has a long shelf life because there is no moisture for bacteria to live on, so it must be dry before storing it. The best way to check if the fruit is dehydrated is by taking a piece of fruit from each tray and snapping it in half.
The fruit should break easily, with a loud cracking sound. We can use our tongue or finger to ensure the middle is completely dry or even eat a piece to test for moisture.
To ensure the fruit is dry, put it in a Ziplock bag for a day or two. Keep it in a cupboard or on the counter but make sure it’s out of the sun. If moisture droplets appear on the inside of the bag, the food isn’t dry, and we should use it within a week.
If there is no moisture, transfer the fruit to mylar bags or mason jars for storage, and we’ll take a closer look at these below. But first, a PSA to remind you to label your container, no matter which you choose.
Label freeze-dried fruit when storing it
Label fruit when storing it – so we know how old it is. It also makes life easier if the fruit is in Mylar bags and we can’t see the contents.
Here are the things you should include on your labels:
- Item Description – Write down what’s in the container and what state it’s in, such as sliced, diced, or grated.
- The Quantity – It’s a good idea to write the weight or quantity of fruit, so we only open as many jars or bags as we need. Once we open a container, we must consume it within 2-6 months.
- The Sealed Date – This will help keep the storeroom organized because we can use the older items first. First in, first out.
- The Eat or Use-by Date – This is essential because if the fruit is over the eat-by date, we must examine it for signs of deterioration before using it. We shouldn’t eat freeze-dried food if it’s spoiled.
Now that you’ve been reminded to label the container, here are the two best ways to store freeze-dried foods: Mylar bags followed by Mason jars.
Best storage option: Mylar bags
Mylar bags are made from layers of aluminum and food-grade plastic and are ideal for storing freeze-dried fruit because they don’t allow light, moisture, or oxygen in once we seal them.
They come in many sizes, are easy to use, and are relatively cheap, though we should buy high-quality ones for long-term food storage.
Mylar bags are compact and take up less shelf space than Mason jars – they are also more convenient because they don’t smash, and we can take them on camping trips. Use oxygen absorbers with mylar bags and seal them with a heat source such as a clothes iron or heat sealer.
The only downside to mylar bags is that rodents can chew through them, but we can store them in boxes or containers to prevent this.
Good storage option: Mason jars
Mason jars are glass and have a screw-on lid with a seal, which makes them airtight, so they are ideal for storing freeze-dried food. Sterilize them before putting the fruit in them and add an oxygen absorber or use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air.
The drawback of mason jars is that they take up lots of shelf space. They also make freeze-dried food more vulnerable to damage from the light because they are transparent.
It can be a tough decision about the type of containers to store food in and the best storage place. Mason jars are a good option, and this article will help: How to Safely Store Freeze-dried Foods in Mason Jars (vacuum sealer).
How Long Does Freeze-Dried Fruit Last?
If stored correctly, most freeze-dried food will last up to twenty-five years, maybe even longer. However, if it is not kept in the proper condition – it will deteriorate more quickly.
Freeze-dried fruit will only keep for twenty-five years in a sealed container with no oxygen. Once we open a mylar bag or mason jar containing freeze-dried fruit, it will only last for two to six months, and we must keep it in an airtight container.
The glass, sealable jars can be a great option for any freeze-dried fruits we want to eat within 1-2 weeks. Any longer than that, the fruit will start to deteriorate, though it will still be edible for a couple of months.
What Factors Shorten the Shelf-Life of Freeze-Dried Fruit?
Several factors will affect the shelf-life of freeze-dried fruit. If the fruit is not dry before storing, it will deteriorate quickly. Freeze-dried fruit will also spoil if it is exposed to too much light, fluctuating and warm temperatures, oxygen, or humidity.
Let’s take a closer look at the things that shorten the shelf life of freeze-dried fruit:
- Light – If freeze-dried fruit has too much light exposure, it will cause chemical reactions that can affect the quality and make it discolored. This is why we must store it in a dark place, especially if it’s in transparent containers such as Mason jars.
- Moisture – Freeze drying removes the moisture from food, which prevents bacteria from growing, and this is what preserves it. If freeze-dried fruit has moisture in it before storage or is exposed to it during storage, bacteria can grow and thrive on the fruit and reduce its shelf life.
- Temperature – The ideal storage temperature for freeze-dried fruit is between 32 and 75 F. If we expose our freeze-dried food to fluctuating or warm temperatures, it might reduce its shelf life.
- Oxygen – Oxygen can severely damage freeze-dried fruit – it will cause oxidative stress, and the fruit will become discolored. Bacteria will thrive if they have access to oxygen, and this is why we must store freeze-dried food in an airtight container with oxygen absorbers.
Can Freeze-Dried Fruit Last Longer Than Twenty-Five Years?
Freeze-dried fruit can last longer than twenty-five years if we store it in ideal conditions. After twenty-five years, if it is not rotten, we can potentially still eat it, but it may not contain as many nutrients or taste as good.
Usually, instinct will tell us if food is bad or not, but if there are any doubts about the age of freeze-dried fruit, err on the side of caution and don’t eat it.
We can tell freeze-dried fruit isn’t good anymore if it:
- It smells bad.
- It has mold or black spots.
- It is sticky or oozing fluid.
- Color changes.
- It is soft or damp.
How to Reconstitute (Rehydrate) Freeze-Dried Fruit
We can reconstitute freeze-dried fruit with water in just a few minutes. Once reconstituted, most freeze-dried food will return to its original texture. We do not have to reconstitute freeze-dried fruit before using it – we can eat it as a tasty snack while it is dry.
Whether or not we reconstitute the fruit depends on the recipe requirements and our preference. Some people love crunchy freeze-dried fruit in their yogurt, while others prefer their fruit plump and juicy.
When eating a lot of freeze-dried fruit without reconstituting it, drink lots of water, or it might cause a stomachache. Or worse, you could get backed up.
Here are the best ways to reconstitute freeze-dried fruit:
- Submerge it in water – Pour some water into the bowl to reconstitute the freeze-dried fruit. Let it sit for about ten minutes. This will work for most fruit, as long as it wasn’t super water-concentrated before freeze-drying.
- Spray it with water – Use a misting bottle to gently spray the fruit with water and repeat every few minutes until the fruit is the texture required. This method works with all fruit but takes longer than submerging it.
- Spray the Ziploc bag with water – if the fruit is prone to falling apart with other reconstitution methods, put the fruit in a Ziploc bag. Spray some water in or on the bag, and let it sit. This method takes the most time to reconstitute freeze-dried foods (especially fruit), but it’s the best for those sensitive to getting too much water, like watermelon.
When we reconstitute freeze-dried fruit, we must use it within a day or two, so to prevent waste, only reconstitute the amount needed.
How to Use Freeze-Dried Fruit in Baking
In many cases, we do not have to reconstitute freeze-dried fruit for baking, and it is an ideal ingredient because it will not get soggy or leak moisture into the dough. We can also grind freeze-dried fruit into a powder, which we can use to add flavor and color to baked goods.
We can use freeze-dried fruit without reconstituting it for many recipes, such as cookies to give them an extra crunch, or reconstituted in sponge cake for a juicy texture. Freeze-dried fruit is ideal for baking because of its highly concentrated flavor.
When to use freeze-dried fruit in baking (without reconstituting first)
For baked goods like pies, add the dry fruit to the pie, and it will reconstitute as it cooks. This is a fantastic way to prevent the pastry from seeping at the bottom because the fruit will absorb moisture. Consider adding a small amount of extra water to the recipe to prevent the dish from drying out.
We can also make powdered freeze-dried fruit in a food processor, spice grinder, or with a pestle and mortar. This powder is ideal for adding extra color and flavor to baked goods like muffins.
Mix it with confectioners sugar and use it as a colorful glaze on cookies or use it to make delicious pastry creams.
Here are two of my recipes – and both do well with either fresh or freeze-dried fruit.
- Want my blackberry pie recipe? Here you go – Homestead Blackberry Pie Recipe. You don’t have to reconstitute the blackberries if you don’t want to.
- Or if a raspberry jam is more your thing, I’ve got you covered there, too. Here is my Homestead Raspberry Jam Recipe. You will want to reconstitute this fruit before making the jam, though it will still work if only partially reconstituted.
Tips To Make Freeze-Drying Fruit Better
Freeze-drying fruit is straightforward, but it can take a lot of experimenting to get things right. For the best results, always use fresh fruit, cut it into small pieces and remove the thick rind or peel.
To freeze dry citrus peels, do them separately, or make sure to cut the pieces very small if it’s still on the fruit. Put globe-shaped fruits like oranges between two plates to slice them in half with a knife.
Don’t freeze dry fruit with meat or food with a strong odor, such as onions. Bacteria from raw meat and strong odors can contaminate the fruit.
Best Products For Freeze-Dried Fruit
Ready to freeze-dry that fruit but don’t want to waste time making sure you’ve got the right products ready and on-hand? Let me help you speed up that shopping trip. Here are the best products to get freeze-dried fruit in your food storage – and to use it!
- Mylar bags are the best way to store any freeze-dried foods, fruit included. You can get mylar bags on Amazon for a great price.
- Mason jars are the second best way to store fruit long-term. But for shorter-term storage? They’re the best option! I recommend buying Mason jars locally, though if you need them delivered, Amazon does have them for a decent price.
- Oxygen absorbers are a must for any storage option. They are available in multiple places, but Amazon usually has them for the best prices.
- Storage monitors, like this one on Amazon, can help you ensure that your storage room (or pantry) has the right temperature and humidity level for storing freeze-dried foods.
- Labels – Seriously. Just get some labels and make your life 100% easier. These labels on Amazon are blank, so they’re easily customizable for however you want to manage your food storage labeling.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
The key to successfully freeze-drying fruit is to prepare it correctly. Cut it into small, equal pieces, remove thick rinds or peels, and spread it in a single layer on the freeze-drying trays.
We can pre-freeze your fruit before putting it in the freeze-dryer, reducing the drying time.
Once the fruit is freeze-dried, store it in mylar bags or mason jars along with oxygen absorbers and keep it in a cool, dark environment. Label the fruit before storing it, and as long as we keep it in ideal conditions, it will last for twenty-five years.
If you enjoy freeze-drying and want to learn a lot more about this process, here are some articles we have written just for you.
- Are Freeze-Dried Foods Just as Nutritious? Let’s See!
- Can You Over-Dry Food in a Freeze-dryer? Stuff to Know
- How to Freeze-Dry Meat for Safe Long-Term Storage
- The Advantages and Disadvantages of Home Freeze-Drying
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “Are Small Freeze-Dryers Better Than Big Food Dehydrators?” Backyard Homestead HQ, 16 July 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/are-small-freeze-dryers-better-than-big-food-dehydrators.
- “How to Bake With the Freeze-dried Fruit Powders You’re Seeing Everywhere.” King Arthur Baking, 1 Feb. 2022, www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2022/02/01/how-to-bake-with-freeze-dried-fruit-powder.
- “How to Freeze Dry and Store Your Favorite Foods: Guide With Pictures.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 15 July 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/how-to-freeze-dry-and-store-your-favorite-foods-guide-with-pictures.
- “How to Safely Store Freeze-dried Foods in Mason Jars (Vacuum Sealer).” Backyard Homestead HQ, 18 July 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/how-to-safely-store-freeze-dried-foods-in-mason-jars-vacuum-sealer.
- Howard, Robin. “Rehydrating Freeze Dried Fruits and Vegetables.” Harvest Right, 3 Jan. 2020, harvestright.com/blog/2017/rehydrating-freeze-dried-fruits-and-vegetables.
- Karim, Mehreen. “Freeze-Dried Fruit Adds Huge Fruit Flavor to Baked Goods and Desserts, From Cookies to Ice Cream.” Bon Appetit, 26 May 2021, www.bonappetit.com/story/freeze-dried-fruit.
- Nic. “How to Use Freeze Dried Fruit in Baking.” Baking Bites, 8 Feb. 2017, bakingbites.com/2017/02/how-to-use-freeze-dried-fruit-in-baking.
- Right, Harvest. “How to Store Freeze Dried Food.” Harvest Right, 15 Nov. 2019, harvestright.com/blog/2017/how-to-store-freeze-dried-food/.
- Starr, Kimberly. “79 Foods You Can Freeze Dry and 17 You Cannot: Complete Guide.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 1 July 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/77-foods-you-can-freeze-dry-and-17-you-cannot-complete-guide.
- Storage, Valley Food. “How to Freeze Dry Food From Home Without a Machine.” Valley Food Storage, 7 Sept. 2022, valleyfoodstorage.com/blogs/inside-vfs/freeze-drying-food-from-home-without-a-machine.
- “Tips to Freeze-Dry Like a Pro.” Harvest Right, 16 Nov. 2019, harvestright.com/blog/2016/tips-to-freeze-dry-like-a-pro.
- “Try Subbing Freeze-Dried Fruit Into These 15 Recipes.” The Spruce Eats, 22 Feb. 2021, www.thespruceeats.com/recipes-to-sub-in-freeze-dried-fruit-5113342.
- “What’s the Difference Between Freeze Dryer and Dehydrator? Apple Experiment!” YouTube, 16 Nov. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOIoqXrmOXY&list=PL6jn_700OwRYYuP8uxTxBcQDCJmyZWj2f&index=6.
- “Freeze Dry Fruits at Home.” YouTube, 9 Nov. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=b13l4mrvtFQ.