Bell peppers are delicious, and they’re one of my favorite vegetables. However, not everyone in my family feels that way. So it’s nice to have a way to store them, via freeze-drying them, that eliminates waste. But how, exactly, do you freeze-dry bell peppers?
Freeze-drying bell peppers involves five simple steps: preparation, pre-freezing, freeze-drying, evaluation of the final product, and storage. Freeze-dried bell peppers last for years and can be re-hydrated while cooking to avoid soggy bell pepper syndrome.
It’s straightforward – I promise. Even so, let’s go through every step, so you know exactly how to enjoy your freeze-dried bell peppers whenever you decide to reconstitute them.
How to Freeze Dry Bell Peppers in 5 Simple Steps
Ready to freeze-dry your bell peppers? Let’s do this. There are five steps to the process. They are as follows.
- Prepare your bell peppers for freeze-drying.
- Freeze the bell peppers and prepare your freeze dryer for use.
- Freeze-dry your load of bell peppers.
- Once done, evaluate the peppers for dryness.
- Package your bell peppers for long-term storage and use.
That’s it. It’s really quite easy and straightforward. You can be done reading now if you want. Or, if you want more details (and some specifics on avoiding common pitfalls), make sure you keep reading.
Need more freeze-drying supplies? We get the vast majority of our freeze-drying supplies from the same place we got our freeze dryer – I use and recommend Harvest Right freeze dryers.
Wash, Cut, and Dry the Bell Peppers
As you’re getting your bell peppers ready to be freeze-dried, it’s important to wash, cut, and dry them.
Wash them to get off any dirt or other residue. This step may vary in intensity based on how you got the peppers. If you grew the peppers yourself and you practice organic gardening, then how you wash your peppers may look different than someone else who practices less-organic gardening. Or from someone else who got a great deal on bell peppers at a store or farmer’s market.
There’s no wrong way to wash the peppers – as long as you wash them well.
Once washed, go ahead and cut them. Whole bell peppers won’t usually fit into the freeze dryer, so go ahead and cut them up. You can cut them up in any of the following configurations you’d prefer.
Or do several configurations so you’ve got options. You can freeze-dry them all together. So feel free to get creative.
Once they’re washed and cut, make sure you let your peppers dry. This is because the next step involves pre-freezing them. And just in case you’re a busy person, you don’t want them to get freezer-burned if you forget about them.
I dry my peppers by putting them on a towel (paper or cloth) after cutting them. Then I pat them dry before moving on to the next step. I’ve heard about others who prefer to use a salad spinner. Then others air-dry their peppers on a half-sheet cookie tray.
Whichever drying method you pick, don’t stress. They don’t have to be perfect – just mostly dry. You’re ready to keep going.
Pre-Freeze the Bell Peppers and Prep the Freeze-Dryer
Pre-freezing is the biggest key to success with freeze-drying, and it’s no different with bell peppers. There are two main ways to pre-freeze your bell peppers (or any other foods) for the freeze dryer.
- Load up a freeze-dryer-sized tray with food. These will still freeze-dry well, but they will both freeze and freeze-dry in larger clumps.
- Load up a cookie sheet with spaced foods. Once frozen into separate pieces, you can load them up on the freeze dryer tray. They will freeze and freeze-dry separately for easier storage.
Depending on what we’re freeze-drying, we use both methods. If I’ve got room in the freezer, though, I definitely prefer to freeze the bell peppers separately for better freeze-drying though.
While your bell peppers freeze, go ahead and prep your freeze dryer. Basically, you’re going to start it a few hours before you actually put the food in. That way, the interior of the freeze dryer is completely frozen.
This is an important step for a couple of reasons. If you’re putting frozen food into a warm freeze dryer, you’re going to have some thawing. Or if you’re putting room temperature food into a room temperature freeze dryer, you’re letting that food sit at room temperature for several hours.
Letting food thaw (or sit at room temperature for several hours) puts food in the danger window for bacterial growth. The freeze-drying process will halt that once it’s completed, but by then the bacterial cultures are already established on your food. This will shorten the overall shelf life, and once you do reconstitute your food, it will shorten the window of usage.
So go ahead and prep the freeze dryer so it’s totally frozen. And pre-freeze your food. It will give you the maximum shelf-life possible for your food – and protect it from faster food spoilage once you’re ready to use it.
Freeze-Dry the Bell Peppers
Your bell peppers are frozen – check! And your freeze dryer is frozen, too. You’re ready to freeze-dry them.
If you haven’t already, transfer the bell peppers (however you’ve cut them up) onto the appropriately-sized trays. Then, load those trays into the freeze dryer.
Next, go ahead and make sure you’ve got the proper settings per your manual.
- If you’ve pre-frozen and thinly sliced your bell peppers, it should take about a day to freeze-dry them thoroughly.
- If you didn’t dry them as well and you have larger slices of bell pepper, then it could take 36-48 hours to achieve a proper dryness for storage.
Go ahead and let the freeze dryer run and check in on it periodically. I like to set an alarm for when it’s due to be done. Then again, I also like to time the freeze dryer so it’s set to be done during daylight hours. So feel free to change the timing of things so that you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night.
Oh – and here’s one more awesome tip to make sure things go well. Have your freeze-dryer end on a warm cycle. That way, when you pull the food out of the freeze dryer, it’s room temperature to slightly warm. Warm freeze-dried food won’t accumulate nearly as much air moisture as will cold freeze-dried food. This translates into a longer shelf-life for your freeze-dried food!
Evaluate Freeze-Dried Bell Peppers for Dryness
As you pull your warm-cycle freeze-dried bell peppers out of the freeze dryer, test a few for dryness. They should be completely brittle and snap into two pieces easily.
If they aren’t totally dry, put them back into the freeze dryer and set it to go for another few hours. If they are dry, then congratulations! You’re ready for the next step.
Once your bell peppers are fully dried and out of the freeze dryer, immediately transfer them into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag (or an off-brand bag if that’s more your style). Get out as much of the air as you can when sealing the bag. Don’t immediately pack them into Mylar bags just yet.
You want to put your freshly freeze-dried food into a plastic baggie and then store them in a cool, dark place for a couple of days. This will help you test them for any hidden moisture. All you’ll have to do is look at the plastic baggy for any water.
If there is any water, then they weren’t properly freeze-dried or they accumulated too much moisture from the air afterward. Either way, they need to be eaten sooner than later. Or you could run them through another cycle. Again, their total expected shelf life will be on the shorter end of things.
On the other hand, if there’s no moisture in the plastic bag, then you know that the bell peppers can be safely stored in a Mylar bag for years. And they should last on the longer end of the storage spectrum.
The most important reason we added the plastic bag step is this: we’ve lost food to moisture and spoilage after immediately putting them into Mylar bags. And so have many other freeze-drying enthusiasts. Mylar bags aren’t cheap. It’s far cheaper to test with a plastic bag.
Plus, losing that much food to spoilage and moisture is disheartening. Especially if you thought it was safely stored for years. It’s much nicer to add the extra step so that you know for certain that your food was properly prepared for long-term storage.
Package Your Freeze-Dried Peppers for Long-Term Storage
Now that your food has passed the Ziploc baggy test, it’s time to put them into a long-term storage option. There are several ways to do it.
Some people like to vacuum seal their freeze-dried bell peppers into mason jars. If that’s more your style, that’s awesome. Make sure you’re using both an oxygen absorber and a vacuum sealer to do so.
Using a mason jar can be a cool-looking option if you’ve got lots of space or if you like to see the contents. The biggest downside is that light degradation can affect the contents of a jar more quickly than it can food that’s in a Mylar bag. So if you do store food this way, make sure it’s in a cool, light-controlled area. Even then, be sure to rotate those foods more quickly than you do foods in a Mylar bag.
The hands-down best way for the longest-term storage of bell peppers is inside of a Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber. You don’t have to vacuum seal these. Just use an impact sealer to seal the Mylar bag. We like to do two seals on it. That way, if one fails, the other one is a great backup.
Finally, make sure you label the Mylar bag (or mason jar) with what the contents are and the date that you packaged them. That way, you don’t have to play food storage roulette later.
How to Best Enjoy Your Freeze-Dried Bell Peppers
When you’re ready to cook your freeze-dried bell peppers, here is the biggest thing I’ve learned from experience and talking to thousands of others who cook with freeze-dried foods.
Add the vegetables directly into the cooking process like you would if they were fresh.
If you reconstitute the bell peppers in a small bowl of water, they will be soggy. It’ll be just like you froze them and then thawed them. They aren’t very appetizing.
However, just cooking with them as you would fresh bell peppers gives you a much better final texture. I’ve cooked omelets, pizzas, casseroles, and lots of other dishes with freeze-dried vegetables (including bell peppers) and they turn out much better this way.
The only thing you need to do is make sure you’re cooking a dish that has enough steam, sauce, or moisture to reconstitute the bell peppers for you. Cooking a less-saucy meal still works, but you may end up with a few crunchier sections in the bell peppers. This isn’t entirely wrong, but it does throw off the texture of the dish. Even so, this is hard to do – so don’t stress about it too much. Just keep it in the back of your mind. And if you are worried, add a little extra water with the peppers to the dish. The peppers will absorb it, and everything will be awesome.
Freeze-Drying Bell Peppers FAQs
Let’s make sure you’ve got all of your “how to freeze dry bell peppers” questions answered. Here are some of the questions I’ve wondered (and figured out) as well as some of the most commonly-asked questions in forums or asked by someone else just like you.
If you don’t see your specific question (or answer) in this article, please shoot me an email. I’ll try to respond directly to as many emails as I can – and I’ll also get your question (and answer) added to this post. To find out how to email me, click here to go to my contact me page.
When you reconstitute freeze-dried bell peppers, are they soggy?
Some vegetables, bell peppers included, become softer and soggier after having been frozen. These vegetables have the same reaction after having been freeze-dried and reconstituted directly in water.
However, just because they usually become soggy doesn’t mean you’re stuck with soggy peppers for life. Read this next question and answer – trust me. 🙂
How can you avoid soggy reconstituted bell peppers in a dish?
The best way to avoid soggily rehydrated bell peppers is to not rehydrate them before cooking. Just add them directly to the dish while you’re cooking and let the dish’s sauces or steam rehydrate them.
This cooking method works whether you’re making pizza, a casserole, an omelet, or any other dish I’ve tried so far. And it works with any thinly-sliced, freeze-dried vegetable. Bell peppers turn out much better this way!
Can you freeze-dry a whole bell pepper?
A whole bell pepper probably won’t fit inside of the freeze-dryer. So if you want to freeze-dry whole peppers, then your best bet is going to be this: slice the pepper in half and freeze-dry it like that.
It’s as close to whole as you can get – while still fitting things inside the freeze dryer and ensuring that there’s enough surface area for the freeze-drying process to work correctly.
Can you freeze-dry stuffed bell peppers?
Yes, you can freeze-dry stuffed bell peppers. You just need to decide if you’re going to freeze-dry the components separately or together and cooked or not.
Personally, I’d recommend that you freeze-dry uncooked components separately. This is because freeze-drying fully cooked, stuffed peppers can take up a lot of valuable storage room and it increases the risk of sogginess on reconstitution. At least it does for me – I’m not very patient at re-hydrating foods. 🙂
Then, you can still do stuffed peppers with either halved peppers or other freeze-dried ingredients. You can make the serving sizes fit into the half pepper – or you could put the halves back together for a larger serving. Just remember the trick to avoiding soggy bell peppers, and let the stuffing sauce rehydrate the bell pepper while you cook.
Or if you’re freeze-drying wholly stuffed peppers from the get-go, just reconstitute them slowly, so they don’t become waterlogged, soggy messes. Be more patient than I usually am with the rehydration process, and you should be just fine.
How Do You Preserve Peppers? Bell (or other) peppers can be canned, frozen, pickled, dried, or freeze-dried. Freeze-drying peppers allow for the most prolonged storage with the most flexibility in future usage.
Why Are Freeze Dryers so Expensive? Freeze dryers are compromised of expensive parts and require assembly, making them a more expensive addition to a kitchen. While making your own freeze-dryer is an option, commercial freeze-dryers are no longer prohibitively expensive. Read more about the hidden costs of freeze dryers and the best commercial options in my article here.
Are There Any Foods You Can’t Freeze Dry? Some foods won’t freeze-dry well if at all. These include foods high in fat or sugar content. For a list of 77 foods that freeze-dry well and 17 that don’t, read my complete guide here. Newsletter subscribers – don’t forget to grab the free printable checklist while you’re there!