Freeze-drying is a super long-lasting food preservation method. Using freeze-drying, you can eat food, sweets, treats, and candies from as long as 25 years ago! What’s even better is that, even after all that time, it will have kept its taste and texture to be just as delicious as it used to be.
Candy and sweets can be freeze-dried at home using a Harvest Right freeze-dryer. Most sweets can be freeze-dried in 24-36 hours, making them shelf-stable for months and years – even if it’s ice cream.
If you’re looking to start a small-scale business, freeze-drying treats and sweets might be a good option. You’d be amazed at how popular tasty freeze-dried treats can be, and as they are uncommon people will pay good money for them!
At home, freeze-drying is also a fun experience for you and your family. You get to explore what can and cannot be freeze-dried, as well as testing out how well different recipes work. Whatever your reason for freeze-drying treats and sweets, here’s what you need to know about how to do it!
Can You Freeze Dry Candy and Sweets?
Candy can be freeze-dried. This not only preserves the candy for a long time but intensifies the taste and flavor. Freeze-dried candy’s texture is also crunchier than its original form.
Many people are beginning to use freeze-drying in the home as a way to keep snacks and foods to last for longer. There’s no reason that you can’t also do this with delicious candy! Read on to find out more about how you can do this at home, with or without a dedicated freeze-dryer.
Pro tip: most candy with an outer shell will split open during the freeze-drying process. This is totally normal, as sugar tends to bubble during the sublimation cycle.
That being said, freeze-dried skittles are somehow even MORE delicious than regular skittles. Just remember to drink a lot of water with them, or you’ll get to have all sorts of fun in the bathroom later.
Can I Freeze-Dry Food at Home?
Freeze-drying is absolutely possible at home. While with a home freeze-dryer you might not be able to manufacture on an industrial scale, these machines are increasingly popular. There are also techniques for freeze-drying without a dedicated machine.
If you own a freeze-dryer, great! Freeze drying is super easy; you basically just need to prepare your treats on the machine’s tray and let it work its magic.
If you don’t own a freeze-drying machine, it’s still possible to do this, although it’s a little trickier and the results might be less impressive. In fact, the Incas were the first to freeze-dry foods (to preserve potatoes), and they certainly weren’t using mechanical vacuum pumps! If you are after more details about how to do this read on!
How Do You Freeze-Dry Without a Machine?
There are a couple of different methods for home freeze-drying without a machine, though it’s not as effective as using a freeze-drying machine. It is possible to do this by using dry ice or simply by using a conventional deep freezer. These methods take longer and are significantly less effective than using a freeze-dryer.
Home freeze dryers are a great investment (and work out cheaper in the long run compared to buying commercial freeze-dried food), but it’s quite a high setup cost. One option to freeze-dry without a dedicated machine is to use dry ice, the cool fake smoke you might have seen at the theatre!
You can freeze-dry with dry ice by moving your food, candy, or treats into a food saver bag. Put the bags in a cooler, pour dry ice in and cover it up. Don’t seal it, as the expanding gases in this process would make it explode! Finally, place the cooler into a freezer and leave it there for a long time.
This method takes a while to achieve but it does work, as the expanding CO2 forces out the water vapor, removing water content from your food. However, you’ll need to transfer the food quickly and into an air-tight container, without contaminating it with moisture, for the process to be effective.
There is another method, involving a deep freezer, which is simpler but takes more time:
- Put parchment paper on a tray
- Place your foods on the tray
- Place the tray in your deep freezer
- Be patient! This method is the slowest, and can take more than 48 hours.
Freeze-dying without a machine is doable, but just barely. For more information on how to do it, make sure you check out our Backyard Homestead HQ guide to this here: Can You Freeze Dry In An Instant Pot, Air Fryer, Or Without A Machine?
How to Freeze Dry Candy, Sweets, and Treats
The first step in freeze-drying sweets is to choose your candy. Different candy freeze-dries with different results, which you can read more about below in ‘What Happens When You Freeze Dry Candies?’.
There are a few steps to follow to freeze-dry your candy.
Step 1: Slice the treats into small bite-able chunks
Okay, so not every candy or treat needs to be cut into small bites. In fact, most sweets and candies are already in these!
But if you want to freeze dry something a bit bigger, say an ice cream bar, it’s better to cut them into smaller 1-inch or half-inch squares.
Small chunks freeze-dry much quicker and more efficiently due to the increased surface area for their water content to be extracted from.
Step 2: Pre-freeze the treats in a normal freezer
You don’t actually need to do this for any shelf-stable sweets, but I’ve found that it still helps. And if you’re freeze-drying ice cream? Then it’s an absolute must.
Freeze-dryers have a long operating time though, which includes freezing your food at the beginning. If you’re planning to do multiple batches, pre-freezing the food will cut down how long you have to wait to be able to move onto the next one.
Step 3: Place the treat on the freeze-drying tray and space it out evenly
Again, the more surface area is in contact with the air, the quicker they’ll dry. Cut down on that time by resisting the temptation to stuff the tray full of treats!
Step 4: Slide your pan into the machine, switch it on, and leave it to work its magic
Depending on the model of your dryer, this might vary slightly. On my Harvest Right dryer (which I thoroughly recommend!), I just have to select whether it’s pre-frozen or not and then press the START button that appears on the panel.
The freeze-drying process can take anywhere between 15 and 25 hours. A few factors affect this, such as how moist the treat is, how much of it there is, and whether it’s pre-frozen.
There are also some other more general factors to take into account such as making sure that your freeze-dryer is in a suitable place and adequately sealed. Take a look in our Backyard Homestead HQ food storage section for loads more information about keeping freeze-drying efficient!
Once the dryer has finished, you can open the vent at the back of the machine to let the pressure out and take out your treats! The finished product needs to be in an airtight container such as a ziplock bag or jar. Once they are in airtight packaging, freeze-dried foods can be stored almost anywhere!
What Happens When You Freeze-Dry Sweets?
Different sweets freeze-dry differently! Some candies, such as Skittles, grow, while some other sweet treats change in different ways, such as just changing texture.
Pro tip: while skittles work well in the freeze-dryer, m&ms don’t work as well in my experience. Stick to the sugar candy rather than chocolate.
You’ll learn about these different effects as you experiment yourself. Here’s a breakdown of what happens to some of my favorite treats:
- Skittles: The shells pop, and become twice their size. Without the water content, these are almost pure sugar, so have a very intense flavor!
- Ice Cream: Ice cream doesn’t change its shape or size, but becomes solid, light, and crunchy. The sugar level is not as overpowering as the skittles.
- Other candies: depending on the type of candy you are freeze-drying, they generally increase in size and change shape. This is especially true if they are gummy candies or lollipops with gelatine in them. The sugary goodness of these treats packs a punch!
Pro Tip: Ice cream sandwiches (like Fat Boys) do great being freeze-dried! Just cut them up into 1-inch serving sizes – and put them into a freeze-dryer that’s already frozen so that the ice cream doesn’t melt.
Regardless of which tasty treat you’re storing, be sure to store the treats in food saver bags with an air absorber inside. Airtight food cans and jars are also suitable.
Check out this cool video (on YouTube) on how to freeze dry candies using a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer (which I totally recommend!).
Key Takeaways on Freeze-Drying Candies and Sweets
Freeze-drying treats and sweets just have to be on the bucket list of every homesteader. These make great long-lasting snacks that are also much lighter and more easily stored than the original foods!
Why not try out different methods, with or without a freeze-drying machine, to work out which result is best for you?
And seriously – go freeze-dry some ice cream sandwiches. They’re one of my favorite freeze-dried treats – provided they’re in the 1-inch squares. That way, you get just enough of a treat that it’s delicious – and not so much that you’re coughing and wondering where the glass of water is.
And now that you know that treats can freeze-dry, make sure you read this article next: 77 Foods You Can Freeze Dry and 17 You Cannot: Complete Guide. It’s a great guide on things that will freeze-dry – and the foods that just won’t ever work. It’ll save you a lot of time and effort on experimenting!
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
Backyard Homestead HQ Freeze-Drying Resources:
- Starr, Kimberly. “Are Freeze-Dried Foods Just as Nutritious? Let’s See!” Backyard Homestead HQ, 30 June 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/are-freeze-dried-foods-just-as-nutritious-lets-see.
- Starr, Kimberly. “Can You Freeze Dry In An Instant Pot, Air Fryer, Or Without A Machine?” Backyard Homestead HQ, 13 July 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/can-you-freeze-dry-in-an-instant-pot-air-fryer-or-without-a-machine.
- “Freeze Dried Candy Is so Much Fun.” Freeze Drying Mama, 1 Oct. 2020, freezedryingmama.com/freeze-dried-candy-is-so-much-fun/.
- Harvest Right,. “5 Candies to Freeze Dry: Harvest Right™: Home Freeze Dryers: Freeze Dried Food Storage.” Harvest Right™ | Home Freeze Dryers | Freeze Dried Food Storage, 20 July 2020, harvestright.com/blog/2020/5-candies-to-freeze-dry/.
- Valley Food Storage. “How to Freeze Dry Food From Home Without a Machine.” Valley Food Storage, valleyfoodstorage.com/blogs/inside-vfs/freeze-drying-food-from-home-without-a-machine.