How to Dehydrate Fruit So That You Can Win at Life

Skip the alluring, overpriced packages of dried fruit at the grocery store. Instead, grab in-season fruit and dehydrate it the DIY way.
Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Kat Boytsova

If you've ever felt the pain in your gut (and in your wallet) when you shell out for a single-serve bag of dried fancy mango, it's time to make a change. Dried fruit is easy to make at home (after all, there's really just one ingredient). And, yes, you do need a special piece of equipment, too.

There are several ways to dehydrate fruit—you could rely on the microwave for crispy fruit chips, or make chewy fruit leather in the oven—but none is as foolproof or as all-purpose as using the kitchen tool made specifically for the task.

For the person that relies on banana chips or dried mango slices as an anytime (i.e. all-the-time) snack, and wants to go the homemade route, it's worth it to invest in a good dehydrator so that your pantry is always packed with plenty of fruity nibbles. Yes, you could use an oven set at its lowest temperature, but most ovens run too hot to thoroughly dehydrate fruit without scorching it.

Our favorite dehydrator, on the other hand, has five removable racks, an adjustable temperature setting, a clear lid for easy viewing, and easy, push-button controls. Also, it's currently available on Amazon for just $49.99.

As for how to dehydrate fruit once you have your machine, just follow this easy step-by-step guide:

1. Wash and dry fruit

Or don't. It's entirely up to you.

2. Peel the fruit (if the peel isn't edible)

Rule of thumb: if you would eat the peel of the fruit in its natural state (apples, pears, etc.), you can eat it dried. Thin-skinned dried citrus peels can also be nice if you're into their slight bitterness, so feel free to leave lemons, limes, and oranges unpeeled, too.

3. Slice fruit in 1/4" to 1/2" pieces

There are a few caveats here. Smaller fruits can be left whole or halved as desired. For example, strawberries can be halved or sliced into rings as shown in the photo above. Apricots can simply be halved and pitted. Same with cherries—unless you also have a cherry pitter and want to simply pit the cherries and leave them whole. Blueberries and cranberries can be left whole, but you'll need to pierce their skin with a clean skewer or paring knife so the skins don't dry out and harden before the insides are fully dehydrated. T

The smaller or thinner each piece is cut, the quicker it will dehydrate, so be sure to cut each fruit variety into pieces of the same size. Feel free to vary the size from one fruit variety to another, though—you can always remove the tray of dried apples from the dehydrator if they're done before the tray of dried mango.

4. Spray fruit with lemon juice

There are only a few times we'll suggest using bottled lemon juice over fresh. This is one of them. Its primary purpose here is to keep the fruit from browning, so it's a step you can skip entirely if you don't mind the murky visual. The easiest way to disperse the lemon juice evenly is to keep it in a food-safe spray bottle and spritz apple slices, banana chunks, etc. as desired.

5. Spread fruit slices in one layer on dehydrator racks

While the fruits' edges can be touching, make sure they do not overlap, which could cause the pieces to stick together and the overlapping parts to be less dehydrated than the rest of the fruit. Keep different fruits on different trays as each type will become fully dehydrated in a different amount of time. Place fruits more likely to drip on the bottom rack so that they don't drip onto other fruits below.

6. Follow your dehydrator manufacturer's recommendations for time and temperature.

No manual? Set the temperature between 125°F and 140°F. Dehydrating at 125°F will result in a more evenly dehydrated end product, while setting the temp to 140°F will make everything go a bit faster.

7. Make sure to Instagram your process.

Because if it's not on Instagram, it didn't happen.

Keep different types of fruit separated since drying time will vary.

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Anna Stockwell

8. Let the dehydrated fruit cool and become crisp

Depending on the type of the fruit, the size it's been cut, the humidity of the day, the power of your dehydrator, and the will of the gods, your fruit could be ready in as little as 6 hours or as much as 30. Thinly sliced apples and citrus will be crisp, and become more brittle as they cool to room temperature. Grapes, cherries, strawberries, and other berries will be leathery, like raisins. Mangoes, pineapples and the like will be leathery and pliable.

9. For longer-term storage, Condition the fruit

If you're like me and can work your way through a bowl of dried apples without breaking a sweat, this doesn't apply to you. But if you've dried a ton of fruit to store it for several weeks or months, you'll want to "condition" the fruit. This step is recommended by the National Center for Home Food Preservation and ensures all fruit is dried properly and evenly.

To do it, pack the room-temperature dried fruit in a resealable plastic bag or glass jar and leave for a full week at room temperature. Shake gently once a day—if you see any condensation inside the jar or bag, return the fruit to the dehydrator. If after 7 days you see no condensation, the fruit is ready to eat, or to store (more on that below).

10. Store fruit for now or later

If you're planning to eat the fruit within one month, store at room temperature in resealable jars. I like to use pint-sized Ball jars with screw top lids, but plastic storage containers or zip-top bags work, too.

If you want to store the fruit longer, a vacuum sealer is a good option. You can also separate the fruit into individual portions and freeze for longer term storage. And let's face it: If your deliciously chewy fruit is frozen, you're less likely to eat all it in one sitting.