A couple of years ago I bought myself a dehydrator for Christmas. I had been hearing for a while about the benefits of dehydrating food and besides, it sounded kind of fun. Whether you’re a hard core off-gridder and build your own solar powered food dehydrator or whether – like me – you purchase one that uses electricity, I highly recommend giving this form of food preservation a try.
In this article, I will outline some of the benefits of using a dehydrator and then tell you about some of my favorite dehydrator snacks.
Benefits of Dehydrating Food
Drying food in order to preserve it has been around a very long time. In fact, it’s one of the oldest methods of preservation. When stored properly, dehydrated meats can last months and dehydrated fruits and vegetables can last up to a year. (Not that any of that stuff sticks around that long in our home!) Also, both will last years in the freezer.
Not only is the food preserved, but it is preserved without the use of added salt, sugar or other chemical preservatives. Do you know what homemade dehydrated apple chips are made of? Apples! That’s it. (You may add other things if you like, but I’ll get to that later.)
If you’re unaccustomed to dehydrated food, you’re likely wondering what it tastes like. After all, if you take something fresh and remove the water it shrivels up and might not look as appealing. Well, the answer is that dehydrated food is actually bursting with flavor. When you remove the water, the natural sugars and other flavors become concentrated. In my opinion, dehydrated fruit is better than candy.
And finally, dehydrated foods are healthy. When food is dehydrated, it retains almost all of its original nutritional value – unlike canning or freezing. As an added bonus, if you are on a raw food diet, you can eat dehydrated foods because they can be prepared at temperatures that are lower than 115 degrees F.
The possibilities of health foods and snacks that can be prepared in a dehydrator are many. You are limited only by your imagination – and what recipes you can find on the Internet!
What To Use
If I had to choose one snack that I would consider my downfall snack, I’d have to say that it’s potato chips. I love salty and savory flavors but I also know that commercially grown potatoes are full of pesticides and most potato chips on the market are loaded with unhealthy oils and artificial flavors. To be honest, my obsession with potato chips is one of the main reasons that I invested in a dehydrator.
Kale Chips – Would you believe me if I told you that kale chips can be just as addictive and delicious as potato chips? It’s true. These healthy little crisps were the first recipe that I tried when I got my dehydrator. Kale chips can be made using any variety of kale, but my experience is that lacinato (or dino) kale produces the nicest results.
The way to make kale chips is to tear off bite-sized pieces of kale from the stem and woody stalk at the center of the leaf (the stalks can be saved for your juicer) and then to flavor them with pretty much anything you like before putting them in the dehydrator for several hours.
For a simple kale chip recipe, coat your kale with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. For something more savory, make a mixture of olive oil, red bell peppers, garlic, salt, pepper and nutritional yeast (which can be bought at your local health food store and tastes a bit like cheese), and coat your kale in that before dehydrating.
Sweet Potato Chips – If you like sweet potato fries, you will love these. Slice thinly in a food processor or with a mandolin and add a bit of salt and pepper before dehydrating. You can also experiment with different flavors just like kale chips.
Zucchini Chips – For me, these were among the most surprising of the salty snacks that I’ve prepared in my dehydrator. Same idea as sweet potatoes only they turn out crispier. Of course, you might have to play around with different thickness to see what gives you the best result in your dehydrator.
Now perhaps you’re not into salty snacks – perhaps you’re more of a sweet person. It that’s you, you are absolutely going to love some of the sweet and healthy snacks you can make in a dehydrator – because anything that is naturally sweet will only get sweeter when you remove the water.
Dried Apples – One of the easiest snacks to make. Core apples and slice them in a food processor or with a mandolin slicer and dehydrate. If you like, you can sprinkle them with a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg before you put them in the dehydrator. I actually like to sprinkle mine with curry powder! Yum!
Dried Berries – Take fresh berries (slice them if they’re strawberries) and dehydrate. These make a wonderful addition to your morning cereal and they are also really nice on their own.
Fruit Leathers – Remember those leathery fruit snacks you used to eat as a kid? Well, they are super easy to make in your dehydrator. Just take your favorite fruit and blend it. Make sure that your dehydrator is lined with parchment paper or a line and spread a thin layer of the puree onto the tray and dehydrate for several hours. You can feel great giving these to your kids as well as enjoying them yourself.
If you’re trying to add more healthy foods to your diet and eliminate more junk, using a dehydrator is a really tasty way to do just that. Take some time to experiment with your favorite flavors. You’ll be glad you did.
What are your dehydrator snack tips? Share them in the section below: