This How to Dehydrate Strawberries is part of a series on preserving and drying fruit. Find more in this homemade dried fruit series here.
I thought I didn’t like dehydrated fruit, but as it turns out, it was the sickeningly sweet dried fruit that my grandmother ate that I didn’t like. Once I discovered that wasn’t what home dehydrating produced, I became a bit of a maniac drying things.
My Journey Down The Dehydrator Rabbit Hole
I started my journey into dehydrating in the 1980’s with a round smoke-colored dehydrator with a single heating element in the bottom. I grew flowers and mint in my garden to dry and preserve. The problem is, that old dehydrator had a major design flaw. The items on the bottom tray were too hot while the top were barely warm; no matter how often I rotated the trays, the results were disappointing. Still, I persisted because it was the only dehydrator I had, but it wasn’t long before I learned to hang a lot of the flowers and herbs to dry instead, much to the dismay of my husband because it was his garage that had the necessary conditions for drying flowers.
But fruit was harder. Every year I dehydrated blueberries right from our yard, but that was pretty much it. I decided a few years ago to change that so that I could enjoy fruit year round, especially cherries which have an incredibly short season and then disappear. By drying seasonal fruit, I can take advantage of the fruit’s freshness and the in-season prices; especially important when I’m purchasing organic fruit, every little discount helps.
Strawberries are one of the fruits I always eat organic. Because of their thin skin and bumpy texture, they’re more susceptible to retaining pesticides which cannot be cleaned fully from the outside, plus those nasty chemicals make their way into the strawberry itself. But I’m worth it and so are you and your family!
How To Dehydrate Strawberries: Easy and Foolproof!
Drying strawberries is thankfully easy and foolproof. I’ve upgraded my dehydrator to a newer model with a fan to circulate the warm air. It’s made drying fruit so much easier. It doesn’t matter much which brand you choose, just make sure it has circulating air. I use a Nesco FD-80A Square-Shaped Dehydrator now. I picked it because of the shape (it’s square so there’s more surface area) and because I can add additional trays.
How To Dehydrate Strawberries: Prep & Slicing
Strawberries need very little prep. Wash them gently under cool water alone or use a fruit cleaner. I use Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash because it’s organic, vegan, and Kosher; but more importantly, it leaves no odor or taste behind like vinegar does. Of course, you can make your own fruit wash with 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water if you don’t mind the smell of it. Whatever you use, wash them thoroughly. Once washed, it’s time to hull them.
Hulling strawberries is easy, and there are so many ways to do it. The hot “new” way is to take a sturdy straw (stainless steel drinking straw or plastic) and run it from the bottom of the strawberry, up through the center, to push out the leafy green top. This method works well, though you’ll likely have to change out the straw as it gets weaker. It does take out more of the strawberry than a commercial huller (I suggest the Chef’n Stem Gem Strawberry Huller), but is useful in a pinch. If you’re good with a knife, you can use a small paring knife to cut out the leaves.
Once hulled, it’s time to slice the strawberries. Simply cut either lengthwise or crosswise, your choice, it about 1/4″ slices. Do your best to keep each slice even from the start of the cut to the finish, so it dries evenly, but it’s OK if individual slices are different thicknesses. You’ll just remove the ones that are completely dry first and allow the others to continue drying. However, if a single slice is uneven, one-half of the strawberry will be dry and the other half not. You can always do what I do with the rejects – eat them!
That’s it! No need for sugar or an anti-browning agent like lemon juice. Just place the strawberries flat on the drying rack, about 1/2″ apart (though I start mine a little bit more crowded at and the 2-hour mark rearrange them when I turn them – see note below), and dehydrate at 135° F degrees.
How To Dehydrate Strawberries: Timing & How to Tell When They’re Dry
DRY 135° F – 8-12 hours
How long your strawberries will take to dry depends on a lot of things. Your dehydrator and its ability to dry, the humidity in the room, how close together your berries are, and their thickness.
Generally, you should turn your berries over after the first 2 hours – that keeps them from sticking to the trays. My dehydrator doesn’t require the trays to be rotated, but yours may. I put the tray that’s closest to being done or the fruit that needs the least amount of time, on the top so it’s the first one I check on when I open the dehydrator.
Your strawberries should take between 8 and 12 hours. The texture will be more leathery at the 8-hour mark and more crispy at the 12-hour mark. I do about half and half for each batch. The leathery strawberries are perfect for baking and the crispy for snacking.
But how do you tell when dehydrated strawberries are done? Leathery strawberries should bend and not snap. The crispier strawberries should hold their shape and feel dry to the touch. But the easiest way to tell if your fruit is dried enough is to cool several pieces and cut them in half and give them a squeeze. You shouldn’t be able to squeeze any moisture from them; however, they should be pliable (think Silly Putty). Plus they shouldn’t be too sticky. Check them by folding a piece in half. If it sticks to itself, it’s not ready yet. When the fruit is dried correctly, it should rattle in the jar when shaken.
How To Dehydrate Strawberries: Proper Storage, Conditioning, and Shelf Life
When your strawberries are completely dehydrated to your satisfaction, allow them to cool completely on their trays and then store in an airtight container filling it only 2/3’s full. Seal and leave on the counter for up to 7 days, shaking once or twice a day to keep the berries separated. By doing this, the moisture in the berries has a chance to distribute evenly among themselves. If you notice any condensation in the jar, return the fruit to the dehydrator. If mold forms, toss them and wash the jar. After seven days, fill the jar the rest of the way with conditioned berries and store the jar in a cool, dark place (below 60 F). I like to store my dried fruit in small batches so that if any contamination happens, I only lose a small amount. I also prefer glass storage or at the very least, certified BPA-free plastic.
Stored properly, dried strawberries should last up to a year.
How To Dehydrate Strawberries: Hints & Tips for Perfect Berries
- Use ripe strawberries that are firm and bruise-free. Always start with fruit that’s in excellent condition for the best results. If you have a bunch of soft or bruised strawberries, consider making a strawberry syrup instead.
- Checking Your Berries: Check your berries after 2 hours (turn them) then at 6 hours, 8 hours, 10 hours, and 12 hours. Set a timer to remind yourself and remove berries that are done at each check, leaving the rest to continue drying.
- Adding Sweetener: If you must sweeten them, do it when you add them to the dehydrator trays by sprinkling with a small amount of granulated sugar (I like super-fine sugar for this). It will draw out the fruit’s juices, so doing it now keeps the mess contained to the dehydrator. Make sure you don’t have another fruit or veggie underneath that will catch the drips.
- Freeze your dried Strawberries: Freeze your dried berries by laying them out on wax paper lined jelly roll pan or any baking sheet with sides in a single layer. Freeze for 30 minutes or until frozen solid. Remove the berries from the tray and immediately place them in an airtight container (pick up the edges of the wax paper and use it as a funnel to fill the jars). Then get them back into the freezre as soon as possible. This flash freezing method keeps your strawberries separated instead of freezing into a solid block of dried fruit.
- Do you need to pasteurize dried strawberries? It depends. Pasteurizing is normally only necessary if you sun-dry your fruits. Since that’s not possible here in Seattle, I’ve never pasteurized my fruit.
- How many berries does it take? Two quarts of fresh strawberries will dry to about 1 pint of dried.
- Can you dry strawberries in the oven? You can dry strawberries in your oven on a baking sheet if your oven can go as low as 140 F. Unfortunately, most can’t. Plus, a dehydrator makes more sense when it comes to energy use.
How To Dehydrate Strawberries: How to Use Them
Snack on them of course! But you can also put them on your cold cereal, oatmeal, bake them in cookies, add to granola, grind them to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or small food processor to add to ice cream or yogurt. Or add to butter (soften first then stir in ground dried strawberry and form into pats). Serve with scones or English Muffins or add dehydrated strawberries to your favorite muffin mix.
Have you tried drying your own strawberries?