This How to Dehydrate Cherries is part of a series on preserving and drying fruit. Find more in this homemade dried fruit series here.

I have had a love affair with cherries since I was a kid. I remember my mom and dad taking us to the house she grew up in to pick them, though those were pie cherries, which didn’t stop me from trying to pop one in my mouth during the picking process. Boy, were they SOUR!!?!?! Pie cherries aren’t generally sold in stores, what you’ll find there are sweet cherries, and they make great dried cherries.

How to Dehydrate Cherries: Why Dry Cherries?

For one, it extends their season. Cherries have a short season in summer, and then they’re gone. That’s a problem for a cherry lover like me. Dried cherries also make great raisin substitutes, and so they’re perfect for baking and snacking. We love them on our salads, in our oatmeal, and about a million other ways. Plus there’s a lot of nutrition in a little cherry!

How To Dehydrate Cherries: Easy & Fun

Drying cherries is easy and a fun family project. A few simple tools are all you need and a big bowl of cherries. But I don’t do marathon drying like a lot of home preservers. I do several trays a couple of times a week during the cherry season so that the fruit is fresh and it’s a manageable amount of work for me. I use a Nesco FD-80A Square-Shaped Dehydrator, but you can use any dryer you like, though I recommend a newer model with a fan for more even drying.

How To Dehydrate Cherries: Washing, Stemming, & Pitting

How to Dehydrate Cherries - Easy drying DIY

Cherries do need a little prep before drying. First wash them gently, but complete, with  cool water or a fruit cleaner.  I like Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash. It’s an organic fruit cleaner that doesn’t leave an odor or weird taste on my fruit. You can make your own fruit wash if you like with 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water, but I hate the vinegar smell and taste on my cherries.  Whatever you decide to  use, just make sure you wash them thoroughly – you want anything picked up in the field or the store gone before you enjoy them.

Now it’s time to pull off the stems. I wear rubber gloves for this because it helps me grab several stems at once. Discard the stems. Next is the pitting. I do mine outdoors because the cherry juice will stain everything it touches, trust me on this one. Don’t wear or use anything you’re not willing to sacrifice to your cherry passion. If you don’t want cherry stained hands and fingernails, wear gloves.

There are lots of ways to pit cherries, but I use a cherry pitter. I actually have several different pitters to choose from. One is a Progressive International GPC-5000 Cherry-It Multiple Cherry Pitter. It pits 4 cherries at a time and since you place each one by hand in the pitter,  it allows for a “fussy” pitting. I use it when I need a pit to be removed from top to bottom because I’m using the cherry in homemade maraschino cherries or the like and I want it to be pretty. For drying, I don’t care where the pit is removed, so I use a Norpro 5120 Deluxe Cherry Pitter with Clamp which makes really quick work of pitting. I can pit a pound in about 5 minutes. The only drawback to this pitter is you have to have a counter you can clamp it too. I received mine as a gift (thanks mom!), but for my needs, the Norpro Deluxe Cherry Pitter with Suction Base would have been a better fit. I make mine work by clamping it to a shelf my husband built on my deck railing.

Pitting Cherries for Drying - Norpro Deluxe Cherry Pitter with Clamp

Pitting Cherries for Drying – Norpro Deluxe Cherry Pitter with Clamp onto a baking sheet.

I run my pitter right onto a baking sheet to catch the juice along with any pits that might get spit out. My pitter has about a 1/3 pit failure rate (it could be operator error).  I save my cherry pits and dry them to use in crafts.

Once your cherries are pitted, they’re ready for the dryer. There’s no need for sugar or any anti-browning agents, just place the cherries in a single layer on the drying rack. Aim for  1/2″ apart, though I started mine a little bit more crowded and rearranged them when I turn them 2 hours into the drying process.

How To Dehydrate Cherries: Whole Cherries Take Longer But are Worth It

DRY 135° F – 24- 30 hours

How long your cherries will take to dry depends on a lot of things. How well your dehydrator dries, the day’s humidity level, and whether or not you dry your cherries whole or cut in half. It also depends on how many you have drying and how close together they are.

Aim for a 1/2" of space between cherries on the drying racks.

Aim for a 1/2″ of space between cherries on the drying racks.

I tend to fuss over my cherries while they’re drying, but it’s really not necessary. I turn them over after two hours in the dehydrator to keep them from sticking to the tray and then it’s pretty much hand’s off until the 24-hr mark if your dehydrator doesn’t require you to rotate the trays (though my dehydrator says it’s not necessary, but I find I get a better, more even drying if I do). If you like to fuss with your cherries while they dry like I do, always work with clean hands before touching the fruit.

I sometimes start trays at different times or dry different fruits together. To keep track of where I am, I put the tray that’s closest to being dried or fruit that needs less time to dry, on the top, so it’s the first tray I check on when I open my dehydrator.

Dehydrating Mixed Berries Together - Tips

The cherries in this photo were dried using the freeze & squeeze method.

Your whole cherries should take between 24 and 30 hours. You can dry them cut in half if you’re in a hurry, but whole cherries give you more options, and you can chop them for recipes if necessary. I also prefer them for snacking as they’re a moister and more satisfying bite.

How do you tell when dehydrated Cherries are done?

It’s not that easy. Whole cherries will shrink to about half their size and the hole where the pit was removed with become more prominent. They’ll feel very much like raisins – a tiny bit sticky. One way to check is to cool a cherry, cut it in half, and look for moisture along the cut edge. I find eating them works just as well and is delicious, though I find far fewer dried cherries as a result (I do a lot of testing :)).

An extreme close-up shot of a dried, whole cherry.

An extreme close-up shot of a dried, whole cherry.

Dried cherries should feel a bit like Silly Putty when poked, and they should rattle a bit when shaken in a canning jar.

How To Dehydrate Cherries: Conditioning, Proper Storage, and Shelf Life

When your cherries are dehydrated completely to your satisfaction, and they’ve had a chance to cool to room temperature, store in an airtight glass container (canning jars would do well for this). Only fill the jar 2/3’s full and then seal them and store them in an accessible place that’s cool and dry (60-70 F).

For the next 7-10 days, shake and turn the jars over twice a day. This conditions the cherries which distributes the moisture evenly throughout the cherries in the jar. If you notice any moisture, condensation, or mold, you have a problem. If you see mold, the cherries were not dried enough. Trash them and wash the jar and chock it up to a learning experience. If you see moisture or condensation but mo mold is visible, return the cherries to the dehydrator then re-dry and condition again.

Once your cherries have passed the 10-day mark, they should be good to go. Fill the jars completely with conditioned cherries, seal them, and store them in a dark and cool place (60-70 F). I keep my jars small, pint or half-pints, so I have only one small jar open at a time, and so if spoilage occurs, I don’t lose a lot of cherries.

If you don’t want to use glass to store your cherries, use BPA-free plastic.

Stored and dried properly, dehydrated cherries should last up to a year.

How To Dehydrate Cherries: Hints & Tips for Perfect Dried Fruit

  • Use ripe cherries that are firm and bruise-free. For the best results, always use fruit in perfect condition. If you cherries are overripe or bruised, consider making cherry butter or cherry syrup instead.
  • Checking Your Cherries: Always check your cherries at the 2 hour mark and turn them to prevent sticking. Check them again after 8 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours (you have to sleep sometime!) and every hour after that. I recommend setting a kitchen timer to remind yourself. While you’re checking, rotate trays if your dehydrator requires it and remove any cherries that are done. Place the early birds on a rack to cool and at your next check,  move them to a sealed jar to wait for their buddies to be done to join them.
  • Freeze your dried Cherries:  Freeze your dried cherries by laying them in a single layer on a jelly roll pan or any baking sheet with sides covered with waxed or parchment paper. A sided tray is best so you don’t loose any of your precious cherries on the way to the freezer. Allow them to freeze, uncovered (or covered lightly with a paper towel or kitchen towel), for about 30 minutes or until frozen solid. Place the frozen cherries in an airtight container (I use glass, if you prefer plastic, I recommend you verify it’s BPA-free). Use the waxed paper like a funnel to help move the cherries easier. Flash freezing the cherries first keeps them from freezing into a solid block.
  • Do you need to pasteurize dried cherries? No. Most experts agree that pasteurizing is only necessary for sun-dried fruits.
  • How many cherries does it take? One pound of fresh cherries will make about 1 cup of dried (depending on the size of the cherries – whole or halved) and the amount of dryness.
  • Can you dry cherries in the oven?  You can dry cherries in your home oven if it has a “warm” setting or can go as low as 140 F. Just use a baking sheet lined with parchment. Unfortunately, most home ovens don’t have a low enough heat setting, plus, that’s a lot of wasted energy heating the entire oven, especially if you’re doing a small batch.

How To Dehydrate Cherries: How to Use Them

Snack on them right out of the jar of course! But try them on your breakfast cereal (hot or cold), add them to cookies, granola, ice cream, yogurt. In fact, you can use dried cherries as a substitute in any recipe that calls for dried cranberries or raisins.

Homemade dried whole cherries - ready for baking or snacking!

Homemade dried whole cherries – ready for baking or snacking!

How to Dehydrate Cherries: Products We Used

Have you dehydrated cherries? Do you have a tip for me?