One of the great aspects of chilies is their versatility. They can be used and preserved in many ways.
There are many methods for preserving the peppers that include everything from pickling to freezing.
But for the best long term preservation, dehydration is the preferred method. The following information provides tips and trick on how to dehydrate chili peppers, for maximum use and safe storage.
Chili peppers can be dehydrated by hanging them outside, drying them slowly in a low-temperature oven, or in a food dehydrator.
However, using a food dehydrator is the best method for several reasons. Chilies that are hung outside will often not dehydrate evenly, especially in very humid climates, and they can be ruined by mold and mildew.
Although placing them in an oven at a low temperature will dry them, this method often tends to cook them instead, which can easily turn the flesh a dark color. A good electric food dehydrator will assure that the peppers are dried evenly, and that the flesh retains its natural color.
Before dehydrating the chili peppers, there are several things to keep in mind. First and foremost, handle them very carefully – especially the hotter varieties! Wash your hands often during handling, and never place your hands near your nose or eyes after cutting.
Pepper spray is made from the essence of hot chilies, and their natural juices can have the same effect on your nose, eyes, and throat.
Second, keep in mind that green chilies do not dehydrate well. They turn black instead, and rot easily during the drying process. The only good way to dry the green fruit is by using the pasado technique, which involves roasting on a grill and removing the flesh.
Before preparing the peppers for dehydration, sort through them and remove any with black spots, as these will usually become moldy or rot even after dehydration. Always wash the peppers thoroughly when you’re preparing them.
All chilies must be cut in half or cut into strips for proper dehydration. Leaving the stems, pith, and seeds in place is a matter of personal choice. Keeping the seeds will result in a hotter finished product.
Set the temperature on the dehydrator to between 113 and 122°F, and preheat for about ten minutes. Always place the peppers inside-up on the tray.
The length of drying time will vary based on many factors. These include the amount and type of chilies you are drying, external temperatures and humidity levels, the altitude of the area in which you live, and the power of the dehydrator.
Don’t worry that you will dry them too long. Dehydrating is a slow process. It normally takes at least eight hours for most varieties to dehydrate. You will know they are dried when they snap instead of bending with a rubbery feel.
You should be able to find more information on drying times and proper temperature settings in the instruction manual that came with your dehydrator.
After the chilies are dried, they are best stored in airtight containers, placed away from direct sunlight. Adding oxygen absorbers and dessicant packets can help to preserve them even longer.
It is important to keep dried peppers away from moisture and sunlight, as both of these elements can shorten shelf life. A good spice rack that’s built to keep these out, or that’s kept in a dark, cool drawer or cabinet can help. Check out Foodal’s review of the best models.
Unless you intend to freeze them, do not store dried peppers in plastic bags. Most of these will allow oxygen to pass through, which will break down the dried fruit very quickly, due to oxidation. Mylar is a better alternative, or try sealing them in Mason jars.
The dried peppers can be used whole, cut into smaller pieces, or ground into a powder using a spice grinder (NOT your good burr coffee grinder) or a food processor like one of these.
Again, a word of warning – if you grind them, be very careful when handling the powder, and make sure the grinder has a secure lid in place before grinding begins. It can be easy to burn your eyes or nose if mishandled – or to add too much spice to a meal.
For the hotter varieties, it is best to wear gloves when handling the powder.
To reconstitute dried chilies, soak them in hot water for at least ten minutes.
Share your favorite spicy chili recipes with us in the comments! And be sure to check out Foodal’s Utlimate Guide to Herbs and Spices for more tasty seasoning ideas.
About Lynne Jaques
Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!