Dried fruit is easy to make, easy to carry, and tastes great. It’s a perfect snack for a busy lifestyle. Dried fruits are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein, and they can help increase energy. They can be added to baked goods, yogurt, cereal, trail mix, or even just eaten on their own. From raisins and craisins to dried apples and banana chips, most of us have a favorite dried fruit.
Drying your own is an ideal way to take advantage of the seasonal pricing of fresh fruit at the grocery store or the farmers market. You can buy fresh fruits and veggies while they're in season, then preserve them to eat later in the year! How long will those dried fruits last, though? We have the answers.
Drying prevents spoilage for a long time if the fruit is stored properly. Bacteria, yeast, and mold require moisture to live, so they can’t colonize dehydrated fruit. But dry fruit has other advantages.
Since water is the only thing removed during the drying process, dehydrated fruit retains essential nutrients for a healthy diet. Plus, it’s lightweight and there’s no juicy mess to worry about while snacking. You can also reconstitute it for a variety of recipes by adding water, juice, spirits, or other flavorful liquids.
Improperly stored dried foods are susceptible to spoilage from insect damage or by reabsorbing moisture from the air. Proper storage will virtually eliminate these problems.
Step 1: Store dried fruits as soon as they have cooled to room temperature.
The longer they are left out, the more risk there is for them to reabsorb moisture or be found by insects.
Step 2: Use airtight or vacuum-sealed containers for storage.
Step 3: Pack the fruit tightly as possible without damaging them.
Step 4: Store them in quantities that are likely to be used all at once.
Step 5: Store the containers in a dark, dry, cool place.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, dried fruit lasts from 4 to 12 months when properly stored, but the quality of stored food does degrade more quickly in warm temperatures. It can also degrade each time a container is opened, exposing the food to the air and moisture. Most dried fruit can last up to a year when stored at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. At 80 degrees it will last up to six months.
Check on stored dry foods every two or three weeks to ensure that it’s still dry. If moisture gets inside of clear packaging like a canning jar, it’s easily visible on the sides of the container. If anything has absorbed moisture, use it up right away. If it’s moldy, discard it.
Packaged dried fruit, like raisins and prunes, have a printed expiration date. This is the date before which the product may be sold. If unopened, it will stay viable for an additional time period afterward. Again, storage temperature matters — the cooler the better.
Raisins, craisins, prunes, dry cherries, dry apricots, dry mangoes, and dry blueberries will last up to a year in the pantry, unopened. Dry dates, dry figs, and banana chips will last at least three months in the pantry beyond the sell-by date. Refrigerating these items extends their shelf life by as much as two years. If they’re frozen, they’ll last indefinitely.
Drying fruit for storage at home is made simple with an electric dehydrator.
Step 1: Wash and dry the fruit.
Step 2: Peel off any inedible skins.
Step 3: Slice the fruit into pieces.
Cut larger fruits, such as apples, into quarter-inch or half-inch slices. Smaller fruits like berries may be halved or left whole. Make the pieces as close to the same size as possible so they’ll dry at the same rate.
Step 4: Mist the fruit with lemon juice to keep them from browning.
Step 5: Spread the fruit into single layers on the racks of the dehydrator.
Step 6: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for time and temperature settings.
Fruit is suitably dry when it has about 20% moisture content. Depending on the specific fruit, it will likely have a leathery texture, like raisins or prunes.
When the dried fruit first comes out of the dehydrator, the moisture will be dispersed unevenly, so the pieces should be conditioned for a week or two. Here's how.
Step 1: Loosely pack the dried fruit into sealed containers.
Step 2: Gently shake the container every few days. During this time, drier pieces will absorb excess moisture from the others.
Step 3: Dry the fruit a bit longer in the dehydrator before packing it for long-term storage if, after two weeks, there’s condensation on the sides of the container.
After a long while, or if the seal is broken and penetrated by moisture, dry fruit can go bad. Learn to recognize these symptoms, so you don’t consume dried fruit that’s spoiled:
- Foul smell
- Loss of flavor
- Hard or stale texture
When in doubt, throw it out.
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