Freeze drying fruit preserves the berry or pieces of fruit exactly as it is, minus the liquids. According to the FDA, freeze drying, technically called lyophilization, "is a process in which water is removed from a product after it is frozen and placed under a vacuum, allowing the ice to change directly from solid to vapor without passing through a liquid phase." This process leaves the fruit a crispy shell of the fresh version. Unopened, freeze dried fruit so can last 25-30 years (according to some manufacturers), only if stored under ideal conditions. Meanwhile it retains most of its sugars so the fruit tastes like it did before the freezing. Freeze-dried fruit can be used in many of the same ways as you would use sun-dried and dehydrated fruits. For example, you can put it in baked goods, candy bars, and trail mix.
- Shelf Life: According to some manufacturers, 25 to 30 years, unopened, if stored under ideal conditions
- Most Common Way to Use: In baked goods, trail mixes, as a topping, eaten plain
- How To Store: Cool, dark pantry in the original, unopened packaging
What Is Freeze Dried Fruit?
Freeze drying fruit is a process used to preserve fresh produce so it will be shelf stable and last longer without preservatives. The goal is to keep the nutritional profile of the ingredients intact so the freeze dried fruits can be used as a healthy snack, to add sweetness to dishes, and in baking.
The process of freeze drying fruit commercially involves putting the berries or pieces of fruit in a vacuum chamber with a below-freezing temperature. The solid water molecules in the fruit to become a gas, leaving the food and dissipating. Through this process the fruit and berries remain intact, and much of the nutrition found in the fresh fruit stays as well.
It's possible to freeze dry fruit at home with the proper equipment, though a freeze dryer and accessories can cost thousands of dollars. Freezing fruit uncovered in your own home freezer will dry it out to a certain extent, but this is not exactly the same thing as lyophilization.
Freeze Dried Fruit Vs. Dehydrated Fruit
Both freeze drying and dehydrating fruit are methods for preserving nutritious produce for later use. By removing the moisture from fruits, including bananas, most berries, apples, dragon fruits, apricots and pineapples, the food becomes more shelf stable and resistant to mold or rot, which plagues fresh fruits as they age. Freeze drying removes all the moisture through sub-zero temperatures. This method keeps the shape of the fruit well, and some say it preserves the flavor better. Freeze dried goods can last decades and still offer the bright essence of the fruit.
Freeze dried fruit is also airy, light and crunchy, where dehydrated fruits have a thick density and distinct chew. This chew in dehydrated fruit is due to not all the moisture being leeched from the fruit, and in fact about one-third the water remains. Because dehydrated fruits still have some moisture, they often need preservatives to help keep the fruit shelf stable, and even with additives this type of dried fruit doesn’t last as long as the freeze dried counterpart. The moisture content in dehydrated fruit also tends to make it sweeter, where freeze dried fruit is less saccharine and can better showcase the natural flavor of the fruits.
How To Cook With Freeze Dried Fruit
Because it's such a shelf-stable food, there are many uses for freeze dried fruit, both when baking and as an additive to desserts and savory dishes. For baking, freeze dried fruit is added in as any other fruit, though extra water is needed in order to plump up the berries, chunks of banana or pineapple pieces. The most popular way to use freeze dried fruit is as a topper for foods such as cereal, yogurt, confections, panna cotta, chocolate mousse and other dishes. Freeze dried fruit is also a good addition to trail mix and granola. When it's used as a topper or in a mix, there is no moisture needed. In fact, it's the airy, crunchy quality of freeze dried fruit that makes it work so well in these instances.
What Does Freeze Dried Fruit Taste Like?
Imagine the ripest sample of fruit and then, instead of juicy and soft, it's airy and crunchy. That's basically what freeze dried fruit tastes like. It's the dried version of favorite fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, apples, bananas, dragon fruits, kiwi, blueberries, pineapple and other sweet fruits at the peak season. Freeze drying preserves the flavor of these fruits perfectly, it's just the texture and mouthfeel that change.
Freeze Dried Fruit Recipes
Substitute dehydrated fruit for freeze-dried fruit in these recipes. The airy, crunchiness will change the texture a little bit and may add more of a strong, fruity flavor depending on the fruit chosen.
Where To Buy Freeze Dried Fruit
It's easy to find freeze dried fruit in many grocery stores, especially health-oriented markets and specialty shops such as Whole Foods and Sprouts. Often freeze dried fruit is in the same section as raisins and other dehydrated fruits. For more selection, including exotic fruits like dragon fruit, star fruit and lychee, order from one of the numerous online retailers.
Keep freeze dried fruit in a sealed container out of direct sunlight. It's best stored in a cool, dark spot in the pantry, preferably in temperatures between 33 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Any sort of moisture will change the texture of freeze dried fruit, so it's important to hold in an airtight container.
By using lower temperatures during the process of freeze drying fruit, the maximum nutrients are able to be retained. While freeze drying fruit maintains much of the natural nutritional profile the fresh fruit has, it does loose some fiber and vitamin C. The reason these two nutrients are reduced is because vitamin C is water-soluble and breaks down in the drying process, and fiber is found in the cell walls and skin of fruit, which also break down during the drying process.
Affairs O of R. Lyophilization of parenteral(7/93). FDA. Published online November 3, 2018.
Clark, Kendall. “The Shelf Life of Freeze-Dried Food.” Mercer Foods, April 2, 2018.
Bhatta, S., Stevanovic Janezic, T., & Ratti, C. (2020). Freeze-Drying of Plant-Based Foods. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 9(1), 87. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods9010087
University, Utah State. “Buying a Home Freeze-Dryer: What to Know Before You Go.” Accessed August 6, 2021.
Bhatta S, Stevanovic Janezic T, Ratti C. Freeze-drying of plant-based foods. Foods. 2020;9(1):87.