Freeze-dried fruit is shelf-stable fruit that has undergone a process to remove nearly all of its moisture while retaining flavor and nutrients. It’s very light, with a dry, crispy texture and intense, concentrated fruit flavor.
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 to 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, snacks, trail mixes, smoothies, as a topping, eaten plain, or in emergency food supplies
- How to Store: In a cool, dark, dry place such as a 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 of freeze-drying fruit is to preserve its nutritional profile. Freeze-dried fruit 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. After it’s processed, freeze-dried fruit must be packaged in airtight, moisture-proof packaging to maintain freshness.
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. While dehydrating and freeze-drying are both great ways to preserve fruit, the processes and the final products differ.
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. Dehydrated fruit is chewy because it retains about one-third its water content. 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.
Just about any fruit, you can think of can be freeze-dried: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, blackberries, grapes, peaches, pears, apples, bananas, mango, pineapple, lychee, rambutan, citrus, and more.
Whole fruit is typically cut into halves, slices, or cubes before freeze-drying, though small fruits like berries can be freeze-dried whole. Freeze-dried fruit may also be sold ground into a fine powder for use in flavoring smoothies and desserts.
Freeze-Dried Fruit Uses
The simplest way to use freeze-dried fruit is to eat it out of hand, alone, or as a component of snack mix or trail mix. You can also use freeze-dried fruit as a topping on cereal, yogurt, or ice cream. It’s also a great option for hiking, camping, and traveling because it’s so light and compact.
With such a concentrated flavor, freeze-dried fruit is a great way to add intense fruit flavor (and often color) to a recipe without adding extra liquid. Because it’s so crunchy, it can also be used whole, crumbled, or powdered as a garnish to enhance the texture and appearance of a dish.
For many applications, freeze-dried fruit must be pulverized into a fine powder in a blender or food processor. (Be sure to remove the desiccant packet from the package before dumping its contents into your blender.) It can also be broken up with the hands or crushed under a frying pan or rolling pin for a coarser crumble.
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. Add freeze-dried fruit to the batter for waffles, pancakes, and baked goods like muffins, cookies, and quick breads. Add powdered freeze-dried fruit to frostings, fillings, and whipped cream for a pop of fruit flavor, or roll chocolate truffles in the freeze-dried fruit powder.
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.
Freeze-dried fruit also makes an excellent addition to milkshakes and smoothies—just add it with the rest of the ingredients before blending.
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. The freeze-drying process preserves flavor much better than regular dehydrating, leading to brighter, fresher-tasting flavors. The texture of freeze-dried fruit is firm, dry, and crispy, with a satisfying crunch between the teeth.
Freeze Dried Fruit Recipes
Substitute dehydrated fruit for freeze-dried fruit in these recipes.
Where To Buy Freeze Dried Fruit
It's easy to find freeze-dried fruit in many grocery stores, natural food stores, and food co-ops, as well as baking suppliers and online retailers, especially health-oriented markets and specialty shops such as Whole Foods and Sprouts. Trader Joe’s is also known for its wide selection of freeze-dried fruit snacks. 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.
Store freeze-dried fruit in a cool, dark, dry place, such as your pantry or a cabinet, sealed in its original packaging. After opening, keep the fruit in an airtight plastic bag or container to preserve its flavor, color, and texture. It's best stored preferably in temperatures between 33 and 75 F. Moisture will change the texture of freeze-dried fruit, so it's important to keep it in an airtight container once opened.
Unopened, freeze-dried fruit can last 25 to 30 years (according to some manufacturers), only if stored under ideal conditions. This is why freeze-dried foods are popular options for emergency preparedness and survival kits. After opening, freeze-dried fruit has a shelf life of up to one year.
Freeze-dried fruit retains many of its nutrients, with the exception of some fiber, vitamin C, and certain phytonutrients, which are protective compounds found in plants. With no added sugars or other ingredients, freeze-dried fruit offers similar benefits as fresh, in-season, or plain frozen fruit. However, freeze-dried fruit lacks water, which can make it easier to overeat, as the fluid in fruit is filling and provides satisfaction.
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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.
Shelf-Stable Food Safety. USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Bhatta S, Stevanovic Janezic T, Ratti C. Freeze-drying of plant-based foods. Foods. 2020;9(1):87.