how long does dehydrated food last?

Drying out food to make it last longer is nothing new; it’s a trick people have been using from the time of ancient societies to today’s homesteaders. Whether you’re stocking up for the apocalypse or just prepping for your next camping trip, dehydrated food is a go-to. But you might be wondering, how long can that bag of dried apples really stick around? In this guide, we’ll dive deep into everything you need to know about the shelf life of dehydrated foods and what influences how long they’ll last.

how long does dehydrated food last: dehydrated kiwis
Photo by DIY Homesteading 101, Alina Bradford

how long does dehydrated food last?

Okay, so not all dried foods are created equal when it comes to how long they’ll last. In this part, we’re gonna break down the shelf life game for all sorts of dried goodies, from fruits and veggies to meats, seafood, grains, legumes, herbs, and spices. Knowing the ins and outs of how long each type will stay good helps you be smarter about how you store and munch on ’em. Ready to get into it? Let’s go!

How long does dried fruits and vegetables last?

When properly dehydrated and stored, Dehydrated fruits and vegetables items can have an impressive shelf life. Here are some general guidelines for the shelf life of common dehydrated fruits and vegetables:

Dried apple slices
Photo by DIY Homesteading 101, Alina Bradford
  • Apples: Dehydrated apple slices can last anywhere from 6 months to 1 year when stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Bananas: Dehydrated banana chips can have a shelf life of 6 to 12 months if stored properly.
  • Tomatoes: Dehydrated tomatoes can last for 6 months to 1 year when kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
  • Carrots: Dehydrated carrot slices or shreds can maintain their quality for 1 to 2 years if stored in airtight packaging with low moisture content.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and the actual shelf life may vary depending on the specific drying and storage conditions. Proper packaging, such as vacuum-sealed bags or airtight containers, can help extend the shelf life of dehydrated fruits and vegetables.

In general, dehydrated foods can last for around six months when stored in 80-degree temperatures and around a year in 60-degree temps, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

How long does dried meat last?

Dehydrated meats and seafood, such as beef jerky or dried fish, are popular choices for protein-rich snacks. Properly dehydrated and stored, these items can have a long shelf life. Here are some general guidelines for the shelf life of dehydrated meats and seafood:

Properly dehydrated meat and seafood should have a low moisture content and be free from any signs of spoilage, such as off smells or discoloration. It’s important to consume these items within their recommended shelf life for optimal taste and safety.

How long do dried grains and legumes last?

Dehydrated grains and legumes are versatile pantry staples that can be stored for extended periods, providing a valuable source of sustenance. Here are some general guidelines for the shelf life of dehydrated grains and legumes:

Dried beans
Photo by DIY Homesteading 101, Alina Bradford
  • Rice: Dehydrated rice can last for 2 to 4 months if stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. It’s important to ensure that the rice is fully dehydrated to prevent the growth of mold or pests.
  • Lentils: Dehydrated lentils can have a shelf life of up to 3 years when stored properly. It is essential to keep them in airtight packaging to maintain their quality, according to the United States Agency for International Development.
  • Quinoa: Dehydrated quinoa can last for 2 to 4 months if stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Oats: Dehydrated oats can maintain their quality for 2 to 4 months when stored in airtight containers away from moisture and pests, according to the Whole Grain Council.

It’s crucial to inspect dehydrated grains and legumes for any signs of spoilage, such as insect infestation or off smells, before consumption. Proper storage in airtight containers and regular rotation of stock will help maintain their quality over an extended period.

How long do dried herbs and spices last?

Generally, herbs don’t go bad, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. After a while, they don’t taste as good, but as long as they’re dry, old herbs won’t be harmful. Here are some general guidelines for the shelf life of dehydrated herbs and spices:

Dried herbs
Photo by DIY Homesteading 101, Alina Bradford
  • Peppercorns: Whole peppercorns will last for 3 to 4 years. Ground peppercorns will last 1 to 3 years.
  • Basil: Dehydrated basil can last for six months to 3 years when stored in airtight containers away from heat and light.
  • Oregano: This one can last for six months to 3 years when stored in airtight containers away from heat and light.
  • Dill seeds: These whole seeds will last for 3 to 4 years.
  • Cumin: Dehydrated cumin can last for 1 to 3 years when kept in airtight packaging away from moisture and sunlight.
  • Cloves: Whole cloves will last for 3 to 4 years.
  • Thyme: Dehydrated thyme can maintain its quality for 3 to 6 years when stored properly.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon sticks will last for 3 to 4 years. Ground cinnamon will last 1 to 3 years.
  • Rosemary: Dehydrated rosemary can have a shelf life of 3 to 6 years if stored in a cool, dark place.
  • Cumin: Dried, ground cumin will last for 1 to 3 years.

Regularly check for any signs of spoilage, such as off smells or discoloration, and replace if necessary.

Factors That affect the Shelf Life of Dehydrated Food

When it comes to the shelf life of dehydrated food, several factors come into play. Understanding these factors helps ensure the longevity and quality of your preserved food. To sum up, if you’re looking to make your dried foods last as long as possible, you’ve got a few key things to keep tabs on: zap the moisture, keep oxygen out, stash it somewhere cool and steady, and start off with some really good eats.

Moisture Content

How long your dehydrated grub lasts largely depends on how much moisture is left in it. See, moisture is like a party invitation for unwanted guests like bacteria and mold, which are quick to spoil your food and mess with your health.

That’s why getting the dehydration process right is crucial. Whether you’re letting the sun do the work, using good old-fashioned air drying, or pulling out your trusty food dehydrator, the goal is to zap as much moisture as possible. Get that part right, and you’re well on your way to making your dried foods last a whole lot longer.

Oxygen Exposure

Another biggie that can mess with how long your dried foods last is how much air they’re exposed to. Oxygen can be a real buzzkill, causing things like fats and vitamins to break down, which in turn messes with your food’s flavor, color, and even how it feels when you chow down.

To dodge this, focus on how you’re storing your stuff. Think vacuum sealing, tossing in some oxygen absorbers, or stashing it all in airtight containers. Doing so can keep that oxygen at bay, which means your dehydrated goodies stay good for longer.

Temperature and Storage Conditions

Where and how you store your dried foods makes a world of difference in how long they’ll keep. Basically, you wanna keep ’em in a spot that’s cool, out of the light, and not humid.

Warm places can speed up the whole spoiling process by giving a boost to both oxidation and those pesky microorganisms. So, don’t even think about storing your dried goods next to the stove or in a sunny spot. Also, try to keep the temperature steady; big ups and downs in temp aren’t doing your preserved foods any favors.

Quality of the Food Before Dehydration

Believe it or not, how long your dried food sticks around starts with the quality of the stuff you’re drying in the first place. You gotta kick off with fresh, top-notch ingredients. So pick fruits and veggies that are ripe and ready, and get your meats and seafood from places you trust. Make sure to give ’em a good wash, peel where needed, and chuck any bits that look dodgy. This prep work can really boost both the quality and how long the dehydrated stuff will last.

Proper Storage and Handling of Dehydrated Food

How do you make Dehydrated Food Last longer: plastic air-tight containers.
Photo by DIY Homesteading 101, Alina Bradford

Keeping your dried foods tasty and safe is all about how you store and handle ’em. The right packaging moves, some handy labels, and the perfect storage spot can really stretch out how long your preserved foods stay good. Next up, I’m gonna spill the beans on the best ways to store and take care of your dried stash.

Choosing the Right Packaging

Selecting the right packaging is crucial for preserving the quality of dehydrated food. Here are some commonly used packaging methods for dehydrated food:

  • Vacuum Sealing: Vacuum-sealed bags are a big hit for storing dried foods. Sucking out all the air means you’ve got less oxygen in the bag, which is a win for making your food last longer. Plus, these bags are like a fortress against dampness, bugs, and any funky smells, making sure your food stays as fresh as the day you sealed it.
  • Mylar Bags: Mylar bags are another excellent option for storing dehydrated food. These bags are made from a durable, heat-sealable material that provides an effective barrier against oxygen, moisture and light. Mylar bags are often used in combination with oxygen absorbers to create an oxygen-free environment, further extending the shelf life of the food.
  • Mason Jars: Glass mason jars with airtight lids (one of my favorite storage techniques) can be used for storing dehydrated food, especially herbs and spices. These jars provide a cute and convenient storage option. It is important to make sure the jars are sanitized and dried before filling them with dehydrated food to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria.

Labeling and Dating

Getting your labels and dates right is key to keeping your pantry in order and making sure you eat your dried foods while they’re still good. So, here’s the lowdown on how to ace your labeling and dating game:

  • Label each package with the name of the food item and the date it was dehydrated. This information will help you keep track of the freshness and rotation of your stored food.
  • Include any special instructions or cooking recommendations on the label to facilitate easy use of the dehydrated food.
  • Use waterproof and fade-resistant markers or labels to ensure that the information remains visible and legible throughout the storage period.
  • Regularly inspect your stored dehydrated food and discard any packages that show signs of spoilage or have exceeded their recommended shelf life.

Proper Storage Conditions

Creating the right storage conditions maintains the quality and longevity of dehydrated food. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • Temperature: Store dehydrated food in a cool environment with a stable temperature. Ideally, the temperature should be below 80°F to slow down the degradation process and minimize the risk of spoilage.
  • Darkness: Exposure to light can lead to the breakdown of nutrients and the loss of flavor in dehydrated food. Store your preserved food in a dark place or use opaque packaging to protect it from light.
  • Dryness: Prevent moisture absorption by storing dehydrated food in a dry environment. Avoid areas with high humidity, such as basements or bathrooms, as moisture can cause spoilage and the growth of mold or bacteria. You can add a dry pack (like these on Amazon) to the packaging to soak up any humidity that may get in.
  • Pest Prevention: Protect your stored food from pests by using airtight packaging and storing it in a clean, pest-free area. Consider using food-grade diatomaceous earth or other natural pest deterrents to safeguard your dehydrated food even more.

Checking for Signs of Spoilage

Regularly inspecting your dehydrated food for signs of spoilage keeps you from eating stuff that’s less than safe. Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  • Mold Growth: If you notice any mold growth on the dehydrated food or inside the packaging, discard it immediately. Mold can produce toxins that can be harmful if consumed.
  • Off Smells and Flavors: If the dehydrated food emits an unpleasant odor or has an off taste, it may have gone bad. Trust your senses and toss any food that does not smell or taste fresh.
  • Texture Changes: Dehydrated food should retain its characteristic texture. If you notice any changes, such as softening, clumping, or sogginess, it may indicate spoilage or moisture infiltration.

Regularly rotate your stored dehydrated food, using the “first in, first out” (FIFO) method to ensure that older items are consumed first. This practice helps maintain freshness and prevents food waste.