Sara’s Summer Garden Series: How to Dry Your Hot Peppers

Sara's Summer Garden Series CoverEveryone should know I love hot peppers, hot sauces, spicy food and spices (if you don’t know, just look at my fridge). The hotter the better – there’s nothing I won’t eat. I’ve been known to eat habaneros right off the plant, ghost chilies out of the pot and hot sauce by the spoon full. If the chemicals in spices really help to thin the blood (along with a variety of other health benefits) it’s a wonder why I ever had a blood clot because my blood is probably at least 77% hot sauce on any given day. My garden is basically a pepper garden and this year I have been growing habaneros, chilies, banana peppers, green and red bell peppers and Serrano’s to name a few. And, for as much as I love hot peppers, every year I grow more than enough and often don’t eat or cook with them fast enough before they go bad. This year I wanted to preserve them not only to save more from the yield (I have a ton of habaneros), but to enjoy the taste and benefits of peppers over the long winter months. My method for preserving them is drying them with a food dehydrator, something I had not done before and now I am sharing how to dry your hot peppers.

What will I need?

There are many different methods for drying peppers. To dry yours like I did mine, you will need peppers, a cutting board and knife, a food dehydrator (or an oven), glass jars and labels (or alternative storage system of your choice). So, here’s how to dry your hot peppers!

First, pick your peppers and rinse them in warm water to remove any dirt or insects or spider webs. Then, dry them thoroughly with a towel or cloth, being careful not to damage their skins. Sometimes I let them sit out on the counter to dry while I am deciding what to preserve and what to eat.

Peppers fresh from the garden

Discard any peppers that are soft, mushy, spoiled, have gray/white diseased looking spots or are questionable for eating.

Remove the stems from your peppers. If you’re drying in them in food dehydrator (or oven) slice the peppers in half length-wise (this will allow them to dry faster). Any peppers that are less than an inch in length can be left whole, although I tend to cut all of mine in half to allow for quicker and more complete drying. I leave the seeds in my peppers, but you do not have to. Some of them will fall out during the drying process.

habanero on cutting board

Place the peppers on the dehydrator shelves, leaving space between each half to allow for proper air flow.

serranos on tray clear pic

habaneros and serranos on tray

long chilies on top tray

Cover your peppers and turn the dehydrator on.

putting lid on dehydrator

My dehydrator does not have a temperature setting so all I have to do is plug it in and check to make sure it is heating up, which beings instantly. If your dehydrator has a temperature setting, place it between 135 and 145 degrees. Let the peppers lay in the dehydrator for 8 to 12 hours (mine is always towards the longer end), checking every so often to see if the smaller or thinner pieces have dried out.

top view of peppers on top two trays

When they are dried out, remove them from the dehydrator. Larger pepper pieces may take a few additional hours to dehydrate. If my peppers are taking longer to dry, I sometimes turn them during the process, being careful not to shake all of the seeds out (If some fall out, that is okay).

DRIED chilies

After they are completely dry (test by feeling them), separate them by pepper type and place them in airtight glass jars to prevent moisture from getting to them. I put mine in glass canning jars and label them.

jars of peppers with open lids

lids of peppers

So that is how to dry your hot peppers and here are the answers to some common questions you may have-

How can I be sure they are dry?

Properly dried peppers should be devoid of any should not feel “fleshy” or soft at all, but have a slight flexibility to them. They should not be brown, crumbling, or rock hard. The peppers should be dried evenly all over, slightly brittle (not crispy) and have a toughness to the skin.

What about using my oven?

Place the peppers on a pan or cookie sheet in a single layer and place it in the oven. Set the oven to its lowest temperature setting, which is usually labeled as warm, or just below 150 degrees Fahrenheit (120° to 140° is ideal). To allow moisture to escape, keep the oven door slightly open at least a couple of inches). Every hour, rotate and/or flip the peppers over for even drying. You do not want them to get soft, brown or stuck to the pan where they can cook so if this happens, turn down the temperature of the oven, open the door wider or flip them more. Drying in the oven can take several hours to a few days and can also heat up your kitchen considerably.

What can I do with dried peppers?
  • Keep them whole to use in sauces, chili and other dishes.
  • Crush them in a food processor, blender, or spice mill and create a seasoning.
  • Give them either whole or processed to family and friends as gifts to use in their own recipes
  • Save some of the seeds to replant for a bountiful crop the following year.
Can I rehydrate peppers to cook with them?

To rehydrate the peppers, take them out of their storage containers and place on a medium warm griddle or skillet. Roast for a 3-4 minutes, but do not burn them or they can’t be used. If your peppers are small, you will need to turn them frequently or roast them for less time. After they are roasted, place them in a bowl of hot water and cover for 30 minutes. Remove the peppers from the water and chop them up or blend into a paste as desired. Sample the soaking water to ensure it is not bitter (if it is, discard it) and you can use that water in your paste or in place of any water the recipe calls for to add an extra layer of peppery flavor.

Tell me about you. Did you know how to dry your hot peppers? What is your favorite way to preserve foods? What do you preserve? Do you love hot peppers too? Have you ever dried them or will you now?

Until the next mile marker,

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