Healthy Eating Tips

‘I’m a Chef, and if You Aren’t Using Your Air Fryer To Make DIY Dried Fruit, It’s Time To Start’

Photo: Stocksy/ Sophia Hsin
Ever wonder why buying dried fruit at the store is so darn expensive? After battling with myself at the check-out line and contemplating making a quick U-turn to return the item to its shelf, I did a quick Google search to see what exactly made it so pricy. After all, isn’t dried fruit just dried fruit? Well, the answer was relatively obvious, although it hadn’t occurred to me at first.

As the USDA simply put it, dried fruit has a higher per-serving yield than fresh fruit; however, the serving size is smaller. In most cases, the cost is calculated by determining the weight difference between the fresh and dried fruit to account for the moisture loss. Throw in labor, production, and packaging, and you’ve got yourself an expensive little snack.

So, how can we enjoy this nutrient-packed treat without breaking the bank? Call in your trusty air fryer, of course. According to Jaclyn Huff, a Los Angeles-based certified health coach and personal chef, making a dried fruit in the air fryer is super easy and a great way to spare yourself any unnecessary food waste. Plus, making everything from dried strawberries to mangoes to apples from scratch will save you tons of money instead of buying it premade at the store. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Why does using your air fryer to make dried fruit work so well

In commercial settings, dried fruit is often made in a fancy food dehydrator that can cost upwards of several hundred dollars. When clear space on your kitchen counter is sacred, adding another bulky cooking gadget might be the last thing you want to do. Instead, you can easily convert your air fryer into a makeshift dehydrator that does the job just as well—if not even better.

According to Huff, you can use your air fryer to customize your dried fruit's flavors, textures, and consistency to your liking. These machines are built with a top section that houses a heating mechanism and a fan that rapidly circulates air around the food (like a convection oven), yielding a crispy, fried-like effect at higher temperatures. However, if you bring down the heat to around 125°F to 145°F and prolong the cooking time, you can slowly draw out the moisture in the food to make some delicious dried treats.

A few helpful tips for making air fryer dried fruit

Use parchment paper to avoid sticking. Sticking can occur as the fruit secretes natural sugars and caramelizes when air fried. To prevent this, Huff recommends lining the air fryer rack with a sheet of parchment paper, making cleanup a breeze and removal from the air fryer a no-mess job.

Play with different sizes for a variety of textures. Dried fruit is not only great for snacking on its own, but it also can add delicious texture and bite to dishes like salads, trail mixes, and desserts. “Thinner slices (1/4’’) will dehydrate faster and can give you a crispier texture. Meanwhile, thicker slices (1/2” or thicker) will take longer and can provide a chewier texture,” Huff explains. Of course, this all depends on the type of fruit used, its natural water content, sugar levels, and physical composition.

Add flavor-enhancers *before* air-frying. For maximum flavor potential, Huff recommends adding mix-ins before it goes into the machine. “Flavoring will intensify as it dehydrates, so be light-handed,” she says. The flavors become more concentrated as the moisture is lost and the fruit dries down. She explains that it’s always better to add more later, as opposed to overly-seasoning the product from the start.

Avoid dehydrating fatty or oily foods. Huff says that fatty or oily foods like avocados should not be dried as they can quickly go rancid or even lead to foodborne illness if not done correctly. However, most fruits (and vegetables) can be dehydrated. Her go-to's are strawberries, apples, pears, peaches, and apricots, to which she adds a few teaspoons of lemon juice to help preserve their color.

Store air-fried fruit in airtight containers. To preserve dried fruit for as long as possible, avoiding exposure to moisture is vital. “You can keep dried fruit in an airtight container for up to six months; however, if there is still any moisture, they may only keep up to one week,” she says. When on the go, Huff packs reusable storage bags with dried fruit to take on hiking or backpacking trips for a quick and easy snack.

Air fryer cooking temperatures and times for common fruits

  • Apple slices (1/4-inch thick), 135°F for 6-10 hours
  • Mango slices (1/4-inch thick), 135-145°F for 12-14 hours
  • Apricots (halved),120-135°F for 10-12 hours
  • Oranges (1/4-inch thick), 135°F for 10-14 hours
  • Lemons (1/4-inch thick), 135°F for 10-14 hours
  • Strawberries (1/4-inch thick), 135°F for 6-8 hours

Air fryer dried strawberries recipe

Yield 8 servings

Ingredients
1 pound strawberries
1/2 Tbsp superfine sugar (optional)
1 piece of parchment to line the dehydrator rack (optional)

1. Wash and dry the strawberries thoroughly.

2. Remove the tops off and cut them into 1/4’’ slices. Toss the slices in the sugar, if desired.

3. Line the air fryer rack with parchment paper, and lay the strawberry slices flat on the rack without stacking them.

4. Air fry at 135°F for six to eight hours, or until the fruit is completely dried. For a chip-like texture, continue to dehydrate for longer, and for a chewier texture, air fry until just dried throughout.

5. Remove from the air fryer and store in an airtight container once fully cool.

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