At the end of the summer, your chili pepper plants are covered with bright red gems. They’re gorgeous, but a little goes a very long way when cooking with them. After adding one or two to a batch of salsa and stirring up some hot pepper jelly, what do you do with the rest of the peppers? Dry them, of course! If you’ve always wanted to know how to dry peppers, we have three foolproof methods for you. Read on to learn more!
What are Dried Peppers Good For?
Chili peppers are spicy. They have a great flavor, but using too much can make it difficult to actually enjoy the flavor. After all, your taste buds take a back seat when the rest of your mouth is on fire. One of the best ways to ensure that you can control the amount of heat your peppers add to your food is by drying them.
Once your chilies are completely dry, you can crush them into flakes or grind them into powder. Then you can add just a pinch of chili pepper to a dish, or sprinkle pepper flakes all over your pizza.
That said, dried chilies don’t have to be crushed or ground up to add spice to dishes. You can pop whole peppers into soups, sauces, or roasting pans to add an intense flavor. Dried chili peppers are also a fantastic addition to master tonic healing infusions, like fire cider.
With a pantry full of these fiery nuggets, your kitchen will be full of potential this year. So, how do you get started drying peppers?
Three Drying Options
Dried chilies are ideal for long term storage. Furthermore, they’ll last all year if well-dried and stored in a low- humidity pantry or cupboard.
You’ve got a few options when it comes to how you’ll be drying your chili peppers. If you’re new to drying peppers, and you have a big harvest, try all three. By doing so, you can determine which technique you like best.
This is the most common—and most visually appealing—way to dry chili peppers. Air-dried peppers look absolutely gorgeous when hung up in pantries or kitchen corners. You can store air dried peppers on the string, as you don’t have to take them down until you’re ready to use them. This technique is great for first time pepper-driers, since it takes the guesswork out of deciding when your peppers are dry enough.
If you live in a very humid climate, however, air drying isn’t going to be the best method for you. Additionally, air-dried peppers can get dusty if you let them hang too long. Should your peppers get dusty, just wipe them off with a clean, barely damp cloth right before using.
Oven drying is a quick, easy method for dehydrating your peppers. If you have a large oven and a lot of peppers to dry, oven drying is probably the quickest way to process your harvest. Unlike air drying, however, oven drying takes a bit of preparation. This process works best if you slice your peppers in half, or into quarters before arranging them on a baking sheet.
Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after you slice hot chilies, or wear gloves. You definitely don’t want to accidentally touch your face or handle other food with peppery hands. Also, avoid baking anything in your oven for a day or so after drying your peppers. That scent and flavor will linger, so anything you bake in there would take those on. Bake your cookies, bread, and other flavor-absorbing foods before drying your peppers in there.
Using a Food Dehydrator
Dehydrators are made for this. If you have one, it could be a great way to dry your chilies without the extra work required to dry them in the oven. Drying peppers in a dehydrator is a relatively quick, straightforward, and effective way of drying whole or sliced peppers.
Like oven drying, you will want to clean and air out your dehydrator after processing peppers. Don’t let your chilies add their heat to your kale chips or dried apples.
Let’s Get Started
Ok, so now that you’ve gotten a chance to pick a process, let’s start drying those babies.
For every method, you want to start with only the best chili peppers. If you have chilies with bruises, withered edges, or splits, cut them up for salsa and sauces. Keep only the firmest, most solid peppers for drying.
Next, you want to clean your chilies. If they’ve been sprayed in any way, you’ll need to wash them and let them dry thoroughly. If they haven’t been sprayed, you can just wipe them clean with a moist cloth and let them dry.
How to Air-Dry Chilies
After your chilies have dried off, grab a needle and a strong length of thread. Pierce the pepper right under the stem with with a threaded needle, and draw that thread through the pepper completely. Then, repeat the process with each chili until you have a string of peppers on your thread.
Once you’re chilies are all threaded, hang them horizontally to dry along the upper edge of a room. I like to hang peppers in a dry, indirectly lit area of the house. A pantry or attic is ideal for this. Arrange your chilies on the thread so than none of them are touching each other, and leave them alone for about 6 weeks.
When your peppers are dry, you can store them directly on the string. Alternatively, cut them down and toss them into a sealed jar for long-term storage. It’s that simple.
You can also air-dry sliced peppers by stringing up chili quarters in the same manner. They will dry as nicely as whole peppers, but they’ll also give a stronger chili scent to the room in which they’re drying. I prefer to dry my chilies whole to keep the rest of the food in my pantry untainted.
Oven-Drying Your Chili Peppers
Unless you’re drying very small, slim varieties (like Thai Bird’s Eye chilies), you’ll need to halve or quarter your peppers first.
After carefully slicing up your chili peppers, arrange them on a baking sheet, allowing space around them. Peppers that are touching won’t dry as well as those with plenty of air flow. Set your oven to about 150-200 degrees fahrenheit and put in your baking trays. I like to put the peppers in as soon as I’ve set the baking temperature, so as to give them a chance to warm up slowly.
Let your chilies dry out in the oven for at least 3 hours, turning them regularly to ensure even drying. There isn’t a set time for drying chilies in the oven. Just keep an eye on them, as different peppers will dry out at different speeds.
Crack your oven door occasionally to increase air flow, and check on the peppers as they dry. Remove those peppers once the moisture has been completely baked out of them. Then, let them cool completely, and store them in a sealed jar.
Drying Chili Peppers in a Dehydrator
Dehydrators are practical, low-effort, effective driers. After arranging your chilies on the dehydrator trays, simply follow the instructions for your machine. For most dehydrators, you’ll be setting the machine to about 135-140.
While very small peppers may be done in about 5 hours, dehydrators can be safely set for 8-10. Your peppers will dry slowly in soft, gentle heat while you sleep, and you can take out perfectly dried chilies in the morning .
It’s a good idea to set up your dehydrator in the garage or in an unused room. This is because the dehydrator will release a strong chili odor as it dries the peppers.
Using Dried Chilies
Once your chili peppers are all dry, you can decide whether to store them whole, crush them into chili flakes, or grind them into a powder. Dried chilies are a staple in Mexican and Thai cooking, but they can add a pop of flavor to pork roasts, chicken salads, and even brownies.
Depending on your plans, you may want to divide up your dried peppers. Crumble some of them up into pepper flakes, and pulverize a handful with your food processor. Additionally, keep a jarful of whole peppers in the pantry.
Dried chilies last about a year when stored in a cool, dry place. They’re most flavorful, however, if you use them within the first 6 months.
Rehydrating Dried Chilies
For seared meats, nachos, cocktails, and stews, it’s sometimes a good idea to rehydrate your dried chilies before cooking with them.
Rehydrating chilies is easy. Just dry roast them for about 60 seconds on each side. Then set the peppers in an oven-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Cover the mixture with a lid, and let them soak for about 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the peppers. Then, remove the chilies from the water and use them.