Habanero peppers are best known for their fruity taste and spicy heat level. However, while they are relatively cheap to buy fresh, keeping them preserved is another matter.
Like most fruits and vegetables, habanero peppers have a relatively short shelf life unless you employ an effective method for preserving them. Of the many methods available, dehydrating habanero peppers is a great long-term option.
However, the trick is to dehydrate them in the right way so that you and your family can enjoy the peppers for months to come. In this article, we’ll help you learn how to properly dry habaneros for long-term storage.
- With a dehydrator
- Without a dehydrator
- Storing dried peppers
- Grinding dried peppers
- Re-hydrating dried peppers
- Other preservation methods
Methods Of Dehydrating Habanero Peppers
There are two major techniques for drying fresh produce. If you have a dehydrator, great, but if you don’t, you can still get the job done.
Using a Dehydrator:
Using a food dehydrator is the most consistent method for dehydration. These appliances are designed for pulling all moisture from the habanero peppers.
Placing them in an oven on low temperature will remove moisture, too, but will usually cook the peppers slightly. This will turn the outside a darker color and take away some of the original flavor.
What you need is a proper food dehydrator that will dry the peppers in an even manner without cooking. This is accomplished by setting a very low temperature and providing good air circulation. Skip to this method.
Without a dehydrator:
For centuries, peppers were dehydrated by hanging them outside and letting the sun and wind pull away their moisture. While effective, natural dehydration does have drawbacks, from the uneven drying, to the buildup of mold or mildew.
If you live in a particularly humid climate, air drying will not be ideal. Not to mention that a good rain can set back the dehydration process as well.
You can also use an oven to dehydrate, but this can cause discoloration and unwanted cooking if the temperature is too high. Skip to this method.
How to Dehydrate Habanero Peppers in a Dehydrator
This method of dehydration works for all pepper varieties, including habaneros, jalapenos, bell peppers, banana peppers and many more. We use this 4-tray dehydrator for all of our food drying needs.
First and foremost, get a pair of gloves and be careful around the eyes. Whether you are an expert on being careful or not, all it takes is one drop on one finger that touches your eye to make you wish you never heard of habanero peppers.
Wash your hands before and after handling the peppers just to be safe. Wash the peppers to remove any dust, dirt, or other unwanted things from their skin.
- Wash and dry the peppers. Carefully wash all the fresh habaneros with cold water, removing as much dirt and dust as possible. Be sure to dry the peppers thoroughly afterward to avoid extended dehydration times.
- Sort the peppers. The next step is to put the peppers into a large bowl or container and separate the good ones from the not-so-good ones. This means separating habanero peppers that have spots, especially black spots. These may be harbingers for mold, even after they have been dehydrated. Once you have separated them, put the bad peppers away for another short-term use.
- Cut the peppers (optional). With the good peppers remaining, cut them in half length-wise so they dehydrate more quickly. If you enjoy the seeds and membrane, more power to you! However, you can always remove them if you prefer less heat. You can choose to leave the peppers whole, though they will take longer to fully dry out. If you prefer to have the dehydrated peppers whole, cut a few slits in the skin of each habanero to ensure proper drying.
- Arrange the peppers on trays. Arrange the prepared habaneros on the dehydrator trays in a single layer. It is okay to space them close to one another, just don’t overlap.
- Begin dehydrating. Depending on the type and brand of dehydrator that you use, it should be heated to between 115°F and 125°F. The heat is set this low to prevent cooking while drying out the peppers. Once the processor has been at that temperature for ten minutes or so, you can put in the peppers.
- Check on peppers after 6-8 hours. Once the peppers crack and crunch upon squeezing, they are adequately dried. You can also dry to a slightly flexible, leathery texture if you prefer.
What is the best dehydrator to buy?
We use the Excalibur 2400 dehydrator for drying habaneros and other fruits and veggies. Excalibur dehydrators are known for their even drying and precise temperature setting. We highly recommend this unit if you’re on the hunt for a new dehydrator!
How long does it take to dry habaneros in a dehydrator?
Proper dehydration is a slow process, so its a good idea to start early in the morning. Typically, habanero peppers take between 8-10 hours in a dehydrator on low heat to be fully dried. Once the peppers crack when squeezed, you know that they are fully dried.
Check the peppers every couple of hours to note the progress of their drying, but don’t check too often. Peppers will store well when in a leathery or brittle state.
Can you over-dehydrate peppers?
In short, it is basically impossible for peppers to be over dried, though some prefer to stop drying before they become brittle. Peppers can be stored when slightly flexible (leathery) or fully crackable.
However, don’t forget about them during the dehydration process, especially if you are using an electric dehydrator.
Tip: Remember to wear gloves, even when checking peppers. Habaneros are potent!
What temperature is best to dehydrate peppers?
Some dehydrators don’t have a temperature setting, and some do. In the case that your dehydrator does have a temperature setting, select between 115-125°F. This will allow thin peppers to dry in about 8-10 hours. If you are drying thicker peppers, you will likely have to dehydrate for longer to reach a fully dried state.
How To Dry Peppers Without A Dehydrator
If you would rather not purchase a dehydrator to dry out your peppers, you have a couple of other options. While a dehydrator offers the optimal conditions, using a conventional oven on the lowest heat setting, or a large fan lined with paper towels will work.
Using an oven to dehydrate habaneros
Most ovens have a low-temperature limit in the range of 200°F. This temperature will cause peppers to cook slightly during the drying process, so timing becomes more important for drying out peppers.
- Set the oven to the lowest temperature. This is usually around 200°F.
- Clean the peppers. Wash and dry the peppers thoroughly. Slice them in half and remove the seeds (optional).
- Use a non-stick pan without oil. Place the peppers on the sheet with at least 1 inch of space between each other. If you have a cookie drying rack that is oven safe, use that to arrange the peppers for more even and fast drying.
- Dry for 10-12 hours. Check on the peppers every 2 hours or so, removing any smaller peppers that are fully dried along the way. Be careful not to dry for longer than is necessary to avoid losing flavor and color.
Tip: Try leaving the oven door slightly open to allow more air circulation and to reduce heat slightly inside the oven. This may seem wasteful, but it can help reduce the likelihood of the peppers cooking. If you have a convection oven, use the air circulation mode.
Using a fan to dry peppers
For this method of dehydrating peppers, a large, tilting floor fan works best. Face the fan directly at the sliced peppers on a plate, and turn the peppers every few hours or so for even drying.
You will know that the peppers are dried when squeezing them causes the peppers to crack. If they are still soft, make sure they are leathery and lack any significant moisture. This process can take a number of days rather than hours, depending on humidity and temperature.
How to hang-dry peppers
Another option is to hang peppers outdoors to dry. This is a classic method that has been used for centuries, and will work best if you live in an arid climate. If humidity is above 50%, this method will take significantly longer.
In high-humidity climates, you are better off just using the oven or an indoor fan if the indoor humidity is lower (air conditioned). This method is great for habaneros, but we don’t recommend it for thicker pepper types.
- Prepare a needle and thread. Use a strong thread, capable of holding your peppers and withstanding winds. This could be a fishing line or any other strong thread.
- Knot the first pepper. Tie a strong knot around the first pepper’s stem. Ensure this is double or triple knotted to ensure your peppers will not fall off.
- Thread the rest of the peppers. Using the needle, poke through each pepper at the base of each stem. For habaneros, you can usually put 15-25 peppers per thread since they are lightweight. Other pepper varieties may hold fewer.
- Hang the peppers. Tie the peppers in an area where they will receive lots of airflow and where the air is dry. Outdoors or near a doorway is usually best. You can also hang the peppers inside in the kitchen or somewhere that gets lots of airflow.
How To Store Dehydrated Habanero Peppers
Once the peppers are sufficiently dried, you should set them aside to cool for about an hour. Once cool, put them into an airtight container and then keep the peppers in a dry, cool place for storage. Try using Ziploc freezer baggies and removing as much air as possible before sealing, or a sealed ball jar.
Tips on keeping dried peppers from spoiling:
- Avoid direct sunlight (pantry or cabinets are best)
- Use desiccant packets
- Use glass mason jars, sealed tightly
- Avoid moisture – if the peppers or their container gets wet, remove the peppers and allow to fully dry
By following these guidelines, you can keep the peppers fresh for 1 year or longer. This means that you can have dried habanero peppers (or other varieties) year-round to spice up your meals.
How To Grind Dried Peppers
Once you have dried peppers, you can either store them whole for later use, or use them to create tasty pepper flakes and powders. It is recommended that you only grind up as much as you plan to use in the next few months. Keeping the dried peppers whole until you’re ready to use them will preserve the flavor for longer.
Use a spice grinder
When peppers are sufficiently dried, they will quickly turn to a powder using a spice grinder or a blender. However, there are some precautions to take. Due to the extremely dried nature of the peppers, grinding them can cause a spicy dust cloud.
Be careful to avoid getting pepper dust in the eyes and sinuses by using these safety measures before grinding:
- Cover your grinder or blender with a damp towel
- Wear eye protection
- Wear a sealed face mask
- Work outdoors if possible
Tip: Blending for too long can cause the peppers to turn into dust rather than flakes. If you prefer a find powder, brittle dehydrated peppers will work best.
Using a spice grinder is the quickest method for grinding dried peppers. Be sure to only use the blender for as long as necessary to reach the desired consistency.
Use a mortar & pestle
Mortar and pestle is the classic method for grinding up herbs, spices, and dried vegetables. It will take a bit more elbow grease, but a standard mortar & pestle will do the job just fine.
This method also avoids the potential hazards of sending hot pepper dust into the air. It will take longer, and is best suited for making flakes rather than a fine pepper powder.
See some of the other ways to use your dried peppers here.
How to Re-Hydrate Dried Peppers
If you want to reconstitute your dehydrated peppers, soak them in plain, hot tap water for about 10 minutes. If the peppers float, keep them submerged with a plate or other heavy dishware.
This will not restore the peppers to their original shape and size, but they will regain some of the weight and moisture of a fresh pepper.
Other Methods of Preserving Habaneros
If you are interested in learning other ways to keep your hot peppers for longer, try one of these articles on Pepper Geek:
I hope this article helped you learn about dehydrating habanero peppers at home. If you want more info about them, read our post all about the habanero pepper and its interesting history and characteristics!