Habanero peppers are best known for their taste and temperature, but while they are relatively cheap to purchase, 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 options.
After harvesting your Habaneros, you have to decide how you will keep them. By dehydrating the peppers, you remove the one component that is most likely to spoil them over time, water. 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.
- With a dehydrator
- Without a dehydrator
- Storing dried peppers
- Grinding dried peppers
- Re-hydrating dried peppers
- Other preservation methods
Methods Of Dehydrating Habanero Peppers
Using a Dehydrator: Using a food dehydrator is the most consistent method because they are designed for pulling all moisture from the habanero peppers. You might place them in an oven on low temperature, but that tends to cook them which will turn the outside a darker color and take away some of their flavor. What you need is a proper food dehydrator that will dry the peppers in an even manner while not cooking them.
Without A Dehydrator: For centuries, peppers were dehydrated by hanging them outside and letting the sun pull away their moisture. While effective, natural dehydration does have drawbacks, from the uneven drying, to the buildup of mold or mildew, especially in warm, humid climates. 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.
How to Dehydrate Habanero Peppers
This method of dehydration works for all pepper varieties, including habaneros, jalapenos, bell peppers, banana peppers and many more.
First and foremost, get a pair of gloves, as well as eye protection. 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 in the first place. Gloves will keep the pepper oils from gathering on your fingers, while the glasses will remind you not to touch your eyes.
Wash your hands before, during, and after handling the peppers just to be safe. Also, wash the peppers as well to remove any dust, dirt, or other unwanted things from their skin.
- Wash and dry the peppers. Carefully wash all the fresh peppers 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 that 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 properly. 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. However, some prefer to have their dehydrated peppers whole, so make your choice.
- Begin dehydrating. Depending on the type and brand of dehydrator that you use, it should be pre-heated for at least ten minutes between 110F and 125F degrees. 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 5-6 hours. Once the peppers crack and crunch upon squeezing, they are adequately dried.
How Long Does It take to Dry Habanero Peppers In A Dehydrator?
Proper dehydration is a slow process, so its a good idea to start early in the morning. Usually, habanero peppers should take 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. You should check them every couple of hours and note the progress of their drying, but don’t check too often.
Can you over-dehydrate peppers?
In short, no. It is basically impossible for peppers to become too dry, so you don’t have to worry about over-dehydrating peppers. However, don’t forget about them during the dehydration process, especially if you are using an electric dehydrator. If the pepper can be squeezed without cracking, then they need to stay in the processor a little longer.
Tip: Remember to wear gloves, even when checking peppers. Habaneros are potent!
How To Dry Peppers Without A Dehydrator
If you would rather not purchase a dehydrator to dry out your peppers, you have a couple 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 Peppers
Most ovens have a low temperature limit in the range of 200F degrees. 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 200F degrees.
- 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.
- Dry for 2-3 hours. Check on the peppers every 30 minutes or so, removing any smaller peppers that are fully dried along the way.
Tip: Try leaving the oven door slightly open to allow more air circulation and to reduce heat inside the oven. This may seem wasteful, but it can help reduce the likelihood of the peppers cooking
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 hour 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, they need more time to dry out. This process can take a number of days rather than hours, depending on the humidity in the air.
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).
- Prepare a needle and thread. Use a strong thread, capable of holding your peppers and withstanding winds
- 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 the 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 near a doorway is usually fine. 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, removing as much air as possible before sealing.
tips on keeping Dried peppers from spoiling
- Avoid direct sunlight (pantry or cabinets are best)
- Use desiccant packets (oxygen absorbers)
- Use glass mason jars, sealed tightly
- Avoid moisture. If peppers get wet or the 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 always have dried Habanero peppers (or other varieties) to spice up any of your meals.
How To Grind Dried Peppers
Once you have dried peppers, you can either store them 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 Blender
When peppers are sufficiently dried, they will quickly turn to a powder using any standard blender. However, there are some precautions to take. Due to the extremely dried nature of the peppers, a blender can cause pepper dust clouds. When using hot peppers, this can be a nasty situation in the kitchen. To avoid getting pepper dust in the eyes and sinuses, use these safety measures before grinding:
- Cover your blender with a damp towel
- Wear eye protection
- Wear a dampened towel or handkerchief around your nose and mouth
Tip: Don’t blend too long! Blending for too long can cause the peppers to turn into dust rather than flakes.
The blender is the quickest method for grinding dried peppers. Be sure to only use the blender for as long as necessary to get 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 to the job just fine. This method also avoids the potential hazards of sending hot pepper dust into the air. It will take longer, but you will likely get the perfect consistency that you want for your dried peppers.
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 PepperGeek:
Dried habanero peppers are easy to handle and cut, so you can size them as you please. Remember, if you want to grind the peppers, use a proper spice grinder and not your coffee grinder. It’s not that you shouldn’t have spicy coffee, but coffee grinders are not made to turn peppers into powder.
We 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!