Drying your chili peppers is a great way to preserve them. Once dried they can be stored for months to years. The real secret is that the thinner skinned peppers are better for drying. Read on for some drying tips and tricks.
Clean Your Harvest
Before drying your peppers (or any harvested plant material), wash off dust and debris. A cool water rinse is good. You can pat them dry on a towel. Or if you live in the Southwest, spread them, single layer deep, on a towel and wait 2 hours. Our low humidity ought to do the trick.
Choose Your Drying Method
There are 4 ways to dry, depending on your chilies and your technology. Smaller and thinner skinned chili can be air dried. Thicker skinned peppers (like jalapeños) have a greater chance of rotting before drying out. For these types of peppers, hang them (like on a ristra), use a dehydrator, or use your oven.
Air Dry Your Chili
Use a cake/cookie cooling rack or paper grocery bag. I am told this is the simplest method best for small, thin-skinned red peppers like Pequin, Tabasco, Thai Peppers, and Firecracker Cayennes. I use it for chilitepens.
Place the small whole chili peppers, single-layer, on a cooling rack so they have air circulation all around. Place them in a very dry, warm area (SW garage might do). Avoid direct sunlight. Our Southwest photons of sunlight can discolor and even sunburn your tender peppers. Yes they had sunlight on the mama plant – but they had mama’s juices helping protect them.
Be sure to rotate the peppers regularly and discard any that show signs of softness or spoilage. Within a 2 days to a week, your peppers should get dry and brittle.
Hang Your Chili
You can hang your peppers horizontally or vertically. Hanging them horizontally allows the peppers to have more airflow.
You can either take a long thick darning needle and several strands of strong thread or embroidery floss. Where to poke the holes with your needle? I like through the stems! Try to keep a little space between each pepper for airflow.
Or skip the needle altogether and tie your embroidery floss or or cooking twine around each stem. Then hang your string of peppers either horizontally or vertically.
This is the quickest and easiest way to dry chili peppers if you have a food dehydrator. If your chili are medium or large in size cut them length-wise and place them on the dehydrator’s tray with plenty of space around each piece for good airflow. Smaller peppers (like chili del arbol) can be left whole to dry.
If your dehydrator has a temperature setting, place it between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit (or per your food dehydrator instructions). Dehydrating time can take for 4 to 12 hours depending on the thickness of the peppers.
Check every so often to see if the smaller or thinner pieces have dried out. Larger pepper pieces may take a few additional hours to dehydrate. The peppers are done once they become dry and brittle. Store your dehydrated peppers in glass jars away from direct light to preserve the color.
I do find this the most tedious method, you can dry your peppers in the oven. The peppers may take several hours to fully dry, depending on the size and density of the flesh. Larger, thicker-skinned peppers will take longer to dry than smaller or thin-skinned chiles.
Cut thicker your peppers lengthwise in half or quarters so the flesh is open and dries out faster. To allow moisture to escape, keep the oven door slightly open at least a couple of inches during the entire bake.
Place the peppers seed side in a single layer on a cookie sheet that has their tender flesh protected from metal. You can use several layers of parchment paper. I use paper grocery bags. I have some marked “chili” and only use them for this.
Dry your chili at 125 degrees F for several hours, checking them every 30 minutes. Every hour, rotate and/or flip the peppers over for even drying. Keep a very close eye on them and remove those that are well dried. Do your best to keep the peppers from burning. If you find peppers getting soft, brown-to-black, or extremely hot on the side where they touch the pan, then they’re getting cooked rather than dried, and you’re trying to avoid this. Remove those peppers and use them soon.
What about using dried chili? Stay Tuned!
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