One of the first questions I had before buying a home freeze dryer is “what foods can be freeze-dried?” and also “what foods cannot be freeze-dried?” These are important questions for anyone who is interested in buying a home freeze dryer to preserve their own food or for anyone who has recently bought a freeze dryer and wants a list of ideas to get started. After a lot of research and personally trying a lot of different foods has helped me compile a large list of foods that are best to freeze dry and the few foods that don’t freeze-dry well.
Most foods can be freeze-dried including fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, fish, eggs, desserts, full meals, candy, and even pet food. Freeze-drying works by removing moisture (water) from foods, this means that oil-based foods don’t freeze-dry well. Foods that cannot be freeze-dried include peanut butter, butter, syrup, honey, jam, and pure chocolate.
Below I have included more comprehensive lists of over 120 foods that you should freeze dry and those few things that don’t freeze-dry well.
I own a home freeze dryer and really enjoy it, to know for sure if buying a freeze dryer is right for you check out our article Buying a Home Freeze Dryer, What You Need to Know First. Also, I have spent hours compiling a list of my favorite freeze dried foods that are available from reputable companies. Check out my article Best Freeze Dried Foods: Must-Haves For Any Circumstance.
What are the Best Foods to Freeze Dry?
- Fruits (home garden or store-bought)
- Vegetables (home garden or store-bought)
- Meats (beef, pork, poultry, fish: raw and cooked)
- Dairy (including milk, cheese, and buttermilk)
- Eggs (raw and cooked eggs)
- Full Meals (including leftovers)
- Deserts, Snacks, and Candy (including Skittles)
- Drinks (orange juice)
- Herbs and Spices
As you can see from the above list most foods work great to freeze dry, especially produce from your home garden. Freeze drying maintains the shape, taste, and 97% of the nutritional value of these foods making it one of the best options for preserving food for long-term storage. It also lasts up to 25 years on the shelf, when stored correctly.
See detailed lists and guides below to get ideas of over 120 unique foods that you can freeze dry!
Fruits (home garden or store-bought)
Fruits that can be freeze-dried include:
- Apple Slices
- Mixed Fruit
- Star Fruit (Carambola)
Vegetables (home garden or store-bought)
Vegetables that can be freeze-dried include:
- Green Beans
- Swiss Chard
I always follow good preparation prior to freeze-drying fruits and vegetables. Freeze-drying doesn’t kill bacteria so only use healthy fruit and vegetables and clean it before putting it in a batch.
Peel and cut fruits and vegetables into evenly sized portions and lay them in one, even layer on the tray. Cutting fruit like grapes and blueberries is essential because they both have thick membranes that make it difficult for the water (moisture) to be released and also because they are high in sugar.
Meats (Beef, Pork, Poultry, Fish: Raw and Cooked)
Meats that can be freeze dried include:
- Hamburger or Ground Beef
- Pulled Pork
- Roast Beef
- Venison (Elk or Deer meat)
Can You Freeze Dry Raw Meat?
Raw meat can be freeze-dried and stored in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers for 10-15 years. Raw freeze-dried meat can then be submerged in water for a few minutes, dried with a paper towel, and grilled, baked, or fried as if it was fresh raw meat.
How to Freeze Dry Meat
To freeze dry raw meat, just dice it into large pieces, remembering to remove as much fat as possible. Then place the pieces of meat on trays and freeze dry. When the freeze-drying process is complete, break one of the largest pieces in half and make sure there are no ice crystals in the middle of the meat. If there are, make sure to add more dry time until you can be sure there is no ice left in the largest piece.
Store the meat in airtight containers or Mylar bags with an oxygen absorber. Make sure to label the contents of the container as raw and record the date they were freeze-dried. Most meat should be good for 10 to 15 years if it is properly freeze-dried and stored in at least a 7 mil mylar bag.
My favorite way to freeze-dry cooked steak and chicken breast is to sous vide it first. Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, refers to the process of vacuum-sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. I love to Sous vide my steak before freeze-drying it!
Rehydrating Freeze Dried Meat
When you are ready to rehydrate the meat, place freeze-dried meat in a bowl of cold water and place it in the fridge overnight, or until rehydrated. It will only take in as much water as it needs, no need to worry about over-hydrating it. You can remove any excess water with a paper towel and then cook as usual. If you do not plan to rehydrate all of your meat, make sure to reseal your bag/container with a fresh oxygen absorber or store the meat in the fridge. Meat should never be left out in an open bag or jar once it has been opened.
Dairy and Eggs (raw and cooked eggs)
Dairy and Eggs that can be freeze-dried include:
- Cottage Cheese
- Cream Cheese
- Ice Cream
- Cheez Whiz
- Sour Cream
- Whipped Cream
There are several ways you can freeze dry dairy products. Pour or spread it directly into the tray (about ⅔ to the top) or you can even freeze it into molds and place it on the tray. Items like yogurt that have a thicker consistency can be placed into smaller individual clumps.
When freeze-drying ice cream, make sure to buy high-quality brands. Some ice cream has air whipped into it and it crystallizes in your freeze dryer. It’s still edible, just doesn’t look as good.
Can you freeze dry butter? Butter can’t be freeze-dried well due to it’s high-fat content. However, butter can be freeze-dried as an ingredient in other foods.
Freeze Drying Raw Eggs and Rehydrating them
Full Meals (Entrées)
- Beef Stroganoff
- Cheese Steak
- Chicken Parmesan
- Chow Mein
- Ham Fried Rice
- Hash Browns
- Macaroni & Cheese
- Mashed Potatoes
- Meat Loaf
- Roast Turkey Dinner
- Roast Beef Dinner
- Scrambled Eggs
For more ideas look at this list of best sellers of freeze-dried meals on Amazon.
To rehydrate your freeze-dried meals pour or spray just enough water to rehydrate the food to what you want. Don’t over hydrate or some foods might become overly soggy.
Snacks and Candy (Fun Things to Freeze Dry)
- Gummy Bears
- Ice Cream Sandwiches or Bars
- Jolly Ranchers
- Junior Mints
- Lemon Bars
- Saltwater Taffy
Can You Freeze Dry Cookies?
Yes, all kinds of cookies can be freeze-dried and stored for years in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or eaten right away. The cookies will have a dry crunch and the flavors are preserved very well so should continue to taste good even years later.
Drinks that Can be Freeze Dried
- Orange Juice
Freeze drying orange juice is very simple and works well to store in mylar bags so that it can easily be mixed with water later. Simply pour orange juice in the freeze dryer trays about 2/3 to the top and carefully slide the tray in the freeze dryer. After the freeze dryer is finished you can break up the dried orange juice and store in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber.
Herbs and Spices
Is it Better to Freeze Food Before Freeze Drying?
It is more efficient and better to place food on trays and freeze it before running a batch in the freeze dryer. Freezing the food first allows the freeze-drying process to be more efficient, saving time and electricity that is consumed at a higher rate by the freeze dryer.
Freeze Drying How to’s
- Cut fruits, vegetables, and other foods into evenly sized portions and lay it in one, even layer on the tray. Cutting fruit like grapes and blueberries is essential because they both have thick membranes that make it difficult for the water (moisture) to be released and they are high in sugar.
- Fruits and other foods that have a high sugar content or a thick membrane (like blueberries) can sometimes take longer to freeze dry. Think about the foods that take a while to really freeze in your regular freezer and those are some of the foods that will take longer to freeze dry. So, foods such as ice cream, fresh pineapple pieces, and juicy peaches may do better when you increase the freeze time to 12 hours and the dry time to 12 hours.
- Pre-freeze foods in your regular freezer. This is especially helpful when the dryer is already running when there is a sale at the store, or you’re harvesting your home garden. You can freeze your abundance and run it through the freeze dryer when you have time. It’s also helpful if you need to save the fruit until you have enough to run a full batch in the freeze dryer.
- Some foods may stick to the trays. To help use parchment paper, silicone mat, or dehydrating mats to line trays before placing the food to be freeze-dried.
- Store food in airtight containers or Mylar bags with an oxygen absorber after the freeze-drying is complete.
- It is perfectly fine to pour liquids onto the trays such as milk, juice, eggs, and soup.
What Foods Can’t be Freeze Dried?
Foods that don’t freeze dry well include:
- Peanut Butter
- Pure Chocolate
These foods don’t freeze-dry well because they leave behind oil. Freeze-drying works by pulling moisture (water) from foods through low-temperature dehydration and then removing the ice through sublimation. This process doesn’t work with oil-based foods so oily foods can’t be freeze-dried.
Treats that don’t change much by freeze drying
These foods can be freeze dried but don’t really change much, mostly because they don’t have enough moisture in them fro the process to change it.
- Peppermint Patty
- Twizzlers Licorice
Ultimately What Should You Freeze Dry?
Essentially, it is safe to freeze-dry different foods so experiment a little so that you can find out what individual food items and full meals work for you and your family. It won’t take long to find out what snacks you enjoy the most and which meals reconstitute the best. Once you’ve identified your favorites, freeze-dry a lot of them, store them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, and then take some with you when you travel, camp, or use them in emergency situations. Freeze drying your own food is extremely satisfying and brings a peace of mind knowing that you’ll have food that is ready to eat and stores for up to 25-years.