Clever Ways to Use Freeze-Dried Fruit
Learn how to add crunch, color, and big flavor to your recipes with a secret-ingredient snack: freeze-dried fruit!
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As a kid growing up in Baltimore, school trips landed my class in Washington, D.C., several times. The itinerary never seemed to change, though. There was a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, bagged lunches on the National Mall, then we’d roam a Smithsonian Museum or two.
I was pretty geeky about aeronautics as a tweenager — I even went to Space Academy — but my strongest memories of the National Air and Space Museum aren’t of the exhibits. It’s the astronaut ice cream in the gift shop. We clamored to get our hands on the chalky, freeze-dried Neapolitan stuff, though some of us Jewish day school kids did it surreptitiously, and a few abstained because it wasn’t officially kosher. Beyond that school trip ice cream — and later the occasional think piece on molecular gastronomy or doomsday rations — freeze-dried food stayed off my radar for decades, until a rainbow of freeze-dried fruit popped up at my local Trader Joe’s.
Beyond its utility as a quick and nutritious toddler snack, freeze-dried fruit has a surprising array of tasty applications. From tinting frosting to punching up the flavor of marinades, we’ve got lots of ideas and recipes to help you enjoy it.
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Freeze-dried fruit FAQs
You know what fruit is. You know what dried fruit is. But what is freeze-dried fruit? Learn more here.
What is freeze-dried fruit?
Freeze-dried fruit is fruit that’s been preserved by a process involving freezing and dehydration under low-pressure vacuum conditions. Freeze-drying preserves nutrients and concentrates flavor while greatly extending a food’s shelf-life. Freeze-dried fruit maintains its color and shape and becomes very lightweight, so it looks appealing and is travel-friendly.
Is it the same as dried or dehydrated fruit?
Nope. Dried fruit — think raisins, prunes, apricots, etc. — contains some water, so it’s soft and sticky. Dehydrated fruit, like apple or banana chips, has less water activity than dried, but more than freeze-dried fruit. It ranges from slightly pliable to crisp. Freeze-dried fruit, on the other hand, is dry, crunchy, and brittle. It can also be pulverized into a powder that can be mixed into spice blends, batters, frostings, and more. That’s an asset in recipes where you want the fruit to add undiluted color or flavor. Generally speaking, dried or dehydrated fruit is not a good recipe substitute for freeze-dried fruit, but freeze-dried fruit can sometimes stand in for dried (i.e. as a mix-in for cookie batters, granola bars, trail mixes, etc.).
Can I make my own freeze-dried fruit?
Technically, yes. Home freeze-drying machines are available, but they’re bulky and rather expensive. Using dry ice is an option, but it can be dangerous to work with, and takes at least 24 hours. You can even use a regular or deep freezer, but it takes weeks.
There are also food safety considerations. Freeze-drying doesn’t kill pathogens; it just makes them dormant. If you freeze-dry fruit that harbors disease-causing microorganisms or viruses, they have the potential to reactivate, especially if they’re rehydrated (say, in a drink or pudding recipe). Food manufacturers employ HACCP plans to mitigate food safety risk. Between the cost, time, and safety concerns, it’s generally ideal to leave freeze-drying to the pros.
Where to buy freeze-dried fruit
Trader Joe’s stocks several varieties of freeze-dried fruit. Target’s Good & Gather line now includes freeze-dried fruit, as well.
Prefer to shop online? Nature’s Turn is an allergy-friendly brand that offers unusual varieties like cantaloupe, dragonfruit, and pear.
How to store freeze-dried fruit
Store freeze-dried fruit in its original packaging in a cool, dry, dark place. Once opened, squeeze out any air, seal well, and try to use leftovers within the week. (Ambient moisture can make the fruit in open packages lose its crunch and get sticky.)
What can I do with freeze-dried fruit?
Ideas for whole or chopped freeze-dried fruit:
Whole or chopped freeze-dried fruit is a nice addition to cereal, oatmeal, or homemade trail mixes.
Stir coarsely-chopped freeze-dried fruit into cookie batters instead of (or alongside!) chocolate chips.
Use freeze-dried fruit as a crunchy topping for savory salads. Be sure to add it just before serving so it doesn’t get soggy.
Ideas for freeze-dried fruit in powder form:
You can also blitz it in a blender or food processor to make brightly colored, flavorful powders to use in lots of ways:
Pulverize freeze-dried fruit and add it to marinades or vinaigrettes — pair berries with balsamic, and mango or pineapple with citrus- or soy-based dressings.
Roll a log of goat cheese in freeze-dried blueberry or raspberry powder.
Rim cocktail glasses with freeze-dried fruit powder, either solo or mixed with sugar or salt. Experiment with adding the powder to cocktails, too.
Dust cappuccinos or whipped cream-topped cocoa with fruit powders for a burst of flavor.
Mix freeze-dried fruit powders with your favorite spices to make spice rubs for chicken, meat, fish or tofu.
Want more? Check out the recipes below — and definitely feel free to experiment with the fruit! Strawberries get a disproportionate amount of recipe love, but you don’t have to stick to the script. Freeze-dried mangoes, pineapples, blueberries, raspberries, bananas, and more deserve some shine, too, so experiment with your favorites!
Freeze-dried fruit for breakfast
The grab-and-go convenience of freeze-dried fruit makes it an ideal choice for adding a cheery, colorful nutrition boost to your morning.
With its concentrated flavor and prep-free convenience, freeze-dried fruit is ideal for making smoothies. Consider swapping some or all of the water for ice if you want a frostier smoothie, or changing up the flavor with a mix of your favorite freeze-dried fruits.
Start your day right with a protein- and fiber-packed quinoa porridge, generously topped with freeze-dried raspberries and strawberries.
Need an on-the-go energizer? These little maple-sweetened snack bites are packed with freeze-dried apples, oats, and almonds. If you need a nut-free version, try replacing the almonds with pepitas or sunflower seeds, and the almond butter with sunflower, soy, or peabutter.
Okay, so this recipe features fresh fruit. But freeze-dried fruit works just as well, so play around with your favorite combos. While you’re at it, try toppings like granola, nuts, or seeds for an endlessly-customizable treat.
Strawberry cakes forever
When we said freeze-dried strawberries get major recipe love, we meant it, as these cake recipes prove. But the beauty of freeze-dried fruit is that it doesn’t add moisture, so you change up the flavor of these recipes (and still expect good results!) by swapping the strawberries for freeze-dried mangoes, bananas, raspberries, or whatever sounds good.
This showstopper of a layer cake features a scrumptious buttercream frosting that gets its sweet-tart flavor and pretty pink hue from freeze-dried strawberries.
If you’re craving cake, but not the work that goes into a layer cake, these cute little cupcakes fill the bill. The strawberry cream cheese frosting, enriched with freeze-dried berry powder, may be the best part. Of course, you can use the recipe as a template and play around with other fruit flavors.
Every day can be Valentine’s Day when you serve these rich chocolate cupcakes topped with freeze-dried strawberry buttercream and hand-dipped chocolate covered strawberries.
Freeze-dried fruit topping recipes
Whole, chopped, or pulverized freeze-dried fruit makes a great topping for everything from cereal to ice cream on its own. But these next-level embellishments are definitely more interesting — and much more fun.
Zest and dehydrate your favorite citrus, combine it with your freeze-dried fruit of choice, and you’ll have a flavorfully tart blend to dust on everything from grilled fish and salads to sliced fruit and ice cream.
Sprinkles are fun, but don’t usually taste like much. Freeze-dried fruit powder is the game-changer that gives these homemade sprinkles a pretty pastel hue and a yummy hint of berry flavor. One caveat: The recipe includes raw egg white, which can harbor salmonella. Reduce the risk of food-borne illness by using pasteurized egg whites or meringue powder instead.
Drown your next scoop of ice cream in a little ’80s nostalgia with this super-easy homemade magic shell. Freeze-dried berries and white chocolate are a definite upgrade from the real deal, plus you can swap in your favorite fruit powders for an endless array of flavors.
It may seem counterintuitive if you usually think of jams as a way to preserve a bounty of fresh berries, but you can make them from freeze-dried fruit, too. This recipe shows you how to make both cooked and freezer jams, using freeze-dried raspberries, honey, water, and pectin.
Freeze-dried fruit treats
These easy-to-make snacks are perfect for when you want a low-key pick-me-up that still feels like a treat.
Classic Rice Krispies Treats get a colorful upgrade with freeze-dried blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Dress them up for special occasions with an optional white chocolate drizzle.
This moderately sweet mix of nuts, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate chunks, and freeze-dried strawberries makes a great on-the-go, afternoon, or movie-night snack. If you're allergic to nuts but do eat seeds, replace the cashews and almonds with pepitas for a just-as-delicious twist on a chocolate-covered strawberry.
Giftable freeze-dried fruit confections
For a satisfying and surprisingly simple DIY project, try your hand at any (or all!) of these freeze-dried fruit candies. If you feel like sharing, homemade chocolates make fabulous gifts.
Japanese matcha tea powder adds fresh, grassy flavor notes and a gorgeous spring green hue to melted white chocolate. Freeze-dried raspberries and shaved coconut add crunch and temper the bark’s sweetness.
This 5-ingredient chocolate bark is flavored with a touch of strawberry extract and studded with freeze-dried berries.
We’re suckers for the adorable pineapple shape, but any candy molds will do to make these delectable pineapple ganache-filled truffles. The recipe is delightfully simple — just freeze-dried pineapple, white and dark chocolate, and a little cream.
Sweetened with pure maple syrup and strawberry puree, these 4-ingredient cocoa truffles are so easy to make, and nutritious, too! Best of all, they’re rolled in crushed freeze-dried strawberries, which imparts big berry flavor and looks fantastic.
Freeze-dried raspberries are the star ingredient in these easy homemade truffles. Once you get the hang of making them, you can use the basic recipe as a template, and try other freeze-dried fruits in the filling to make a variety of flavors. Use extra chopped or powdered freeze-dried fruit to decorate the truffles so you’ll know what’s inside the chocolate shells.
Dreamy, creamy, freeze-dried fruit recipes
Keep it cool with these luscious no-bake recipes that look impressive and are simpler to prepare than you might imagine.
Inspired by the perpetual ice cream truck favorite, these cookie-crusted ice cream and sorbet bars are so easy to make. The recipe even includes ingredient swap suggestions if you want to make them gluten-free or low-carb.
Blueberry lovers, we see you. Here’s a simple recipe that takes the guesswork out of adapting the strawberry shortcake bar recipe and helps you put those freeze-dried blueberries to excellent use.
Another riff on the Good Humor favorite, these frozen yogurt bars are doubly delicious thanks to a mix of freeze-dried bananas and strawberries in the crunchy coating.
This versatile no-bake cheesecake can be flavored with a wide variety of freeze-dried fruits — choose your favorite, then check out the recipe notes for guidance on spice swaps that will complement each fruit.
Freeze-dried fruit baked goods
Freeze-dried fruits add lots of flavor and textural interest to all sorts of baked goods. Use these recipes as inspiration for your own flavor experiments.
Food writer and recipe developer Reenie Karim doesn't skimp on the freeze-dried mango in these lovely Mango Cardamom Cookies. Chopped pistachios are optional, but add crunch and an extra dimension of flavor.
A combination of fresh and freeze-dried fruit amps up the strawberry flavor in this easy quick bread.
The crushed freeze-dried blueberry topping is optional, but what fun is a pop tart without sprinkles? Fancy a whole grain option? Try these Homemade Strawberry White Chocolate Pop Tarts — and don’t forget the fruit sprinkles.
These casually elegant cookies are surprisingly simple to make (and even cooler than astronaut ice cream). Just mix up vanilla sugar cookie dough, divide it into 3 portions, and color one with matcha and another with freeze-dried strawberry powder. Combine the doughs, and voila! — you'll have beautiful tri-colored cookies that taste even better than they look. P.S. Don't sweat the metric measurements in the ingredient list — when you click through to get the recipe directions, you'll find Imperial measurements, too.
I’ll confess, I’m usually underwhelmed by pie, especially the crust. But this freeze-dried strawberry-enriched pastry has me rethinking that stance — and counting the days until berry season starts.
Famed food writer Dorie Greenspan played with tweaks to pastry chef Pierre Hermé’s exemplary chocolate sables for two decades, until she hit on a recipe so good, she included it in Baking with Dorie. Freeze-dried raspberries are one of the delicious additions.
More fun with surprising ingredients
Freeze-dried fruit is one of those unexpected hits when it comes to adding flavor and color to a recipe. What can some other surprise ingredients do for you? Read below.