Dehydrated Lemons: An Easy Way to Preserve Fruit

Dehydrated Lemons: An Easy Way to Preserve Fruit
When life gives you lemons, dehydrate them.

Low key, I’m mildly outraged that dehydrating lemons, an incredibly easy way to preserve fruit, has simply gone out of vogue. Even though dehydrating is a perfectly healthy, convenient, and timeless method.

<insert “are you serious” side eye glare here>

Dehydrated foods provide healthy alternatives

Well, ya’ll, its a good thing I don’t follow “trends.” Nope, my kitchen and I have happily been warping into a glorious entanglement of vintage, homestead, traditional cooking and we know better.

I mean, have we forgotten that dehydrated produce maintains its nutritional value significantly longer than fresh fruits?

And, that refrigeration actually whisks away vitamins, minerals and antioxidants after a few days of cool temperatures at a cost upwards of 50% nutriment loss? The reasons why preserving lemons through dehydration is succinctly detailed in this WebMD’s article sharing the benefits of dehydrated foods. If you’re not already convinced on the merits of dehydrating your food, its a good place to start.

Dehydrating still makes good sense

You’ve heard of the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” right?

I get that this phrase has good intentions, but its ameatuer advice (stick with me). Tragically, lemons might be one of the most undervalued  kitchen ingredients, perpetually pigeon holed to used just as a “squeeze of” or as nostalgic summertime thirst quencher. My friends, lemon was meant for more, and I’m here to share that you’ll have soooo many more options with dehydrated lemons.  

That tragically outdated phrase needs to speak to the truth of matter that, “When life give you lemons, dehydrate them, because then you can use them in dozens of ways for breakfast, snacks and starters, soups, salads, dinners, side dishes, desserts and (finally) drinks…like lemonade.”

Just saying. 

Ways to use dehydrated lemons

Once you have dehydrated lemons around, it’ll be hard to imagine your kitchen without them. Here are some some ideas on the many ways you can use dehydrated lemons:

Does dehydrating lemon remove nutrients?

Yes. Well, a few. But so does refrigerating lemons (or any produce)  after a few days!  Some nutrient loss from anything fresh is inevtiable over time, but don’t worry, the retention of the majority of the minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes remain virtually unchanged. And, of the nutrient loss, research shows it’s only in the temperamental nutrients (in lemons, vitamin A and C) and accounts for less than a 30 % decline. 

Why is it useful to dehydrate lemons? 

  1. You’ll have the raw ingredients to make your own lemon powder for lemon pepper, lemon salt, or lemon sugar. 
  2. You’ll have sliced lemon ready to go add to your morning tea or hot water. 
  3. You’ll love adding a few dehydrated lemon slices to your favorite sheet pan dinners to punch up the flavor with a citrusy twist. 

How long will dehydrated lemons last before they expire?

If all the moisture has been removed and the lemons are stored in a cool, dark place, they’ll easily keep for up to 5 years (though color and flavor may fade over time). If you see any mold and something smells off,  immediately discard the entire container. 

How long does it take to dehydrate lemons?

This depends on how thick you sliced your lemons and how juicy they were to start.  To ensure everything dries evenly, uniformly cut your slices. And, try not make your slices any thicker than ¼ inch wheels. 

How will I know when my dehydrated lemons are finished? 

You’ve gotta be hands on with this to truly know when your lemons are “finished.” When you pick up a lemon you want all of the parts to feel crip and brittle. If any part (the rind, flesh, pith) feels pliable or leathy, keep dehydrating.  After you’ve removed your slices from the heat and they’ve dropped to room temperature, they should feel stiff and baked. I usually test this by snapping one of the slices in half and listening for that crisp ‘crack’ sound. 

What can I use to dehydrate lemons?

For best results, use a food dehydrator or your kitchen oven (some folks use solar ovens or the backseat window of their car on a hot summer day) where you can monitor and adjust the temperature. 

If using a food dehydrator: dehydrate at 115 degrees for 24 hours or 135 degrees for 6-8 hours. 

If using an oven: dehydrate for 2-3 hours at 170 degrees  (After the one hour mark, check on your lemons every 30 minutes

What types of lemons dehydrate best?

It’s truly your choice, so go with the taste you prefer.  If you enjoy a more sour tasting lemon, go with Eureka, Lisbon or Avalon varieties which are easy to find at the grocery store. But, if you like your lemons on the sweeter side, go with Meyer, Ponderosa or Millswet limetta. Regardless of what you choose, use only fresh and fully ripe fruit, ideally organica which tends to last longer than non-organic. 

How to prevent dehydrated lemons from discoloring?

First this.  Even if your lemons do turn brown, you’ll still have a delicious, 100% safe finished product. There are lots of methods out there to prevent discoloring, but I like using an ascorbic acid soak because it’s quick. Specifically, I use Ball’s fresh-fruit produce protector which is a combination of sugar (dextrose), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), critici acid, and silicon dioxide and sprinkle it right over the lemons prior to dehydrating. You can also immediately add your slices in 1 tablespoon of citric acid dissolved in 1 cup of cool water for 5-6 minutes. 

How to prep your lemons for dehydrating?

Be sure to thoroughly wash, rinse and completely dry your lemons a few hours before you plan to dehydrate them. This helps remove bacteria, including E. coli, from the surface of your fruit. Discard any lemons that are bruised, have brown or mold spots or feel mushy. 

What is the best way to store dehydrated lemons?

Dehydrated lemon slices should be stored in a cool, out of direct light (and preferably in a dark place) in glass jars with a canning lid and ring. This increases their shelf life (an average of at least 5 years, though color and flavor will fade over time). Only store jars that you have conditioned, meaning, you’ve filled the jars not more than two-thirds full at initial filling. For the first five days, give the jar a good shake once daily and inspect it for signs of moisture. If you see any moisture, your slices haven’t fully dehydrated and will need to return to the dehydrator. If moisture does not appear after 5 consecutive days, completely fill the jars with your lemon slices to keep for long term storage. 

To create an airtight seal, you can use a foodsaver jar seal appliance, or use a brake bleeder if you’re looking for a cheaper, electric free option (this is what I use).

If you have any questions about successfully drying lemons, check out the complete fruit drying guide published by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Craving more ways to preserve your lemons? You’ve gotta try my easy candied lemon slice recipe, next. Check out this easy and fun Candied Lemon Recipe here.

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