Why dry hot peppers?
Drying chili peppers is an easy way to prolong the life of your favorite peppers. Once dried, you can store them in the freezer for use throughout the year or grind them into a seasoning blend. Drying enables you to keep chilies that would normally only stay fresh for a few days on the counter or a couple of weeks in the fridge for far longer.
Properly stored dried chili peppers can keep for up to a year in the freezer and longer as a spice.
The top chili pepper drying methods
Peppers can be dried indoors in a bowl or on a wire rack placed in a dry, preferably sunny location. Stir often and check for signs of molding. Immediately discard any mushy or rotten-looking peppers. This method takes up to two weeks.
You can also use a food dehydrator or the oven. When using a food dehydrator, set the device for around 140 degrees and expect the peppers to need about 10-12 hours, depending on their size and quantity. Slice larger peppers and leave smaller peppers whole. If the chiles are not fairly uniform in size, smaller pieces will dry before larger ones.
In the oven, it’s best to use sliced peppers. Lay them on a sheet pan and place them in the oven on the lowest setting possible (usually 150 degrees) until dry, sometimes up to a full day or longer, checking often for any mushiness. Stir or toss them occasionally. Vent moisture from the oven by leaving the door open a few inches or opening it frequently during the drying process. All the moisture must leave the peppers for them to fully dry out.
The simplest, most natural method when drying chili peppers is to simply string them up whole and hang them outside in a dry location, preferably in full sun. You might know these hanging chilies as chili ristras. It can take about two weeks to fully dry peppers using this method, but some aficionados swear by using the sun and fresh air to remove moisture and enhance the flavors.
Storing dried peppers
All methods of drying will result in flavor enhancement and intensified heat. Whether you dry your peppers outdoors, indoors, in your food dehydrator or the oven, expect them to be significantly hotter than what you’re used to when they’re fresh.
When fully dried out, the peppers should feel almost brittle.
It is fairly simple to properly store dried peppers. They can be frozen in airtight containers, zip-top plastic bags, or small plastic freezer tubs. Store powdered peppers in glass or plastic jars.
To get the longest life out of dried chili peppers, try grinding them into a powder or flakes. Stored this way, the peppers can be kept as long as you would keep any spice in your cupboard before replacing – for some people, that’s about a year. For other folks, several years may go by before they feel the need to replace spices and seasonings.
Hot gift ideas
When drying a large batch, find creative ways to use your peppers in gifts for fellow heat lovers! For example, you can mix up a homemade powdered seasoning blend and package it in decorative glass jars with bits of twine tied around them to make simple, thoughtful favors!