If you’re wondering whether you can dehydrate food in an air fryer? You can, and using the right techniques will help you get the best results.
Air fryers have burst onto the scene over the last decade. Many home cooks consider an air fryer a must-have appliance. It seems like air fryers can do it all… even dehydrating food.
In this article, I’ll explain how to dehydrate food using your air fryer, as well as traditional methods. We’ll also take a look at how those methods compare, and I’ll share some of my favorite air fryers to help you get the job done.
Ready to get started? Let’s jump right in.
Dehydrating: How It Works
Dehydrating food is the process of slowly removing the water content from food. Dehydrating is a way to preserve food without the need for cooling or special storage techniques. People have been drying food in the sun for centuries.
When you remove moisture from food, it lowers the chance that bacteria or mold will grow and spoil the food. For this reason, dehydrated food has a longer shelf life than fresh food. Any salt or seasonings used will also slow down bacteria growth.
Fortunately, you don’t have to leave food out in the sun for days or weeks to enjoy dehydrated fruit, vegetables, or meat. You can use the oven or electric dehydrators, but you can also use an air fryer to achieve the same results. Many air fryers are equipped with a built-in dehydrating setting. Even without that, most air fryers are capable of dehydrating food with the proper settings.
Can Air Fryers Dehydrate Food?
The short answer? Yes, air fryers can dehydrate food. Here’s how it works:
Air fryers have a heating element that heats the cooking chamber to the desired cooking temperature. In addition to the heating element, air fryers also have a built-in fan that circulates the hot air around your food. This combination functions like a miniature convection oven.
At high temperatures, above 400°F (205°C), the hot air “fries” the food, much like hot oil does, without added grease or oil. However, when the temperatures are lower, from 120° to 140°F (50° to 60°C), it gently draws out the moisture from the food without cooking it.
In general, you can dehydrate food by setting the slices in a single layer and letting them dry at the lowest temperature for 2-4 hours. Of course, the process can vary among different foods. For specific temperatures and drying times, keep reading.
What Foods Can You Dehydrate in an Air Fryer?
You can dehydrate all your favorite foods in the air fryer. Just be sure to lay out the slices in a single layer at the lowest setting to avoid browning. Many air fryers even have a separate dehydration setting.
Below is a short list of some of the healthy snack foods you can make in an air fryer:
- Banana chips
- Apple chips
- Apricot chips
- Dried figs
- Carrot Chips
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Dried Peppers
- Dried Mushrooms
- Beef Jerky
- Venison Jerky
The major limitation for air fryers when it comes to dehydrating is having enough space. Some models include an extra tier so you can dehydrate two layers at once. Yet many basket-style air fryers have a smaller cooking surface. If you want an air fryer with plenty of room for dehydrating, check out this list of the best air fryers for large families.
Can You Dehydrate With the Ninja Air Fryer?
You betcha! Ninja manufactures several models of air fryers, but all of them include a dehydrate function. Ninja also makes pressure cookers, ovens, and grills that include a dehydrate function. To compare some of the more popular models, use the chart below:
|Product Name||Size/Cooking Capacity||Primary Function||Style|
|Ninja Foodi 7-in-1 Indoor Grill Combo||4 quarts (3.79 liters)||Grill & Air Fryer||Grill|
|Ninja Foodi 6-in-1 XL 2-Basket Air Fryer||6 quarts (5.7 liters) 10 quarts (9.5 liters)||Air Fryer||Basket|
|Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 Smart XL Air Fryer Oven||14.5 W x 12.7 D x 11.1 HFits a 5-lb. whole chicken, 12-inch pizza, 2 levels||Oven||Oven|
|Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer||5 quarts (4.73 liters) 6.5 quarts (6.15 liters) 8 quarts (7.6 liters)||Pressure Cooker||Pressure Cooker Style|
|Ninja Air Fryer Max||4 quarts (3.79 liters)||Air Fryers||Basket|
How Do You Dehydrate Without a Dehydrator?
Yes, you can! Dehydrate food by using one of the methods below.
Dehydrate Food in the Oven
Did you know you can use your oven as a large dehydrator? It’s true. If you have a large batch of food items to dehydrate, this method might be your preference.
You can dehydrate fruit, vegetables, or meats in your oven at low temperatures, preferably under 200°F (93°C). If your oven doesn’t go below 200°F, just set the oven to Warm.
For dehydrated food to evenly cook, it’s super important to get thin slices. Around 1/4 an inch thick is best. You can use a mandolin for extra thin, papery slices.
Place wax paper on top of a baking sheet and place the slices on top. Fruits and vegetables have a dehydrating time of approximately 6-8 hours. Rotate the pans and flip the slices every hour or so for even results. At the end of 6 hours, check to see if any moisture remains. If there is, keep drying up to 8 hours and check again.
If you plan to dehydrate beef or other meat, set the oven to Warm, or about 160°F (70°C). That’s the perfect temperature for making beef jerky. Cut off any fat to prevent the beef from turning rancid. Slice it into thin strips, season them, and then place them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Use a dedicated meat slicer to get perfectly thin slices.
Rotate the pans and flip the meat every hour to get the best results. It will take around 8 hours for the meat to be completely dehydrated.
Dehydrate Food with a Toaster Oven
If you don’t have a full-sized oven, you can also use a toaster oven. Toaster ovens have slide-in trays, and they can also be set at lower temperatures than a conventional oven. Both of these features make them great for dehydrating fruits, vegetables, and more.
It’s best for the temperature to be lower than 200°F (93°C), if possible. Just like the conventional oven, if the temperature does not go lower than 200°F, you can use the Warming function.
Cut the fruit, vegetables, or meat into thin slices. To preserve the color and taste of fruits and vegetables, you can dip them in lemon juice for one minute. Be sure to season and cure the meat before dehydrating. Spread the slices in a single layer on a lined tray.
Leave the door open a few inches and use a tabletop fan to circulate the air inside the toaster oven. Some toaster ovens, like the Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 Smart XL Air Fryer Oven, have a built-in convection oven and/or air fryer setting, so the fan may not be necessary.
The dehydrating process for fruits and vegetables will take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. Meat will take longer to become properly dehydrated, between 6 to 8 hours.
Dehydrate Food in the Microwave
Most people don’t think of the microwave for dehydrating foods, but with the right settings, it’s great for drying herbs and making apple chips. It’s important to choose foods that dehydrate quickly. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend making beef jerky in the microwave.
Use the defrost setting to dehydrate apples and/or herbs. You can dehydrate fruit in under 30 minutes, and the herbs will dehydrate even more quickly.
Curious how this works? Microwaves use electromagnetic waves to create energy, and then heat, inside items. The waves “excite” the molecules in sugar, fat, and–you guessed it–water. Thus, the microwave can evaporate the water content inside apples and herbs to remove moisture. T
Let’s be clear. A microwave wouldn’t be my first choice for dehydrating food, but it’s great in a pinch if you’re craving apple slices.
How to Dehydrate Peppers in the Air Fryer
If you’ve ever grown peppers in your own garden, you know you usually end up with way more than you can physically eat. What better way to make sure they don’t go to waste than to dehydrate them! You can use dehydrated peppers in soups, stews, sauces, and more.
Use the steps below for any pepper you choose to dehydrate. I prefer sweet or mild peppers like bell peppers and banana peppers, mostly because my family can’t handle intense spice. But I also enjoy chipotles for the occasional kick.
- Set the air fryer to the lowest temperature setting.
- Place peppers in the air fryer basket.
- Cook the peppers for 5-10 minute intervals.
- Peppers can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to fully dehydrate.
- If the peppers aren’t completely dehydrated after 40 minutes, continue cooking in 5-minute intervals until dry.
- Let them cool and then store in a Mason jar or an airtight container.
You can rehydrate peppers by soaking them in water for 20-30 minutes.
How to Dehydrate Apples in the Air Fryer
Apple chips are a go-to healthy snack. They’re sweet, crunchy, and delicious. And if you’re new to dehydrating, I recommend starting with a fruit like apples. Follow these easy steps to dehydrate apple slices in the air fryer:
- Wash the apples thoroughly.
- Preheat the air fryer to 300°F (150°C).
- Cut the apples into thin slices using a mandolin slicer or a knife. 1/4 inch-thick is best.
- Lay apples on a flat surface and season according to your preference. Some of my favorites include brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Arrange the slices in the air fryer basket or on a wire rack. Cook for 15 minutes, flipping the apples every 5 minutes.
- After the dehydrating process is complete, set the apple chips aside on a plate or in a bowl to cool.
- Try not to consume all of them at once. (This is the toughest step. Good luck.)
There are loads of recipes for dehydrator apple chips on the internet, but I like this recipe from Mind Over Munch for cinnamon apple chips.
How to Dehydrate Bananas in the Air Fryer
When it comes to a healthy snack, banana chips are one of my favorites. They’re simple, delicious, and work well as sweet or savory. The best part? It’s super easy to make banana chips in the air fryer! Here’s how:
- Peel and slice the bananas.
- Dip each slice in lemon juice. You don’t have to soak the slices, but a nice coating will suffice. The lemon juice helps avoid browning during the cooking process.
- Lay out the banana slices in a single layer in the air fryer basket, tray, or wire rack.
- Use the dehydrator setting on the air fryer to dehydrate the bananas. If there isn’t a separate dehydrate function, you can set the air fryer to the lowest temperature setting, preferably lower than 200°F (93°C).
- Banana slices take approximately 3 hours to become properly dehydrated. This will vary according to the thickness of the slices.
- Store them in an airtight container or eat them immediately.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can experiment with different types of bananas or even make plantain chips. These plantain chips are paleo, vegan, and Whole30 approved for those who follow one of those diets.
How to Dehydrate Figs in the Air Fryer
Figs are sweet, jammy, and one of my favorite fruits. Fig Newtons, anyone? For a healthy take on the classic treat, you can dehydrate figs in the air fryer for the perfect snack.
I particularly like this recipe from MelanieCooks. But if you want the basics idea, here is what you do:
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F (205°C), if your air fryer needs preheating.
- Cut the figs in half.
- Mix 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon in a bowl.
- Dip the fig in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, cut side only.
- Arrange the figs in a single layer in the air fryer basket.
- Cook for 10 minutes.
- Serve as part of a charcuterie board or just eat them by the handfuls. I won’t judge. 😉
How to Make Dried Fruit in an Air Fryer
You aren’t limited to apple slices, banana chips, or figs. You can dehydrate practically any fruit in an air fryer using the right dehydrating method. One of my favorite foods to dehydrate is orange slices. They double as an air freshener and a Christmas decoration in our house.
If you’d like to make dehydrated fruit in the air fryer, follow these easy steps.
- Preheat the air fryer to the lowest heat settings.
- Slice the fruit thinly using a mandolin or knife. Try to get the slices as even as possible for the best results.
- Season as desired. There are countless air fryer recipes out there if you need one.
- Lay the fruit slices in a single layer in the air fryer basket or tray.
- If the air fryer has a food dehydrator setting, use that function. If not, air fry the slices in short periods of time until the excess moisture is completely removed. The exact cooking time will vary among air fryer models and fruits.
How to Dehydrate Herbs in an Air Fryer
Dehydrating herbs in an air fryer is a great idea, as it gently blows hot air to remove moisture without breaking down the aromatics or the essence of the herbs. It’s important to follow these guidelines to get the best dehydrated herbs:
- Wash and dry the herbs. Leave the stems in tact for air frying. Otherwise, you could have tiny herbs flying around everywhere as the hot air circulates inside the air fryer.
- Set the air fryer temperature to the lowest setting or choose the dehydrating function.
- Add the sprigs to the air fryer. Cover them with a trivet to keep them in place while the warm air circulates.
- Set the air fryer dehydrator for four hours and check every hour until the herbs crumble in your hand.
How to Make Air Fryer Beef Jerky
The number of air fryer recipes for beef jerky can be overwhelming, but this version by LoveFoodNotCooking is one of my favorites. It’s easy and tasty. You can use other recipes, but here’s a basic idea of what to do:
- Gather marinade ingredients and mix together in a bowl.
- Cut beef slices into thin strips. Use a special jerky slicer for uniform slices.
- Add the strips to the marinade and ensure that the beef is completely covered by the marinade.
- Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 3 hours.
- Remove the beef from the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel.
- If your air fryer requires preheating, set the air fryer to 210°F (100°C).
- Place beef strips in air fryer basket in a single layer. It’s important that the strips are not overlapping during the cooking time.
- Air fry the beef strips until the excess moisture is gone. Air fry for two hours and then check the jerky. If there is still excess moisture, continue air frying for 15-20 minute intervals until ready.
- When the jerky is ready, allow to cool and store in an airtight container.
Storing Dehydrated Food
Once you have dehydrated food, how long does it last? Dehydrated meats, fruits, and vegetables can last anywhere from four months to a year. Of course, this is influenced by the heat, storage temperature, and storage methods.
The higher the temperature, the shorter the storage time. Most dried fruits can be stored for 1 year at 60°F (15°C) or six months at 80°F (25°C). Dehydrated vegetables will stay fresh for about half the time as fruits. Dried foods should be stored in cool, dry, dark areas.
For more guidance on storing your dehydrated food, use the tips below:
- Let the food cool completely before storing it. Regardless of which method you choose, food that is hot or warm will produce steam (i.e., moisture). That will shorten the shelf life of the food. To properly store dehydrated food, wait until it’s cool to the touch.
- Store the dehydrated food in an airtight container. You can use a freezer bag, Mason jar, or another type of airtight container. The important thing is to make sure all the air is removed and that moisture and warm air can’t get inside.
- Label the package with the date. If you’re like me, you’ve had to throw out frozen leftovers because you forgot how long they’d been in there and didn’t want to risk it. Dating your food will help you determine how much shelf life it still has. You can put a “use by” date on the container to make it even easier.
- Separate serving sizes. Each time you open a package or container, it lets in air and/or moisture. Your dehydrated foods will last longer if you aren’t constantly opening the bag.
If you’re storing dehydrated food in larger batches, consider separating the serving sizes into different containers, so you only have to open it when you’re ready to use the food inside.
- Place the food in a cool, dark, dry place. Light, oxygen, and temperature can shorten the shelf life of dehydrated food. Storing the food in a dark, cool, dry area is best. The lower the humidity, the better. The ideal temperature for storing dehydrated food is between 60°-65°F (15°-20°C).
Dehydrating With an Air Fryer: Last Thoughts
If you’re a food enthusiast who’d like to dehydrate your own food, there’s good news. You can turn your air fryer into your own personal food dehydrator. Whether you’re craving a delicious snack or exploring food preservation, dehydrating is a worth pursuit. Ready to get started? Find the best air fryers with a dehydrator.