Learn how to dry peppers and fill your pantry with spices and flavorful vegetables that are shelf stable and last a year. You can use sweet peppers or hot peppers or a combination to fill your pantry with flavor and nutrition.
Sweet peppers are abundant at this time of year. You might be growing your own, or harvesting them from a you-pick farm. On Sunday I was driving through the orchard area of our province and found a 20 pound bag of sweet pepper seconds at a farm stand for a steal-of-a-deal. Inside the bag were sweet peppers that were red, yellow, purple, orange, and green. It was a delightful bag and my goal was to dry peppers for winter pantry foods, including smoked paprika, cajun spice blend, and fajita mix.
Dry peppers without blanching
Sweet peppers are one of those pantry items that you can’t have too much of. They are part of so many cuisines. You can freeze them without blanching. Just core them and slice into strips or cube them, place in the freezer bag and freeze. Frozen peppers last 6 months to a year in the freezer.
Following the rule of three, that I’ve been talking to you about lately, it’s good to have sweet peppers preserved in other ways as well. Dry peppers without blanching, in the same way.
You can dry sweet peppers in an electric dehydrator, or in a convection oven. The walls of sweet peppers are thicker than hot peppers so air drying them whole, isn’t a reliable food preservation method. Dry them at 125F until they are crisp and brittle. They will snap when you press them, when they are fully dry. This takes about 12 hours where I live. But your time will vary depending on your relative humidity, and ambient temperatures.
Here are 7 ways to use dehydrated peppers in your cooking
- Paprika — Powder dried sweet peppers for paprika
- Cajun Trinity Spice Mix— Combine equal parts dried sweet peppers, dried onions, and dried celery.
- Smoked paprika — Smoke prepared sweet peppers on a pellet grill or smoker (4 hours at 225F). Transfer to a dehydrator and dry till crisp and brittle. Grind into a powder.
- Instant lunch — Add 1 tablespoon each of dried peppers, dried onions, dried carrots or other dried vegetables to a wide mouth lunch thermos. Add 1/2 cup quinoa or instant rice. Pour in 1 cup boiling water. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add cheese, yogurt, or a few slices of meat or fish for protein.
- Fajita blend –– Three parts sweet peppers, one part onions (rehydrate before adding to meat).
- Curry dishes — Add dried peppers to curry sauce with other vegetables. They will rehydrate in the liquid sauce within a few minutes.
- Soup Mix — Add equal parts dried peppers, dried carrots, dried celery, dried onions, dried parsley, or other dried aromatic vegetables (parsnip, leek, fennel). Use this soup mix to add to rice dishes, noodle dishes, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs or quiche, soup stock, quinoa, ramen noodles, and Bolognese sauce.
Dried sweet peppers can be added to tomato sauce, pizza toppings, soup, stew, rice, and egg dishes. Or you can rehydrate them using equal amounts of peppers and hot water. Soak for 15 minutes to an hour to rehydrate. Then use them in cooked dishes. The texture will be soft once they are rehydrated.
Storing dried sweet peppers
Fully dried sweet peppers will be crisp and brittle. They will snap when you bend them. Once fully dry, store peppers in glass jars with 2 part lids. Add a 200 CC oxygen absorber for each quart jar of dry peppers. If you have a vacuum sealer with jar attachment, vacuum seal the jars. Using vacuum seals and oxygen absorbers increases the shelf life of your home dried foods.
Dried sweet peppers may also be sealed in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
Store sealed jars or mylar bags in a cool, dark room, protected from rodents, pets, and insects. Date all jars or bags.
If you are making paprika do not powder the spice until you are ready to use it. Powdered spices lose their potency and flavor quickly when they are ground. Use dried peppers and powder in a blender only as much as you will use up in a month, in order to retain the most flavor and nutrition.
The “official” shelf life of dried sweet peppers is one year. But I have had my home dried sweet peppers retain their flavor, color, and fragrance for up to 6 years after drying. Discard the jar contents if any mold or off-odors develop in the jar.
Also see this post on how to dry hot peppers. The skin is thinner on hot peppers, making them easier to dry without an electric dehydrator,