Easily learn to dehydrate citrus for crafts and food with this step by step tutorial. We’ve also added an FAQ section for dehydrated citrus – people have lots of questions about storing and using it!
Citrus is known for it’s health benefits being loaded with Vitamin C, for example, but it has many other qualities. Citrus is tasty and versatile as a food and wellness herb. It’s also a great cleaning agent, and even a natural craft supply.
Citrus, oranges in particular, are also considered a symbol of good luck from China to ancient Rome, and Persia. However, it has been valued the world over through most of time from ancient Africa to modern India.
Citrus lore holds that the explorer Ponce de Leon first brought orange seeds to the shores of the US around 1500 – and we have loved it ever since!
Dehydrating citrus for use is very easy to do and, if you just want the tutorial, scroll down a bit. Some people have questions about how to use and store dehydrated citrus, so the following is a quick FAQ to be sure this is something you want to try.
FAQ Dehydrated Citrus
You’ve read it can be useful to dehydrate citrus, but you have a few questions! Here are some answers…
What Can I do With Dried Citrus?
When you dehydrate citrus, you usually do so in slices, so we’ll talk about using those. Dehydrate citrus to us it in:
- Soups to add a citrus kick – they can be particularly palatable in winter squash soups and any cream soup.
- Indian dishes, especially curries and plain rice.
- Infused into drinking water, juices, and kefir waters.
- Infused into vinegar for cleaning.
- Crafted into swags and ornaments for winter holidays, as is traditional around the world.
- Given as gifts either crafted, or as a food with a recipe card attached.
- Chewed to renew energy and vigor when exercising, working, or studying.
You can use the citrus slices whole in all of those examples. Or, you can powder them in a high powered blender and use them in that form, as well (except for crafting, of course).
—>>>Learn to Make Citrus Vinegar for Laundry and Cleaning<<<—
My favorite way to use powdered citrus is in my drinking water and smoothies. I also like to make citrus salt:
- 1 Tbsps. of powdered citrus…
- Added to 1/2 c – 1 cup of sea salt…
- Shaken well.
How Do You Dry Citrus Fruit for Christmas Decorations?
The orange season is fleeting, being harvested from late fall to early winter, depending on variety. In order to preserve the best citrus – oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and more – purchase them locally, if that’s possible in your climate. If not, buy whatever varieties grow closest to you, or are the most readily available.
Plan to dehydrate your citrus late summer or early fall so that you have a good stash of it for crafting swags, garlands, wreaths, and ornaments for the coming holiday season.
The instructions to dehydrate citrus are below, a bit farther down.
—>>>Click to Learn How to Make a Dried Citrus Garland for the Holidays<<<—
Do Dried Oranges Go Bad?
It can, but if you dehydrate citrus correctly, it should last indefinitely for crafting purposes. Whether eating or crafting, the key is to dehydrate the citrus slices COMPLETELY. You must ensure that the citrus is completely dry before using it and/or storing it.
If you are air-drying and at any time during the process you see mold developing, compost the spoiled pieces and increase the air circulation around the rest. Air-dry ONLY if you live in a very dry, hot climate.
Other methods of dehydrating citrus include using a dehydrator or an oven.
If you turn your dehydrated citrus slices to powder, plan to use them within six months for optimal flavor and nutrition.
Store dried citrus in an air-tight container with a lid in a cool, dark place. If eating or cooking with whole slices of dehydrated citrus, eat within a year for optimal flavor and nutrition. They won’t be “bad” if you eat them after a year, but they won’t have as much flavor.
Can You Eat Dried Lemon? Oranges? Grapefruit?
Yes! You may use them in the kitchen, as suggested above.
However, you may also eat them as you would any dried fruit. To eat them out of hand, I recommend skinning them because the peel, or rind, of the citrus once dried is very strong.
Be aware that flavors intensify once dehydrated. So, a lemon, for example, will make you pucker when raw, but it will downright make you wince when eaten dried! This isn’t’ a bad thing, but just be aware. Also, flavor is relative, so don’t just take my word for it – try it for yourself!
You can also chew them with rind intact before a meal or a workout simply to activate their flavor and nutrition. Spit out the residue once you’re finished. This is similar to chewing a small piece of ginger before eating to prime your body for healthy eating.
The MOST palatable way to eat a dried piece of citrus, whole or peeled, is to eat a freeze-dried slice. That requires a very specific and expensive piece of equipment, but should you ever choose to purchase a home freeze-drying unit, know that citrus is delectable when freeze dried.
How to Dehydrate Citrus for Crafts and Food
The following is a super simple tutorial on how to dehydrate citrus for any purpose. In this tutorial, we’re using citrus slices, but you may cut the citrus in any way you prefer. The key to properly drying the citrus is to keep the pieces a uniform width – fat pieces will dry slower than thin pieces.
- Variety of citrus
- Sharp Knife
- Cutting Board
- Jelly Roll Pans, or other baking sheets
- Hot Mitts
- Dehydrator, or Oven
- Slice a wide variety of citrus fruit into 1/4” thickness. Suitable citrus includes navel oranges, blood oranges, mandarin oranges, lemons, limes, pomelos, and grapefruit.
- Arrange on a dehydrator tray, if using a dehydrator, and dry for three to seven hours at 135F/57C. Start checking for done-ness around three hours.*
- Similarly, if using an oven, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the slices on the pan to dry in an oven at its lowest setting, usually 175F/70C. This will usually take between three and four hours, but start checking for done-ness at 2 hours to prevent scorching*.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature on a baking rack.
- Before dehydrating, you may zest the rind of the citrus and air-dry the zest for later use. This will affect the look of the rind for crafting purposes and will alter the flavor to make it weaker, but neither of those alterations are necessarily bad. Lemon zest can be used fresh or dried in many recipes.
*A sufficiently dried citrus slice with have no mushy parts. It will be dry to the touch and bounce a bit when you flap it onto a smooth surface.
Each oven is so different, so if you know yours runs hot, keep a close eye on the orange slices.
Dry odd bits and ends for potpourri, adding to drinking water, etc.
You can pre-cut a slice in one end (as seen in the picture) for crafting, or for decorative placement on the rim of a glass. We usually use these pre-cuts for making citrus ornaments.
Using Odd Bits of Dehydrated Citrus
You can save odd bits, cut-offs, and ends for flavoring drinking water, and/or for potpourri.
If you have a particularly pithy rind, you may want to trim it from the citrus fruit. Some people don’t care for the pith once the citrus has been dehydrated.
Similarly, you may find you don’t care for the flavor of the dried peel once you dehydrate it. Do some taste testing to decide whether to keep the rind and pith.
For the record, I keep both rind and pith for the nutrition and intensity of citrus flavor.
Need More Holiday Ideas?
Citrus garlands can be made any time of year, in any season! If you’d like to know more about what you could be celebrating right now, just check out our Homestead Holidays book!
Here are a few more links and articles that might help you as you learn to dehydrate citrus and use it on the homestead.
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