This recipe for freeze dried crunchy salad topping is a great way to use up extra cucumber if you have a bumper crop and a home freeze drying unit. Other ingredients include tomatoes, radishes, and other delicious homegrown produce. Don’t waste even a bit of your harvest this year! Make this simple, versatile salad topper as soon as the garden starts producing.
What Can I Add to My Salad to Make it Interesting?
Is this a question you’ve asked yourself, especially during the growing season when you’re eating a metric ton of salad?
Here are a few suggestions for making your salad generally more flavorful:
- Add homemade croutons – these have the added bonus of using up stale bread instead of letting it go to waste.
- Toss in healthy pumpkin, chia, and/or sesame seeds.
- Crumble homemade feta cheese on top.
- Add fresh herbs like basil, nasturtium leaves, or fennel.
- Don’t forget edible flowers like nasturtium flowers, borage, and violets.
Of course, I humbly suggest you try our recipe below for freeze dried crunchy salad topping!
Freeze Dried Crunchy Salad Topping
I do want to make it clear that you need a home freeze drying unit to make this Freeze Dried Crunchy Salad Topping (as the name suggests). You could make it in a home dehydrator unit but it will probably be more chewy and less crunchy.
Some produce has a marked difference in texture when dehydrated vs. being freeze dried. We talk about some of these in both of the following articles:
—>>>Best Foods to Dehydrate<<<—
—>>>Best Foods to Freeze Dry<<<—
Crunchy Salad Topping Options:
I don’t want to discourage you from trying this recipe in your dehydrator, but realize that the texture will be different.
- Maybe you could try a different method altogether like roasting nuts for a crunchy salad topper in your oven.
- Or you could candy nuts as with these delicious looking Wholesome and Sweet Honey-Glazed Candied Nuts from That Salad Lady.
You wouldn’t be able to save this kind of salad topping in long term storage, but it would be tasty and NOT require a freeze dryer.
Freeze Dried Crunchy Salad Topping Recipe
- Garlic Scapes
- Kale, de-ribbed
- Sea Salt
- Sweet Pepper
- Change up the ingredients according to your taste.*
- Dice or finely chop each ingredient and place into a large bowl. Amounts will vary.**
- Toss all vegetables with sea salt to taste. Add fresh or dried herbs. If using fresh herbs, tear or chop into small pieces. If using dried, grind in a mortar and pestle before sprinkling over the veggies. Toss again to combine.
- Spread evenly over each dehydrator tray allowing some space between the ingredients to allow for air flow. Cucumbers contain a lot of water that the freeze dryer will work hard to remove. Make it easier by not tightly packing your tray.
- Process according to your freeze drying unit's instructions.
- Package and seal immediately.***
*All the ingredients are subject to change according to your tastes and what is ripe in the garden. You select that flavors you think will combine the best. The above recommended ingredients represent one of my favorite flavor combinations.
**I have the large freeze dryer from Harvest Right, so I have 5 trays that measure 9″ W x 20.5″ x 0.75″ H. This is usually 8-10 cups of material per tray, though it varies widely. Since I like to give the salad topping some room, I aim for 8 cups per tray, spread evenly.
***I purchase 3" x 4" zipper lock Mylar bags in which to store herbs and specialty items like this salad topping. Because you only need a small amount per serving, there's no need to open a larger bag. Each time you open a Mylar bag storing freeze dried food, air and moisture immediately start infiltrating.
Salad Topping Notes
- The list of ingredients can be changed up according to what’s ripening in your garden or deals at the farmer’s market. Experiment with flavor combinations until you find some you like. Any minced veggies that can be freeze dried will work.
- The amounts of the ingredients are likewise subjective. I have the large freeze dryer from Harvest Right with five trays that measure 9″ W x 20.5″ x 0.75″ H. I can usually fit 8-10 cups of material on each tray. Since I want to allow a bit of air circulation around my salad topping mix, I don’t pack the trays tightly.
- Once the salad topping is completely dried and the cycle is done, you can package everything up quickly and seal it in Mylar bags. The small bags are handy to use for specialty items like salad topping.
- We usually fill a quart-sized canning jar with some of the topping mix to keep in my cupboard and use regularly until it needs to be refilled from storage. Then, I keep an oxygen absorber in the jar and a canning seal between my jar and my twist-on cap.
Each time you open a container with freeze dried food, the air and water begin to immediately infiltrate it. However, the canning seal and the oxygen absorber will buy you some time while you use up the product.
Add-Ins for Homemade Crunchy Salad Toppings
The freeze dried veggies with herbs are a great topping on their own but if you’d like to add even more pizzas to your salad topping, try these:
- Toasted or Raw Pumpkin, Chia, and/or Sunflower Seeds
- Toasted Almonds, Cashews, or Pistachios
- Homemade Raisins, Cranberry Raisins, or Dried Pineapple
- Freeze Dried Apple or Strawberry Bits
- Grated and Toasted Parmesan or Romana Cheese
You may also include any of these items in with your raw batch of veggies in the freezer dryer. If you do that, keep these specialty items on their own tray so that you can easily test for doneness after the batch has completed. Since these items are “sort of dry” already, it will just make it easier to see if your veggies are finished if they’re on their own tray.
I prefer to just freeze dry my salad topping veggies and then included add-ins when the inspirations strikes. If I have a base salad topping, I can tweak it however I want, making changes to fit the salad I’m serving.