Contains: Potential nightshades, read carefully. Is: Vegetarian, vegan, paleo, Whole30, homesteading, Putting Food By!
You can use your oven, but temperatures, especially at the low range needed for dehydration, can be iffy – but instead of not dehydrating at all for lack of a dedicated dehydrator – experiment.
The Instant Pot that so many are raving about – at least one model has a dehydrating setting. That’s another option. Not currently owning an Instant Pot, I won’t be discussing that gizmo further in this post.
My own dehydrator is a 5-shelf Excalibur, a model without the timer. But dedicated dehydrators all work the same – and a timer is really not going to be useful unless you live in a consistent low humidity environment.
Some past dehydrating posts:
In the past I also dehydrated zucchini, which essentially is the green form of summer squash. I did those as chips, as well. I’ve made sweet potato chips, and regular potato chips – and I seriously did NOT LIKE the latter. I know they were good, but after 60 years of life associating potato chips (crisps to my British readers) with Lays Potato Chips, I cannot make the mental translation to the healthier ones. I’d certainly do scalloped potatoes however, or perhaps diced potatoes, this way. To cook with other food, allowing liquid to re-instate the potatoes for tastiness.
A true fail has been kale chips/crisps. My efforts so far do yield a crispy… nothing. Haven’t given up, but perhaps not to try again this year!
These were seasoned with salt, and with either:
ancho chili powder OR allspice.
Making Summer Squash Chips / Crisps
- Use green or yellow squash / zucchini / courgettes. (Really large ones may be a bit too tough and woody for this.)
- Salt, preferably coarse ground or flake.
- Spice: options of a ground chili powder (ancho. Aleppo, cayenne, Guajillo…) Or, if nightshades are not your thing, choose ground allspice, nutmeg, or cumin.
- Cooking oil or olive oil (Spray or wipe on)
That’s it. I am not giving amounts here, but I will note that when you dehydrate, the food shrinks down, due to water loss. This means ANY flavor you add will concentrate, as these seasonings are already by nature dry. In other words: LESS is MORE! On your first venture, err on the light side!
Use a mandolin to cut your squash to about 1/8th inch thickness, or otherwise use a sharp knife to do the same. Peeling the squash is not necessary but do cut out any bad bits.
You can VERY LIGHTLY coat the surface of the perforated dehydration sheets with a bit of olive oil, which will help prevent sticking. VERY LIGHTLY is helpful.
Layer the slices in a single layer on each tray – atop the perforated sheets supplied by the dehydrator you’ve purchased. (In an oven, I’d lay them down on your “cooling rack”.) This will allow for air circulation around the food. Put the sheets with the veggie chips/crisps over the supplied dehydrator rack holders and put in the dehydrator as specified by your equipment. If you are using the oven, I’d suggest putting the “cooling rack” atop a baking pan.
Set the temperature to 125 F / 52 C for these. An oven will likely not get this low, so check the condition of your chips/crisps early and often. You have more flexibility with a dehydrator. I check at about 6 – 8 hours, depending on ambient humidity. You may need a good twelve hours. Let the dry texture of your chips/crisps tell you what to do!
When they are ready, remove the tray from the dehydrator, and gently peel off the chips and put them all in a jar. If it is humid where you are – do this one tray at a time, without turning off the dehydrator. Chips will readily soak in ambient air borne waters, rendering them no longer suitable to be called “crisps”. If you are living in a dry climate, you can ignore this. At any rate, when a jar is filled, close it up and reserve for serving when you want to serve these.
- Onion, yellow, white, Vidalia, or red… Peeled.
Slice the onion to about 1/8 inch thickness.
Without seasoning the slices, treat the onion otherwise exactly as you did / might do for the courgette portion of this post. Onion is also not amenable to being a “chip” or “crisp”,
Except that: Onion will take longer to dehydrate effectively. Onion also stinks while dehydrating and every source I’ve ever seen says do NOT dehydrate indoors, but do this outside. So I plugged my dehydrator outside on my front porch, with an overhang.
This also means you probably don’t want to use your oven for this process.
No oil is needed to prevent onion adherence to the mat.
Some of my onion slices remained as slices, but others broke up. I left both to do their thing, to see how the two approaches would turn out. Both were fine. Set temperature at 125 F / 52 C. The onion will brown slightly. (For less browning, set at 115 F – which may take longer to dehydrate).
To use dehydrated onion: First, when it is dry, put it in canning jars and seal tight. Slice up anything that looks too “large”. Reserve for up to a year or two, and use to add to other cooking endeavors.
You can also grind it shortly before use, to make Onion Powder. Since there is no anti-caking ingredient in this, I’d grind up portions as needed (unless you live in a very dry environment).
Dehydrating Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
- Grape or cherry tomatoes.
- Optional sprinkle of salt
Slice the grape tomatoes longitudinally into halves (or thirds). Arrange on the dehydrator sheet so they do not touch. If using cherry tomatoes, you may third or quarter them, from stem to bottom.
No oil is needed to prevent adherence to the mat.
Set to dehydrate at 125 F / 52 C for up to one full day. Again, your relative humidity may dry the tomatoes quicker or more slowly.
Remove and seal up promptly into jars before humidity can moisten them.
To use: Either rehydrate in whatever sauté or sauce you plan to cook them in. Or add directly to salads. Or grind into a powder just prior to use in a soup or stew.