I absolutely love spicy foods. I use cayenne pepper, jalapeños, and all sorts of chili peppers in nearly every dish I make, whether it’s whole chilis or spices with peppers in it.
Here’s my problem…
If you have been to the grocery store and made your way to the produce section recently, then you have noticed a sharp increase in the price of fruits and vegetables. This is becoming quite an issue for me because a large portion of my nutrients come from fresh produce. An even greater portion of my food is spiced with hot chili peppers.
Peppers in bulk
To remedy this, I have begun to go to farmer’s markets, or international markets and purchase my chili peppers in bulk. (I’ve also been looking at growing my own, but they won’t be ready for several months.) The reason I’ve done this is that chili peppers will keep fresh in a refrigerator for about a month. Even better though, you can dry them, and they’ll last the entire year until they are once again in season.
Methods of drying whole chili peppers
- String drying
Each of these methods accomplish the same thing, some more efficiently than others. They all give you delicious dried peppers that you can use for hot sauce, spices or in some cases, even as ornaments.
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Steps for drying chili peppers
- Pick your pepper
- Dry (oven, dehydrator or string)
Let’s break down each method in detail.
One method to drying out chili peppers is by using a dehydrator. Dehydrators are great tools to have around your house and can do a whole lot more than dry peppers for you (beef jerky is a great use for a dehydrator).
Clean your peppers
First you will want to rinse the peppers thoroughly and dry them before you put them in the dehydrator. Once you have rinsed them you can cut the stems off and then cut the pepper in half. This step doesn’t necessarily have to be done, but it allows the peppers to dry a little bit faster as well as give you a little bit more space. After cutting the peppers let them air dry for a little while.
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Note: when cutting Chilis (especially the hottest species) it is a very good idea to wear gloves or rub some coconut oil on your hands before handling.
Put it in the dehydrator (larger chilis on the bottom tray, smaller ones on the top) set it to 155 degrees Fahrenheit for about ten hours. This step of the process is best done overnight.
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Once the chili is dehydrated, you can either store them in jars or grind them into a chili powder.
String-dry the peppers
This is awesome if you want to make great kitchen decorations as you dry your chilis. What string-drying enables you to do is make your own ristras, or chili decoration.
Once you begin doing this, you’ll find yourself experimenting with different types of peppers, mixing and matching, and making gifts for friends. Once you get to this point in your chili exploration, you might find you have a new hobby on your hands.
How to string the chili peppers.
Once you have purchased (or picked) your chili peppers you will want to rinse them thoroughly to get any of the dirt and grime off of the surface. After cleaning, you will want to dry them off, and I do mean dry. Make sure they do not have any outside moisture.
Once you have your chilis washed and dried you should then get some cotton string (or any string strong enough to hold several chili peppers), and you also need a needle. You should put the needle through the base of the stem of the pepper. You can string about 25 to 30 chili peppers together this way.
One bad pepper spoils the bunch
If you come across a pepper with blemishes or spots it is best that you toss it, otherwise it will only get worse, and the rot will make its way to the other chilis on the string.
Once you have the peppers strung together, find a cool, dry and well-ventilated area to let them hang for about 2 weeks. After 2 weeks you should have completely dried chili peppers that will last for several months.
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The final way to dry chili peppers is in a conventional oven. This method is probably the easiest way to dry chili peppers because it involves the least amount of steps.
First, as with all the other ways, you will need first to rinse the peppers to clear them of any debris and then dry them.
Once you have them rinsed and drained you should put them in a roasting pan. I like to put foil over the pan, but it is not necessary.
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Keep in mind that you do not want to put oil or any other nonstick coating on the pan. The reason for this is the oil will cook the peppers, that is not what we want, we only want them dried out.
Low heat and a long dry time
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and place the peppers in the roasting pan. Make sure you have them spread out so that they are not touching each other. If you have them on top of each other, they will not dry out properly.
Leave them in the oven for around seven to ten hours, checking every hour after the seventh to determine how done they are.
Drying chili peppers is a straightforward way to preserve them for longer periods of time, but where this really begins to shine is when you start making your own hot sauces and spices. It adds loads of flavor while affording you the ability to experiment and customize your flavors. Best of all it saves you boatloads of money.