Dehydrating Spices

Drying spices and herbs is a centuries-old technique for preserving and using plants for medicinal benefits as well as enhancing the flavor of food—not to mention, an excellent way to preserve the goodness of your garden. From allspice, cinnamon, paprika, and clove to cumin, curry, ginger and chili powder, there are dozens of spices you can dry yourself at home.

What is the Difference Between Herbs and Spices?

Often used interchangeably, herbs and spices are similar... but different. Both originate from plants and are used to add flavor when cooking, but herbs refer to the leaves (and sometimes the stems), while spices are made from the seeds, buds, bark, fruits, flowers, and roots. In some cases, like cilantro/coriander and dill, a plant provides both an herb and a spice. Seasonings are made from a mix of herbs and/or spices.

Herbs are typically used for subtle flavoring and garnish and can be used fresh, dried, chopped, or whole. Herbs are typically added toward the end of cooking because they are more delicate. Spices are used for flavoring and coloring, but are always used in their dried form and, most often, ground or crushed. Spices tend to be more aromatic and flavorful than herbs because they are made from the plant portions rich in essential oils. They are able to withstand longer cooking times and are most often added early in the cooking process. 

12 jars of different spice and herb

Benefits of Drying Your Own Spices

Improves health
Drying spices in a dehydrator protects and concentrates the plant’s disease-fighting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And enhancing your food with spices means you don’t have to rely on sugars, saturated fats, and sodium for flavor when cooking. The fresher the plant is when it’s dried, the more flavorful your spices will be!

Drying your own spices gives you better control of their contents. Store-bought spices often have additional, unnecessary, ingredients to boost flavor and extend the expiration date. Most home-dried spices keep for up to a year (and sometimes more!), meaning you can harvest and dry as the seasons change and keep a stash in your pantry until they are in season again.

colorful spices

Saves money
Plants are perishable once picked and don’t last long in the ground either if you live in a climate with multiple seasons. Dehydrating spices is an easy and cost-effective way to save money by reducing food waste and taking advantage of preserving in-season produce to enjoy months later. A dehydrator also uses very little electricity compared to heating an entire oven for hours on end, and spices dried with a machine (rather than in an oven or with the air-drying method) have a longer shelf life, also reducing waste of food and money. 

Easy and efficient
Drying spices requires little prep and dry time because the plant parts typically have less moisture compared to other produce. Not only are dehydrated spices easy to make, they are incredibly convenient to have on hand. Thanks to their concentrated flavor, dried spices are even more potent than dried herbs, meaning a little goes a long way. 

How to Make Your Own Spices

When harvesting your own plants for drying spices, make sure that seeds and fruits have reached maturity. It is also best to pick your plants on a dry day. Remove any debris or damaged parts. Make sure any cuttings (such as fruit or roots) are of equal size to ensure they will dry at the same rate. 

hot peppers fresh and dehydrated

Place smaller cuttings and seeds on silicon mats on the machine racks, taking care to space spices equally apart without overlapping to allow for efficient dehydration. Evenly slice larger fruits such as citrus and place slices directly on the racks. Make sure fruit is thoroughly dehydrated to prevent clumping when it is powdered in the spice mill. If a spice is not thoroughly dehydrated it will not keep as long and will spoil unless it is refrigerated

Storing Dried Spices

Once completely dry, remove spices from the dehydrator and allow them to cool, until room temperature. This will help prevent condensation and mold from forming during storage. Dried spices can last up to a year when stored whole in a cool, dry, and dark place. 

When dehydrated spices are ground, more surface area is exposed to oxygen, causing the spices to break down and lose their potency faster. Therefore we recommend storing your spices whole and grinding them right before you use them with a mortar and pestle or a grinder. If you are making your own pre-mixed seasoning blends, however, you will want to grind your herbs and spices first to ensure they are thoroughly combined. 

How to Dry Spices

Dried habanero peppers in a grinder in front of Sahara dehydrator and silicon mats

The best way to dry spices is by using the Sahara Dehydrator with silicone mats to prevent ingredients from falling through the dehydrator shelves. Explore our recommendations below for time and temperature for dehydrating a variety of different spices, but experiment with what you like best. And be sure to visit our recipe section for more ideas for cooking with your dehydrated spices and creating your own seasoning blends! 

Chopped raw, dehydrated garlic on a dehydrator rack and garlic powder

Garlic

  • Time: 8-12 hours
  • Temperature: 130 ºF / 54 ºC
Chopped raw and dehydrated ginger on a dehydrator rack

Ginger

A bowl of Habanero powder

Habanero Powder

lemon powder in a bowl, jar and a measuring spoon

Lemon Powder (sliced lemons)

  • Time: 10-12 hours
  • Temperature: 135 °F / 57 °C
dried portabella mushrooms and powder

Mushroom Powder

Chopped raw and dehydrated onions on a dehydrator rack

Onion

  • Time: 3-8 hours
  • Temperature: 135 ºF / 57 ºC
Dried mandarin oranges (sliced) and powder

Orange Powder (sliced oranges)

  • Time: 10-12 hours
  • Temperature: 135 ºF / 57 ºC
pickles, dehydrated pickles and pickle powder

Pickle Powder

Chopped raw and dehydrated scallions on a dehydrator rack

Scallion

  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Temperature:135 °F / 57 °C
Chopped raw, dehydrated turmeric and turmeric powder in a bowl

Turmeric

  • Time: 5-7 hours
  • Temperature:135 °F / 57 °C

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