Storing Chili Peppers – How To Dry Hot Peppers
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Whether you planted hot, sweet or bell peppers, the end of season bumper crop is often more than you can use fresh or give away. Putting up or storing produce is a time honored tradition and one that encompasses many methods. Drying peppers is a good and easy method to store peppers for months. Let’s learn how to store peppers by drying in order to keep the delicious fruits well past the season.
How to Dry Hot Peppers
Peppers can be dried without any previous treatment, but they increase in flavor and are safer if you give them a quick blanch before you dry them. Dip them into boiling water for four minutes and then quickly chill the fruit in an ice bath. Dry them off and you can begin whatever drying process you chose.
You can also remove the skin if you wish, which will decrease the drying time. To remove the skins, the fruit is blanched for six minutes and chilled. The skin will peel right off.
You can also roast them over a flame until the skin curls and then peel the pepper. Use gloves when handling hot peppers to prevent transferring the oils to your skin.
It is no secret how to dry hot peppers, or even sweet ones, and there are several methods of drying. Use a dehydrator, mesh or wire racks, hang them, oven dry or just lay the peppers on the counter in very arid climates. You can cut the flesh into 1-inch (2.5 cm.) pieces and it will dry more quickly; then crush or grind the dried flesh.
Hot peppers have much of their heat in the seeds, so you need to decide whether to leave the seeds in the peppers or remove them. While the seeds are hot, it is actually the pith of the pepper that has the highest levels of capsicum, which produces the heat. Seeds are hot because they are in contact with this pithy membrane. The peppers are more palatable and easier to use if you remove the seed and ribs inside, but if you like extra heat, they can be left in.
Drying peppers whole is the fastest and simplest way. The process requires no preparation except washing the fruit. However, be aware that drying peppers whole takes longer than drying split fruits and must be done where it is very dry or they will mold or rot before they dry completely. To dry the peppers without cutting them, simply string them on some twine or thread and hang them up in a dry location. They will take several weeks to completely dry.
The seeds may also be dried separately and used as chili seeds that are ground or used whole.
Drying hot peppers intensifies their heat, so keep that in mind when using the preserved fruit.
Storing Chili Peppers
All your hard work will go to waste if you don’t know how to store peppers properly. They must not be stored in a humid area where there is moisture. The dry peppers will absorb that moisture and partially rehydrate which opens up the potential of mold. Use moisture barrier plastic when storing chili peppers. Keep them in a cool, dark place.
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How To Preserve Peppers Without Canning – 3 Great Methods Included
Each year, as our summer garden begins to wind down, we find ourselves searching for ways to preserve peppers without canning them.
And this year is no different. We have spent the last several weeks canning jalapeño and banana pepper rings, our famous Cowboy Candy peppers and even sweet pepper jam.
One of our favorite pepper plants – the Italian Roaster.
We have also used several of our bell and hot peppers in our Canned Pasta Sauce, Salsa and Picante recipes as well. And at this point in the garden season, we are out of canning jars and room to store them!
Although Jim built me a canning jar cabinet that holds over 196 pint jars, we still have filled mason jars overflowing into our pantry, kitchen shelves and even a new store-bought shelf.
And when I walked through the garden this morning, I laughed as I realized that we still have a ton of ripe peppers ready to be picked and preserved.
So now we are focused on how to these preserve peppers by freezing or drying them.
Storing Jalapenos Properly
Jalapenos are a great way to spice up any dish. Not to be confused with red, yellow, or green bell peppers, this hot pepper gets its heat from capsaicin, the ingredient that gives many chili peppers their kick. Jalapenos can be used in vegetarian and vegan dishes to add some fiery flavor.
However, before you start cooking up your jalapeno recipes, you need to know how to preserve jalapenos so they don’t go bad before you can use them all. Choose one or more of our recommendations depending on how you plan to use them later.
We recommend that you always wear gloves when handling jalapenos, as the juice and seeds from the hot peppers can irritate the skin.
The Best Way to Store Jalapenos for Quality
The most important thing to remember when storing jalapenos or any other veggies is that you need to store them at the right time. That means you have to ensure the peppers aren’t under or over-ripe. You don’t want any moldy or squishy peppers, as they do not taste fresh or crisp when you’re ready to use them.
If you have a bunch of jalapenos and are about to do some cooking and can’t use them all, the first step is sorting through which peppers you’re going to use. Choose ones that look perfectly ripe and fresh, with a smooth exterior.
Storing Jalapenos Short Term
One thing to think about before you settle on the right method for storing your jalapenos is when you intend to use them. Different storage methods require different preparation and last for varying amounts of time if you want them to taste good. Another question to answer is whether or not you care about the condition of the jalapenos.
For instance, if you know that you want to use whole peppers, whether it’s because that’s what your favorite recipes call for or simply because you prefer them that way, then your best option for preserving freshness and flavor is storing them short term.
If you’re wondering where to store fresh jalapenos for the short term, the first thing to do is put them in a plastic bag. For best results, use a plastic bag with a ziplock or other method for sealing.
How long do jalapenos last in the fridge? The peppers sealed in a zipper bag last for about a week in the refrigerator before they go bad. The most telling signs that a jalapeno pepper is going bad is wrinkled skin and a soft, mushy texture.
Another method for storing jalapenos short term is to use a paper bag. Place your freshly picked peppers in a plastic bag and put them in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Once refrigerated, they should keep for at least a week, and in some cases, stay fresh and ready to eat for up to two weeks.
If you have your own jalapeno plant, then it is best to wait to pick them until you’re ready to use them. This way, you can guarantee they won’t get overripe.
How to Store Jalapenos by Drying
If you want your peppers to last a long time, then drying them might be the best way to store jalapenos or store bell peppers, as well. There are a few options for doing so, but the easiest way is to hang whole jalapenos and let them dry. To do this, grab a needle and thread.
String the needle and push it through the jalapenos, just below the stem. Push the pepper to the end of the string and continue until you have as many jalapenos as you want or can fit. Let them hang in a dry area, like by a window in the kitchen, at room temperature.
It takes about three to four weeks for jalapenos to dry, and then they will be useful indefinitely. Leave them hanging as long as you wish, or you can store them in a dry location.
To speed up the process of drying your jalapenos or bell peppers, you can use a dehydrator. Place the peppers in your dehydrator and leave them overnight on soft heat.
In the morning, place the dried peppers in a jar and store them away from sunlight. Once dried, you can grind up your jalapenos using a spice grinder. Take the powder and store it in an airtight container for up to a year.
Freezing is another excellent way of storing jalapenos and preserving bell peppers to use in your favorite Mexican or other dishes. However, if you want to retain the peppers’ nutrients, there is an extra step involved before putting the peppers in the freezer. First, blanch the peppers.
Blanching jalapenos before freezing not only helps them retain their nutrients but also helps them keep their texture. Place the peppers in boiling water for three minutes and then put them into a bowl of ice water. Stir for about one minute.
Take the peppers out of the ice water. Put them into an airtight container and place them into the freezer, or, if you want to decrease volume, cut them up.
Removing the seeds and chopping, cutting, or dicing the peppers before freezing can save you time later and take up less space in your freezer. You can leave the jalapenos in your freezer for ten to 12 months, and while the defrosted peppers aren’t as crispy as they were before freezing, they are still great in stir-fries and other meals.
Can Jalapenos for the Long Term
Canning jalepenos is one of the most popular solutions for how to store jalapenos. The best way to do this is by pickling jalapenos. This method allows you to store your jalapenos at room temperature for extended periods and also results in a delicious garnish to use on nachos, hot dogs, fajitas, hamburgers, and more.
The process is similar to canning pickles, but the required ingredients vary slightly.
#2 How to Dry Peppers Using an Oven
This is probably the most classic method for drying peppers because it is the least time-consuming. Keep in mind, it is also the most energy-consuming method as your oven needs to be on for 8 hours. Here’s how to do it:
- Place the hot peppers side by side on a baking sheet, making sure they don’t overlap.
- Heat the oven to about 150˚F and place the tray with the peppers inside.
- Leave the oven door open about half an inch – you can use a wooden spoon to prop it open. This allows the moist air to escape from the oven.
- Keep an eye on them while they’re drying. If you see any dark spots lower the oven temperature!
- After about eight hours, the peppers will be completely dry. If they crackle when pressed and crumble easily, they’re done and you can take them out of the oven.
Using and Storing Hot Peppers
Hot peppers are full of water and decay or dry out rapidly. Don't wash them after picking, but brush any dirt off them. Store them immediately in the produce bin of your refrigerator. The University of California says they store best at temperatures between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. When stored this way, they should last for two or three weeks. Hot peppers have volatile oils that can burn your eyes and skin. Always wear rubber gloves when handling or cutting hot peppers.
Many chili peppers taste better roasted. Roasting "Anaheim" chilies, for example, gives them a sweet, smoky flavor that's delicious when added to salsas or used in recipes like enchiladas, green chili or stuffed chilies. To roast chilies, wash and dry them. Place them on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the skins blacken. Turn the chilies occasionally so all sides cook evenly.
You can also roast them on a hot grill. Once blackened, toss the peppers in a brown paper bag and seal the bag to steam the peppers. You can also put them in a large bowl and cover the bowl with a lid or dish cloth. Remove the peppers after about five minutes. Peel off the blackened portions and discard.
Ultimate Guide to Drying Hot Chile Peppers
Approximate Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Why Dry Hot Peppers?
The main reason to learn how to dry hot peppers is simply to enable you to keep them for a long time. Peppers can last for several days to a few weeks at room temperature or in the refrigerator before they start to rot. Freezing peppers, if done right, can make them last several months, but the thawing process can be a tricky one where often you’re left with overly soft and mushy chiles. Dried chiles can last from several months to a few years if stored properly.
Removing moisture from peppers will magnify and intensify the heat, flavor, and natural sugars it contains. Dehydrated chiles pack more fiery punch and ferocity in both solid food and hot sauce recipes than fresh peppers. Plus, if you grind or crush dried peppers, you can use it as an all-purpose flavoring and seasoning for any occasion.
Preparing Chile Peppers to Be Dried
Before you start drying peppers please take the following precautions:
If you’re drying peppers indoors, keep the area well-ventilated. Warmed peppers will give off pungent fumes that are irritating to the eyes. If you have a ceiling fan, use it or better yet, open your windows and bring in a portable fan or two to keep the air circulating and minimize the watery eyes and burned nasal passages. Take extra precautions around young children, pets, or anyone who is sensitive to spicy foods.
If possible, always wear gloves when handling hot peppers. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching hot peppers. Do not scratch your eyes, nose, face, or any other sensitive area of your body after handling.
Inspect each pepper before starting the drying process. Discard peppers if they have:
- Soft, mushy, or spoiled areas
- White, grayish, or diseased-looking spots
- Have a questionable or rotten odor
Wash the peppers with warm water and dry thoroughly with a cloth towel.
Remove the stems from your peppers. If you’re drying in them in your oven or food dehydrator you may wish to slice the peppers length-wise (this will allow them to dry faster). If you’re drying the peppers indoors you may want to keep them whole as it usually takes a few weeks to dry and not cutting them open helps prevent premature spoilage (but you may wish to experiment based on your regional humidity levels and temperature).
Drying in the Oven
You can dry peppers in any regular kitchen oven. It’s convenient that this method of drying can be done in just about any kitchen in the western world, but there is one big disadvantage it may take several hours to a few days for the peppers to fully dry, depending on the size. It can also heat up your kitchen considerably if you’re drying on warm spring or hot summer day.
Simply position the peppers on a pan or cookie sheet in a single layer and place it in the oven. Set the oven to its lowest temperature setting, which is usually labeled as “WARM”, or just below 150 degrees Fahrenheit (120° to 140° is desirable). To allow moisture to escape, keep the oven door slightly open at least a couple of inches (now you know why it can make your kitchen hot). Every hour, rotate and/or flip the peppers over for even drying.
If you find peppers getting soft, brown/black, or extremely hot on the side where they touch the pan, then they’re getting cooked you certainly don’t want this, as you’re just trying to dry these to use at a later date. To prevent this, try one of the following:
- Turn down the temperature slightly. Not all ovens are calibrated the same – some may be off by 10° or more from the “real” temperature.
- Flip the peppers over and move them around more often
- Open the oven door wider
As soon as they’re fully dry, remove from the oven and place in an air-tight container. Larger, thicker-skinned peppers will take longer to dry than smaller or thin-skinned chiles.
Drying in a Food Dehydrator
This is the quickest and easiest way to dry not just chile peppers, but just about any fruit or vegetable.
If you’re shopping for a food dehydrator online, I recommend the following things:
- Purchase a dehydrator with a motorized fan. Air that’s constantly circulating will dry your peppers faster.
- Don’t be afraid to spend a few extra bucks more to get the best. A cheap dehydrator will have a noisier motor, will take much, much longer to dry your foods, and will be more likely to break sooner. The price of a good dehydrator will start at around $60 US.
- Read online reviews to get a sense of what other people think works best for them.
What do I use? A Nesco American Harvest FD-61 Snackmaster Encore Dehydrator. It’s relatively inexpensive, has a powerful yet quiet motor (when it’s turned on in the kitchen, the dehydrator’s fan has the volume level of a microwave oven running), and dries food evenly no matter what rack it’s on. But like I said, do the research and find the right brand and model for you and your needs.
Once you have a dehydrator in your house or place of business and have it set up in a well-ventilated area, it’s time to dry your chiles. If the chiles are medium or large in size put them length-wise and place them on the dehydrator’s tray with plenty of space around each piece for good airflow. Smaller peppers (1 inch or less in length) can be left whole to dry.
If your dehydrator has a temperature setting, place it between 135 and 145 degrees. Let the chiles lay in the dehydrator for 8 to 12 hours, checking every so often to see if the smaller or thinner pieces have dried out. Larger pepper pieces may take a few additional hours to dehydrate.
You’ll notice that you’ll accumulate a lot of loose seeds on the bottom of your dehydrator. Be sure to save these either for replanting purposes or for using later in your dried chile recipes.
After complete, place your veggies in air-tight plastic bags or containers to prevent moisture from getting on them.
Drying Hot Peppers Indoors
This is the “easiest” method of drying peppers, yet probably the most time-consuming. Place whole or sliced chile peppers single-layer in a bowl, plate, or sheet and set them in a very dry, warm, and extremely well-ventilated area with loads of sunlight. Rotate the peppers regularly and discard any that show signs of softness or spoilage. If at all possible, place your bowl or sheet outdoors when the forecast calls for hot, sunny, and dry weather (this will speed up the drying process). Within one or two weeks, you should start seeing your beloved chiles get dry and brittle.
Drying Hot Peppers Outdoors
There are a couple of different methods for drying hot peppers outdoors. One, you can dry the aforementioned way of laying them out on a sheet and placing them outside when there’s a long string of hot and sunny days. Sun-drying can be very effective if the weather cooperates and if you’ve picked a spot where you can get maximum exposure to direct sunlight. If you’ve sliced the peppers, you may wish to place a screen over the sheet or bowl to provide protection from insects.
Another good way of drying chile peppers outdoors is to hang them from a string. Grab some whole peppers with the stems still on, take a long, sharp needle, and string them together with strong thread or fishing line through their stems.Unlike decorative ristas (which clump several hanging chiles together in a tighter space), you’ll need to leave plenty of room in between peppers for proper airflow. At one end of the string, tie a small stick or wooden dowel to prevent the peppers from sliding off. Hang up your strand of peppers securely in an area where they’ll get plenty of sunlight and fresh air.
It can take up to two weeks of drying time in good weather.
When They’re Dry
Properly dried peppers should be devoid of any signs of moisture or soft “fleshiness”. Fully dried peppers can still retain a bit of flexibility in their skin – you don’t have to dry them until they’re brown, crumbling, or hard as a rock. But when in doubt, the pepper should be uniformly dry, slightly brittle, and have a tough skin.
What to do with them you’re done? You can:
- Separate them by pepper type and store them in high-quality Ziploc-type plastic bags or plastic containers. This way you’ll always have a handy supply of dried peppers to use in sauces, soups, and other dishes.
- Crush them in a food processor, blender, or spice mill and create a chile pepper seasoning.
- Give them to family and friends as unique gifts so that they can spice up their own recipes.
- Plant the seeds for a new crop of chile pepper plants.
Drying Chili Peppers 101 (Poblano, Chipotle, etc.)
The chili pepper is one family of crop that just keeps on giving. Fresh from the garden, they’re fantastic in stir-frys and salsas. But give them a little time, and their flavors turn into something else entirely. Deeper. Earthier. Spicier. Sometimes even their names change. It’s practically a Norma-Jeane-to-Marilyn metamorphosis when an unassuming green poblano becomes a fiery red chili ancho. Hubba hubba!
We put some of our backyard poblanos straight to work in dishes from black beans to chile verde, but we decided to hold a few in reserve, let them mature, and see what happens. We’re already dreaming of a rich midwinter mole, but we’ll try not to get ahead of ourselves. (Bonus: In the throes of late summer, when the pepper harvest is coming fast and thick, drying a few of these babies can help with that "what to do with hot peppers" question.)
There are a few ways to dry chilies, and we’ll touch on several below, but we’re focusing on the hang-dry approach, as it doesn’t require any special gadgetry. The following methods should work for nearly any kind of pepper just keep in mind when hang drying that the larger your peppers and the greater number you’re aiming to dry, the heavier weight fishing line you’ll need.
And one big, flashing, neon-orange warning: If you’re dealing with peppers on the high end of the Scoville scale, for the love of Pete, please wear gloves. Maybe even goggles. These puppies are hot, and they only get more dangerous as they dry. Generally, the smaller the pepper, the more heat we’re talking. If you’re a daredevil who chooses to forgo the gloves, don’t forget to wash your hands once you’re done handling the peppers and, by all means, do not put your digits anywhere near your eyes.
HOW TO HANG DRY FRESH CHILIES
» Several fresh peppers, each with a couple of inches of stem intact
» A length of heavyweight fishing line (ideally 25 lbs or higher)
» 2 sticks (foraged from outside is fine)
Knot one end of your fishing line around one of your sticks (see photo at right). This will act as your anchor, keeping your chilies from sliding off the line. Then thread the other end of the line through the eye of your needle, just as you would if you were getting ready to sew. Using the needle, pierce your largest pepper through the widest part of its stem (see below). Pull the needle all the way through the stem and slide the pepper down to the end of the fishing line, until it hits your anchor.
Take your next largest pepper and repeat, piercing the stem and pulling the needle and line all the way through, then sliding the pepper down the line. Continue until you’ve strung all of your peppers, largest to smallest. Knot the end of the fishing line around another stick for stability and hang in a cool, dark, and relatively humidity-free spot. You don’t have to find a desert microclimate a pantry or cabinet will work fine too close to a steamy dishwasher or stove is less than ideal.
We’ve just strung the batch pictured up top, so timing is TBD, but we’re thinking we’ve got weeks to wait. In the case of poblanos, the peppers will be dry when they’re thoroughly brittle and have turned from forest green to red. We think we’ll be able to tell when they’re wrinkly enough. We’ll just envision Grandpa George.
PLAN B: HANGING THE WHOLE KIT AND KABOODLE
If space isn’t an issue, or if you’re really lazy, you can uproot the entire plant and hang it upside down in a cool, dark space. But if you have that much extra room, give us a call. We’ve got 25 boxes of books and a rusty bike we’re looking to store.
PLAN C: DEHYDRATING. IN A DEHYDRATOR.
Got a dehydrator? Well, aren’t you fancy? (Seriously, we’re only snide because we’re jealous.) To dry peppers in a dehydrator, you’ll want to remove the stems—you can compost them—and spread the peppers out in a single layer on the trays. To speed the process up, you can slice the peppers in half, but then you’ll need to remove the seeds. Place halved peppers sliced-side down, toward the heating element. If you can tweak the temperature, set it to 100F, then occupy yourself for a few days, checking the machine occasionally for doneness and for safety. Presto! Dried peppers. Check out HOMEGROWN member Cynthia's blog post for a few more tips on dehydrating—and rehydrating—peppers.
PLAN D: BEHOLD, THE OVEN
Similar deal as above. With larger peppers, you can place entire chilies directly on the oven racks. If you slice the peppers, put the slices on baking sheets that way the sheets will collect the seeds and you don’t have to spend time removing them or, worse, picking them off the floor of your oven. Set the oven to a low temp, 100 or 150, and, if you’ve got a conventional model, prop the door open slightly to allow air circulation. If you’ve got kids or pets, keep a close eye on the proceedings. If you’ve got a convection oven, you win! No need for door propping. Turn the peppers occasionally until they’re fully wrinkled. Again, you’re aiming for Grandpa George, but trust your own judgment. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
SO, YOU’VE GOT DRIED CHILIES. NOW WHAT?
Congratulations! You’re the proud creator of dried chilies! (Seriously, though: Keep your gloves on while you celebrate.) You’ve got a few options for using these babies. For one, you can finely crush the pods and mix them with the seeds to make your own chili pepper flakes—
great for jarring and giving as gifts. Just remember: Gloves, people. And keep those mitts away from your eyeballs.
Or leave them whole and store them in air-tight jars until you’re ready to rehydrate them. Once revivified, rehydrated chilies can be used just like fresh chilies but with the added bonus of all that extra mature, R-rated flavor. To rehydrate peppers, first dust them off—especially if they’ve been hanging in a less than sterile cranny all winter long.
Cut off the stems and tops and, using a sharp knife, slice the ribs out then empty the seeds. Place your chili in a warm skillet, no oil needed, and toast it. Your pan shouldn’t be hot enough to smoke or to burn your fingers. (Not that we recommend going around and poking hot pans: Be careful.) Flip your chili so that you toast both the outside and the inside. Then plunge the entire pepper into hot water and let it soak for 20 minutes. Take it out, pat it dry, and get to it, whatever it is: mole, tortilla soup, you name it. It will be delicious, thanks to you! (And to your gloves. Don’t forget your gloves.)
How do you use your dried chilis? And where do you hang them to dry? Come on, folks: We want family secrets! Post a comment below and spread the love. You might also be interested in the Freezing, Drying, and Storing Herbs 101 and the Homemade Tortillas 101, and you might give a thought to joining the Food Preservation group. For more things to cook, preserve, plant, grow, make, craft, and dry, visit the HOMEGROWN 101 library.
PHOTOS: (STRUNG PEPPERS, ANCHOR, NEEDLE) JENNIFER (FLAKES) KEVANDY , COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR
How to Dry Hot Peppers With a String
Whether you grow your own hot peppers or purchase them from the produce section, there are many different ways to prepare and preserve them. One of the easiest and fastest ways to do this for future use is to dry the hot peppers with a string. In only a few minutes, you can quickly string up your peppers and then leave them to dry in a sunny window.
Pick the hot peppers from your garden (or purchase).
Place the hot peppers into a colander and wash them in cool water. Spread them on the cooling rack to dry. Do not proceed until the peppers are completely dry.
Thread a needle with a 20-inch-long length of dental floss. Make sure to tie a knot in the end.
Insert the needle through a hot pepper (near the stem). Pass the hot pepper all the way along the dental floss until it stops at the knot at the end of the floss.
Tie a knot in the dental floss approximately ½-inch above the hot pepper. This will space the peppers along the dental floss and ensure that air circulates adequately around each pepper.
Repeat steps 4 and 5 to string all of the hot peppers onto the dental floss.
Remove the needle from the dental floss and tie a loop on the end of the dental floss.
Hang the hot peppers in a sunny window. If possible, simply hang the loop over an existing portion of the window latch. If nothing like this exists on your window, it may be necessary to install a small hook in the woodwork of the window to hang the hot peppers.
Leave the hot peppers drying in the sunny window until they are leathery and shriveled. This may take one to two weeks.
Remove the peppers from the string after they are dry. Store the peppers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to six months.