If there’s one thing I’ve learned as the Chef of a camping food company, it’s that once you experience the convenience of using dried ingredients in home-cooking, there is no going back!
Need some onion? Tomatoes? Jalapenos to kick up the heat? Grab your jar of dehydrated jalapenos and simply toss a spoonful into your dish! Storing dehydrated vegetables routinely in your pantry means one less item you have to run to the grocery store for at the last minute when you find you’re out; or one more boost of flavor you can easily add to a dish that seems a wee bit lackluster.
Intrigued? Let’s take it a bit further with freeze-dried meats — sausage, chicken, ground beef — all of which look, taste and retain the texture of their previously fresh selves. If you’re cooking a single portion dish requiring just a bit of ground beef, there’s no need to break out a whole package of fresh ground beef, when you can simply grab a handful of freeze-dried ground beef crumbles and toss them directly in your marinara sauce – no pre-pan-frying required! Freeze-dried ground beef offers the same taste, texture and nutrition as fresh ground beef, but with none of the work spent preparing it.
Once you’ve discovered a comfort level working with dried vegetables and meats, you can graduate to powdered milk, eggs (that are truly 100% eggs and are fantastic scrambled!), butter, and even Vermont-sourced powdered maple syrup!
The benefit of using dried ingredients in your recipes — whether at home, in your RV/van or at camp — is that your ingredients (fruit, veggies, meat, etc) are shelf stable — meaning they . . .
- require no refrigeration
- take up minimal space
- have an extended shelf-life (18+ months rather than a few weeks)
I typically recommend storing freeze-dried ingredients in the Food Storage Bags they’re sold in or in an opaque airtight container, since they are considerably more light and moisture sensitive than their dehydrated counterparts. Dehydrated ingredients keep well-enough in zip-sealed Food Storage Bags, but if you’ll be incorporating them into your cooking on a regular basis, at-home storage containers work best! With either freeze-dried or dehydrated, the use of a desiccant is highly recommended to remove moisture or oxygen from the storage container; thereby keeping your ingredients as fresh as possible. Here’s an example of my own at-home collection of dehydrated ingredients in sealed glass mason jars — each partnered with a clay desiccant.
Because freeze-dried & dehydrated ingredients are sensitive to light, oxygen, temperature and moisture, I highly recommend reading How To Store Freeze-Dried & Dehydrated Food for tips on how to get the longest shelf-life out of these specialty ingredients.
USING DRIED VS REHYDRATED INGREDIENTS
The main thing to remember about both dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients is that they are dry and they need moisture to soften and return to their ‘fresh’ state. Although some dehydrated ingredients spring back to life relatively instantly (think minced garlic, minced onion, bell peppers) others take a little more time to absorb moisture thoroughly, like: dehydrated corn, peas and whole beans.
When to use a dry ingredient — If you are adding a freeze-dried or dehydrated ingredient into a dish that already contains or will incorporate moisture (a sauce, gravy, biscuit dough mix, etc), you do not need to rehydrate the ingredient before using it. Simply toss the dried ingredient directly into the recipe, and the moisture that exists (or will exist in the case of biscuit dough) in the recipe will take care of rehydrating it for you!
When to use a rehydrated ingredient — If you are preparing a freeze-dried or dehydrated ingredient to eat on its own, using it as a topping, or adding it to a “sauté ” mix, it’s best to use the rehydration ratio provided on the package to soften the ingredient prior to using it; for example: ¼ cup of FD Sausage Crumbles to 2 Tablespoons of water. This is especially true for powders that are intended for use as a liquid (ex: milk, eggs, etc).
Here’s some of our favorite dried and powdered ingredients with tips on how to incorporate them into your at-home recipes!
Cooking with dehydrated and freeze-dried vegetables is easy peasy — and will become second-nature in no time! Simply follow the rules above on whether they should be rehydrated prior to using, or tossed in dry, then add them to anything that needs a veggie boost!
While some dehydrated ingredients can require up to 15 minutes to rehydrate, freeze-dried ingredients soften almost immediately, so to avoid “over cooking” I recommend adding them to a recipe closer to the end of cooking. Either way, don’t overthink it – experimentation is key — simply toss ‘em in — you can’t go wrong!
*For more information on the differences between freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients, view our blog post Freeze-Dried & Dehydrated Explained.
TOMATO POWDER: This powder results in a deep, rich, roasted-tomato flavor that we can’t recommend enough! Blend it with a little bit of water to create a tomato paste, or a little more water to create the consistency of a tomato sauce. The result is fantastic as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, tomato gravy or added to any recipe that requires a rich tomato component.
MEAT, STOCKS & BROTHS
Pre-seasoned breakfast sausage crumbles are perfect for tossing into scrambled eggs (or OvaEasy Egg Crystals) or a breakfast sausage gravy (great on biscuits or pancakes), grits or polenta. Once rehydrated, they make a great pizza topping!
Toss this diced chicken into any soup and you won’t be able to tell the difference from fresh meat! Add a bit of water, a dollop of mayonnaise and a handful of your favorite dehydrated or freeze-dried veggies to create a fantastic chicken salad!
These diced pieces of roast beef are fantastic in a beef stew or stroganoff; or simply seasoned and eaten on their own as a meat portion, or in a sandwich!
Great in any recipe that calls for ground beef— chili, pasta sauce, tacos, sloppy joes or meat pies! The beef remains in a crumbled state, even when rehydrated, so unfortunately it cannot be formed into burger patties.
Turkey | Chicken | Beef
The beauty of working with a stock powder is that you have full control over how much to add, and therefore how strong your stock will be. These have no seasonings added and deliver a rich, roasted flavor — a great base for any dish!
Turkey | Chicken | Beef | Vegetable
Convenient and individually packaged, simply blend each stick with one cup of warm water to create a classic full-flavored sipping broth, or add directly to a simmering pot of soup!
Cheddar, Mozzarella & Monterey Jack Cheese: Add freeze-dried cheese into a biscuit or cornbread mix (cheddar works great for this), or blend it into creamy hot dishes such as mashed potatoes, polenta or grits! Since these dishes contain moisture, there’s no need to rehydrate the cheese in advance — just toss it in!
If using FD cheese as a topping on tacos, pizza, burrito bowls, etc., then rehydrating the cheese with a little water is highly recommended so that its texture is softened before adding it to your dish.
EGG, DAIRY & MAPLE SYRUP POWDERS
When substituting a powdered ingredient for a fresh ingredient in a recipe (milk, butter, etc), it’s best to rehydrate that ingredient first by adding water to the powder (exact ratios are on the packaging). This is because the recipe is likely depending on the moisture of the traditional ingredient for success.
Add the dry milk powder into your morning coffee, or rehydrate it and use it in a bowl of granola; or in any recipe calling for milk (cakes mixes, biscuits mixes, etc). Options include Milkman Low Fat Milk or Nature’s First Full Cream Milks.
Simply add water to the powder (made of 100% real eggs) to make scrambled eggs, or to replace eggs in recipes such as pancakes, biscuits, cakes, etc. Options include OvaEasy Egg Crystals or Sonstegard Egg Mix
Once rehydrated with water, butter powder regains the creamy texture of “real” softened butter allowing you to spread it on bread, “melt” in a sauté pan or add it to a recipe! The flavor is not exactly the same as fresh butter, but we find it to be similarly delicious!
Whether you’re blending this into a cake mix, adding a dollop to Mexican cuisine or a baked potato, this reconstitutes to a creamy sour cream. Although the flavor and texture is not exactly the same as fresh sour cream, it’s a delicious substitute!
Sprinkled on dry, or rehydrated to a rich and creamy texture, this Parmesan Cheese Powder works great as an extra topping for your freshly baked pizza, and added to dishes such as risotto and alfredo sauce!
Our Organic Maple Syrup Powder is sourced from Vermont and tastes divine! Blend the powder with warm water and watch it melt into a caramel-colored syrup — perfect when drizzled over pancakes & waffles or substituted for a sweetener in any of your favorite recipes!
Not sure where to start? Check out Chef Debbie’s Go-To Grocery Items to see which ingredients are a staple in her camp kitchen!