How to Dry Chili Peppers

Drying your chili peppers is a great way to preserve them. Once dried they can be stored for months to years. Depends how fast you use them.

Drying Chili Peppers Overview

Chili peppers can be dried in a warm area, in an oven, in a food dehydrator, or hanging on string.  The real secret is that the thinner skinned peppers are better for drying. Read on for some drying tips and tricks.

Harvest

Harvest carefully, snipping peppers off the plant with sharp pruners or garden shears. With the super hot peppers, I wear protective gloves to avoid getting the oils on my skin.

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“Disposable” nitrile gloves can easily be reused at least 5 to 7 times. Just wash the gloves as if washing your hands. Peel them off so that they end up inside out. To re-don, just invert the cuff and blow gently into the glove to puff it back out for re-wear.

Clean

Before drying your peppers (or any harvested plant material), wash off dust and debris. A cool water rinse is good. You can pat them dry on a towel. Or if you live in the Southwest, spread them, single layer on a towel and wait 2 hours. Our low humidity ought to do the trick.

Dry Small Chilies

Use a cake/cookie cooling rack or paper grocery bag. I am told this is the simplest method best for small, thin-skinned red peppers like Pequin, Tabasco, Thai Peppers, and Firecracker Cayennes. I have used it for chilitepens.

Place the small whole chili peppers, single-layer, on a old window screen.  Put the screen up on blocks so they have air circulation all around. Place them in a very dry, warm area (a Southwestern garage might do).

Avoid direct sunlight for drying. Our Southwest sunlight photons are intense! Sunlight can discolor and even sunburn your tender peppers. Yes they had sunlight on the mama plant – but they had mama’s plant juices flowing to help protect them.

Be sure to rotate the peppers regularly and discard any that show signs of softness or spoilage. Within a 2 to 6 days, your peppers should get dry and brittle.

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This chili is certainly not dry and brittle yet – it needs to dry longer.

Dry Large Chili Peppers

Larger chili peppers with thicker skinned peppers (like jalapeños) have a greater chance of rotting before drying out. For these types of peppers, hang them (like on a ristra), use a dehydrator, or use your oven.

Hang Your Large Chili Peppers

You can hang your peppers horizontally or vertically. Hanging them horizontally allows the peppers to have more airflow.

You can either take a long thick darning needle and several strands of strong thread or embroidery floss. Where to poke the holes with your needle? I like through the stems! Try to keep a little space between each pepper for airflow. (And I wear my nitrile gloves for this part too – it reminds me to keep my fingers away from delicate tissues, like eyes.

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You can skip the needle altogether. Simply your thread, embroidery floss, or cooking twine around each stem. Then hang your string of peppers either horizontally or vertically.

Large Chilies in a Food Dehydrator

This is the quickest and easiest way to dry chili peppers is if you have a food dehydrator. If your chili are medium or large in size cut them length-wise and place them on the dehydrator’s tray with plenty of space around each piece for good airflow. Smaller peppers (like chili del arbol – in the cover photo) can be left whole to dry.

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Slice and remove seeds of larger chilis before drying.

If your dehydrator has a temperature setting, place it between 125 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit (or per your food dehydrator instructions).

Dehydrating time can take for 4 to 12 hours depending on the thickness of the peppers. Check 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. The peppers are done once they become dry and brittle. Store your dehydrated peppers in glass jars away from direct light to preserve the color.

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Dehydrators are a nice way to dry your chilis.

Drying Large Chili Peppers in the Oven

I do find this the most tedious method, but you can dry your peppers in the oven. The peppers may take several hours to fully dry, depending on the size and density of the flesh. Larger, thicker-skinned peppers will take longer to dry than smaller or thin-skinned chiles. It does work for the small ones as well.

Cut thicker your peppers lengthwise in half or quarters so the flesh is open and dries out faster. To allow moisture to escape, keep the oven door slightly open at least a couple of inches during the entire bake.

Place the peppers seed side in a single layer on a cookie sheet that has their tender flesh protected from the metal. Use several layers of parchment paper. I use paper grocery bags. I have bags marked “chili” and only use them for this. (Only do bags if you trust your oven thermostat!)

How Hot?

Dry your chili at 125 degrees F for several hours.  In the oven, check them every 30 minutes. Every hour, rotate and/or flip the peppers over for even drying. Keep a close eye on them and remove those that are well dried. Do your best to keep the peppers from burning.

If you find peppers getting soft, brown-to-black, or extremely hot on the side where they touch the pan, then they’re getting cooked rather than dried, and you’re trying to avoid this. Remove those peppers and use them soon.

Thanks for reading – Enjoy!
The Savor Team

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