Dehydrating123: How To Dehydrate Whole Meals and Leftovers

moussaka on the tray, dehydrating whole meals and leftovers

Drying your own food for the trail is a great way to save money, reduce weight of your backpack and enjoy quick, tasty and comforting meals throughout your adventure.

There are two ways to prepare dehydrated backpacking meals:

  • making the meal by assembling the dehydrated or freeze-dried ingredients
  • by cooking the entire meal first, then dehydrating it.

How to dehydrate whole meals and leftovers

To successfully dehydrate whole meals and leftovers you have to follow some rules:

  • Thoroughly cook your food before it’s placed in the dehydrator.
  • Always reheat leftovers before drying, to prevent the growth of bacteria.
  • Cut or shred your vegetables, fish and meats into smaller pieces. This ensures quicker drying and quicker rehydration when you’re at the campsite.
  • Place the food evenly on the dehydrator so it quickly dries the food out.
  • Allow the dehydrated food to cool down before you package it.
  • Divide and pack meals into single servings. For longer storage vacuum-seal the bags.
  • Label and date each bag.
  • Store dried food in a cool, dry, dark place, preferably in the freezer. It will last for several months to years, depending on the type of food and storage conditions.
  • Do not dry food that contains oils, fats and dairy products. It will likely become rancid quickly.

Rehydration basics

The general rule for food rehydration is to use equal parts water and dried food (1 cup of dried meal to 1 cup of water). You can always add more water later to get the consistency you want. How long it’ll take your food to rehydrate will depend on a number of factors:

  • The size of the piece of food. Smaller pieces of food and powders rehydrate almost instantly. Larger pieces may take from 30 minutes to several hours.
  • The type of food and whether it was fresh, cooked or canned before drying. Uncooked food takes longer to rehydrate than roasted, canned or blanched food.
  • The degree of dryness of the food. Food that was dehydrated until hard will take more time to rehydrate.
  • The temperature of liquid being used to rehydrate the food. You can use both cold and hot water for this process. However, rehydration with hot water and further cooking work best for the trail.

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  1. ganesh on September 9, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    how to dehydrade cooked food like sliced onion, powder?

    because dehydrator comes with container having holes, those containers have hole because it needs air circulation

  2. Yvonne on August 28, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Can zip lock freezer bags be used to keep food. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer? I want yup dehydrate jumblier, with shrimp sms sausage. Can this be done.

    • Tanya Krezevska on September 7, 2019 at 10:00 am

      Hi Yvonne! Sorry for delay. Yes, you can use zip-locks for storing dehydrated food. Just keep them in a freezer or in a dark, cool place.

  3. Mitch J on August 6, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    So dehydrating fried eggs that are chopped into smaller pieces isn’t recommend? I’m thing of packaging for kayak tripping and reheating

    • Tanya Krezevska on August 6, 2019 at 7:30 pm

      I’d not recommend to dehydrate eggs, even cooked. I’m personally use Ova Easy Egg Crystals for omelets and other dished required eggs. They are pretty good.

  4. HikerCook on April 23, 2019 at 5:45 am

    When packaging these, should one include a moisture/oxygen absprber!

    • Tanya Krezevska on April 23, 2019 at 10:55 am

      If you want to keep food for longer, yes, you have to pack it in vacuum-sealed bags with oxygen absorber. Know more in our online dehydrating class:

  5. Cheri on April 9, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Great summary, thanks!

  6. Lynn LaMotte on March 15, 2016 at 12:49 am

    ? good ideas for inexpensive trail and camping foods. Short storage time, not for long term. I need long term.

    • Tanya Krezevska on March 17, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks, Lynn! For longer shelf life vacuum-seal and freeze your meals.

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