Habanero peppers may be a little too hot to eat when whole and fresh, but when dried they are an excellent addition to a wide variety of recipes, adding some much needed spice and flavor.
But how exactly do you dry habanero peppers, especially if you do not currently own a dehydrator? While it’s true that a dehydrator can be an excellent choice when drying habanero peppers, there are actually a few other methods that work just as well.
In this article we will discuss a couple of these strategies for drying habanero peppers, showing you the materials you will need to complete each process and providing step by step instructions that are very easy to follow.
Drying Habanero Peppers in the Oven
Drying habanero peppers are a great way to preserve them. These peppers, which can be grown in most climates in the United States, make for a great crop in your garden and are a wonderful way to spice up an abundance of scrumptious dishes.
One great way to dry out your habanero peppers is to use your oven as the central vehicle in the drying process. This is probably not the best strategy during the summer, as this technique involves leaving the oven on for quite a few hours, or in some cases even a full day or more to achieve the level of dryness you need.
To help you get started, below we have compiled a step-by-step format for drying habanero peppers in the oven.
What You Will Need
To dry habanero peppers in the oven, you will need all of the following:
- Several whole habanero peppers
- An oven
- Paper Towels (or clean dish towels)
- A shallow baking sheet
- Tongs (for turning the peppers)
- An airtight container with lid
Step One: Preheat the Oven
The first step in this process is to preheat the oven. In doing so, we recommend you turn your oven on to the lowest possible setting—200 degrees or less on most ovens. Drying habanero peppers is not a fast process, and the low heat allows them to dry all the way through without actually cooking the peppers.
Step Two: Wash the Peppers
A clean habanero pepper is a happy habanero pepper. Place the peppers into a colander and run cold water over them, making sure each pepper is getting washed. Once you are finished washing the peppers, place them on a paper towel or clean dish towel and gently cover them with another dish towel or paper towel. Give ample time for the peppers to dry completely. Be sure to wash your hands, too—both before and after washing the peppers. You do not want to touch your eyes or your face after handling these very hot peppers.
Step Three: Slice the Peppers
The best way to dry habanero peppers is to slice them before placing them into the oven. This will allow the entire pepper to dry, rather than just the outside portion. When slicing the peppers, you will cut lengthwise—never across. Cut from the stem to the tip of the pepper.
Step Four: Arrange the Peppers
With the habanero peppers now cut lengthwise, it’s time to arrange them on the shallow baking sheet. We recommend you arrange them in rows with the cut side of the pepper down on the baking sheet. Be sure to leave about a half-inch to an inch between each pepper. This will make them easier to access during the drying process.
Step Five: Cook the Peppers
With the peppers now arranged on the baking sheet, and the oven warmed up to the lowest setting, slide the baking sheet into the oven. Here we recommend you leave the door of the oven cracked about one or two inches. This will allow the peppers to receive extra air flow while still being heated and dried.
You are going to want to flip and rotate the peppers every so often. This will ensure that each pepper is being heated and dried evenly and uniformly. For best results, be sure to flip and rearrange the peppers about every hour during the drying process. Towards the end of this process you can do this less frequently, perhaps every 90 minutes or so.
The total time to dry the habanero peppers will depend on a number of factors. These include the size of the habanero peppers you are drying, the number of peppers and, of course, your oven. Generally speaking, habanero peppers will need anywhere from a few hours to 24 hours to completely dry. When they are completely dried out, you should not be able to see any moisture on the pan or within the pepper itself.
Step Six: Store the Peppers
After your habanero peppers have had sufficient time to dry in the oven, you can remove the cookie sheet and allow the peppers to cool for about 15 minutes. Once cooled, you will need to place them into the airtight container or containers you have assembled for this job. Store the habanero peppers at room temperature and away from direct light of any kind. A kitchen cupboard or pantry works well for this purpose.
Congratulations! You now have oven-dried habanero peppers that you can use to spice up and give flavor to a variety of delicious dishes and recipes.
Hanging Habanero Peppers to Dry
As you can see from our last example, drying habanero peppers in the oven is not the most complicated task in the world—not even close. However, it can be fairly labor intensive, as you have to constantly flip and rearrange the peppers to ensure they are drying evenly and uniformly.
Drying habanero peppers in the oven can also be a very “hot” task, making your kitchen and even the entire house very warm and toasty because you have to leave the oven open a crack to ensure proper air flow. As such, this is not a recommended drying technique during the hot summer months that call for cooling rather than heat.
One habanero pepper drying technique that is recommended during the summer months is hanging them to dry. This is a strategy that involves less effort from you, but much more time to dry. It is also very cost effective, because you will not have to use any appliances to complete this task.
If you have every walked by a traditional Mexican restaurant you may have seen strings of dried or drying habanero peppers. It almost looks like a decoration of sorts, but it is actually a very effective way to dry peppers before using them in soups and other recipes.
To help you learn this simple technique, below we have provided an easy to follow guide:
What You Will Need
Here is what you will need when hanging your habanero peppers to dry:
- A supply of whole habanero peppers
- Paper Towels (or clean dish towels)
- Plenty of garden twine or string
- Airtight container with lid
Step One: Wash and Dry the Peppers
Just as you did in the technique above, the first step to dry habanero peppers in this way is to wash them thoroughly. Place the peppers into a colander and carefully wash them using cold water. Be sure to handle the peppers gingerly, being sure to keep the whole habanero peppers intact. This includes the stems, which will be vital later in the hanging step. After washing, use clean paper towels or dish towels to dry both sides of the peppers, and allow them to sit and air dry for about 15 minutes.
Step Two: String the Peppers
Using the garden twine or string you have on hand, you will now carefully string the habanero peppers you intend to later hang. Tie the string or twine to the stem of each pepper. Be sure to space the peppers out evenly—about two to three inches apart. This will allow for maximum air flow around the peppers. You can make one long string of peppers or several shorter strings depending on the amount of space you have to hang them.
Step Three: Hang the Peppers
When hanging the peppers, you want to be sure they can hang freely. This means they should not be touching any surfaces like walls or windows. It is imperative that they receive airflow from all sides. The best case scenario is to hang the habanero peppers in a warm and well-ventilated area, ideally somewhere in which they will receive sunlight. Outdoor patios are great for this purpose, assuming there is no chance of rain or precipitation. If you do not have an appropriate outdoor hanging spot, a well-ventilated inside spot can work just as well.
Step Four: Drying the Peppers
This section—“drying the peppers”—could also appropriately be entitled “Wait,” because in essence that is all that is left for you to do. Just how long the habanero peppers will take to dry using this technique depends on a lot of variables, including the size of the peppers, the temperature, etc. In most cases you can expect the habanero peppers to be dried within a few weeks of first hanging them. Whatever you do, try not to rush this process, as the results will be less than stellar. It is better to err on the side of the caution; because once the peppers are dry it is not as if they can “over-dry.” So give it a few weeks when hanging your peppers—and then wait one more week just to be sure.
Step Five: Store Your Peppers
Once the peppers have been completely dried, you can store them in an airtight container at room temperature, preferably in a place that receives no direct light.
Whether you decide to dry your habanero peppers in an oven or hang them out to dry for a longer period of time, you can be sure that both of these techniques will allow you to enjoy their spicy, zesty and flavorful taste throughout the year.