Friday, March 4, 2022

Freeze Dry vs Dehydrated

Freeze dry vs dehydrated:  What's the difference and which is better?  Learn how freeze drying works and how dehydrating works plus the pros and cons of using each method for preserving food.  

Freeze Dry vs Dehydrated: Which is Better?

The last two years taught us that's important to be prepared.  I never thought I'd see the day when I couldn't go to a grocery store and find the food I wanted in America.

As a nation, and the entire world actually, we made sacrifices and did the best with what we could get.  However, there were a few scary weeks there when food was scarce.

For several weeks, my local stores were completely out of meat and several other foods.  There wasn't a single package to be found.

Thankfully, we've always kept our freezers and pantry full.  Although we did make some adjustments, we were pretty much able to continue as normal.

We've always canned our own food and preserved food in other ways.  But after that, we decided to invest in a Harvest Right freeze dryer.

It's a pretty big investment, but I'm so thankful that we have it.  My hubby wanted it for when SHTF, but I love it for the convenience of never running out of ingredients to cook with.

Since we got it, I noticed that's a lot of misinformation about freeze dry vs dehydrated.  I hear this both in person and online in my food preservation groups and from readers.

So we're going to dive deep into freeze dry or dehydrate and learn is freeze dried better than dehydrated.

Learn more about how to make specific foods in these posts:

Is Dehydrated the Same as Freeze Dried?

Freeze dried and dehydrated foods both have less water than they started with, but they are not the same.  

Freeze dried food has more water removed, so it lasts longer on the shelf.  It also changes the texture of foods slightly since there's less water.

Can You Freeze Dry With a Dehydrator?

No, you can not freeze dry food with a dehydrator. I see this question almost daily in my food preservation groups.  

Dehydrating is great, but dried food does not last nearly as long as freeze dried food.  A dehydrator is very different from a freeze dryer, and you can not use a dehydrator to freeze dry food.

Is Freeze Dried or Dehydrated Better?

So is freeze dried better than dehydrated?  That depends on what your goal is.  If you want long term storage of up to 25 years, then freeze drying is better.  

If you want to preserve dried food for a short time or just like the taste of dehydrated foods, then dehydrating is better.


Which Lasts Longer Freeze Dried or Dehydrated?

When stored properly in a mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, freeze dried food lasts up to 25 years.  Dehydrated food lasts from a few months to a year if stored properly.

Some say that dehydrated food can last up to 4 years if vacuum sealed.  

Dried food is a great way to stock your emergency food supply with lightweight and nutritious foods.  Learn how to store freeze dried food for long term storage.

Can You Freeze Dry Without a Machine?

Some say that you can use dry ice or build your own machine.  I'm not going through the effort only to find rotten food in 5 or 10 years when I need it.  

We invested in the Harvest Right freeze dryer to make sure we do it right.

Is Freeze Dried Healthy?

Yes, freeze dried food is healthy.  Freeze drying retains almost all of the nutrients.  You lose some nutrients by canning, so freeze drying beats canning for nutritional value.

As far as freeze dried vs dehydrated nutrition, dehydrated food retains about 60 percent of its nutritional value.  Freeze drying wins this round.

Can I Freeze Dry Meals?

Yes, you can absolutely freeze dry meals.  This was one of the advantages of buying the freeze dryer for me.  I can make soups, meats, and pretty much anything and freeze dry it to preserve it.

Canning, on the other hand, needs tested recipes.  I like being able to use my favorite recipes.

How Much Does a Freeze Dry Machine Cost?

The Harvest Right freeze dryer is the only machine available for home use. 

  • Harvest Right Small Freeze Dryer - about $2700
  • Harvest Right Medium Freeze Dryer - about $3200
  • Harvest Right Large Freeze Dryer - about $3800

We went with the medium, and I love it.  

How Does a Dehydrator Work?

There are several kinds of food dehydrators, but they primarily work the same way.  They have trays, a heating element, vents, and a fan to circulate the air.

As the heating element heats the air, the fan moves the warm air through the trays that hold the food.  The warm air removes some of the moisture from the food.  

You can also learn how to dehydrate in air fryer.

How Does  a Freeze Dryer Work?

Although freeze drying is more complicated, it's very easy to use the machine.  First, it freezes the food to -40 degrees F. 

Once the food is cold, a vacuum pump turns on.  This removes water through sublimation.  Liquid can't be stable in a vacuum, so this ensures that all of the water, or 99 percent of it anyway, is removed.  

The machine senses when the water is removed.  Then the trays warm up, and you're ready to store your food.  This can take 20 to 30 hours or more.

There's more to the process, but I'm not going to go into more detail for this post.  Maybe I will for a future post.  The important part is that a freezer dryer is very different from a dehydrator.

Freeze Dry vs Dehydrated Pros and Cons

Now let's look at the pros and cons of freeze dry or dehydrate.


This is a big one.  A good dehydrator will set you back anywhere from $100 to a few hundred dollars.  I have the Nesco dehydrator, which is less than $100.  I also have one from Aldi that was less than $50.  It's great for the price, but it doesn't have an adjustable thermostat.

A Harvest Right freeze dryer will set you back almost $3000 to $4000.  It does come with a set of trays, an impulse sealer, mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, and oil to get you started.


A dehydrator doesn't need a lot of accessories.  You might want to get some natural parchment paper for easy clean up.  

Other than that, you'll just need a vacuum sealer for longer storage or air tight containers for short term storage.  

Although the Harvest Right freeze dryer comes with a lot of stuff, you will want to get more stuff later.  We picked up an extra set of trays so we can have one load in the freezer prefreezing, more mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers.

We already had a vacuum sealer, but we picked up the mason jar attachment for short term storage in the kitchen.  

We also picked up some silicone sheets and a wide scoop to make it easier to bag the food without touching it.

I also recommend keeping a freeze drying log book to keep track of your batches and times.

Learn about more Harvest Right freeze dryer accessories for a full list.


Dehydrated food is chewier than freeze dried food.  Freeze dried food is dry and crunchy.  I prefer to eat dehydrated apple chips, but freeze dried apple chips are also yummy.  They are just different.

You'll notice the difference in freeze dried vs dried fruit the most I think.

Variety of Foods

You can dehydrate most fruits and vegetables and even jerky.  However, the freeze dryer wins this round hands down.  

I can freeze dry cheese, eggs, sauces, pasta, raw or cooked meats, candy, and pretty much anything.  I can make extra chili and freeze dry some for later.

You can not freeze dry honey or foods with a high fat content because the fat will go rancid in a few years.

Amount of Food

I can freeze dry up to 10 pounds in my medium freeze dryer.  That's more than the dehydrator, so I can preserve more food at once.  


Dehydrating food can take anywhere from 6 to 30 hours.  Even the same foods can take different times each time you dehydrate them because of water content and how thick the food is.   I like my dehydrator, but it makes it hard to plan because I want to turn it off before I go to bed.

The freeze dryer takes longer to complete a cycle.  Some foods take 18 hours; others take 35 hours or more.  However, I've noticed that the time is fairly consistent between batches, give or take an hour or so.

The freeze dryer will hold the food.  When it's done, you can take it out right away or let it sit for hours or even days.  Just press warm trays, wait a few minutes, and it's ready to bag.


The dehydrator makes almost no noise except for the low hum of the fan.  The freeze dryer is loud.  I've heard the premier pumps are quieter.

It's not deafening or a deal breaker, but know that there will be noise in the background while it's running.

If you can place it in an area that's away from the main living area that's still temperature controlled, then the noise shouldn't bother you.

Space Required

I use my dehydrator and then clean it and put it back in the box.  Then it goes back on the shelf in the basement until the next time I need it.

The freeze dryer, however, needs some space.  We had it in our kitchen, and it took up about 4 feet on the counters between the unit, the pump, and the accessories.  

Length of Storage

Dehydrated food lasts about 4 months to a year if properly stored.  There are many factors that influence how long it lasts, including moisture content, temperature, and light.  

Freeze dried food that's been stored in mylar with an oxygen absorber will last up to 25 years.  The myler blocks the light, but it should still be stored in a cool location.

Reconstituting Food

For the most part dehydrated food can't be reconstituted to use in cooking.  However, I can freeze dry fruit and add water to make it have almost the same texture and flavor.

I can freeze dry sour cream, yogurt, bone broth, and even complete meals.  Then I just need to add water to use them in recipes.

Sometimes the texture is off a little when reconstituting, but for the most part, freeze dried food rehydrates really well.

Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated Nutrition

Which is healthier freeze dried or dehydrated?  Dehydrated food retains about 60 percent of it's nutritional value.  Freeze dried food retains almost all of the nutritional value.

Freeze dried food also retains its color as long as it's not exposed to light.  

Which is Better: Freeze Dry or Dehydrate

Both freeze drying and dehydrating have their pros and cons.  For us, freeze drying gives us more freedom in what we can preserve and a much longer shelf life.  

Although we still have a large investment in it, knowing that I'll have food supplies for up to 25 years with food that has retained almost all of its nutritional value is worth it.  

I am saving money with my freeze dryer.  I buy food in bulk to save money.  Even with the extra cost of electricity from the dryer, I'm still coming out ahead.  

I also look for deals at the grocery store.  I can sometimes find fruit boxes of fruit that needs used soon for $5 for 30-40 pounds.  

I also love the convenience of having a variety of foods.  For example, I freeze dried my Instant Pot cold start yogurt because it's lactose free.  Now I can have yogurt any time or use it in recipes in place of sour cream.

I also freeze dried eggs so we never run out of eggs.  

We've had the freeze dryer for several months, and I still have a big back log of frozen food to freeze dry.  It runs almost constantly!

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