Please Don’t Let Me Eat the Same Dehydrated Meal for Months

Excuse me, I hate to be a bother, but this food is a bit dry…

Now that I am done procrastinating on figuring out the really important parts of planning my thru-hike (you know, like figuring out insurance and how I will actually be getting to the trailhead to start this adventure), I can spend all of my remaining free time on my new favorite pastime – seeing what foods can be dehydrated! (read: I WANT TO DRY OUT ALL OF THE THINGS). Ok – full disclosure, I may have started messing around with my dehydrator before I had finished the important things on my planning list, but who doesn’t want to take a few bites of dessert before dinner sometimes? Sue me. And I do now have insurance and travel plans down to Georgia, so we are doing fine, friends.

Anyways, I have thoroughly enjoyed feeling like a mad scientist in my own kitchen. I was so excited when I started out that I essentially just cut up some stuff and threw it into the dehydrator haphazardly at varying temperatures for various amounts of time. From there, I reigned in the chaos a bit and decided to try my best to be a bit more scientific about the whole process. And now I am happy to share with you the results of my experiments thus far.

The Low Hanging Fruit

Obviously, the gateway into the world of dehydration is dried fruit. Low stakes, difficult to mess up, and very delicious. Downside? What takes 1 hour to cut and 8+ hours to dry out takes only about 10 minutes to eat when you have no self-control and an insatiable love of dried fruit. To say that I was disappointed by the fruit of my labor (pun intended) when I dehydrated a pound of strawberries just to have them essentially fit in one hand would be an understatement. Added salt in the wound from my brother remarking, “It’s almost like they get smaller when you take all the water out of them”. Wow, thanks, man. 

This is a definitive ranking of the fruits I have dried out so far, ranked from most delicious to most underwhelming:

  • Mango – dehydrated for 8 hours at 145 degrees
  • Pineapple – dehydrated for 18 hours at 145 degrees
  • Strawberries – dehydrated for 8 hours at 145 degrees
  • Apples – dehydrated for 6 hours at 145 degrees
  • Pears – I honestly couldn’t tell you because this is the first thing I tried, and I just threw ‘em in. That might contribute to why they are ranked so low… but who’s to say?

Despite the high work to reward ratio (let’s say 😭😭😭:😊), I am going to continue to dry out fruits because it is by far my favorite snack. I know future Dema will be appreciative, as long as I don’t eat everything I make before I leave.

Re-hydrate or Die-drate

Unfortunately, I can’t survive on dried fruit and dried fruit alone. So after getting warmed up with the dried fruit, I decided it was time to enter the big leagues – full on dehydrated meals. I decided to start by trying to think of which of my favorite recipes could be dehydrated. The concept here was that it would give me a taste of home if I had dehydrated versions of some of my favorite, go-to comfort meals. I started by testing out two of my favorite recipes, and I had… mixed results.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant


  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Medium Eggplants
  • Black Beans
  • Onion
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Coriander
  • Paprika

This is a recipe that I adopted from a binge of Queer Eye (thank you, Season 5 – Episode 5)! I love making this at home because it is relatively easy and the leftovers are just as good as the original thing. I figure on the trail I could pair this with some instant rice, and it will be absolutely glorious. The original recipe doesn’t include beans, but I always like to throw in chickpeas because I like how they balance out the mushy texture of the dish. In this instance, I didn’t have chickpeas on hand, so I tried black beans instead. (One thing to know about me is that I am a serial substituter, so this is just par for the course). 

I cooked the dish like I usually would, and then I immediately put it in the dehydrator tray without letting it cool first. I had no idea what temperature or time to try this at. The little packet that came with the dehydrator said to dry soft vegetables at 115 degrees, so I tried to dehydrate at 115 degrees for 8 hours. It definitely did not dry out in that time or at that temperature. I then raised the temperature to 145 degrees for another 2 hours. It still wasn’t fully dried so I ended up raising the temperature to 165 degrees and let it dehydrate for 10 hours. 

I rehydrated this for dinner about a month later. I added 1 cup of boiling water to about 1 cup of dried eggplant dish. I then covered it for about 15 minutes, uncovering one or two times to stir. End result was that 1 cup of water was probably a bit too much water. I think it would have been better with rice, but eating it alone, it was a bit too soupy for my liking. It was entirely still edible though, and the texture wasn’t too bad. The skin of the eggplant was a little bit chewy occasionally, but all in all, I would make it again.

White Chicken Chili


  • Can of Garbanzo Beans
  • Can of Great Northern Beans
  • 1 lb of Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Corn Kernels
  • Onion
  • Jalapeno
  • Garlic Clove
  • Heavy Cream
  • Olive Oil
  • Chili Powder
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne

This is a recipe I found randomly on the internet years ago, but I default to it in the winter. I prefer a white chili to a traditional chili, so I am never not in the mood for this meal. It is even easier to make than the eggplant dish because pretty much everything just cooks together in one big pot after browning the onions/jalapeno/chicken. I actually followed the full recipe for this one (I made a list of ingredients and went to the grocery store before making this attempt – what a concept) so no deviations to note.

I also cooked this meal as I usually would; however, this time I let the chili cool in the dehyrdating trays before throwing them in the dehydrator. I let it sit for about 15 minutes, and then I put it in the dehydrator for 9 hours at 165 degrees. It still seemed to have a little bit of moisture in it after the 9 hours, so I left it for an additional hour.

I rehydrated this for dinner about a month later as well and tried it out at the same time as the eggplant dish. I added 1 cup of boiling water to 1 cup of the dried chili, and I covered it for 5 minutes. It was (obviously) not rehydrated after that time, so I kept it covered for another 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the little chicken chunks never really rehydrated as much as I would have liked them to. Because I was in civilization, I decided to try to heat it up on the stove top to see if I could get it to a more palatable texture. However, even that didn’t really help much. The flavor was fine, but I can’t say that chewy chicken is my favorite. I would try this again with shredded chicken because I suspect that might rehydrate a bit better, but I would not be in a rush to have those chicken chunks again. 

Send Help!

I would love to hear any suggestions or recommendations for favorite snacks or meals that dry well. I am trying to test as many different options as I can before I leave. You know what they say… variety is important. I would love to eat more than just one thing for these 6 months. Please save me from myself. If I don’t come up with some feasible options, I do not trust myself to not just eat ramen noodles every day I am on the trail.

Please drop any favorites in the comments! Or any tips you have on dehydrating meals with meat that are still edible on the other side.

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Comments 8

  • Stephen : Mar 9th

    My wife and I have done a fair bit of dehydrating, so I hope we can provide you with some tips. Try your white chicken chili again but with ground chicken. Ground meats just seem to work better. We like “Thanksgiving on the trail”, which is ground turkey cooked with sage, thyme, and rosemary and then dehydrated. We package it up with instant mashed potatoes and/or stuffing and some dried cranberries. Ground turkey or chicken also work for meat for burritos. Cook up your meat with your preferred taco seasoning and then dehydrate. At the same time dehydrate refried beans. Package those together for trailside burritos, or eat out of the bag. Don’t forget the hot sauce! A red sauce for spaghetti is also good, but we’ve struggled with getting pasta to rehydrate. Instant mac-n-cheese (the kind you buy in microwavable cups) rehydrates really well, and you can add dehydrated veggies and/or a meat when packaging. Black beans and quinoa work well. Lentils rehydrate well, too. Couscous cooks up in a minute (literally) and you can add seasonings and dehydrated veggies to it.

    When dehydrating beef, turkey, or chicken we rinse the grease off in hot water after cooking it but before adding the seasonings and putting it on the dehydrator. It’s supposed to make it dehydrate faster and keep longer (although ours stay in the freezer until we go out on the trail). Not sure if it’s 100% necessary, but it works for us.

    Hope that helps, and let use know if you have any questions. Good luck!

  • Gail : Mar 9th

    In addition to what Stephen said about the ground meats add bread crumbs to the meat before cooking…rinse….dry. the bread crumbs help with the rehydration. Also my rule of thumb is add just enough water to cover your food. You can always add more if you need. Also Pinterest is full of dehydrated backpacking/camping recipes. When I started the trail I made up pre-packaged meals. There was more food than I could eat. It’s easier doing a bulk bag of each receipt and use what you need. Rehydrated food is heavy to pack out.

  • Terri Fantasia : Mar 10th

    Backcountry Foodie is a good source for recipes. Also, Mother Earth Products sells dehydrated foods.

  • Jon Morris : Mar 10th

    I prefer home dehydrated options to store bought freeze dried meals.
    In addition to the great advice above, I suggest you dehydrate or package staple items like shallots, spices, pinto beans, green beans and then mix them in various ways on the trail. This will give you much greater control over your variety of meals. It’s like cooking in your kitchen with dehydrated ingredients.

  • .com : Mar 10th

    I dehydrated all my own meals for my AT hike…look at freezerbag cooking for recipes, or Backpacking Chef, he is great. I dehydrate almost everything…when cooked I then used an immersion blender to chunk the food…keeping uniform sizes helps to dehydrate better. For recipes with chicken I grill the chicken then shred before adding to the pot…when done I use immersion blender Tom hunk it all.
    Good luck & happy trails!

  • Rob : Mar 25th

    Hi Dema! I’m so excited for you and wish you all the best. I’ve section hiked a lot of the California sections of the PCT, and hiked the JMT and done one to two weeks in the Sierra Nevadas, but never embarked on a full thru hike of one of the big three. I look forward to following your progress. It’ll be tough at times but I’m confident that, baring injury, you can make it! It will be a wonderful life accomplishment! BTW, I love making dehydrated soups and chili, and tomato sauce leather works very well.

  • Harry Hardy : Mar 30th

    Enjoy your time on The Trail, Dema. Post when you can or have CJ pass along your adventures.

  • Sue S : Apr 3rd

    Wishing you a grand adventure! I know an RN I used to work with who finished this trail a few months back. He shared so many pics and I was amazed at all he got to experience. I’m so excited for you! You’ll see so much that so few of us will ever see and make some great friends along the way. I know how much your parents are a support for you and will meet you anywhere any time, if needed. Best of luck!


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