Improve my dried veggies
February 16, 2017 8:48 AM   Subscribe

I love crunchy, dried vegetable snacks, like the dried green beans I buy from the grocery store and the baked peas that Trader Joe's sells. So I thought it would help me eat more green vegetables to buy a dehydrator. It's not going so well. Can you help?

The dried green beans that I get at the grocery store look like this. I looked up instructions online and blanched the beans first before dehydrating. I got a tiny pile of shriveled, unappealing beans that weren't worth the work that went into them.

So I have the following questions.
1) How can I make beans that are more like those that I buy at the store?
2) What other green vegetables can I make in my dehydrator that will turn out well? Kale and seaweed are on my to-do list.
3) Is it possible to replicate the Trader Joe's baked peas at home? They seem almost freeze dried.
posted by quiet coyote to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think the green beans are more fried than dried - if you look at the ingredients, there is oil (which you wouldn't use in a dehydrator). There's also the possibility of freeze-drying, like the freeze-dried strawberries, blueberries, bananas, etc.

Those Trader Joe's baked peas are a bunch of ingredients (peas, flour, etc) mixed up in a batter, and then put into molds and baked. They are definitely not dehydrated pea pods.
posted by Fig at 8:54 AM on February 16, 2017 [17 favorites]

Many of those types of snacks are freeze-dried, i.e. lyophilized. Lyophilizers, as many people who have worked in a biology lab can tell you, are finicky, expensive beasts that often require various coolants. Not worth trying it at home.

As Fig says, they also often contain oil. The Trader Joes green bean snacks contain 130 calories per ounce, while plain green beans contain just 9 calories per ounce, which means there's probably about 1 tablespoon of oil per 1-ounce serving!

I suggest that if you want to improve your home-made stuff, you should add oil. I've had very good luck baking green beans at very low temperatures (~150) for many hours. However, they're not even close to as shelf-stable as the commercial products.
posted by Cygnet at 9:11 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the baked peapod things are an industrial food, I doubt they can be made at home without a flash-fryer or something.
posted by rhizome at 9:20 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I love those Snapea (this is the brand name where I live in Canada) crisps but there is no way you will be able to replicate those in a home kitchen.

Have you considered making your own soy nuts? They're pretty easy to do; my husband makes them on the regular for snacking.
posted by Kitteh at 9:25 AM on February 16, 2017

Yeah, check the ingredients on the ones you really love. SnapPea Crisps, for example, are peas + oil + rice. The crunch comes from carbs, for the most part.

I think what you might actually want - and you should ask around your friends/coworkers to see if you can borrow/buy, and check thrift shops, before you pay full price - is an air fryer. It's still not going to make puffed rice/puffed wheat snacks, but I have had air-fried green beans and potato chips and they are...a crunchy vegetable that's pretty good if you salt the hell out of them (also use a little sesame oil).

I think kale does okay in the dehydrator. I feel like the time and effort involved in obtaining fresh seaweed in order to dry it (which just gets you dried seaweed, which is a component in nori sheets but there are other things in there for flavor, if you're hoping to put in fresh seaweed and take out roasted nori chips) may be significantly more extensive than ordering a 50-pack of nori and roasting it.

Things a dehydrator is great for: most fruit (but you're getting chewy leathery fruit, not the freeze-dried stuff with the extremely pleasant airy crispy mouthfeel), tomatoes (the sugars and umami compounds concentrate, and then you use them like "sun-dried"), components you then want to grind into powder for seasoning (peppers, onions, garlic, ginger, herbs (but you can dehydrate most herbs in the microwave with better results), pastes made of beans or sauces or pretty much anything). Jerky.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:26 AM on February 16, 2017 [7 favorites]

Those pea snacks from TJ's are made by making a mash of peas, and then pushing that mash through an extruder. I forget the cooking process, but after cooking they look bean shaped. So, they are not freeze dried green beans or anything like that.
posted by jbenben at 9:33 AM on February 16, 2017

I have not tried this but I have it bookmarked - a blogger's exploration of potato chip-like foods and dehydrating.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:01 AM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm with the other folks saying that the veggies you're probably trying to replicate are freeze dried.

Since you can't do that in your dehydrator, I want to turn you on to a particular brand: Just Tomatoes. It appears in the last couple years they've been bought by another company (Karen's Naturals...or maybe it's always been like that and they've just changed their branding) but I have no reason to think they're any different. It's literally just [the vegetable], freeze dried. I really dig the Just Corn. Their fruit is probably good, too, but I haven't tried any of it (I don't like fruit).
posted by phunniemee at 11:00 AM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Re. (3), the ingredients in those are "cornmeal, sunflower oil, air dried green garden peas, rice flour, sea salt, water." (Per Fooducate, which isn't always the world's most reliable site, but.) But, yeah, not without a factory.

(The Amazon reviews for the comparable "Snapea Crisps" are filled with unfortunate ideas like "They are a healthy substitute for chips," "Snap peas are a genuine green vegetable, so now I can feel rather virtuous eating them," etc. Nah, they're Pringles that use peas and rice instead of potatoes.)

You might look at "prepper" sites, which often have a lot of info about dehydrating, from people whose entire worlds seem to involve food storage (gun storage, fuel storage, gold storage, take your pick...) along with regular "how to get more use out of your food dehydrator" sites? They sometimes have some pretty interesting info on food preservation methods. (Obvious disclaimer: make sure what you are doing is safe when it comes to any blog recipes. I had some non-cheap commercially processed dried mushrooms grow mould in a pretty short time; that was a bummer. Do check around for silica packets if you want to keep dry stuff dry for any extended period.)
posted by kmennie at 11:38 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Try garbanzo beans
posted by bq at 2:57 PM on February 16, 2017

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