Freeze Dried Vs. Dehydrated: Is Freeze Drying the Same as Dehydrating?

August 05, 2022 5 min read

dry freeze and dehydrated fruits and vegetables

There's a lot of debate on whether freeze dried vs dehydrated food is the best for long term storage. Properly prepping an adequate cache of food for an emergency takes time and planning. You have to think about the number of people you want to feed, how many calories per day these people will require, the nutritional value of the food, the variety of the food on the menu, and so much more. But perhaps the most important thing to consider is shelf life, and how the food is preserved, whether from freeze drying or dehydrating makes a big difference.

Freeze dried vs dehydrated strawberries


Freeze Drying Vs Dehydrating: The Essentials

Both freeze drying and dehydrating are both methods of removing the moisture from food and increasing it's shelf life. Dehydrating uses warm temperatures and dry air movement to dry out foods, while freeze drying uses freezing temperatures and a vacuum chamber to remove moisture. Dehydrating can be easily done at home with relatively cheap equipment, while freeze drying requires more extensive and expensive equipment. The dehydration process changes the shape and texture of food as it dries, so the rehydrated food is often a different taste and texture from the original, while freeze drying tends to preserve more of the original food, so when it's rehydrated it's often almost indistinguishable from the original. Freeze drying also does a more complete job of removing the moisture from food with freeze drying removing around 98%-99% of the moisture, while dehydrating removes closer to 90%-95% of moisture.

Freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are by far the most reliable when it comes to shelf life. Both freeze-dried food and dehydrated foods last for up to 25 years! To go into a little more detail, we’ve explored the topic and written this article to help you decide what the best prepper food for you and your family might be. 


What is Dried Food?


difference between freeze dried and dehydrated foods


When discussing dried food, it’s not uncommon to hear freeze-dried and dehydrated be used interchangeably. The reason is that the end product from freeze drying and dehydrating seem similar. With both techniques, you get shelf-stable, nutritious food lasting 25 years, at least if it's prepared and stored properly. However, the process couldn't be more different.

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Dried food includes booths freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. If you boil it down, dried food just means that the water content of the food has been removed or drastically reduced. Therefore, all freeze-dried and dehydrated food is dried food, but not all dried food is dehydrated or freeze-dried.

So then, what makes freeze-drying and dehydrating food so unique? Well, let us get into the nuances.


Freeze Dried vs. Dehydrated Food

The differences between freeze-dried and dehydrated food become more apparent when you focus on four categories:

  1. Equipment
  2. Texture
  3. Nutrition
  4. Cost

Freeze-Dried Meat 6 Pack | USDA-Certified From Valley Food Storage

Freeze-Dried Meat 6 Pack | USDA-Certified

Averages 48 Servings Per Kit  This bucket contains a hearty selection of freeze-dried meats, including chicken, sausage, and beef. Freeze-dried protein is always difficult to find, so grab some while you can. ✔︎ Clean Ingredients✔︎ Non-GMO✔︎ Easy To Prepare✔︎ 25-year Shelf Life Nutritional Information

Equipment for Freeze Drying or Dehydrating

The process for freeze drying vs the process for dehydrating is very different. The equipment you need to freeze-dry food is relatively modern. Freeze dryers were initially created in the 1900s as a way to preserve blood plasma, medicines, and food.

When food is put in a freeze drier, it is subjected to frigid temperatures. Once the food is frozen, a vacuum is formed around the food by pumping out all the air. Then, the temperature is slowly raised so that the water in the food can sublimate. Sublimation is a chemical process whereby frozen liquid converts to vapor and evaporates without first transforming back into liquid. After the sublimation process, about 99% of the water content in the food is removed. 


Freeze dries fruit vs dehdrated


On the other hand, you technically only need heat and airflow to dehydrate food. In fact, humans have been dehydrating food via sun drying since antiquity.

However, nowadays food preppers more commonly use electronic dehydrating machines. Dehydrators rely on fans and hot temperatures to dry out foods. In other words, dehydrators push hot air over the food to dehydrate it. Dehydrators typically reach temperatures between 95 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit. When properly dehydrated, between 90%  and 95% of the water content in the food can be removed.

Typically, freeze-drying machines are much more expensive than dehydrators. Therefore, freeze-drying is usually a commercial process. However, dehydrators are much more affordable and are used a lot in home kitchens.


Texture in Dehydration vs Freeze Drying

We know that freeze-drying and dehydrating result in an end product that is almost entirely void of moisture. Knowing this, we might assume that the texture of the dried food would be similar.

You might think that freeze-dried fruits and freeze dried vegetables must indeed have the same texture as dehydrated ones, right? Well, actually, the textures produced in freeze drying vs dehydrating are very different.

Freeze-dried food is more porous than dehydrated food. They have an almost airy texture. A freeze-dried apple slice feels like it might crumble if you squeeze it between your fingers. If you devour freeze-dried food, it comes with a crunch. Whereas if you eat it more slowly, the moisture in your saliva rehydrates it making it almost melt away in your mouth. Freeze dried fruits especially are a joy to eat, like fruity, sweet chips.

On the other hand, dehydrated food is more brittle. The end product is substantially tougher than before it was put in the dehydrator. Dehydrated food typically shrinks throughout the process and comes out with a leathery texture.


Nutrition of Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated Foods


is freeze drying the same as dehydrating nutrition facts


Both freeze-dried and dehydrated foods maintain their nutritional content. Your body will still benefit from the valuable nutrients even after months (and years) of being stored away. This is why freeze-dried and dehydrated foods can be so helpful during grocery store food shortages when grocery stores become unreliable. Storing garden vegetables or foods in a cooler can also help in preserving foods. 

However, since freeze-drying removes more water, freeze-dried foods naturally have a longer shelf life than dehydrated food. However, you can (and we do!) use high-barrier packaging and oxygen absorbers to boost the shelf-life of dehydrated food, helping it to also reach that goal of a stable 25 year shelf life.


Cost of Freeze Drying vs Dehydrating

For the most part, freeze-dried food is more expensive than dehydrated food. This is because the freeze-drying process takes more time and is more meticulous. Freeze-drying food can take upwards of 40 hours for a single batch!

The equipment for freeze-drying food is also more expensive. For that reason, freeze-dried food is often a commercial endeavor. However, dehydrating food is much easier to do at home.

With that being said, a lot of bulk food storage is very cost-efficient.


The Final Word: Is Freeze Drying the Same as Dehydrating?

Freeze-drying and dehydrating food is not the same thing. The processes for each are very different despite rendering similar results. Depending on your food preparation style, one strategy may work better for you than the other. But with either food preparation technique, you’ll get nutritious and long-lasting food.

So to sum things up, have a look below.


Freeze-Dried Food

Dehydrated Food

Typically more expensive

Typically more affordable

Removes upwards of 99% of the water

Removes between 90 and 95% of the water

Higher volume

Less volume

Longer shelf life

Needs help to reach a longer shelf life

Harder to do at home

Easier to do at home.



At Valley Food Storage, we specialize in both freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. We are passionate about helping you prepare long-lasting and delicious emergency food just in case disaster strikes.


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate. You can speak with a Valley Food Storage expert and start your food prepping journey today.