Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated foods

What is the difference between freeze dried and dehydrated foods?

Awesome question!  Before I seriously started working on our “home store,”  I had no clue there was a difference!  But it turns out that there are a lot of differences and those differences turned out to be incredibly important to my family.  In fact, many of the problems I had with “food storage” were solved when I discovered freeze dried foods.  Suddenly “food storage” was healthy, tasted good and could be easily rotated in my everyday recipes!  I was excited.


freeze dried vs dehydrated


I’ve learned a lot about dehydrated and freeze dried foods since early 2008 and I occasionally hold cooking classes to teach others what I’ve learned.  During each and every cooking class I hold there are numerous people who use the words freeze dried and dehydrated interchangeably.  Based on that, I’m guessing there are a few of you….maybe lots of you….who are just like I was: surprised to find out there is a difference between freeze dried and dehydrated foods and curious about what the difference is.

The difference is actually pretty big!  And it is very important to understand the difference when building a home store for your family.  Over the last few years I have consulted with many people who have had to throw away thousands of dollars in unusable food because they invested in the wrong thing in the first place.  Don’t let that be you!

I have chosen to store nearly all freeze dried foods in our family’s “home store” due to their greater versatility, nutrition, better taste, and usability.  Use the chart below to determine what you feel would be best to store for your family:

Freeze Dried Dehydrated
Process The product is frozen, then placed under vacuum which allows the water in the product to vaporize without passing through the liquid state. About 98% of the water is removed. The product is heated and water is removed through evaporation. It is impossible to remove all the water. Depending on the process about 5%-30% of the water remains.
Shelf Life
Very long (20-30 years) because of the lack of water left. Shorter (1-8 years) because there is always some water left in the product.
Since there is no water left in the product, no additives at all are needed in single ingredient cans. For example, a can of peaches will have nothing but peaches in the can. When you start combining ingredients (as in freeze dried just add water meals), additives and preservatives are needed. Sugar, salt, or other preservatives are usually needed to maintain the shelf life because there is always some water left in the product.
Retains all nutrients. Thrive freeze dried produce is naturally ripened and then flash frozen within hours so it can actually contain even more nutrients than artificially ripened produce found at the grocery store. Many nutrients (up to 50%) are lost because of the heat applied during the dehydration process.
Color, Taste, Texture
When hydrated, the color, taste and texture are all very similar to the original product. Without hydration, product is dry and can easily be crushed to a powder. Most dehydrated foods look and taste different from the fresh product. (Beef Jerky vs Roast Beef or Raisins vs Grapes). They are pliable, stretchy or chewy.
Very easy to re-hydrate in cold or hot water. When hydrated they are just like the fresh product would be after being frozen and thawed. Difficult to re-hydrate (try turning a raisin into a grape or Beef Jerky into Roast Beef). For products that can be re-hydrated it must be done with hot water and requires far more water than a freeze dried product. Since the water must be hot, re-hydration requires fuel (which would be precious in a true emergency situation).
Use in cooking / baking
Very easy to use in cooking and baking. Products are precooked and cut so all you do is add water. Little to no change in the end product vs using fresh ingredients. Some products can be used in cooking or baking, but because of the change in texture caused by dehydration, not with as much ease or the same quality results as with freeze dried products.
What Products
Almost anything can be freeze dried including Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Cheese, Yogurt, even Ice cream! Mostly fruits and vegetables. Some meats.
Best Use
Hydrated in place of a fresh product in any recipe. Fruits and some veggies and even cheese are also fantastic as snacks. Snacking


A picture really does say a thousand words.  Here are a few pictures that say far more than I ever could about the difference between dehydrated and freeze dried foods.  Especially note the differences in color and texture!

Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated Beef Freeze dried vs dehydrated grapesFreeze Dried vs Dehydrated Pineapple


Comparing Freeze Dried to Canned

I know some people also consider canned foods for their food storage.  Well, canned is to dehydrated like dehydrated is to freeze dried.  Canned foods have lots of heat applied, few nutrients, lots of additives, and a very short shelf life (usually 1-3 years).  Personally, I avoid them whenever possible.

Comparing Freeze Dried to Grocery Store Produce:

Many people ask how freeze dried produce compares to the fresh produce they might buy at the grocery store.  This graphic should answer that:

Freeze Dried vs Grocery Store Produce1

Freeze Dried vs Grocery Store Produce2

Where to Buy:

My favorite place to purchase freeze dried produce is Thrive Life as their food has the most color and flavor, but you can also find freeze dried food at Emergency Essentials and Augason Farms and Honeyville.

So there you have it!  The difference between freeze dried, dehydrated, canned and “fresh” produce!  I’d love to hear your experience or answer any questions you have.  Just leave me a comment below!


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Many people don't know that freeze dried and dehydrated foods are different. But they are! The differences are important and may surprise you!

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28 Responses to Freeze Dried vs Dehydrated foods

  1. Georgina May 24, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    You said you give cooking classes on how to cook using freeze dried products. Do you know anyone in the Fort Worth area that gives classes?

  2. Francisco Sanchez April 3, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

    Thank you,
    The article was perfect!!, It cleared up quite a few questions that other articles did not

    Thanks again

    • Misty April 4, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

      Glad to hear it Francisco!

  3. Daiva March 4, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

    Some of those are not true -for example Vit. C has significant losses in freeze drying. Proteins seem to be also changed to the point, where our body can’t assimilate them well. Very often commercial freeze dried food makers use irradiation as well. Also texture -come on -it has texture of Styrofoam, haven’t you ever tried some freeze dried berries? Read reviews on amazon, where people say that entries taste really badly. A far as heat goes, if I dry myself, I can set my dehydrator to very low temperatures. I am not sure, what temperatures freeze drying uses to evaporate water after vacuum stage.

    • Misty March 4, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

      I’m not sure where you’ve gotten your information Daiva, but my information comes from food scientist hired by Thrive Life to test their food. I’ve met them personally and know their research to be sound. They’ve tested the amounts of various vitamins before and after freeze drying and while there is some loss in certain vitamins it is usually far less than what is lost when that same food is picked before ripe, sits on a truck for days, then in the grocery store for days and then in your home for days. I’ve also never heard (in 6+ years of using, researching and meeting with these scientists) that our bodies can’t assimilate freeze dried proteins well. I eat them most every day just fine. And yes, I’ve tried freeze dried berries….almost daily. They are delicious. I’ll assume you meant entrees, not entries and I would agree with you there that most taste bad. That isn’t what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about individually freeze dried products that can then be used to make your own meals. Also freeze drying never evaporates water. That is why the molecular structure stays the same. The water is removed through sublimation, not evaporation. I hope that helps clarify some things!

  4. heather February 23, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    thanks for sharing all this helpful information!!! just what i was looking for.

    • Misty February 24, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

      Yay! I’m glad it was helpful Heather!

  5. kitblu December 21, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    Is freeze drying something I can do at home? If so, what equipment is required? Shipping costs to Canada are usually prohibitive. Sorry, I just read the comments and learned the answers. Readers are very helpful. Thanks for the article.

    • Jim April 14, 2016 at 10:01 am #

      I have a home freeze dryer sold by HarvestRight for about 2 months. Although I am still learning, the initial results are great. Cost of the machine will make it unaffordable for many families.

      • Misty April 18, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

        Thanks for the input Jim!

  6. jenny August 29, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    Thank you for the fantastic information. I’m learning so much.

    • Misty August 31, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

      You are so welcome Jenny! I’m glad it has been helpful!

  7. Kimberley Parscal August 2, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    I am looking for healthy snacking veggies, like making a veggie trail mix. What vegetables, freeze dried or dehydrated, and please specify which, are best for this purpose?

    • Misty August 3, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

      Most dehydrated veggies (carrots, potatoes) are extremely HARD when dehydrated. Some are okay (onions), but I would use freeze dried. I have used lots of freeze dried veggies in various trail mixes: asparagus, broccoli, peas, corn, mushrooms, and zucchini would all work well!

  8. Eileen August 1, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    Do you sell certified organic foods or at least non-GMO?

    • Misty August 3, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

      Almost all of Thrive Life’s foods are non-GMO and they do have a (very) small organic line. YOu can find information about each of their products on this report and purchase their foods HERE.

  9. Karen July 14, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    Actually, it can be done at home. There is a company out there that sells small home versions of freeze dryers. I bought one as an investment and am loving it. I am able to really use the abundance from my garden this year. I am now growing and freeze drying my own culinary and medicinal herbs, my own fruits and veggies. When the garden season slows down a bit, I hope to go thru the meat in my freezer and get it all freeze dried and shelf stable. But currently I am running it daily to keep up with the garden. I am loving the fresh organic foods I am growing for my family. If I was not able to have this machine, I would buy mostly freeze dried single ingredients from Thrive. This makes it much easier to avoid allergens ad cook to my family’s tastes.

  10. Fenton April 7, 2015 at 12:41 am #

    I just found out how to do this at home so I’m sharing the link 😉

    • Misty April 7, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

      Awesome idea Fenton! Be careful though. I’ve with a food scientist expert about these methods and he says that when done at home, the shelf life is much shorter and the nutritional value is less. His main concern was shelf life. If done incorrectly, you could end up with rancid food. But I’ve never seen this detailed of a post before. Give it a go!

  11. Dawn @OhSweetMercy June 19, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    I would love to pin this post, but there is no image available to pin. Great information, though, thanks!

    • Misty June 23, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Good point Dawn! I wrote that post before I was really using pinterest. I probably have quite a few I should go back and update. I will add that to the list of “to-dos” (-:

    • Misty June 23, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

      I added a bunch of images Dawn! Thanks!

  12. Erika December 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Very helpful info! Thanks!

  13. Kimberleigh May 26, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    Is there a way to freeze dry our own at home?

    • Misty May 27, 2013 at 8:40 am #

      I know some people claim to be able to Kimberleigh. But it is a pretty complicated and expensive process to do correctly. Those that do it at home typically use a different method than is done commercially and the results are more similar to dehydration.

  14. Anne T. May 5, 2013 at 5:28 am #

    Just pinned your post on emergency supplies in your car.

  15. Rebecca Curtis July 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    You have such valuable information to share. This post was extremely helpful to me – thank you for taking the time to outline this. I would love to reference this blog entry on my blog, are you ok with that?


    • Misty July 23, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

      Sure Rebecca! Thanks for linking to it and for asking! I’m glad you’ve found it helpful!