Freeze-Drying Candy at Home – Brief Overview

  • Date: September 19, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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If you have never tasted freeze-dried candy in your life, let me tell you, you’re missing out! Most candies can be freeze-dried as a form of dehydration to alter the texture.

It ends up as a “puffier” version of the candy with a satisfying crunch or crispiness. The texture is something close to cheesy puffs (without the cheese of course). Most candies can be freeze-dried, allowing them to be stored for months on end.

Because they’re so flavorful, you could end up eating less candy than usual. Each bite is a blast of the full-on flavor of the candy. Be careful though, freeze-dried candies are quite addicting!

Chances are if you’re reading this post, you’re wondering, how do I freeze dry my candy?

To freeze-dry your own candy at home, a dedicated freeze dryer is a must. There are blog posts circulating that include other methods to freeze-dry candy at home, but they simply do not work! This includes methods such as “deep-freezing” or using dry ice. Do not be fooled; these methods will only end up in a harder, cold version of candy.

For more information on why this is the case, keep on reading!

How Does Freeze Drying Work?

What is freeze-drying?

Essentially, freeze-drying is a form of dehydration where moisture is removed as ice through sublimation. This conserves the structural integrity of food better than traditional forms of heated dehydration. This process is otherwise known as lyophilization.

Freeze dryers have a vacuum pump that creates negative pressure around the candies, allowing moisture to sublimate out of the candy, leaving behind a solid crisp candy. The key is negative pressure, which cannot be easily replicated through other methods that will be discussed (dry ice or deep freezing).

Freeze dryers involve removing the tiny pockets of ice in a product as a way to dehydrate. This is done by freezing the product to the negatives, lowering the pressure through a vacuum pump, and using sublimation to remove the ice inside the product. This is the best method of food preservation as the composition stays pretty much intact!

Sublimation – When a substance passes from solid to gas phase without going through liquid phase.

Wikipedia article on sublimation

What does that mean for us? Freeze-dried foods retain more nutritional value and flavor! Stored properly, freeze-dried food can last as long as 20 years long. So don’t think you’re just limited to candies.

Can you freeze dry candy at home without a machine?

Short answer, no.

While there are other methods to dry freeze other foods without a freeze dryer, it just does not seem to work all that well with candy. You’ll need a dedicated freeze dryer in order to dry freeze candy. The smallest freeze dryer starts at just under $2400 (at the time of publishing). For a machine that will be used for almost a lifetime, it’s a sound investment.

Why should you get a freeze-dryer?

The ability to preserve food is beneficial for numerous reasons. Not only can freeze-dried food be stored longer, but sometimes, the food tastes even better! The structural integrity of the food is better preserved compared to dehydrating, which uses heat and airflow. Freeze-dried candy is on another level!

Freeze drying is on a completely different level compared to dehydrating. With some dehydrators, excess heat can result in a loss of nutritional content. Because freeze-drying removes moisture in a controlled environment, most of the product is preserved.

Perhaps opening a small local or online-based candy-selling business sounds appealing.

Is it worth buying a freeze-dryer?

On the low end, home freeze-dryers start over $2,000 with the high end costing upwards of $3,600.

If you plan to use it for at least a year, chances are it will pay for itself compared to buying freeze-dried food at the store.

When it comes to meats, fruits, vegetables, and candy, they can be preserved with a long shelf life under proper conditions.

Pros and Cons of Freeze-Drying Candy at Home

Pros

  • Perfect gift
  • End result is crispy and flavorful!
  • Multi-year shelf-life

Cons

  • Upfront cost of a freeze dryer
  • Expensive running cost
  • Super addicting

It is puffy, airy, and crispy! But when you bite into it, it bursts into sweet and tangy flavors! Best of all, it does not get stuck in between your teeth (should rinse with water after eating sweets anyways).

There are a lot of sample packs on Etsy for various dry-freeze candies. So if you’re not quite ready to purchase a freeze-dryer yet, try out some freeze-dried candy!

What is a good freeze dryer for home use?

Harvest Right has a good range of industrial-grade freeze dryers for home use starting at around $2000. They have options to do a layaway payment plan with zero interest until fully paid. After the final payment, they will send the machine.

What candies can you freeze dry?

  • Starbursts
  • Milk Duds
  • Werther’s Soft Caramel
  • Skittles
  • Airheads
  • Gummy candy
  • Chocolate bars

What else is freeze-drying good for?

  • Meat
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Desserts
  • Pet food
  • Cheese
  • Coffee (make your own version of instant coffee!!)

What does freeze-drying make candy taste like?

It “puffs” up the candy, similar to a Cheeto puff, and it retains pretty much all the flavor in a crispy crunch! So imagine all the sweet and tangy but an added level of airiness and crispiness. Another way to describe this texture is that it’s similar to styrofoam or popcorn.

When you bite, all the flavor is released at once (for some candies, it can be overwhelmingly sweet). Texture-wise, gummy candies have an airy, fluffy crunch with a slight chew in the center.

What do freeze-dried Jolly Ranchers taste like?

When you bite into these freeze-dried Jolly Ranchers, they taste just like Jolly Ranchers, but puffier like chips! The crispy crunch and almost bursting-like sensation into a tangy, sweet flavor profile.

My mouth is watering as I type this actually. Which reminds me, these do not get stuck to your teeth when you eat them. It is airy and crispy, along with whatever flavor candy it is. You can either eat them like chips or let them sit on your tongue as saliva breaks down the goodness.

Is a home freeze dryer worth it?

As home freeze dryer units start around the mid-$1000s, it is important to consider how much and how often you plan to use it. Do you want to save money with high-quality preserved foods? Or perhaps you live in an area where the power grid shuts off for a period of time. Emergency supplies are important to prepare ahead of these events. Dried frozen foods taste a lot better when going camping or hiking too. Maybe the idea of starting an online candy store selling your own freeze-dried products sounds enticing!

I strongly believe everybody will love freeze-dried candies, and if you don’t believe me, try out a sample pack on Etsy from the many sellers! Though a big reason for getting your own freeze dryer is because freeze-dried candies are a bit too delicate for shipping.

How to freeze-dry without a freeze dryer?

Does this work? Short answer, nope. It takes a freeze dryer (with a vacuum pump) at least 8 hours to fully freeze dry food or candy. The vacuum is essential as it encourages sublimation (removal of moisture in form of ice to gas) to dehydrate candy.

There are two methods that are commonly shared that do not use a freeze dryer. However, the results are negligible and are not anywhere close to a properly freeze-dried candy.

The main reason is that these methods do not have a way of lowering pressure (via vacuum pump) like a freeze dryer has to pull the moisture out.

Generally, the results will be disappointing. Tests with candy resulted in no change after 3-4 weeks of storage in a deep freezer. With dry ice, you would need to continuously replace the ice to keep the temperature down. While the candy may freeze, it does not dry out at all.

Method 1: Deep Freeze

  • Set the temperature to the lowest possible setting.
  • Store the candy in a freezer-safe bag.

Method 2: Dry Ice (more “effective”)

Dry ice is not effective for freeze-drying candy
  • Using a freezer-safe bag, store the candy in a cooler.
  • Cover the bags with layers of dry ice.
  • Barely close the lid of the cooler; don’t seal it all the way as there will be a gas expansion (from the dry ice) in the cooler.
  • Set aside for at least 24 hours.

Can you dehydrate candy instead of freeze-drying?

If you’re wondering whether it’s possible to dehydrate candy in a dehydrator, the quick answer is no. Because the water content of candy is already so low to begin with, using a dehydrator or even an air-fryer would not end up with anything close to resembling freeze-dried candy.

For dehydrating, it is better to stick to fruits or fruit-based products.

What’s the difference between dehydrating and freeze-drying?

DehydratingFreeze-drying
Lower barrier to entry costMore expensive startup cost
Quicker processLong process (for candy, ~6 hours)
Food shrinksFood keeps shape or expand
Loses or preserves flavorBetter flavor (probably due to unique texture)

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, if you are trying to freeze-dry Skittles in a deep freezer, it just won’t work. Freeze dryers are a must if you are looking to freeze-dry any type of candy. The dry ice and cooler method could work on fruits but definitely not candy; a vacuum pump is essential to pulling moisture out of candy.

Here are some fun freeze-dried candies to try out!

Freeze-dried Skittles
Freeze Dried Now & Laters

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