Strawberry & Rhubarb Fruit Leathers
For months, I have been meaning to write this post. I just hadn’t quite felt the inspiration. But last weekend we finally remembered to go to the farmer’s market in downtown Vancouver (Washington not B.C.) and I’m so glad we did. We bought so much produce! Among all the delightful finds, I came across some beautiful strawberries and rhubarb. I immediately decided those were destined to be my next batch of fruit leathers.
For these strawberry and rhubarb fruit leathers, I added an apple for body and chewiness, a touch of vanilla and some sweetener for flavor, and chia seeds for more nutrition. And I wasn’t disappointed! These babies turned out to be the best fruit leathers I have made so far! They are sweet, tart, chewy, and the most beautiful shade of red. They are low in added sugar (or none if you choose), vegan, and completely zero waste. These simple fruit leathers only require 3 ingredients (6 if you include all the extras) and everything can be bought without plastic packaging.
My daughter, partner, and friends (at least any I can get to try one) loved them and a few asked for the recipe. I was so jazzed at the compliments that I found my inspiration to write this post at last! So I’m really excited to share my newest zero waste recipe with you! Let’s make some strawberry and rhubarb fruit leathers!
Fruit Rollups: The Fake Candy That Dreamt of Becoming Real Fruit
“A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.”– The Blue Fairy
If you’ve not had the pleasure of eating a fruit leather, it’s what a fruit roll-up tries to pretend to be. Just take a look at the ingredients list of any store-bought fruit rolls and you’ll see what I mean. They usually contain artificial colors, refined sugars or juice concentrate (which is just another way of saying sugar), fillers, and preservatives. They rarely contain any actual fruit or if they do, it is low on the list and it’s usually not the fruit that it is flavored to be. And even if you do find a fruit roll that is made with real fruit, they are also excessively over-packaged (packages within packages). Those plastic wrappers end up in our landfills and oceans where they take centuries to degrade.
Fruit leathers are a better alternative! They make a wonderful and healthy snack for kids and adults alike. They are very easy to make and pack up well for road trips and school lunches. These are full of nutrients from real fruit and free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. They also don’t come in plastic packaging that is both terrible for your health and devastating to our planet.
Tips for Making Fruit Leathers Using a Dehydrator
Fruit leathers, aka. fruit rolls are pretty straightforward. They can be as basic or complex as you want to make them to be. They are easy to customize, very simple to make, and you can use virtually any fruit imaginable. If you look up fruit leather recipes, you will not find two recipes that are alike. But based on my experience, there are some hard and fast tricks to keep in mind when you make them.
Dehydrator vs. Oven
For my recipe, I use a dehydrator. There are recipes out there that use an oven and you’d be welcome to try this recipe that way if you do not own a dehydrator. However, I have no personal experience using an oven for my fruit leathers for a couple of reasons.
- The dehydrator uses less electricity to run. This is important because dehydrating food takes a long time. Whether you use a dehydrator or an oven, you will need to let that puppy run from anywhere between 6-12 hours and oven drying times are longer than dehydrators too. Simply put, dehydrators are the much more environmentally-friendly option.
- Dehydrators can maintain a constant temperature and airflow. They are made for this specific job so you expect to have high quality dried foods consistently.
- Most ovens cannot run at the low temperature needed to dehydrate fruit (120-140 F) and don’t have a convection setting (which means no airflow). To compensate for that, you usually have to leave the door slightly open for periods during the cooking time. That means lots of babysitting. And it isn’t generally safe if you have little ones in your house. With a dehydrator, you can set it up and forget about it or even run it overnight.
If you plan to make this recipe (or other fruit leathers for that matter) regularly or are transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle, you might want to consider a dehydrator as a worthy investment.
The Secret to Good Fruit Leathers
The fruits you choose should be very ripe to slightly overripe. Very ripe fruits just seem to work the best and usually require very little to no sugar in the process.
Also, I have found that all my recipes did much better when apple is included. I tried a few recipes without apple and they never seemed to come out quite right. I think it is the pectin in the apple that gives me better results so any fruit high in pectin should theoretically work just as well. However, I have not tested this out yet (something to put in the books, I think) so I would recommend using apples for this recipe. I usually use a sweet variety like Gala or Fuji but any variety will do just fine. I’d recommend avoiding Granny Smith since the rhubarb is tart enough.
For sweeteners, I have done well with honey and maple syrup. You would be welcome to use another sweetener of your choice instead but I would recommend you use it sparingly. Dehydrated fruit is very condensed so a little goes a long way.
How to Dehydrate
Your dehydrator should have come with some fruit leather trays. These trays are the ones with no holes for air to pass through. You’ll want to apply a thin coat of oil to the tray to keep the leathers from sticking. Any oil will do but I recommend coconut oil as it works so wonderfully with any fruit leather I have made.
I like to keep my temperature setting a little on the lower side, 125 F to be exact. It helps to preserve as many of the nutrients as possible. You can go lower if you want. I’ve dried fruit leathers on temps as low as 115 F and they came out wonderfully. Just keep in mind that it will increase the drying time significantly.
I recommend spreading the pureed fruit with either an offset or silicone spatula to a thickness of around ⅛ inch and try to get it as even as you can. If you go a little thicker than that you will need to dehydrate the fruit longer.
Regardless of thickness, I would recommend checking after 4 hours and every 1-2 hours after that to see how dry it is. If the top is completely dry to the touch but the underside is still sticky, just flip it over and put in back in. That will reduce your drying time considerably and keep it from overdrying or drying unevenly.
A Note About Dehydrators
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If you are a budding zero waster, a dehydrator would be invaluable for you to own. When it comes to food packaging, snacks and desserts are the biggest culprits (just think about all those plastic wrappers, clamshells, and bags). When I started transitioning my family to zero waste, this has been the biggest challenge. Plus, making your own snacks is just plain healthier too.
There are a ton of dehydrators out there and the prices vary. Prices range from under $100 to almost $1,000. If you are like me and don’t have a ton of cash then I’d recommend the Nesco Snackmaster Pro (affiliate link). It runs for around $60-80 depending on where you buy and while it isn’t the best dehydrator out there, it does a good job. It is the dehydrator I used to make the fruit rolls you see in the photos.
The other one I would recommend is an Excalibur Dehydrator (affiliate link). This brand is well known for having high-quality dehydrators. I want to buy one of these as soon as we can afford to. The prices vary from $200 – $1000 depending on how many trays and options you want (like a timer). This is the one to look into if you are planning to do a lot of dehydrating.
I think that’s it, folks! Now let’s make some bomb fruit leathers.
Looking for other zero (or low) waste snacks that are great on the go? You might want to check out my vegan anise avocado cookies, spicy vegan nacho pumpkin seeds, coconut macadamia granola with blueberries, spicy maple and rosemary pumpkin seeds, and vegan avocado fudgy brownies (or non-vegan avocado brownies)!
If you give this recipe a try, I’d love to see your awesome creation! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to hashtag a photo on Instagram #sustainablesauceresses!
Or if you have any questions or feedback, you are always welcome to leave me a comment below. I’d really love to hear from you!
Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Leathers
- 2 cups strawberries, fresh
- 1 cups apple, cubed
- 3/4 – 1 cups rhubarb, chopped (approx. 1 large stalk)
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup (or honey for non-vegans) optional
- 1 tbsp. chia seeds optional
- Grease the fruit leather trays with a thin layer of oil. Set aside.
- Chop the apple and steam for 5 mins.
- Cut the green tops off the strawberries and chop the rhubarb.
- Steam the rhubarb for 2-3 mins.
- In the blender add all the ingredients and blend until smooth.
- With an offset or silicone spatula, spread the puree evenly on the trays to roughly 1/8 inch thick.
- Dehydrate the fruit puree at 125F for 8-10 hours or when completely dry to the touch. Start checking every hour after 4 hours.
- With a knife, scissors, or pizza cutter, cut the leathers as desired and place in a sealed container. Should last for at least 6 months.
Did you give this recipe a try?