Dehydrating bananas is quick, easy, and usually healthier than dried bananas purchased from the store. While dehydrated bananas can be found inexpensively in most bulk food sections of grocery stores, most of these come deep-fried and treated in thick coatings of corn syrup as banana chips. While delicious, the coatings quickly become the most calorific portion of the snack and detract from the "nutritional density" of the food (i.e. most of the calories are devoid of vital nutrients and vitamins and are from simple carbohydrates and oil).
Dehydrating bananas at home gives you full control over which additive you'll be eating, and while bananas will certainly benefit from an ascorbic acid or honey pretreatment, you may also choose to completely forgo any pretreatment if you plan to eat the dried bananas relatively soon after dehydrating.
Honey-dipped dehydrated bananas are one of my favorite daytime staples when backpacking, since I'm not usually too calorie-conscious when hiking. Dried bananas also are delicious when rehydrated in oatmeal or other breakfast cereals, and if allowed to fully reconstitute, are delicious additions to pancake mix on the trail. To reconstitute dried bananas, just place them in boiling water, and cover for about ten minutes.
One cup of sliced, fresh bananas will yield about 1/2 cup of dried banana chips.
- Select ripe but firm bananas for drying. They should be solid yellow with a few brown flecks. If they aren't very ripe, they will taste boring as the the complex carbohydrate won't have yet broken down into simpler sugars. If they are overly ripe or bruised, they will not crisp up when dried.
- Before peeling, rinse the bananas to remove fungicides and pesticides from the peel. Pat dry with a towel.
- Peel and slice the bananas crosswise or lengthwise, about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick.
- (optional) Treat the bananas in honey dip, ascorbic acid, fruit juice, or sulfite dip to prevent browning and spoilage. Honey dip is delicious but calorific.
- Use a sheet of food-safe nylon or polypropylene mesh screen between the banana slices and the trays to prevent sticking ("cementing" is probably a more appropriate word here). Place slices in the drying rack, a single layer thick, and dehydrate for your drier's manufacturer's specified time, or about 7-10 hours at 140° F in a counter-top dehydrator with a fan.
- The bananas will be dry when they are firm and leathery or crunchy. Allow a piece to cool to room temperature before judging doneness.
- Store in vacuum-sealed packages, Ziploc bags, or airtight jars in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to eat the dried bananas.