Dehydrate Lemon Slices In The Air Fryer For Powerful Flavor

It seems impossible for lemons to carry more zingy flavor than Mother Nature imparted. Those pucker-perfect little yellow fruits already harbor some of the most potent flavors in the world of citrus, making them perfect for jazzing up a slew of sweet and savory recipes. But now there's a way to get more of that natural goodness into your food and drinks.

It involves only three things: lemons, an air fryer, and a bit of time. The name "air fryer" does much disservice to its capabilities. While it does indeed create crispy deliciousness in french fries, fried chicken, fish, and even veggies, there's a lesser-known function built into many modern air fryers. It's called the dehydrate setting, the magic mode for transforming juicy lemons into a powerful, multifunctional ingredient.

Dehydrating lemons intensifies the flavor and concentrates it for enriching main dishes, desserts, and drinks, including cocktails, iced or hot tea, smoothies, and more. Rather than roasting lemons in an oven, which tends to caramelize them as they dehydrate, an air fryer simply locks in a wealth of natural lemon flavor for versatile use.

How to dehydrate lemons in an air fryer

Dehydrating lemons to get that super-concentrated flavor is easy, especially if your air fryer comes with the handy dehydrate option. It's essentially a low-heat process of sucking out moisture and drying out the fruit. If the air fryer doesn't have this function, no worries — just set the heat level at about 135 degrees Fahrenheit, if possible. 

Accept that this process is going to take a while. Removing moisture from fruit without burning it can take many hours, depending on your oven and the type of fruit. For lemons, expect a minimum of 10 and up to 14 hours.

However, there's some time consideration for personal preference, such as whether you desire a crispy or chewy texture. Few people bite into a fresh or dehydrated lemon — but air-fryers can change that. You'll want chewier dehydrated lemons, thus less cooking time, when eating them directly or adding them to salads and snack mixes. Try sprinkling with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, or cloves before popping them into the air fryer, or opt for a generally sweeter, mellower variety such as Meyer lemons.

Cut the lemons into slices, about one-fourth inch for crispy or one-half inch for chewy, and arrange them in a pan without touching. Line the tray with parchment paper to avoid a sticky cleanup later. Be sure to make even slices to ensure even cooking. Then let the air fryer do its thing, checking in every couple of hours to monitor progress.

More goodness from dehydrated lemons

Snacking and salad-enhancing aren't the only ways to enjoy dehydrated lemons. They're an easy and accessible way to infuse vegetables, sauces, soups, and stews with flavor — sans the unwanted liquid. Poultry and fish also benefit from full-bodied tasty touches, especially when grilling or pan-frying. 

Liquid refreshments come alive with the concentrated flavor of dehydrated lemons, whether complementing or garnishing an existing lemonade or transforming inventive cocktails or mocktails. One method is to create a liquid mix of cane sugar, water, dried lemons, and other dried fruits if desired. Let it sit for about half an hour to soak up the intense citrusy essence. 

If you've chosen the crispy rather than chewy texture when dehydrating in the air fryer, you can make a lemon powder to sprinkle into just about anything. Don't have a food processor to pulverize it into powder? Use your coffee grinder. 

Finally, think beyond the kitchen. Using lemons for cleaning is nothing new; just look at all the commercial cleaning products touting lemon as an ingredient. Who knows if there's actual lemon in that bottle, but no need to worry when you can make your own from dehydrated lemons. Depending on what you're cleaning, soak the dried lemons in water, vinegar, or even olive oil for a handy natural option.