Growing your own fresh chillies is easy, but chilli peppers have a short harvest season in the UK, so to use your homegrown chillies in your cooking throughout the year you’ll need to learn some basics of presevation. In this article we cover 5 different methods of preserving chillies – from drying, to freezing, to pickling and to storing chillies in oil, so you can work out how to store chillies in the best way for your needs.
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Why do you need to know how to store Chillies?
The harvest window for Chillies is short, and during the summer months, so unless you’re using them all fresh it’s a great idea to learn when to harvest them and how to preserve and store chillies for use throughout the rest of the year. Fresh chillies will only keep for a maximum of around 3 weeks, so you’ll either only eat your homegrown chillies for a short window of time, or you can learn how to store chillies and enjoy them all year round!
When to Harvest Chillies
The best time to harvest chillies is when the seeds inside have matured. This isn’t necessarily when the chillies have changed colour. The easiest way to check is to split one fruit and check. You’re looking for the seeds to be more of a creamy colour rather than white. Chillies, however, can be eaten at any stage. You do not need to wait for the fruit to change colour. Chillies take between 2 and 4 months to ripen. While there are some chillies that never change colour, like the green japaleno, many chillies tend to be a little more bitter when they are green. They tend to sweeten when they turn to yellow or red.
Want to know the best way to start growing chillies? Here’s our guide to the best chilli growing kits.
Chillies will continue to ripen a little after you’ve harvested them too. The riper the chilli the easier it is to take off the plant – and the more you pic, the more it will encourage the plant to keep growing and producing fruit. So, if you want more chillies, pick more chillies!
We recommend that you use gloves to harvest chillies, it’s the chillies capsicum that makes them spicy and an absentminded rub of the eye really, really does sting!
How Long Can you Store Chillies?
Keeping chillies fresh once you have picked them is a challenge. If you simply harvest your chillies and store them in a cool dry place, then they’ll keep for 2-3 weeks. If the chilli has a thicker wall to the fruit then it will last longer than a thin-walled fruit. A chilli that is whole will last longer than one which has been cut or sliced.
If your harvested chillies have wrinkles or discolourations then they are not going to store well.
How to Store Chillies After Picking
The most popular way to store chillies is to dry them and you’ll do this from fresh, we think this is the best way to preserve chillies. Regardless of which method of storing chillies you decide on it’s best to try and begin the process as soon after harvest as possible – so don’t harvest them, and leave them for 3 weeks before you begin the process. You will need to prepare and move to preserving your chillies quickly after picking, so read on for our guidance on how to store chillies once picked.
If you simply wish to store fresh chillies for a short period of time, then the best way to do this for their longevity is:
How to Store Fresh Chillies
Fresh chillies will last longest if you store them well. There are two schools of thought on this, the first is to store them in a paper bag in a cool dry place (if you have a pantry this is great for it). The second way is in a zip lock bag inside a fridge. To increase the length of time that they will store for, you can remove the stem part of the chill before you but it in the bag. Chopping or slicing the fresh chilli will reduce its life.
We tend to store chillies for the short term in a ziplock bag in the fridge, as our kitchen doesn’t have a cold pantry space (maybe next time eh?)
How to Dry Chillies
Chillies are fabulous to dry. Chillies have thin walls, which makes them quick and easy to dry. This makes drying chillies as one of the best ways to preserve chillies. In this section we will cover
- How to dry out chillies
- How to dry chillies quickly
- Drying chillies in a dehydrator
- How do you dry chillies in the oven?
- How to dry chillies in the microwave
- How to hang chillies to dry
What is the Easiest Way to Dry Chillies?
If you’re looking for the easiest way to dry your chillies, then this is by using a dehydrator. Drying chillies with a dehydrator works best with the fleshier chillies. If you’re looking at a dehydrator, then here are two that we recommend – there are budget dehydrators for £50, or some really awesome ones for not much more.
- The BioChef Arizona Sol 9 Tray Food Dehydrator is fabulous and our favourite dehydrator for chillies – read other reviews and buy it now!
- Best circular 5 tray food dehydrator – check prices here and buy now
Dehydrators are a great way to preserve vegetables and meats and for a small outlay, you can make your vegetable harvest go a long way!
Why are chillies good to dry?
Chillies are an excellent produce to dry because they have a short season and because dried chillies are very similar to use to fresh chillies and you can use them virtually exactly the same in recipes as you would do fresh ones. Once dried chillies can be used in recipes, ground to powder and used in recipes, in pastes and even in oil or vinegar to add flavour!
Drying fresh chillies is easy and there are several ways in which you can dry chillies.
How to dry chillies at home
There are several methods that you can use to dry chillies at home. The first is to dry chillies using a dehydrator (we recommend this Food Dehydrator for Chillies) You can also dry chillies in the oven. You can dry chillies by hanging them. You CANNOT dry chillies in the microwave.
How long do chillies take to dry?
It will take a minimum of 6 hours in a low oven to dry chillies, anything from 5 hours to 12 hours in a food dehydrator and from 2-3 weeks if you are air drying chillies.
How to dry chillies quickly
The quickest way to dry chillies is in a food dehydrator. Drying chillies in a dehydrator can take as little as 5 hours.
How to dry chillies in a dehydrator
It is simple to dry chillies in a dehydrator. Make sure you clean any dirt off the chillies. Discard any damaged chillies. Place the chillies on the trays of the dehydrator. (this is an awesome dehydrator to buy) Spread them out evenly so the heat can distribute properly. Turn on the dehydrator to the setting recommended by your food dehydrator manufacturer for chillies and off you go..
How to dry chillies in the microwave
You can’t dry chillies in the microwave. Microwaving chillies will overheat them and likely scorch them and change the flavour. It’s not recommended.
Microwaves can be used to toast chillies if you don’t have access to a stove top, but to be honest, if you’re toasting chillies for the flavour there is nothing like the charring when you do it on a stove top.
How to dry chillies in the oven
The length of time it takes to dry chillies in the oven depends on the size and type of chillies. Here’s how to dry chillies in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to about 120 degrees centigrade
- Place whole chillies on a baking tray and place in the centre of the oven.
- Chillies should take about 6 hours to dry in the oven.
- When chillies crumble or break between your fingers they will be dry enough to store in an airtight container, or to grind intoby rinsiny drying them in a steamy kitchen though!
How to Store Dry Chillies
Chillies dried naturally should take about 3 weeks. If you leave them hanging, then there is the potential that they dry out too much and become brittle. It is best, unless you are going to use them, to transfer them to a sealed plastic container or bag.
How to Freeze Chillies At Home
Can you freeze fresh chillies? Yes! If you’re looking for how to freeze fresh chillies, there are a few things you need to do first. You’ll need to make sure, in any form of preservation that all the chillies that you select show no wrinkles or any signs of rot at all. Wash the chillies and make sure that they’re completely dry. Slice open the chillies, remove the stems. You can either freeze whole like this or you can chop them. Chopped chillies store just as well as whole chillies when it comes to freezing. The best way to freeze chillies depends on how you want to use them in your cooking afterwards. If you are planning to use them whole in recipes, then freeze chillies whole. If you are planning to use chopped chillies in your cooking then chop them before you freeze them.
When it comes to freezing chillies you can freeze fresh chillies from fresh. Frozen chillies will last for months. The simplest method is to slice them, pop them on a chopping board or baking tray and then pop them in the freezer.
How to store Chillies in Freezer compartments
After freezing your chillies (see above), you’ll want to ensure that they’re fully frozen – to be sure leave them about 24 hours – when they’re frozen to firmness, put them into ziplock bags, seal and return to the freezer. Freezing is one of the best ways of preserving fresh chillies.
How to Store Chillies in Oil
Preserving hot chillies in oil is a great way to transfer the heat of the chilli to the oil, but the chillies don’t need to be hot. To prepare for storing chillies in oil the best way is to roast them – this gives them a much better flavour. You should wash the chillies and slice them, if your chillies are small you can leave them whole. Should you leave the seeds in? If you like heat in your chillies leave the seeds in!
Place the chillies in a single layer on a baking tray and roast under the grill until they are charred. Turn them during the process so that they are cooked evenly.
When you’re preserving chillies in olive oil you’ll also want to select a good oil.
Using a clean jar place the roasted chillies in the jar and top up with olive oil until its completely covered. Seal and store in a cool, dark place.
How to Pickle Chillies
The easiest way to pickle chillies is to clean them first. Wash in salty water. Then start your brine to store it in. A basic pickling juice can be made from white wine, cider vinegar and sugar (more here ). Boil the pickling juice while you are prepping the chillies. You’ll want to create a small hole in the top of each chilli so that they pickle juice permeates completely. Pop your chillies in the jars in which you want to store them, top up with pickling juice and wait until the mixture is completely cool before sealing the jars. They must be completely cold before sealing. Wait at least 2 weeks before tasting!
In the beginning, you might start with a basic pickling juice, but there are a heap of variety of spices and herbs that you can add to the mix depending on your tastes! If you’re planning on preserving, then our jam and preserve making kit article is essential.
FAQs on How to Preserve Chillies
Here’s our most frequently asked questions about preserving chillis. If you have a question that we haven’t answered about how to store chilli peppers, then drop us an email, or ask in the comments!
How long do fresh chillies last?
If you can get the chilli storage location right, then fresh (not frozen) chillies can last for 2-3 weeks. Chillies with thicker walls to them will last longer than thin walled fruits. Whole chillies will last longer than sliced or cut chillies. We aim for trying to use our chillies within 3 weeks of picking.
Do chillies go out of date?
Yes. Fresh chillies will go off, and go out of date. When a chilli starts to go off, they discolour and the chilli starts to go soft.
What is the best way to store chillies?
When it comes to how to preserve chillies at home we think that the best way to store chillies is to dry them. Drying chillies in a dehydrator is the quickest and easiest way to dry them.
Is there a difference in how to store red chillies and how to store green chillies?
Whether you want to preserve red chillies or preserve green chillies the process is the same. The difference comes when the walls of the chilli fruit are thicker or thinner. Thinner chilli fruits dry out quicker.
How long does it take to air dry chillies?
It will take 2-3 weeks to air dry chillies, depending on the conditions that you are drying them in. The easiest and quickest way to dry chilli peppers is in a food dehydrator. (we recommend this food dehydrator for chillies)
Can you freeze chillies?
Yes you can freeze chillies. The best time to freeze chillies is just before they are ripe.
Can you freeze chillies fresh from the plant?
Yes, but you must check for signs of rot and signs of damage. Do not freeze damaged chillies. You can remove damaged areas of chillies and freeze your chillies after slicing them. You’ll also want to wipe the chillies down and make sure they’re not wet.
How do you freeze fresh chillies?
Cut the stalks off and place the chillies in a bag then into the freezer. You can also chop the chillies and store them in the freezer and ready to use. They are more likely to get frost damaged if they are chopped though.
Can you freeze whole chillies?
Yes. You can store whole chillies by freezing them. When you are freezing fresh chillies all you need o do is cut the stalks and pop the chillies in a sealed bag and then in the freezer.
Can you pickle chillies in olive oil?
Yes! It is easy to pickle chillies in a brine solution, see details on pickling fresh chillies earlier in this article.
How do you store fresh chillies?
As with most vegetables the best way to store fresh chilli peppers is to keep them in a cold dark place.
Should you keep chillies in the fridge?
Chillies last longer if they are kept in a cold dark place after they have been picked. If you dno’t have a cold dry pantry place in your kitchen, then keeping chillies in the fridge is a good idea.
How long can you keep fresh chillies in the fridge? How long do red chillies last in the fridge?
When it comes to how long do chillies keep in the fridge, the answer is that it depends! You can usually keep fresh chillies for 7 days in the fridge. To store chillies properly in the fridge, keep them in the salad chiller in a bag or plastic container. If any of the chillies have damage marks on them remove them, or you wil reduce the life of those you are storing next to them.
How long are dried chillies good for?
As ever the potency of a any vegetable relies on how good your storage method is. If you have stored your dried chillies in an airtight container in a cool dark place then it will last longer. Dried chillies will last forever until they crumble to dust, however it is their potency and flavour that will diminsh. You are best to try and use dried chillies within 6 months of drying them. That said we have some dried kashmiri chillies that are 3 years old and are still gloriously tasty.
Final words on How to Store Chillies
We love fresh chillies and use them when we can, however, we also cook a lot of food with dried chillies, due to a lack of space for storing fresh chillies. Frozen chillies are used in Vietnamese dishes, and dried Kashmiri chillies in one of my favourite, a fiery but seriously tasty Goan vindaloo! And I just love the taste of a chilli infused oil to add to a tomato-based pasta sauce. Mmmm.
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