When it comes to building long term food storage, cheese is a must for many people. Let’s face it; cheese makes everything taste better! Plus, it’s a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin D and more. The big question is, can you dehydrate cheese? That’s what I’ll get into in this article. I’ll share step-by-step instructions for dehydrating cheese (with photos) and also show you how to use dehydrated cheese.
How to Dehydrate Cheese for Food Storage
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Now let’s get into how to dehydrate cheese for food storage, and how to store and use your home dehydrated cheese.
Choosing the Best Cheeses for Dehydrating
Dehydrating cheese all starts with. . . Cheese. No surprise! The question is, what type of cheese should you dehydrate? The good news is, there are a lot of options when it comes to which cheese to dehydrate.
The main thing to keep in mind is that any time you “cook” cheese, the flavor of the cheese mellows. Now technically, you don’t cook cheese when you dehydrate it. More on that in a minute.
But the point is, since the flavor of cheese mellows when heated, if you want a nice cheddar taste, don’t start with mild cheddar. I personally love sharp cheddar cheese to begin with, so in my case, I purchased extra sharp cheddar cheese.
Note that if you happen to have a ton of mild cheddar and want to dehydrate it, by all means, go for it! It won’t hurt anything at all to start with a milder cheese. It will still have good flavor and be filled with cheesy goodness when you use it. But if you are buying cheese specifically for dehydrating and prefer cheese with a stronger flavor, then go for a sharper cheese.
Preparing Cheese for Dehydrating
Thankfully, preparing cheese for dehydrating is super easy. If you start with a block of cheese, you can first freeze it, and then crumble it. Freezing isn’t necessary, but cheese that has been frozen and then thawed crumbles easily.
You can also grate cheese or like me, purchase already grated cheese for dehydrating. For ease of use, buying cheese that is already grated is the way to go. Having said that, commercially grated cheese has some “extra” ingredients such as an anti-caking agent. Since I don’t currently have a food processor, I decided to go with store-bought grated cheese.
Finally, you can dice cheese into cubes no more than 1/3″ thick.
Putting the Cheese on Dehydrator Trays
The next thing you need to do is lay the cheese on your dehydrator trays. Dehydrator trays often come with liners such as fruit leather trays or plastic mesh.
Since I wanted as much airflow as possible, I decided to skip the plastic.
Cover the Dehydrator Trays with Absorbent Material
However, it’s obvious that the metal trays that come with my dehydrator have super big holes, and the cheese would fall straight through them. In addition to that, the metal trays may get a bit hot, and you don’t want the cheese to melt. Finally, one of the biggest reasons people say you can’t dehydrate cheese is because it has a high fat content, and fat can go rancid over time.
For all of those reasons, it’s important to line your dehydrator trays with some type of absorbent material. As the cheese dehydrates, it will release some of the fat, and you’ll want something to absorb that fat.
Many people opt for using paper towels, and you can certainly do that. But as a prepper, I’m working toward shifting to reusable items as much as possible. Because of that, I decided to use flour sack towels such as these, or these, on Amazon. What I love about these towels is that they are inexpensive, lint free, and can be used for a lot of things.
For instance, you can use them to strain yogurt or tinctures, for cleaning, drying dishes, and in a pinch, even for diapers. I definitely recommend grabbing some because they come in super handy. But if you have cheese that you need to dehydrate, and don’t have any flour sack towels, then go ahead and use some paper towels.
Distribute the Cheese on the Dehydrator Trays
Next, you need to spread the cheese out on your dehydrator trays. You don’t need to go for a single layer, but you also don’t want it heaped up. Food just doesn’t dehydrate well when it is piled high. Plus, since cheese releases fat, you don’t want so much cheese on your tray that whatever you lined your tray with can’t handle the fat.
I purchased 3 1-pound packages of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, and have 6 dehydrator trays. My original plan was to put half of a package (8 ounces) of cheese on each tray. But when I started putting the cheese on the trays, it was clear to me that putting just 4 ounces of shredded cheese on each dehydrator tray was a better option.
It’s possible that it would have worked fine to put 8 or at least 6 ounces of cheese on each dehydrator tray, but especially since cheese is high in fat, I put less cheese on each tray to increase the odds that the cheese would dehydrate well.
Dehydrate Cheese at a Low Temperature (95 to 115 Degrees Fahrenheit)
Now remember, you don’ t want to melt or cook the cheese. You want to dehydrate it. The absolute maximum temperature you want to use when dehydrating cheese is 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
I decided to go a bit lower than that, and initially set the temperature on my dehydrator to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. That may have been totally fine, but just a little while in, I started to smell the cheese. You know the wonderful cheesy smell that happens when you cook cheese? Hmmm. . .
Now I wouldn’t say that the cheese was cooking, but to be on the safe side, I turned the temperature on my dehydrator down to 100 degrees Fahrenheit about 30 minutes in.
It’s true that it will take longer for the cheese to dehydrate at a lower temperature, but I felt that lowering the temperature was the best way to avoid melting the cheese.
Pro Tip: Since you want to dehydrate the cheese at a lower temperature, it’s extremely important to use a dehydrator with a temperature control. In my case, I used my Cosori Premium Stainless Steel Dehydrator (Amazon). My other dehydrator is a Nesco (Amazon | Pleasant Hill Grain), which also has a temperature control. The main thing is to avoid ever using a dehydrator without a temperature control, because they dehydrate at too high of a temperature for most things, including cheese.
Cheese After 5 Hours in the Dehydrator
I checked the cheese after it had been dehydrating for 5 hours. While the cheese looked a bit different, than when I first put it in, it was far from being completely dehydrated. It was still very flexible.
Surprisingly, while there was some grease on the flour sack towels, there was no visible grease on the cheese itself, so I didn’t blot it.
If, by chance, you notice any sheen on the cheese while dehydrating it, blot it with a lint free towel to soak up the grease.
Cheese After 11 Hours in the Dehydrator
After 11 hours in the dehydrator, the cheese was. . . Completely dehydrated.
One thing to be aware of is that when dehydrating cheese, it doesn’t shrink up much at all, which is unusual for dehydrated food.
I was surprised that there was no visible oil or moisture of any kind on the dehydrated cheese. I attribute that to dehydrating the cheese on the flour sack towels that I had folded to fit on the dehydrator trays. Because they were folded, they were more than one layer thick. The towels did a great job absorbing the fat!
How to Tell if Cheese is Completely Dehydrated
When the cheese is completely dehydrated, it will snap easily. There should be no flexibility in the cheese. If the cheese is at all “bendy,” it’s not completely dehydrated.
Another test that I like to do is to drop it into a glass bowl. It should make a “clinking” sound rather than a thud. If the cheese easily snaps into, and makes that clinking sound, it’s completely dehydrated.
Another thing to note is that the cheese was dull looking. There was a slight chalky-looking exterior on the cheese. This was a noticeable difference compared to when the cheese was only partially dehydrated.
Place the Dehydrated Cheese Into a Towel-Lined Bowl
Since there is a high fat content in cheese, it’s important to take every opportunity you can to blot off any excess fat before storing the cheese. In addition to blotting the cheese, an additional step you can take is to dump the dehydrated cheese into a lint-free towel-lined bowl.
The towel helps absorb fat that may be coating the cheese. In my case, the flour sack towels had done such a great job absorbing the grease as the cheese dehydrated, this step wasn’t needed. However, it’s also good to let the cheese cool a bit before moving onto the next steps, and dumping it into a towel lined bowl is good for that as well.
How to Dehydrate Cheese into Powder
While you can store the dehydrated cheese without powdering it, grinding it into a powder is helpful for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that you can use the cheese powder on popcorn, or to make a cheese sauce.
The other reason is that it’s easier to ensure that the cheese is completely dehydrated if you powder it and then put the powder back into the dehydrator for an additional hour.
In addition to that, powdered cheese takes up less space than dehydrated cheddar cheese, so you can store more cheese in a single jar. This is great for anyone with limited storage space.
To make cheese powder, let the dehydrated cheese come to room temperature. This should only take a minute. The main thing is to avoid trying to powder the cheese when it’s still warm. If the cheese is still warm when you attempt to powder it, the heat may cause condensation – and introduce moisture into the cheese. You don’t want that! In addition to that, if the cheese is still warm, when you grind it, it may gum things up, and you don’t want that either!
To powder the cheese, you can use a clean coffee grinder or a blender. When using a coffee grinder, it’s best to use one that you use only for your dehydrating products. I purchased this coffee grinder (Amazon) specifically for making powders. It works great, but only powders small amounts at a time. Because of that, I decided to use a Ninja blender (Amazon), since it has a larger capacity.
To blend the cheese, pulse it several times before running the blender. You don’t need or want to blend it for a long time, because the heat from the blender can introduce moisture into the cheese.
Benefits of Using Flour Sack Towels when Dehydrating Cheese
A huge problem that people have when dehydrating cheese is the amount of fat that comes off the cheese. Before dehydrating cheese, I watched a ton of videos and read plenty of blog posts about how to dehydrate cheese. In all cases, the paper towels that people used were just soaked with grease, and they had to pat off the fat throughout the process.
Every time I checked the cheese, I didn’t see any beads of fat on the cheese. I saw fat on the flour sack towels, but the cheese itself was dry.
In addition to the flour sack towels (Amazon) probably doing a better job of absorbing the fat, I think it also helped that I folded the towels rather than cutting them down to the size of the dehydrator trays. While the extra thickness may have increased the amount of time required to dehydrate the cheese, it seemed to take care of the grease problem. I never once had to blot the cheese, and it was bone dry when I finished dehydrating it.
As you can see in the images above, the top and second layer of the flour sack towels had grease, but the bottom two layers were grease free.
The good news is, the towels washed up beautifully, and didn’t stain! You can pick up flour sack towels here on Amazon.
How to Store Dehydrated Cheese
Dehydrated cheese will be shelf stable for about a year, IF you store it properly. It’s super important to vacuum seal the cheese. I use mason jars, a FoodSaver, and jar attachments to vacuum seal the cheese, all available on Amazon.
If you don’t vacuum seal them, they will be shelf stable for only a couple of weeks. This is fine if you’re dehydrating the cheese for a camping or backpacking trip, but not so good if you want to store the dehydrated cheese in your pantry.
One important note is that while you can reuse canning lids when vacuum sealing the dehydrated cheese, it’s important to note that the lids need to be in good shape. As you can see in the photo above, the lid on the powdered cheese was damaged and because of that, it didn’t seal well. I replaced the lid with one in better shape, and it has stayed sealed.
How to Use Dehydrated Cheese
You can use dehydrated cheese in various ways. The first is to put the powdered cheese over something like popcorn. While this is tasty, powdered, home-dehydrated cheese doesn’t get nice and powdery like the fake powdered cheese you often see available commercially. The main way I like to use powdered dehydrated cheese is to make a cheese sauce with it. I’ll show you that below.
One interesting thing to note is that in all of the videos I’ve watched and blog posts that I’ve read on dehydrating cheese, everyone, and I mean everyone, powders the dehydrated cheese. While I like the idea of making cheese sauce, I also want to be able to put shredded cheese on tacos. So, I decided to store both my dehydrated cheese in two forms: shredded and powdered.
Rehydrating Shredded Dehydrated Cheese (for tacos, etc.)
To test out rehydrating the dehydrated shredded cheddar cheese, I put 1 tablespoon of cheese into a small mason jar. I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time to the cheese, stirring after each addition. In the photo above on the right, you can see that there was a small amount of water in the bottom that hadn’t been absorbed by the cheese. This is perfect, because the cheese will continue to absorb the water.
I stirred the cheese once more, put a lid on it, and stuck in the fridge overnight. It’s possible it would take less time to rehydrate the cheese, but I’d anticipate allowing at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
When I checked the cheese in the morning, it was perfectly rehydrated and tasted like fresh cheese. All of the water had been absorbed. It likely could have used an additional half a teaspoon of water because while rehydrated, it was a little on the dry side.
Using the Rehydrated Cheddar Cheese
I wanted to test the “meltability” of the cheese, so I put the rehydrated cheese on a corn tortilla, and popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds. As you can see in the photo on the right, it melted well. It was a little overdone on the edges, so for that amount of cheese, 20 seconds would have been sufficient, at least in my microwave.
The bottom line is that the dehydrated shredded cheddar cheese rehydrated well, and melted just fine.
I also experimented with making cheese sauce using the powdered cheese.
I was super pleased with how both the rehydrated shredded cheese turned out, as well as the homemade dehydrated cheese powder. As you can see in the image above, I used the cheese powder for some delicious mac and cheese, that is far superior to what you’d get in a box.
If you enjoyed this article, you will likely enjoy these related articles:
- Dehydrating Ham and Making Ham Jerky
- How to Dehydrate Eggs at Home
- How to Dehydrate Cottage Cheese for Food Storage
- Dehydrating Hot Dogs for Your Prepper Pantry
- How to Dehydrate Ground Beef