Love the look of dried orange slices in garlands and other festive decorations? Here's how to dry orange slices perfectly every time!
This article contains affiliate links. Click here to learn more.
The first time I remember seeing dried citrus slices used in festive Christmas decorating, it was on a gorgeously lavish wreath on a historic building in Portsmouth, NH. I was smitten. It looked so decadent, but simple and wholesome at the same time. And so...historic.
It wasn't until years later that I learned the actual history of decorating with citrus fruits is really quite recent. When those stately historic buildings were in their youth, folks would never have dreamed of putting something so precious as citrus fruit up for a decoration.
It would be like you or I decorating with pieces of single-origin handcrafted chocolate.
With the rise of early 20th century colonial revivalism though, some beautiful anachronisms worked their way into the earnest and enthusiastic decorating, and these have become lovely traditions in their own right. Dried citrus used in garlands, wreaths, and swags, is one such tradition.
Aside from the historic and wholesome appeal, one thing I love about decorating with dried citrus is that you can start EARLY. November is not too soon.
Unlike evergreen garlands that get droopy and brittle, and then start shedding vacuum-clogging needles, a citrus garland can go up before Thanksgiving, and still look (and smell) lovely right through January.
And making dried orange slices at home is the easiest thing. It's a fun way to usher in the holiday season!
I've found the best way to make dried citrus slices is in a dehydrator. You can also dry them on a cookie sheet in the oven on your lowest-heat setting, but I find that a dehydrator better preserves the beautiful colors of the individual fruits.
(This is the inexpensive dehydrator I use, by the way. I put about 2,000 hours per year of use on it, and it's partway into its tenth year. The thing will not die.)
How to dry orange slices in a dehydrator
Start with firm, quality fruit. This really does make a difference in the beauty of the finished slices. I love using a variety of citrus fruits, since the different sizes and colors of the dried slices add such a wonderful variety and interest when used in decorating. Try using different types of oranges to achieve a variety of sizes and colors.
Citrus fruits that dry beautifully include:
- Florida oranges
- Mandarin oranges
- Blood oranges
- Meyer lemons
- Grapefruit (I generally select small pink grapefruit)
Wash your fruit well! Aesthetically, you want to wash it well so that no spray residue (organic or conventional) is left on the fruits - you don't want anything to inhibit the beauty of the peel color from really shining! Also, if fruits are not organic, I don't want to be breathing in any chemicals left from pesticide residue while my citrus slices are dehydrating.
Using a sharp knife or mandoline (here's the one I use and LOVE), cut fruits into thin slices about 1/8 - 3/16 of an inch thick. I really like to keep slices thinner than 1/4 inch. I find that thinner slices dry more quickly, their colors remain more vivid, and their peels look delicate rather than heavy. I also get more slices out of each fruit when they're on the thinner side.
Some folks recommend using paper towels to absorb some of the moisture from each slice before drying, but I find this really doesn't benefit the beauty of the finished slices, and don't recommend it.
Don't toss the ends - you can still poke holes through them and use those in your decorations too! I dry every bit when I'm dehydrating citrus fruits.
Place slices in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Because they're sliced from a round object, one side of your slice is going to be a little smaller, and one a little larger. I prefer to dry slices by placing the larger side down, and not turning fruit at all during the drying process.
Since I generally use dried slices in a way that they'll be seen primarily from one side (on a garland, or in a wreath) I like to make that one side as beautiful as possible, and increase the amount of peel that shows. Drying with the small side up, and not turning, helps the peel to curl just a teeny bit upward.
The Meyer lemons in the picture below are a good example of this. (The Florida oranges are actually laying upside down, and my tangerine was overripe so the effect is not as pronounced.)
Anyway! Once your slices are placed on the dehydrator trays, dry them at 135 degrees until thoroughly dry - about 8 hours.
Yes, this is longer than most tutorials say. I really find that dried slices hold up best, and preserve their colors most beautifully, if they're left in the dehydrator until they are very good and dry, not just "leather dry".
That's all there is to it!
They're all ready for making garlands, adding to wreaths, or dressing up gift wrapping!
Can you dry orange slices in an oven?
You bet! If you don't have a food dehydrator, you can also dry them in the oven. Use your oven's lowest-heat setting, which is usually somewhere around 250 degrees.
Place your orange slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at the lowest possible heat until thoroughly dry. Start with one hour, then flip the slices and start checking on them about every twenty minutes until they're completely dry.
Can you use this method to dry other fruits for decoration?
Absolutely! Now that you've dried orange slices, how about some decorative dried pear slices to round out your natural Christmas decor?
Pears, apples, and star-fruit are all fun decorate options that can be dried using this same basic method. String them up with twine to make natural dried fruit ornaments, and your Christmas tree will smell even more heavenly. I like adding a star anise to the center of each slice before I hang them, using a small drop of hot glue.
Dried citrus slices make great potpourri too!
There are tons of great recipes online for making your own diy potpourri, using ingredients you might already have. I love this orange spice one because it smells incredible and is a great use for any broken slices, or ones that might have not turned out so beautifully.
Even just some dried citrus and a few broken cinnamon sticks are enough to fill a room with the most wonderful holiday smells. Add a few pine cones and put it all in a decorative bowl for an easy room-warming centerpiece.
Homemade potpourri makes a wonderful gift as well, so it's a fun way to kill two birds with one big crating session!
Don't forget that dried orange slices are edible!
Dried citrus slices are actually a really tasty snack on their own. You can also use them to garnish holiday cocktails, or add one to a steaming mug of cider. Try adding a slice or two in a hot toddy, to take it to a whole new level!
How long do dried citrus slices last?
Practically forever, if they're stored in a dry, air-tight container, out of direct sunlight. Last Christmas I found a couple of dried citrus decorations that had accidentally been packed away two years ago - and they still looked beautiful, and even smelled faintly of orange.
That said - unless a certain ornament has sentimental value, I'd skip the storage and make them fresh each year.
And if you're planning to eat them, I'd do that within a couple weeks of making them. Properly dried fruits do last well, but I tend to err on the side of caution.
For a wreath that goes beyond December and looks lovely until spring, I really like this simple wreath with dried fruit and herbs.
However you use your dried citrus slices, I hope you have lots of fun with them! Making these is something we do every holiday season, and it wouldn't feel like Christmas here without the smell of dried oranges.