Freeze-dried strawberries are strawberries that have been processed in a way that both preserves their fresh flavor and extends the shelf life of the berries for years. When strawberries are freeze-dried, nearly all of the moisture inside them is removed, leaving a slightly spongy — but mostly brittle — fruit that can be reconstituted with liquid, crushed and used in recipes, or eaten in its dry form. A benefit of using freeze-dried strawberries in some recipes is that they can be baked or put into a mixture and retain their shape and most of their original texture without becoming mushy. In addition, the taste of freeze-dried strawberries, when not reconstituted, is much more concentrated than normal, allowing them to be used almost like a spice.
The way freeze-dried strawberries are made begins with the freezing process. This involves cleaning and drying the strawberries and putting them in a special machine that freezes them down to temperatures as low as -112° Fahrenheit (-80° Celsius) to quickly turn the moisture into ice. After being frozen, the strawberries are dried in a chamber in which the air pressure is lowered and some heat is applied, causing the ice crystals to evaporate without first turning to liquid and making the flesh of the berries moist. The strawberries are then heated again to remove any remaining moisture, leaving only the mostly intact dehydrated fruit. The freeze-dried strawberries are then sealed in vacuum-sealed containers to prevent moisture from reaching them as they are shipped to their final destinations.
One good use for freeze-dried strawberries is in baked products such as cakes or breads. They are well suited for this type of cooking because, when added dry to a batter, the strawberries will slowly rehydrate as the steam from the cake or bread is released while cooking. They also can be rolled inside of pastry dough. The finished result will be a baked product that contains nearly whole strawberries with a ripe taste and minimal color bleeding.
Another popular use for freeze-dried strawberries is as a crunchy accent to breakfast cereal. They also can be added to yogurt, oatmeal or fruit drinks. These strawberries can even be roughly chopped and used as a topping for cakes or ice cream.
An often overlooked aspect of eating freeze-dried strawberries is that they are deceptively light. After being freeze-dried, the berries weigh far less than they otherwise would, and it can be easy to use too many in a recipe or to eat too many as a snack. The strawberries in this state are nearly all carbohydrates, which can be a concern to some people on special diets.