If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you probably ate your fair share of Fruit Roll-ups, fruit snacks and Fruit-by-the-Foot.
Despite now knowing that these “fruit-less” snacks were oh so bad for you, there’s often a certain nostalgia wrapped up in them. Perhaps you’d love to indulge in them guilt-free, or maybe you want to share them with your children (minus the loads of sugar and harmful additives).
Luckily, it turns out for 90s-kid palates and 2020 health-conscious parenting, there is a healthy way to scratch that itch: fruit leather.
Fruit leather is a sort of healthier, tastier, less-chemical-laden version of the Fruit-Roll-ups of your youth. From strawberry to apple leather, kids and parents alike love this sweet treat, and it turns out that it is a super easy snack for you to make at home!
What is Fruit Leather?
Fruit leather is simply dried, pureéd fruit. It’s called “leather” because it has the look and texture of leather, but it is the healthier (real fruit!) cousin to the Fruit Roll-ups of your youth.
It’s simply made by pouring pureéd fruit onto a flat surface for drying. Though it can be rolled up and peeled apart like Fruit Roll-Ups, they are very, very different.
While calling sugary snacks, like Fruit Roll-ups and Fruit-by-the-Foot, “fruit” today seems almost laughable, in the 90s they were marketed to us as a healthy snack. This marketing was done despite the fact that the primary ingredient in Fruit Roll-ups is sugar.
General Mills’ Fruit Roll-Ups contain five different types of sugar in fact: sugar from pear juice concentrate, corn syrup, dried corn syrup, sugar and a small amount of dextrose. That’s a lot of sugar!
Fruit leather, on the other hand, is made from fruit. Simple as that. You can add a sweetener, like honey, if you want, but it’s not necessary for making fruit leather. By making this homemade leather yourself, you can save money, mix the fruit flavors to design your favorite, and develop a healthy snack for your children (or you!)
Whether you crave that taste of strawberry, want to make some apricot fruit leather or prefer to concoct your own fruit mixture, this recipe should guide you to the finish line.
What Do You Need?
4 Cups of Fruit of Choice
This amount will yield about one baking sheet of fruit leather. For my fruit leather, I used 3 cups raspberries and 1 cup applesauce, but the sky’s the limit here. Feel free to use strawberries, apple, apricot, or a fruit mixture of your desire!
Use it to sweeten more tart fruits. You can use sugar, but crystals will likely develop if it is not eaten immediately.
Lemon Juice (optional)
Using 2 teaspoons per 2 cups light-colored fruit will help prevent darkening
Water (as needed)
Add water to less juicy fruits to create the right texture for the pureé.
- blender or food processor
- dehydrator or oven
- baking sheet or cookie sheet — If using the oven method, a 13″ X 15″ cookie pan with edges works well
- cake batter spatula — or any other utensil that can be used to spread your pureé evenly
- parchment paper
Fruits (here are some commonly used ones)
Note: Applesauce (apple pureé) is an exceptionally versatile addition. It can be dried alone or added to any fruit pureé without affecting the flavor much, except to decrease tartness.
Fresh, frozen or canned fruit can all be used, but the process for using them will vary a little.
How to Make Fruit Leather: A Sweet and Easy Fruit Leather Recipe
This fruit leather recipe will take 6-12 hours depending on your fruit leather’s thickness and choice of fruit, so plan to pop these in the oven or dehydrator around breakfast time or do it overnight.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 hours
It’s as simple as 1-2-3:
- Turn your fruit into pureé or buy some applesauce cups.
- Spread the pureé on a baking sheet or dehydrator tray.
- Let it dry in the oven/dehydrator for at least 6 hours.
See? Simple. But let’s break it down a little more.
You can use any kind of fruit in any form, but the process may be a little different depending on what you choose.
- Fresh fruit: This is a great way to use up overly ripe fruit! When using fresh fruit, choose ones that are ripe or slightly overripe. Be sure to wash your fruit and remove peels, seeds and stems.
- Frozen fruit: Defrost before using and then treat it as fresh fruit.
- Home-preserved or canned fruit: Drain the fruit but save the liquid.You may need to add it later if the pureé is too thick. Add the liquid as needed.
Step #1: Pureé and Prepare the Fruit
Be sure to wash all fruits before using. Take the pits out of stone fruit, decore fruits like apples and pears, and remove the stems from fruits like grapes. Chop your fruit.
While berries can simply be tossed into the blender, some hard fruits, like apples or pears, are going to need to be cooked a little before they can become pureé.
To cook these ingredients, add the fruit and a half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit to a pan. Bring to a simmer, and cover with a lid. Cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes or until the fruit releases its juices and begins to thicken.
Pureé the fruit in a blender or food processor. Add honey, lemon juice or water and continue to pureé the fruit until very smooth. Let it cool.
Once you have pureéd your fruit, taste it to be sure it is to your liking. Adjust flavorings as needed. There are additional suggestions at the end of this recipe.
Step #2: Prepare for Drying
It will take 6-12 hours depending on your fruit leather’s thickness and choice of fruit, so plan to pop these in the oven or dehydrator around breakfast time or leave it overnight.
If you have a dehydrator, this is a great use for it, but it’s not required for this recipe. An oven works fine.
If you’re using an oven to dehydrate the fruit, preheat it to the lowest setting, somewhere between 140–200 degrees Fahrenheit. Although 140 is recommended, the lowest my oven would go was 170 degrees, and it worked out just fine.
Line your baking sheet or dehydrator fruit tray with non-stick parchment paper. Parchment paper is not required for the dehydrator tray, but it definitely makes it easier to peel your fruit leather up. Do not use plastic wrap, waxed paper or aluminum foil.
Additionally, you can have neither a dehydrator nor an oven, and you can still make fruit leather.
A more traditional method for dehydrating and making fruit leather is leaving it covered with some cheesecloth in the sun on a hot day. Decide which method works best for you.
Approximate drying times:
- dehydrator: 6 to 8 hours
- oven: up to 12 hours
- sun: 1 to 2 days
Step #3: Pour the Fruit Leather
Pour the pureé from the blender directly onto the baking sheet or dehydrator tray lined with parchment paper. This surface can be a single large sheet (13″ X 15″) or several smaller ones. Keep in mind that the larger size will take longer to dry, so check on smaller ones sooner.
Spread the material around with a spatula until you get a nice even layer. Unevenness in spreading will cause your fruit leather to cook unevenly, so try to get it as even as you can. It should be about 1/8-inch thick.
If you’re using a dehydrator, you can make multiple layers with multiple trays.
Step #4: Dehydrate and Dry the Leather
Place your tray(s) of pureé in the dehydrator, and set it to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place your baking sheet(s) or pureé in your preheated oven set at 140 degrees or the lowest setting. If your oven has a convection setting, using it will help speed up the process.
Then go on about your day. This will take some time.
Note: Some ovens cook a little unevenly, so check on it from time to time and rotate as needed.
The fruit leather is ready when it has a leathery appearance and peels away from the parchment paper easily. It should be tacky, not sticky (not yet done) or hard (too well done). Keep in mind that leather dries from the outside edge toward the center.
Another way to test if it is done is to touch the center of the leather. Your touch should not leave a mark.
Step #5: Storing the Leather
Set your fruit leather on the counter to fully cool down for 4 hours or overnight.
Use clean kitchen scissors to cut through both the fruit leather and parchment paper together in strips of the size you desire.
Roll them up, parchment paper and all, or place on a fresh sheet of parchment paper for a cleaner appearance. Tie with string or twine, or enjoy right away.
If your fruit leather doesn’t get eaten quickly, it will keep up to one month at room temperature.
Or keep it up to a year in an airtight container in the freezer.
How to Get Creative With Your Leather!
Once you’ve mastered basic fruit leather, you can start getting creative with it. Spruce up the fruit leather by adding in spices, flavors, or even use it to sneak in vegetable pureés for the kids.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Add spices such as allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mint, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Add to taste, try adding 1/8 teaspoon per 2 cups of pureé until you find the flavor strength that suits you.
- Add flavors with extracts and juice. Almond extract, lemon juice, lemon peel, lime juice, lime peel, orange extract, orange juice, orange peel or vanilla extract are some great ones to try. Add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for each 2 cups of pureé and taste.
- Use nuts and seeds to add in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Some ideas for this include shredded coconut, chopped dates, other dried chopped fruits, granola, miniature marshmallows, chopped nuts, chopped raisins, poppy seeds, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds.
- Make it even healthier with veggies like spinach, zucchini, sweet potato, butternut squash or beets
No matter how you flavor it, fruit leather is a healthier alternative to processed and chemical-laden store-bought roll-ups, and it’s just so easy!
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