What is Freeze Dried and how is it different from Dehydrated?

The difference between freeze dried and dehydrated can sometimes be hard to grasp. I was introduced to freeze dried foods in 2010, and I became so excited by what I had learned about the advantages of having and using freeze dried foods that I started sharing my new found love with others.  I noticed that even after I explain the difference between freeze dried and dehydrated, it was still hard for some of my friends to understand.  The concept of freeze drying is so new to many, and they just didn’t know what to make of it.  But the differences are actually huge, when they got it and realized they were excited and eager to use it. 

 The Process

So what does “freeze dried” actually mean. Simply put, freeze drying is just removing the water from a piece of food, using cold instead of heat, as dehydration would use.  This is done by placing the already flash frozen food into a freeze drying unit, then slightly raising the temperature (to a nice warm negative 50 degrees) while dropping the air pressure to sublimate the water (turning the ice into water vapor). The water vapor is then vacuum extracted, causing no damage to the cell structure of the food while retaining almost all of the nutrients. This process also makes the food incredibly shelf stable and, unlike dehydrated foods, allows them to keep the food simple and clean with no added artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

The process for dehydrating foods is heating the food until the water is removed by evaporation. It is not possible to remove as much water through dehydration as it is for freeze drying. Dehydration, depending on the process used, leaves about 5% to 30% of the water in the food, whereas freeze drying leaves about 1%-2%.

This difference matters as it significantly affects shelf life. The typical shelf life of freeze dried foods is 20 to 30 years. The typical shelf life of dehydrated foods is 1 to 8 years. The average opened shelf life of Thrive Foods is 1 year, being stored properly.


Since freeze drying removes so much water, no additives are needed for single ingredient items. Thrive Life pineapple is just pineapple, even the enzymes are kept intact.  No need for additives. Dehydrated pineapple turns brown, to stop that browning sulfur is added. To mask the taste of the sulfur, sugar is added. Salt, sugar, or other additives are often added to dehydrated foods to maintain their shelf life.

Freeze drying retains 98% of nutrients. With dehydration, up to 50% of nutrients are lost due to the process. Heat destroys some of the nutrients and some of the cell structure of the food.  The difference is really easy to see when you know you dehydrate Grapes to end up with Raisins. Since Thrive freeze dried produce are vine ripened and then flash frozen within hours they contain even more nutrients than artificially ripened produce.

Raisins (dehydrated grapes) Freeze Dried Red Seedless Grapes


You can snack on right out of the can or bag, without rehydration. With dehydrated foods, it really depends on the item. Freeze dried foods are easy to rehydrate (refresh) with cold or hot water. When hydrated they are just as the fresh product would be after being frozen and thawed.  Dehydrated, on the other hand, is not so simple. You cannot turn beef jerky back into roast beef. Normally you would need to cook dehydrated foods to make them edible again. And the results are never as good as they were before they were dehydrated.


Dehydration greatly reduces the types of foods that can be preserved. What you can find dehydrated is mostly fruits, vegetables, and some meats. However, most foods can be freeze dried like meat, cheese, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and more. Dehydration also limits the ways foods can be served, you can’t use dehydrated cheese powder to get melty cheese like on a pizza. With freeze drying, the original properties are preserved. So, whatever you can do with pre-freeze dried ingredients you can do with Thrive freeze dried foods.

Freeze drying also allows for quality dinner time meals in a kit, not like MRE’s or Camping Bag meals. Thrive has what are called Simple Plates for another great option.

Now Thrive even offers To Go mini meals. More are scheduled to be released soon.

2018 August New To Go.png

Thrive has, in the past, offered Ice Cream & Cookie Dough Bites on limited runs.  Psst! Stick with me and I’ll let you know when treats like that become available.

In Summary

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I dehydrate certain things in my home; it is easy to do and serves a good purpose. I love doing sun dried tomatoes, and dried citrus fruits especially during the holidays. I will dry some of my fresh herbs. These are a few examples where dehydrating is great. But if you want shelf stable food that you can use on a daily basis, you just cannot compete with freeze dried. In my research and comparisons, Thrive Life is the best of the freeze dried companies out there.

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