During the summer months we constantly get emails saying, “Help! I just got a million pounds of [insert fruit of your choice here] what can I make with it??” If that’s you, this should be at the top of your list! And even if you don’t have a million pounds of anything, it should still be a the top of your list. You can use just about any fruit, and it’s perfect for those things that are just a little too ripe to eat any other way. My kids LOVE homemade fruit roll-ups (which is a way more appetizing name than fruit leather, so we’re going to say roll-ups, okay?) Now, I have absolutely nothing against pre-packaged foods. Heck, my 14 month old ate like 7 packs of fruit snacks before I even got dressed this morning. I’m not one of those moms who makes everything from scratch- but, it’s sure nice to do sometimes. I do like to encourage my kids to eat healthy, wholesome food, and it’s a bonus when they can help make it. Besides the fact that these taste simply amazing, you control exactly what goes in there, and I love that. No artificial colors or flavors or preservatives, just perfectly wonderful fruit and the amount of sweetener you like. I’m telling you; whether your 5 or 95, you’ll love eating fruit roll-ups!
You can use just about any fruit or fruit combination you can imagine. I got loads of raspberries and a few peaches yesterday from my sweet friend Carolyn, and we had some strawberries on hand already. I’ve never had a bad fruit combo, so play around and see what you like! And while this is fabulous with fresh fruit, you can also use frozen, or even fruit you’ve canned.
Prepare Fruit: Make sure your fruit is washed and then roughly chop just so you can measure. If you’re into measuring, that is. If you’re not into measuring than this recipe is totally for you since it really doesn’t matter if you measure or not! Those of you who need a number, you’ll need about 3 cups fruit for a standard size rimmed baking sheet (13×18, or 13×15). I always do a little more than that just so I have plenty and can make it as thick as I want. Toss the extra in a smoothie.
Sweeten: If your fruit is naturally sweet enough, you don’t even have to add anything. I always add a little somethin’ somethin’ to mine. You can use granulated sugar, honey, or even splenda or agave syrup. I’m going to add a little honey to my peach-strawberry mix. I added about 3-4 tablespoons. You can also add ground spices and extracts at this point. Keep in mind that flavors and sweetness intensify after drying, so less is more. For light colored fruits, add about 2 teaspoons lemon juice to prevent browning. You can add lemon juice to any fruit combo just to brighten the flavor.
Puree: Many (actually, most) recipes for fruit leathers/roll-ups have you simmer the fruit on the stove first. I used to do that until I realized I didn’t really have to- and you all know I will avoid dirtying a dish if I can! So just pop it all in a food processor so you can get it nice and smooth. This picture below is actually of my raspberry batch. I did all raspberries with white sugar and almond extract. Holy heaven-in-a-food-processor:
Taste the mixture after it’s smooth and add more sweetener if you need to. You need to be able to pour this mixture, so if you puree your fruit and it’s pretty thick, just add a little liquid. You can add water, or fruit juice.
Line Pans: Okay, technically this step should happen at the beginning, but whatever. Just be sure to line your pan. You’ll notice in the photo above, I’ve lined my pan with plastic wrap. While these are going in the oven, the temperature is so low it won’t melt the plastic, BUT- DON’T USE CHEAP PLASTIC WRAP. I need to make that clear. Use good quality plastic wrap, not a bargain brand; some packages even specify for use in a microwave. Others are so flimsy and cheap that you might run the risk of them melting at such a low heat. Use good stuff and you’ll be fine. Just cover the entire pan with plastic and smooth out any wrinkles. You don’t want a ton of overhang, so trim if you need to, but make sure to leave at least an inch or two of overhang because it will kind of shrink up in the oven. Leave the edges loose (as in, don’t tighten them around the pan.) You can also use a silicone baking mat like in the strawberry batch below. Both silicone and plastic wrap work the best in my opinion. The fruit will stick to both foil and parchment so I don’t recommend those. If you do decide to try it, you need to spray it with non-stick spray or brush it with vegetable oil first. I think plastic and silicone really work the best so go with one of those.
Spread Puree: Use an offset spatula to gently spread the mixture in an even layer. The more evenly you spread, the more evenly it cooks. Keep the mixture away from the edges like in the photo below. You’ll want it about 1/8″ thick. Your puree should be thin enough that it pours, but thick enough to stay put where you spread it.
Cook: Set your oven temperature to the lowest setting. Mine is 170, many ovens will go down to 140. 170 works great, and it will be a little faster than 140. You’re basically just warming the air, helping the fruit dry faster. You can actually place the trays outside in the sun as well, but it does take much longer than the oven. And if you have a food dehydrator, obviously just follow the instructions for your machine.
This is where you will have to be patient. It takes about 6-8 hours, sometimes longer, for it to dry. If you aren’t going to be at home and you don’t want to leave your oven on, just keep the oven door shut and turn it off while you’re gone. Turn it back on when you get back and it will just keep on drying. I often make this in the evening and leave it in the oven for a few hours, then turn the oven heat off when I go to bed, and turn it back on in the morning until it’s done. You can test it by touching the center of the fruit mixture- it should not stick to your finger, and not indent when you touch it. The edges will cook faster than the center; if the edges look like they’re getting crispy, you can cut those off later, or brush them with a little water or juice during the baking process to rehydrate. Or if you overbake the entire pan, you can also brush with a little water until it’s pliable again.
See how thin that is? You can see right through it.
I never thought fruit roll-ups could be gorgeous, but this raspberry one is gor-ge-ous! You can certainly strain out the seeds before cooking, but I happen to think straining raspberry seeds is a huge pain in the rear and I love the little bit of texture it gives to the final product.
Remove: You can peel it off the plastic or baking mat while it’s still warm, it should come off easily.
Roll: You can wrap it right back up in the plastic, or cut a sheet of parchment to fit.
I like to use a pizza cutter and trim all of the edges (my kids love to eat that part) so I have nice clean lines to work with. Because I’m a freak like that. If you have a good (clean) pair of scissors, you could roll the whole sheet and then just snip all the way through the roll. If you’re like me and have 14 pairs of crappy scissors, none of which you can ever find when you actually need them, then cut into strips and then roll them up i ndividually. Or if you want large rolls of fruit, you can do it that way. I love these little one-inch segments because they’re a great size for kiddos.
Most of the little rolls will stay rolled, but if they need help, you can always attach a little piece of tape, or a twist tie to keep them all bundled up.
They make yummy little treats in lunch boxes
Or healthy snacks (for Mom and Dad too!)
Since the drying process is long, fit as many pans in your oven as you can! We love to do all different colors and flavors and experiment with flavor combinations.
It’s also a good idea to make lots because these will be gone in a heart beat.
If stored well (I like to keep them in a mason jar) these can stay fresh up to several weeks.
Or so I’ve heard. I’ve honestly never had them last more than a few days.
Okay, one day. About an hour unless I hide the jar.
You can also freeze them.
Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups
2 1/2 – 3 cups ripe or slightly over-ripe diced fruit
sweetener to taste: honey, sugar, agave, etc.
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
optional: seasonings, spices, extracts to taste
Preheat oven to lowest temperature. 140° or higher. Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap, or a silicone baking mat (don’t use foil, parchment, or waxed paper), and spread to 1/8″ thick. Place in oven and bake for 6-8 hours, until center is not tacky anymore. Remove from oven and peel off of baking sheet. Cut into strips and roll in parchment or plastic. Store in airtight container or freeze.
-All fruits will produce slightly different results. Strawberries and Raspberries are two of my favorites, that consistently produce good flavor and texture. You might have to experiment to find what works well. If you’re going to make a giant batch, you may want to test one first to make sure it works well.
– The addition of sugar or honey enhances the texture and makes the fruit roll ups a little more chewy than if you leave it out.
– If using plastic wrap, it will shrink a little as the fruit dries, so do leave a little extra around the edges. A silicone baking mat works the absolute best in my opinion.