Crafty in the Kitchen: Shrunken Head Tutorial

Can I just tell you how much I’m loving our Halloween Party?! I loved all of the nice comments on my post about Halloween Party Food, and I’m getting a kick out of all of the creative names you guys have come up with for Kate’s Goblin Grub! Keep ’em comin’!

Now it’s time to get our craft on. Woo hoo! I remember making these shrunken heads when I was a kid and it was so cool to watch our creations turn into creepy little guys! My husband and 2 boys thought this was a riot, so follow along with our shrunken head tutorial with your family and see what you come up with!

Shrunken Apple Heads

supplies and ingredients:
lemon juice
paring knife
vegetable peeler

*You can use any variety of apple. I like to use a variety because they all dry differently so you’ll get some different results. Granny Smith’s are probably my favorite though.

Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water and give it a couple douses of lemon juice and a spoonful of salt. You’re gonna ask me how much, aren’t you? C’mon, live on the wild side and just douse!

Use a vegetable peeler to peel your apples. Get as much from around the stem as you can, or leave some to make a little hat 🙂 As each apple gets peeled, plop it in the lemon juice/water/salt bowl.

When you’re ready to carve, use a small paring knife to cut into your apple. The vegetable peeler works great for eye holes. Remember that the apple is going to wither and shrink, so you want to exaggerate features. You also don’t need to get too detailed. General shapes are great and details get totally lost anyway. Here’s my little guys, charming aren’t they?

If you want, you can use cloves for eyes and grains of rice for little spooky teeth.

Now it’s time to be patient. They need to dry out and it can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks. They need to be in a dry place. If they are left somewhere humid, you risk them turning into little moldy heads. Moldy heads would be pretty freaky looking, so you may want to just go with it if that’s what your after, but I wouldn’t advise it 🙂

I kept mine on a baking sheet in my oven. I opened the door a few times a day just to let some air circulate in there. You can even turn the oven on to help them along. After a few days I worried that they wouldn’t be done in time for this post so I started to turn the oven on periodically. Every day I’d turn it on to the lowest possible heat (170 degrees for me) for an hour or so and then just turn the oven off and leave the door closed. That helped shrink them much faster. If you live in a humid area, you may just want to leave them in the oven with the oven turned on to the lowest temp for a couple of days.

My boys loved checking on their “freaky little apple mans” each morning and watching them transform! When they’re done, they’re quite bizarre; I think this guy (and the one behind it) are my favorite:

So what do you do with creepy little apple heads? Make a centerpiece of course! Everyone will want to know what the crap you have on your table and they’ll think you’re awesome when you tell them they’re little gnomes you found in your basement and then performed an ancient ritual on. I think this is actually pretty classy for a shrunken head centerpiece!

Our Best Bites Shrunken Heads
That’s just a decorative glass bowl (a trifle bowl would work great). I placed floral foam in the middle and then surrounded it with rocks. I put some moss from the craft store on top and then stuck those little creepsters on twigs and popped them in. A little touch of spiderweb was the final addition. You could also make them into dolls like people mentioned in the comments.

Try these out at home with your honey or your kiddos- everyone is guaranteed to love it!

*Disclaimer: this post includes affiliate links, which just means that when you purchase items through our links, we earn a small commission, which helps us keep working hard to create recipes for you! 


  1. we made those when we were kids! except we attached them to a skewer and made clothes for them lol. It was so funny. I made an old lady in a white dress when I was like 11-years-old.

  2. Another tip- we formed their features by squishing and squeezing the flesh of the apple every day to make it look like we wanted.

  3. AHHH…so THIS is why my little brother was soaking an apple in lemon juice about a week ago. I could not figure out what he was trying to do. I figured, he's 8, he's weird, whatever. LOL.

  4. This has got to be my favorite week ever! I love Halloween and all these great ideas are just in time to let me plan them out with my nephews. Thanks!!!

  5. I am in love with these! What a perfect halloween craft.

    Loving halloween week, ladies! keep up the good work! thanks for all the great ideas!

    1. Awesome! Dry ice who’d have thought? Thanks! This will look great @ my girls’ party – one question once they’re done – how long do you use them as decor? In other words – if they take a week or two to make? About how long after that til they’re done-done?

  6. Well, your artistic skills are clearly amazing. My attempts at scary apple faces would not be the same. What a fun idea!

  7. I love these! I showed your idea to my husband and he said "We should totally make those! They would look so cool in my office at work." See? Even hubby approved!

  8. These are so fun aren't they? I made these for a Halloween party my daughter had in sixth grade, that was 4 years ago. I STILL have the heads! LOL

  9. Ah! I remember making a creepy old lady when I was in school. My son just came up with a great idea, so we're going to try it! He said we could put them in the food dehydrator!

    Kristine 🙂

  10. I don't know why I was reading this, but I have to laugh because I thought I was the only one that said "what the crap"…. People actually make fun of me… they are like.."ummmm, did you just say what the crap?" Yeppers!!
    I just love your humor and the way you guys talk on here… LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!
    PS. these little creepers are adorable. I must try them this next Halloween… or perhaps when my husband is naughty I will tell him I am now practicing voodoo LOL

  11. My mom likes to carve apples like that, cut them in half (2 faces per apple) and float them in our apple cider punch bowl at Halloween. I like that you took it a step farther!

  12. My Mom used to make these with me when I was little. She would put a wire hanger through the middle so you can hang them. She also used marbles for the eyes. It’s very cool to watch them shrink around the marble, looks like an eye in it’s socket. Thanks for bringing back this memory 🙂 I’m adding this idea to my Halloween party to do list.

  13. The comment above me (Laura) is my sister. I loved them too!
    Our mother died last year and we found alot of envelopes with hair from us and our kids in them. She saved hair for almost 60yrs. We know she saved the hair for apple dolls but it seemed too freaky for us to put our hair on dolls, too much like voodoo, so we threw the hair away.
    But we did find at least 1,000 marbles. Mom also put marbles into the oven to crack them. They look really pretty. Can use them for eyes or jewelery.
    The coolest thing in life is having a creative mother and inheriting that part of her.

  14. ***Other things to add to the creation of an apple doll***
    TEETH – cut up pieces of Chicklet gum or anything else you can cut to size
    WOODEN TEETH – toothpicks
    EYES – marbles, beads, old post earrings (put into socket, just after carving) HAIR – from old doll(barbie,etc…)
    HATS – doll hats, bonnets, scarves to create a head piece
    BODY – stuff a sock, use doll clothes and shoes ***I JUST THOUGHT OF A CRAZY IDEA! USE A BARBIE DOLL’S BODY & YOUR APPLE HEAD!
    If you want to save your apple doll head:
    After it has shrunk and you think it looks good, you must put a polyurethane coating over it. My mom used the shiney brush on. But you can use the non-shiney, spray can poly.
    Makes the job much easier with less mess and looks more natural without the shine.

  15. Mine have started getting moldy, so i am trying to save them by putting them in the oven on low heat. Do you think this will work?!

  16. OMG… THANK YOU for the memories!!! I had COMPLETELY forgotten about these!!! We made little old ladies too!! THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

  17. I have always wondered how exactly to do these–the last time I was in third grade and we made Mr. and Mrs. Claus dolls. What a great FHE activity we are going to have tonight!! Thanks!

  18. Ok this might be a weird question since I don’t see anyone else posted anything about it, but don’t you have a problem with fruit flies with rotting apple sitting around the house? Just wondering because I would love love to make these this Halloween but I am worried about having fruit flies everywhere.

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