Dried orange slices are the perfect eco-friendly addition to winter holiday decor, bringing a beautiful natural pop of color and cheer to your home – all for minimal cost and effort! Use them to adorn festive garlands, wreaths and centerpieces, or as ornaments, garnishes, in potpourri, and more. Thankfully, it’s really easy to dry orange slices at home! Bonus: they make your home smell amazing while they dry.
Use this guide and learn how to dry orange slices two ways: in the oven, or in a food dehydrator. We’ll also cover some frequently asked questions about making dried orange slices, including their history, shelf life and storage. I’ll also show you several cute ideas for how to decorate with dried oranges.
Why do people decorate with dried oranges for Christmas or during winter?
It’s always good to understand the background or history of a tradition, don’t you think? Oranges are associated with winter holidays for a number of reasons. First of all, the majority of citrus ripen during the winter season. Here on the Central Coast of California, our neighborhood trees are dripping with oranges from November through spring!
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, fresh oranges were rare and viewed as a luxury item to splurge on at Christmastime. Folks would give them as gifts, often tucking them into their children’s stockings as a nod to the “sacks of gold” that old Saint Nick would deliver down the chimney.
Even before American Christian traditions, cultures around the world adorned their homes with elements of nature as part of Winter Solstice celebrations, including bows of greenery, wreaths, and garlands with dried fruit. Winter Solstice occurs around December 21st each year. It is the shortest day of the year, marking the time when the days once again grow longer. Oranges, being just about as bright and cheery as fruit can get, are thought to represent the sun and the return of light.
What kind of oranges should I use to make dry orange slices?
Classic Navel or Valencia oranges are best. They are large, have a uniform round shape, and make the most beautiful dried orange slices. Choose oranges with the deepest orange color rind for the most vibrant results. Also, firm oranges will be easier to cut into uniform thin slices than softer fruit.
We’ve also used blood oranges to make dry orange slices before. The stunning red and purple centers look amazing! Yet because they’re already darker in color, it’s especially important to not accidentally overcook or burn them, since they’ll look even more brown than the orange ones.
Really, you can use these methods to dry any type of citrus – including lemons, limes, or grapefruit! Note that smaller “orange” citrus fruits like tangerines or mandarins typically have thinner rinds and more membranes inside, so they can be less attractive when dried.
How to make dried orange slices stay orange?
To avoid your dried orange slices from turning brown, it’s best to dry them on the lowest temperature possible. They will turn brown if they’re accidentally overcooked or burned. Dry orange slices may also turn more brown over time, as their natural colors fade over the years.
However, keep in mind that the lower the temp, the longer they’ll take to dry. To speed things up, you can experiment with turning your oven higher than the lowest setting, but keep an eye on them as you go.
If you have one handy, I suggest using a food dehydrator to make the most fuss-free and bright-colored dry orange slices. Since you can dry the oranges at a lower temperature than the oven, it’s virtually impossible to accidentally burn them. They also stay more flat instead of possibly curling slightly.
If you’re in the market for a food dehydrator, I can’t say enough good things about Excalibur dehydrators. They’re made in the USA, BPA-free, and dry things evenly and efficiently! (They’re also on sale for 25% off until midnight December 5th!)
How to Make the Best Dried Orange Slices
- Sharp knife and cutting board
- Baking sheet lined with parchment paper (for oven method) OR a food dehydrator
- Lint-free cloth towel or paper towels for blotting
Step 1: Slice the Oranges
Begin by cutting your oranges into thin slices. Aim for ⅛” to ¼” thick. As best you can, try to cut each slice the same thickness. The more thin and even you cut them, the faster and more uniform they’ll dry. Also, cut across the “equator” or center of the orange (as opposed to top stem to bottom) to reveal the perfect cross-section.
Tip: Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 200-225°F. See more information about the temperature range to follow.
Step 2: Blot and Spread
Before putting the orange slices onto trays, it’s best to blot them to remove excess juices first. This helps them dry much faster, and also stick to the trays less. Some folks use paper towels for this. Instead, I like to lay out a lint-free tea towel, set several slices on top, then fold it over to blot the tops. Don’t push hard or squish them! Just enough to soak up some juice. (Tip: When you’re done, rinse the towel well with water before adding it to your laundry pile.)
Next, spread the orange slices out on either a baking sheet or your food dehydrator trays. If you’re using the oven method, line the baking sheet with parchment paper first. Oranges get sticky! Lay the slices out in a single layer. It’s okay if their sides are touching, but they should not overlap.
Step 3: Dry Orange Slices
In a Dehydrator:
- To dry orange slices in a dehydrator, set the thermostat to 130-135°F.
- If your machine doesn’t have a precise temperature control, choose a “fruit” setting or medium heat. When in doubt, check them after an hour or two to ensure they’re not turning brown and adjust as needed.
- Allow them to dry until no moisture remains. (See notes below.) In our machine, the orange slices were mostly dry within about 8 hours, though a few damp pieces remained, so I turned the temp down to 125F and let it continue to run overnight to finish off.
- Depending on your dehydrator (e.g. if it has a top or bottom fan), you may also want to rotate the trays after several hours to promote even drying. I don’t find the need to do this with our Excalibur since the fan is located in the back of the machine for more even airflow.
In the Oven:
- Dry the orange slices in the oven on 200 to 225°F for several hours, until they’re fully dry*. (See notes below)
- It should take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, depending on your oven and size of orange slices.
- Carefully flip the slices every hour or so to promote even drying.
- Once they are done, transfer the dried orange slices to a cooling rack.
A note on oven temperature: Every oven is slightly different, so you may need to experiment with what temperature works best for you. In our current oven, I found that 200°F felt like it was taking a bit too long, but when I turned it up to just over 225, the oranges quickly started turning more brown. So, I turned it back down to about 215 for the remainder of the time. This particular batch took about 4 hours. At that time, I removed the dry ones (which was most of them) and let a few remaining thicker slices continue to dry for another half an hour.
*The orange slices are considered “fully dry” once they appear dry, and thickest parts of the fruit are no longer gooey or soft to the touch. It is okay if they feel ever-so-slightly sticky still, since they will continue to dry and harden once they’re removed from the heat.
Ways to decorate with dried orange slices
- Add twine or string to your dried orange slices by making a small hole near the top, and tie a knot around the rind if needed (since it’s the most sturdy part). Dried orange slices may also have a natural hole in the center that you can insert string through instead.
- Attach dried orange slices to green wreathes or garlands using twine, wire, or pipe cleaners. See photos below.
- String up dried orange slices as tree ornaments using ribbon, twine, or string. Get creative and add bows, bells, beads, feathers, or other fun additions.
- Create a dry orange garland by stringing your orange slices on twine or string, either alone or together with popcorn, wood beads, cinnamon sticks, pinecones, or similar seasonal items. These are beautiful on a Christmas tree, streaming down a stairwell banister, strung across a sunny window, doorway, or fireplace mantle.
- Combine dried orange slices with natural greenery like pine or cedar, sprigs of rosemary, rustic pine cones, branches, acorns, chestnuts or walnuts to create a festive centerpiece, such as in a shallow bowl or tray.
- When wrapping gifts, affix them to the package with twine in lieu of curling ribbon or a bow.
- Last but not least, stick a dry orange slice or two inside your favorite tea, holiday cocktail, or mocktail for a beautiful citrusy flair.
How long do dry orange slices last?
Dried orange slices will last about two or three years. That is, they’ll look their best for the first couple of years, and start to turn increasingly brown thereafter. Yet that doesn’t mean they are “bad” or unusable after that time! We’ve hung much older dried orange ornaments on our holiday tree before.
Once they’re no longer welcome in your home, simply toss old dried orange slices in your compost heap. Or, give them one final shot to fulfill their festive destiny and add them to a pot of stovetop potpourri with other seasonal aromatic goodies before hitting the compost.
How to store dried orange slices
Wrap dried orange slices in newspaper, tissue paper, or other soft protective wrapping. Store them in a cool dry location, and somewhere they won’t easily get crushed or break, such as tucked in a storage tote with your other fragile holiday decor.
Do dried orange slices smell good?
Dry orange slices smell amazing while they’re drying! Yet once they’re fully dry, they honestly don’t smell like much. Sure, if you stick your nose right in them, you can catch a faint whiff of citrus aroma, but don’t expect them to add significant fragrance to your home. However, if you toss dried oranges (or fresh ones) in a simmer pot – also known as stovetop potpourri – they smell absolutely divine!
Will dry orange slices grow mold?
As long as they’re properly and fully dehydrated, dry orange slices should not grow mold. Mold will only grow if they are not dried fast or long enough, and have too much remaining moisture. Yet even if they’re slightly sticky right out of the oven, your dried orange slices will also continue to air-dry as they hang out as decorations, further protecting them from mold. After drying, mold will only be a concern in extremely humid climates.
Can you air-dry orange slices?
Theoretically yes, you can air-dry orange slices, but only under ideal conditions. They will need to be spread on wire rack, screen, or other surface that allows for air circulation on all sides, and set out in warm, arid conditions with ample airflow – such as outside on a breezy summer day, in a warm attic space with fans, or similar.
Yet in the middle of winter, those conditions are difficult to achieve in most places. Heck, we can’t even do that in the summertime here! If the orange slices don’t dry fast and warm enough, they will surely mold first. That is why we recommend using an oven or food dehydrator to dry orange slices, rather than passively air drying them at room temperature.
And that is how you dry and decorate with beautiful orange slices!
Gosh those are pretty, aren’t they? I hope you have as much fun making and decorating with dry orange slices as I had putting this post together for you! If you found these tips useful, please feel free to spread the love by pinning or sharing this article. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with! Have a wonderful winter holiday season.
Looking for other clever ways to use oranges (and any citrus), or ideas for other holiday crafts? Check out:
- Homemade Citrus Vinegar Cleaning Spray: Natural, Non-Toxic & Effective!
- How to Make Dehydrated Lemon Powder + 13 Ways to Use It
- Fire Cider Recipe for Immune Health
- How to Make Blown Egg Ornaments
- DIY Beeswax Wraps (Reusable Food Wraps)
- Fruit & Veggie Stamped Kitchen Towels Tutorial