Freeze-dried dog food is healthy and convenient, but have you seen the price tags on some of the more popular brands? If you have a freeze-dryer, you should consider how easy it is to make it yourself.
Whether your pet requires a grain-free diet, a raw diet, or other special dietary needs, you can customize and source your own humanely raised high-quality ingredients and make the best natural freeze-dried dog food. Read on to learn how.
Why I Love Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Freeze-dried products are gaining popularity beyond building long-term storage in your pantry.
We’ve been known to keep our freeze dryers (yes, we have two) running nearly non-stop through the summer months to preserve organic fruits and vegetable staples such as freeze-dried berries, freeze-dried potatoes, freeze-dried corn, freeze-dried coffee, and even freeze-dried avocados.
Imagine our surprise that you can use the freeze dryer for non-food items. Homemade shampoos and skincare products have a short shelf life, so making them in small batches works best. However, homesteaders are finding they can make these items in bulk when they freeze-dry them.
Though we haven’t tried freeze-drying non-food items… yet!… freeze-dried pet food is a great place to begin experimenting with your freeze-dryer. My mother uses our freeze-dryer to make freeze-dried dog food for easy transportation when traveling with her small dog.
If you have a dog, this may be right up your alley, too!
Is Freeze-Dried Food Good for My Dog?
The freeze-drying method uses vacuum-pressured, frigid temperatures (-40° degrees), removing 98-99% of moisture in the form of gasses (sublimation) while retaining vital nutrients in the food.
Organ meats like chicken heart, beef liver, and fish with omega-3 fatty acids add protein-rich nutrients to your dog food. Fermented dairy products add probiotics. Grains, fruits, or vegetables add carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for a healthy diet.
When you make dog food yourself, you can customize and control the ingredients to make the complete and balanced diet your dog requires. You can even make low-cost mini-nibs as a special treat to accompany their freeze-dried dinner.
Is Freeze Dried Dog Food Better Than Canned Dog Food?
Dehydrated kibble has a reputation for being nutritionally inferior and unappealing to dogs. For this reason, many reach for the more palatable canned or “wet” dog food.
Canned dog food is expensive, heavy, bulky, and made with unnecessary fillers that we don’t want to feed our dogs, but don’t assume that commercially freeze-dried dog food is any different. They may also contain fillers and low-quality ingredients.
Check the labels and make your decision accordingly. Or, simply begin making your own freeze-dried dog food.
How to Make Freeze-Dried Dog Food
The supplies needed to freeze-dry dog food are minimal. The most considerable expense is purchasing a freeze-dryer, but its many options make it worth the investment.
- Slow Cooker – You can also use an Instant Pot with a slow cooker setting or a large stock pot using low heat on a stovetop.
- Wooden Spoon – A sturdy wooden spoon helps mix all the ingredients.
- Scale – When you determine the correct ratios needed for your dog, a scale will produce the most accurate results.
- Freeze Dryer – I use and recommend the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. It comes in four sizes, making it versatile for your particular needs.
- Mason Jars or Mylar Bags – Storing freeze-dried food with an airtight seal is a must. We use Mason jars for most of our storage because they’re reusable, but for this project, you may find Mylar bags are more convenient. Keep in mind you will need a vacuum sealer if using the bags. We buy our Mylar bags from Azure Standard.
- Oxygen Absorbers – Oxygen is the enemy of freeze-dried food. Adding an oxygen absorber gives extra insurance to your airtight seal. It’s never my preference to use something that only has a one-time use, which is why I prefer the jar sealer. We buy our oxygen absorbers from Azure Standard.
- Jar Sealer – If storing in Mason jars is a better approach for you, I recommend using this jar sealer to ensure an air-tight seal. Homesteading Hack: Always re-seal the jar as quickly as possible after every use.
This recipe will fill four regular-sized trays when using the Harvest Right freeze dryer (if you have a different sized machine, it may fill more or less). For a smaller recipe, visit The College House Wife’s recipe here.
- 1 lb. Ground Beef – Ensure the meat has some fat; a lean 20-30% fat ratio is good.
- 6 lbs. Chicken – It’s a good idea to use white and dark meat. A fifty-fifty split between chicken breast and thigh meat works well for a balanced protein mix with some fats. Homesteading Hack: Add chicken heart, liver, gizzards and fat for more added nutrients.
- 1 lb. Fatty Fish – Salmon and white fish, add Omega-3 fatty acids.
- 2 lbs. Grains – Cooked brown or white rice is inexpensive and easy to prepare ahead of time. But homemade pasta is also a great option.
- Vegetables – You’ll want a 12-ounce can of corn, green beans or peas. A pound of fresh or frozen broccoli or cauliflower (even better if it’s out of the garden). Five carrots peeled and diced, five sweet potatoes peeled and diced and a 16-ounce can of pumpkin puree.
- Fruit – Three apples or pears diced up adds nutrients and fiber to the meal.
- Dairy – 16 ounces of cottage cheese and 16 ounces of plain yogurt; add gut-healthy probiotics and protein to the meal. Leave it out if you don’t want your dog to have dairy.
- Eggs – 1 dozen eggs, cooked (scrambled), are a high protein ingredient for this recipe.
How to Freeze Dry Dog Food Step by Step
- Cut up and cook all the meats thoroughly; raw meats stay raw after freeze-dried. It’s best to pre-cook for food safety.
- Cook the rice in water, chicken, or beef broth for added flavor. (You can find my homemade instant pot bone broth recipe here.)
- You can pre cook the broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes or other vegetables in the oven and roast until soft. 400°F for 20-25 minutes should be sufficient time.
- Puree your apples, pears and soft canned veggies like corn, peas or green beans (drain out the water first) in a blender until smooth. Remove and add to the large mixing bowl.
- Add the cooked meats of choice, scrambled eggs and rice to the blender in batches and finely dice. Add to the mixing bowl.
- Put your cooked veggies in the blender and give a couple of pulses to break down the size. Add to the mixing bowl.
- Thoroughly mix all the ingredients with your hands or a large wooden spoon.
- Place the mixture evenly on the freeze-dryer trays and spread out uniformly.
- Place the trays in the freeze-dryer for 25 hours.
- Break up the dog food with your hands into small pieces and store it in vacuum-sealed Mason jars or mylar bags with an oxygen absorber.
Did you make this recipe? If so, please leave us a star rating on the recipe card below. Then, snap a photo of your freeze-dried dog food and tag us on social media @homesteadingfamily so we can see!
How to Tell If Freeze-Dried Dog Food Is Done
You will know that dog food is freeze-dried when it crumbles easily. It should not feel cold to the touch. If it is cold, return to the freeze-drier for two-hour increments until thoroughly dried and crumbly.
How to Rehydrate Freeze-Dried Dog Food
The technical way to reconstitute any freeze-dried food is to weigh the tray before freeze-drying, then weigh them again after freeze-drying. The weight difference is the amount of water, by weight, that you’d add back to the entire tray.
You can divide this number by how many servings of dog food are on each tray.
If you are not concerned with an exact science and prefer to eyeball it, rehydrating dog food is simple! Just add water (or any preferred liquid) a little at a time and stir until it reaches your desired consistency. (This should take about 5-10 minutes.)
How Do You Keep Freeze-Dried Dog Food Fresh
Proper food storage is essential; your pet’s food is no exception. Store your freeze-dried dog food in airtight containers such as vacuum-sealed Mason jars or Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. You should reseal the package every time you remove dog food.
Homesteading Hack: Remove approximately how much food your dogs eat for a week’s meals. Keep it in a storage tote with a tight-fitting lid to keep out unwanted insects and critters. The resealing process will only need to happen each week versus daily.
Harvest Right Freeze Dryer
Now that you know that you can use a freeze dryer to include all members of your family, are you considering purchasing one? If so, I encourage you to read my Honest Review of the Harvest Right Freeze Dryer.
Adding freeze-drying with the Harvest Right Freeze-Dryer to our preservation toolbelt helps keep our expenses manageable and our health optimal. I’d say that’s a win-win!