Fruit and meat is a timeless combination. Cantaloupe and prosciutto, mango and chicken, cranberry and turkey, apricot and lamb—I could go on.
And while nothing beats the magic that is, say, a peak-season fig enrobed in salty, cured ham, there’s a pantry-friendly alternative to channel the fruit-and-meat concept year-round: freeze-dried fruit.
Available at many grocery stores and online, this ingredient is deserving of so much more than trail mix. When finely ground, it becomes the floral, tart essence of fruit, able to permeate any meat dish without overpowering. Today, we’re harnessing its full potential.
How to Make Freeze-Dried Fruit Powder
If you can only find whole freeze-dried fruit (often easier to locate than pre-ground), here’s how to DIY: Use a spice grinder, high-power blender, or food processor to grind the fruit into a very fine powder. Depending on how large of a batch you’re making, you may need to pause the motor and use a spoon or spatula to move around the fruit to ensure the powder grinds evenly. The finer the grind, the more highly concentrated—and therefore, flavor-packing—the powder will be. Post-grind, this mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the pantry for future use.
Freeze-Dried Fruit in Marinades
Juiced, smashed, or pureed fruit is a common marinade ingredient for cuts of poultry, pork, and beef. You know marinades’ deal: These mixtures of oil, acid, and seasoning flavor and tenderize meat in a relatively hands-off manner. Adding fruit to a marinade offers sweetness tinged with tang in the way only fruit can do.
As it doesn’t offer the same enzymatic tenderizing properties as fresh kiwi or pineapple—which can, in fact, be so powerful that they turn meat mushy if left for too long— ground freeze-dried fruit can be mixed into any simple marinade without affecting the timing of the recipe. A couple tablespoons is a good place to start.
Try adding an extra punch to this kombucha-based marinade by tossing in fruit powder that goes with the lemon-ginger brew, like cherry or pomegranate; it works on steak and other meat, but don’t forget tofu, too! Or add a bit of mango, apricot, or plum powder to this yogurt-marinated chicken. And this tangy soy sauce and balsamic vinegar-marinated pork can be zingier still with a hit of pineapple powder.
Freeze-Dried Fruit as Seasoning
Freeze-dried fruit also makes for a stellar seasoning on meat after it’s been cooked. Cook any cut of meat as directed in a recipe, from braised brisket to grilled chicken thighs, then finish it with a comic book-level BANG! of flavor with fruit powder. Just place a couple spoonfuls of powder in a fine-mesh sieve, then shower it over the meat.
Looking for ideas? Finish spicy pork chops with pineapple powder for tacos. Dust chicken skewers with mango powder over seasoned rice. Top sliced skirt steak with cherry powder and charred scallions. Serve braised lamb with apricot powder and couscous.
Rebecca Firkser is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, among them Food52, TASTE, Edible Manhattan, Extra Crispy, The Strategist, and Bon Appetit’s Healthyish and Basically. She contributed recipes and words to the book “Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day.” Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud’s cakes, she’s your girl.