Chili-Spiced Fruit Leathers (L.A. Fruit Cart Style!)

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With inspiration from the LA fruit cart scene, these absolutely irresistible fruit leather roll-ups are a great hiking snack. Sweet, tropical, with just the perfect amount of spice. Once you try them, you’ll be hooked!

Fruit leathers rolled up in a tupperware on a wooden surface.

If you’ve spent time in Los Angeles, then you’ve probably seen the many umbrella-covered fruit carts that grace its streets and city parks. On a hot day, nothing brings relief like a bag full of freshly cut fruit. But what really makes the LA fruit cart experience is getting your fruit with salted chili powder. Cool and refreshing, but with just a little bit of spice. It’s a flavor combination that, once acquired, is hard to shake.

As far as recipes go, this one is remarkably easy. We used watermelon, mango, and pineapple in this recipe to capture that classic LA fruit cart flavor. We then blended everything together into a smooth liquid mixture using our Vitamix – although a regular blender or food processor would work just as well too. These fruits have a lot of water in them, so they blend very easily.

For these fruit leathers, we’re using a Nesco dehydrator that we recently purchased off of Amazon. It’s not the cheapest or most expensive model out there (they can get real pricey!!), but for someone looking to get into dehydrating (like us!), it has been a great place to start. If you don’t have a dehydrator, no worries! We’ve included instructions below to make these fruit leathers in the oven.

Our dehydrator came with fruit leather trays, which are just solid trays for liquids like our fruit puree. Before we spread the puree on, we lightly greased down the trays with a drop of vegetable oil. This helps create a non-stick surface and makes it easier to remove the fruit leathers later.

We then poured some of the fruit mixture into the tray and spread it around using an offset spatula. The key here is to get a nice flat EVEN layer on the tray. The more evenly distributed the fruit mixture, the more uniformly it will dry.

Once we got a nice layer down, we sprinkled the top with chili powder. The classic LA fruit cart chili powder is a product called Tajin – however, being unable to find that in a store near us, we opted for the Trader Joe’s Chili Lime powder. Not quite the same, but still a similar flavor.

We had enough fruit mixture to fill two racks in our dehydrator. Dehydrators come in all different shapes and sizes, so use your own judgment on how many trays to fill. The fruit mixture should be an even ¼ inch thick all the way around.

Watermelon, mango, and pineapple puree on a fruit leather dehydrator tray.
Dried Watermelon, mango, and pineapple on a fruit leather dehydrator tray.

Pop on the top set the temperature to 135 F and let it go for 4-8 hours. The total time will vary depending on a number of factors including how thick you spread your puree, the type of dehydrator you use, and the level of humidity in the air. Start checking on it after 4 hours and you should be able to gauge the total time needed. The leathers are done once they are no longer tacky.

Afterward, once everything is totally dry, peel the leathers off the trays, cut them into strips, and have a taste. It’s amazing the depth of flavor you get out of just one bite. Watermelon, mango, pineapple – all coming at you at once!

For us, these made us feel kind of nostalgic for our former L.A. days, so we did the only reasonable thing and devoured the entire batch in one go…

Holding a fruit leather

Fruit leathers rolled up in a tupperware on a wooden surface.

Chili Spiced Fruit Leathers (LA Fruit Cart Style!)

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
Makes: 8 leathers
Calories: 35 kcal
Author: Fresh Off the Grid

This easy fruit leather recipe is inspired by LA's fruit carts: chili dusted watermelon, mango, and pineapple. Sweet, salty, and just a hint of spice.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon
  • 1 cup mango
  • 1 cup pineapple
  • ½ lime juiced
  • 1 teaspoon Tajin seasoning or other chili-lime seasoning
  • neutral oil for greasing trays

Instructions

  1. If using frozen fruit, thaw to room temperature. Place watermelon, mango, pineapple, and lime juice into a blender or fruit processor. Blend until smooth.
  2. Lightly oil your dehydrator’s fruit leather trays. Spread the puree into an even, ¼” layer onto the trays. In our Nesco Snackmaster, this recipe used two trays. Sprinkle the Tajin seasoning over the top.
  3. Dehydrate at 135F for 4-8 hours, until the leathers are pliable and no longer tacky.
  4. Peel the leathers off the tray and cut into strips with a knife, pizza cutter, or scissors. If using a square tray, this will be fairly straightforward. If your trays are round (like ours), cut them into quarters and then roll them into cone shapes. Store in an airtight container or ziplock bags.

How to make fruit leathers in the oven:

Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature it will go.
After blending the fruit, spread the puree on a silicone mat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread the mixture into an even 1/4" layer.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and dry 4-6 hours, until the fruit leather is dry and no longer tacky. You may want to rotate the sheet around every hour or so to ensure even drying.

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

Dehydrator
Fruit leather trays
Offset spatula
Knife, pizza cutter, or scissors
Airtight container or ziplock baggies


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