The Art of Drying Tangerines

The Art of Drying Tangerines

Who would have thought that dried Tangerines preserved for over 50 years could cost in the thousands (of Hong Kong dollars)?

The dried tangerine peel is a popular Chinese herb and ingredient used in:

My mother-in-law decided to make her own through the simple process of buying mandarins, peeling them to keep the skin as whole as possible and then stringing them together to air dry until the peels are completely dry, brown in color and very hard in texture.  I thought it would be cool to show them here, how easy it is to do this. You can store these peels in a dry, cool and shaded place for years and years and years! Some people actually like the smell of the drying tangerine peels and even the fragrant of the peel after it’s brittle and dried. To each one’s own!

Tangerine peels drying

Tangerine peels drying


Dried tangerine peels are considered “warm”  and have many uses. They are normally used from a soup perspective to relieve coughs and remove excess phlegm from the lungs. It also aids with digestion and has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.

Have you tried to eat it as is? It is SUPER, DUPER bitter! It actually tastes horrible (from my perspective) and creates a very distinct taste to soups if you add too much – therefore the most I will add is usually a quarter of a quarter piece to a 2 L soup base – which is about the size of a Canadian nickel. If I add anymore, my children will immediately make comments and I will also taste it and that just kills the enjoyment of a sweeter soup.

For pregnant women, it’s great though! When I was going through my crazy morning sickness, the preserved tangerine peels (slightly salty and super sour) were excellent nibble snacks to curb the feeling that I want to throw up. Asians actually eat them on a regular basis, like I do with my unsalted nuts, as a snack! It is definitely not the most attractive looking ingredient, but it’s breathe of usage is pretty wide and impressive (goes to show you can’t judge an ingredient by its skin).

The extreme usage of these peels is when they are soaked in other ingredients (such as bitter snake bile) and then dried. This gives the peel a warming boost and makes the herb unique and even more expensive. In general though, the average dried tangerine peels don’t cost very much. The cost increases as the peels are aged and sold – so why not do it yourself?

What to look for in high quality tangerine peels?

  • Light in weight (you’ll need to scrape off the inner side of the peel any way)
  • Dark in color (the darker the better)
  • A stark tangerine fragrance (even though they are dried, they should retain some of their orange-y fragrance)
  • Non-moldy (the best are stored in cool, dried places)
  • Large peels kept together

Here are some soups where you can find the dried tangerine peel. In fact, you could theoretically drop a small slice in most soups – but I prefer not to do that because I am not a fan of the taste and I like to keep things clean 🙂

I have yet to try using the dried tangerine peel in stews or dishes. I have to find one that I really like, but I’m sure it will come along one day given the massive amount of tangerine peels drying at my mother-in-law’s house!

Happy peeling,


Tangerine Peels (Dried)

Tangerine Peels (Dried)

Tangerine Peels (Dried)

Soup Name:

Dried Tangerine Peel, Chen Pi

Traditional Chinese Name:

陳皮 (chen pí)

This ingredient is warm, sweet, and pungent.  It targets the lungs and spleen.

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Ah, the mighty tangerine peel!  Dried tangerine peel that is.  This age old ingredient is one of those passed down traditions that are used in so many dishes, soups, stews, teas, and desserts.  Even to the point that there’s a whole art behind the drying process of tangerine peels and… get this, the older it is, the more valuable.  Just like wine!

For those who are new to this ingredient, I’d suggest you try a bit first and see how it lands.  It’s got sweet, sour, and bitter tones running through it and carries into the dishes and soups and teas it touches.  The Chinese sometimes add this to steamed dishes like steamed pork patty or some stews and I can definitely taste it!

How do I prepare it?

      • You definitely have to pre-soak dried tangerine peels before using them for cooking.  Although shredded or powdered tangerine peels are also available on the market, but not traditionally used in cooking.
      • Soak as large of a piece as you will be using.
      • Put into a bowl and add room temperature water until it’s fully covered.
      • It takes about an hour for it to soften.
      • Some will use a butter knife to scrape clean the outside (the darker side) to have it less bitter.  I just rub with my fingers in water to ensure it’s clean.
      • Depending on how you want to use your dried tangerine peels, I will sometimes slice very thinly so I can control the amount going in.  

Where can I buy it and cost?

      • You can purchase this from most Asian supermarkets prepackaged
      • You can also purchase this in bulk from specialty stores (online herbal shops)
      • Some ambitious soup makers actually make their own and can be easily done if you’ve got dry enough conditions.  I’m going to save this for another post.  My own mom and mother-in-law have made this from scratch.  Definitely not a lost art, yet!  There’s hope!
      • The prices do range enormously depending on the life of the dried tangerine peel.  You can find a bag of 100g for $10.00 CAD at the supermarket 

What are the benefits?

      • Tangerines are the powerhouse for coughs, eliminating dampness from the lungs, and disperses phlegm
      • It’s a warming ingredient that is helps regulate the Qi, so it’s also a key ingredient found in Chinese confinement recipes
      • It’s a highly versatile ingredient that can be used in many different ways in the Chinese cuisine
      • Dried tangerine peels have amazing storage life (as far as I know, almost forever…) so long as you keep them in dry, covered storage and take them out to air every 6 months (this is perfect in Canada in the winter!)

Any precautions?

      • Be sure you’re buying dried tangerine peels from a reputable source
      • Soaking and cleaning will help remove some of the pesticides often found on the tangerine peel
      • It’s definitely an acquired taste, so go slowly if you’re new to this ingredient or introducing it into cuisine (like my kids).  I’ll start with one small piece in soups and a few slices in teas and steamed dishes.

Why not make your own dried tangerine peels?

This is my mother-in-law drying her own tangerine peels in Hong Kong (you can tell from the giant condensed buildings!).  I loved how it she talked so casually about making this in modern times and will always throw in a large piece of this into her chicken soup.  This is a warming ingredient, so best used with complimentary warming soup combinations.

You can follow this guide on how to pair soup ingredients based on their warming or cooling natures.


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