Freeze-dried dog food takes the preparation and the work out of feeding a raw, natural diet. The freeze-drying process not only preserves more of the nutrients in the original ingredients but also retains the natural flavor to make it more palatable for your dog. Because the process is more intensive, and the foods use higher-quality ingredients, freeze-dried dog food does come with a premium price tag. But freeze-dried dog food toppers can bridge that gap: they’re fed on top of dry kibble and offer greater nutritional benefits and are more palatable.
Whether you want a complete freeze-dried food or a topper to enhance existing dry biscuits, we have included reviews of some of the best products available to help you get your money’s worth.
A Quick Comparison of Our Winners (2023)
|Best Overall||Open Farm Freeze-Dried Dog Food||
||Click to Save 20% Use code Petkeen20|
|Best Value||Nature’s Diet Simply Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Food||
|Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dog||
|Best for Puppies||Vital Essentials Beef Mini Nibs Freeze-Dried Dog Food||
|Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Boost Mixers||
The 11 Best Freeze-Dried Dog Foods
1. Open Farm Freeze-Dried Dog Food – Best Overall
* Use code PETKEEN20 and save on your first auto-ship order.
|Food type:||Meal or mixer|
|Flavor:||Chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, beef, and Surf & Turf|
|Volume:||3.5 oz, 13.5 oz, 22 oz|
Open Farm Freeze-Dried Dog Food takes the winning run in our selection. The Open Farm brand products are simply superior because they use all-natural ingredients with humanely raised land protein sources and wild-caught fish sources. The recipes are high in quality animal proteins and healthy fats and low in carbohydrates, making them an appropriate diet for dogs.
Their product selection is extensive, covering every single need. Their freeze-dried line offers six recipes, including chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, beef, and the Surf & Turf, which is a mix of beef and salmon. You are guaranteed to find one or more products for your dog’s specific needs. Open Farm’s freeze-dried raw recipes are 85% meat protein and bone from animal sources. The remaining 15% comes from the best quality fresh produce and supplements. The recipes include organic fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, spinach, kale, pumpkin, and carrots, plus other unique natural ingredients like coconut oil and turmeric for multiple health benefits.
Unfortunately, Open Farm Freeze-Dried Dog Food has a strong smell that can be unpleasant for humans, though dog seem to enjoy it. Products are on the expensive side, but you will be paying for top-quality natural ingredients from a company with ethical and sustainable standards and vision. Your dog will enjoy great health with this species-appropriate top-quality food. You can feed these as a complete meal, but if your wallet does not allow that, even adding them to the current diet as a topper will result in highly improved nutrition.
2. Nature’s Diet Fresh Beef Simply Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Food – Best Value
|Food type:||Rehydrated food|
Some freeze-dried food, like Nature’s Diet Fresh Beef Simply Raw Freeze-Dried Dog, is meant to be rehydrated before feeding. This means that you add water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and leave it to rehydrate. In the case of this bag of food, the manufacturer recommends 1.5 parts water to 1 part food and leaving it for ten minutes.
It is inexpensive compared to other freeze-dried foods, by dry weight, and it has primary ingredients of freeze-dried raw beef, freeze-dried raw beef liver, and beef bone broth. It also contains vitamins and minerals, probiotics, and omega 3 & 6, all derived from natural food sources. You can alter the ratio of water to food, but Nature’s Diet’s recommendation leaves a very wet broth-style food.
Getting a decent consistency for a complete meal means that this bag will make around 10 pounds of food: still good value, hence the food’s inclusion as the best freeze-dried dog food for the money, but misleading compared to the company’s guidelines.
3. Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Beef Meal Mixers Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food Topper
Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Super Beef Meal Mixers Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food Topper has the main ingredients of beef, beef liver, and beef kidney. It is 95% beef and organs, combined with organic fruit and vegetables to deliver the vitamins and minerals that your dog needs daily. The food can be rehydrated or fed as is, and it can be given as a topper or a complete meal.
An 18-ounce bag contains 8 scoops per bag, but feeding recommendations are to give between one and three scoops per day, so a single bag could only last three or four days and Stella & Chewy’s is expensive by dry weight and can be fed without rehydrating, so it doesn’t go far.
Although the Meal Mixers are expensive, they are made with 95% premium beef ingredients, which means that you are getting very good quality food. Note that the high content of beef means that some dogs with sensitive stomachs may struggle to keep it down.
4. Vital Essentials Beef Mini Nibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food – Best for Puppies
|Food type:||Complete or topper|
Puppies need more protein, amino acids, and fatty acids than their adult canine counterparts. Freeze-dried food has much higher crude protein than kibble and even wet food, and Vital Essentials Beef Mini Nibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food contains herring oil and amino acid complexes that meet a puppy’s needs. The Mini Nibs are also smaller than patties and a lot of other freeze-dried foods, which makes them suitable for puppies’ mouths.
Vital Essentials’ primary ingredients are beef, beef heart, beef liver, beef lung, and beef fat, so most of the food’s protein is high-quality meat protein. It is also grain-free, gluten-free, and is a limited ingredient diet so is suitable for puppies with sensitive stomachs and dogs that are plagued with food sensitivities and allergies.
As with all freeze-dried food, the bag won’t last long if fed as a complete meal: for a large puppy, it will likely only last three or four days. It does last longer as a topper, though, and can also be used as a tasty training treat. The nibs are hard, even when soaked, which means they may not be suitable for smaller puppies, and it is difficult to crumble them over the top of food so you should consider another food if this is your preferred method of feeding.
5. Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Boost Mixers Grain-Free Gut Health Recipe Dog Food Topper
Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Boost Mixers Grain-Free Gut Health Recipe Dog Food Topper is a topper rather than a complete meal. It is designed to be added to the top of kibble and dry biscuits to create a nutritious and tasty meal without having to pay a fortune. Its main ingredients are chicken, chicken liver, and pumpkin seeds. It also contains probiotics to promote good gut health, and the ingredients do not include grain, corn, wheat, soy, or any artificial ingredients.
A food topper like Instinct Freeze Dried topper can liven up dull food so is a good choice of picky eaters. It also offers a wide range of vitamins and minerals, and it does so without you having to pay for whole raw-food meals. A sudden change to a raw diet can have a detrimental effect on the digestive system, too, causing diarrhea or vomiting. A topper allows you to first determine whether this type of diet is a good choice for your dog’s appetite and tastes before committing fully and because it only makes up a portion of each meal, it enables a gradual introduction of the new food type.
This is about the average price for freeze-dried food, but it does come in a small bag and although the 5.5-ounce packet says that it contains enough for 20 servings, there is only enough for ten days maximum and more like 4 days for an average-sized dog. Despite that, the quality of the ingredients and the flexibility of the topper food make it our choice as the best overall freeze-dried dog food.
6. Stella & Chewy’s Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
Stella & Chewy’s Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Patties Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food are grain-free and gluten-free, made from 95% cage-free chicken and supplemented with organic fruit and vegetables and vitamin and mineral supplements. The primary ingredients are chicken with ground bone, chicken liver, and chicken gizzard.
The food comes in pattie, or puck, shape, and can be rehydrated, fed as is, or crumbled over food. It can be used as a topper or fed as a complete meal. To rehydrate the pucks, you simply add cold or warm water. A new formula means that, rather than waiting 15 minutes, the food is ready to give straight after rehydration.
However, the same formula change also means that the pucks are harder, difficult to crumble or break up, and not as palatable especially when fed dehydrated. This is a 25-ounce bag and contains approximately 50 patties: it’s bigger than a lot of other freeze-dried food bags, which means that it should last a week in most circumstances.
7. Nulo Freestyle Duck Recipe With Pears Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
|Food type:||Complete or topper|
Duck is rich in iron and high in easily-digestible protein, making it a great food for dogs. It is also recommended as a protein source for dogs with allergies. Nulo Freestyle Duck Recipe With Pears Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food contains 82% duck, which is lower than the 95% meat content of other freeze-dried products.
Its primary ingredients are duck, duck necks, duck heart, duck wings, and duck liver. One of the benefits of a natural diet is that the dog eats more of the components of the animal: in the wild, dogs would get a lot of essential vitamins and minerals from these sections of the meat, but they are lacking in some dry kibble and wet foods.
Additional ingredients include fruit and vegetables for extra nutritional value; vitamin supplements; and probiotics, added to help enhance gut health. Overall, the food is good, although it does tend to be quite dusty: still suitable as a topper for dry kibble, but less so as a complete meal. Also, its 82% meat content is lower than in a lot of other freeze-dried products.
8. Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Solutions Skin & Coat Boost Freeze-Dried Dinner Morsels
|Flavor:||Lamb and Salmon|
One of the benefits of a raw diet is said to be that it encourages a healthier coat and skin. It is not as heavily processed as dry or even wet food and benefits from the use of natural ingredients. Stella & Chewy’s Stella’s Solutions Skin & Coat Boost Freeze-Dried Raw Grass-Fed Lamb & Wild-Caught Salmon Dinner Morsels take a coat and skin care even further.
The omega-3 in the salmon, as well as the linoleic acid found in sunflower oil and other ingredients can improve the general health of your dog’s skin and coat and may help with certain dermatological and coat conditions. The food’s primary ingredients are lamb, salmon, lamb heart, and lamb liver and the formula is grain-free and gluten-free.
This is another of Stella & Chewy’s foods that have undergone a formula change, and while the morsels used to be soft and easy to break up, they are now more resolute and difficult to crumble.
9. Primal Chicken Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Food
|Food type:||Complete or topper|
Primal Chicken Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Raw Freeze-Dried Dog Food contains 80% chicken with primary ingredients of chicken and chicken livers, as well as fruit and vegetables for added vitamins and minerals. The food is dehydrated chunks that are rehydrated easily, by adding a tablespoon of water, broth, or goat milk for every nugget of food served.
The food does have a strong smell, the nuggets are hard and somewhat difficult to break up, and the feeding recommendations are high, which means that a 14-ounce bag, which rehydrates to produce 3 pounds of food, won’t last long. Although the ingredients appear to be of a good quality, 80% meat content is lower than other brands of similar food.
10. Orijen Original Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food & Topper
|Food type:||Complete & topper|
|Flavor:||Chicken, turkey, and fish|
Orijen Original Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food & Topper comes in freeze-dried patty shape. It contains 90% meat, although this is a mixture of several different meats, and it can be fed as a topper or rehydrated as a complete meal.
The main ingredients are chicken ground with bone, chicken liver, turkey, and whole herring. This combination means that the food offers a good combination of amino acids and vitamins and minerals but, when combined with other ingredients like egg and flounder, it isn’t suitable if you’re looking for food with a single or limited protein sources.
The patties can be rehydrated or crumbled, and they do crumble well, but the bags arrive with a lot of crumbled food and dust at the bottom.
11. Tylee’s Freeze-Dried Meals For Dogs
|Food type:||Complete or topper|
|Flavor:||Chicken & Salmon|
Tylee’s Freeze-Dried Meals For Dogs is a freeze-dried food that can be served as is or rehydrated, and it can be used as a topper or fed as a complete meal solution. It comes in a patty shape and has the primary ingredients of chicken, chicken necks, chicken heart, chicken liver, and salmon. It also contains some fruit and vegetables as well as a host of vitamin and mineral supplements.
The patties are difficult to rehydrate effectively, and the ingredients would benefit from more natural sources of nutrients. Although it’s difficult to know exactly how much is in the food, salt appears high in the ingredient list, so you do have to ensure that your dog is getting enough water, especially considering Tylee’s doesn’t take on water very well with rehydration.
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Freeze-dried dog food enables you to feed a raw, natural diet, without having to worry about measuring, weighing, and preparing the food every day. The ingredients are subjected to freezing temperatures, removing up to 99% of the moisture, effectively locking in nutrients and flavor.
The kibble, nibs, or patties can usually be fed dry, crumbled on top of existing food, or rehydrated and fed as a complete meal. It is an expensive option compared to dry kibble and even wet food, but proponents claim that it not only helps ensure a balanced diet but leaves coat and skin healthy and can even remedy depression and anxiety.
Related Read: 20 Best Dog Foods: Reviews & Top Picks
When buying freeze-dried food, you will find a selection of toppers, as well as complete meals, and some foods that are best given as healthy, nutritious treats:
As well as the type of food, there is a wide variety of primary ingredients used in dehydrated foods. The most common primary ingredients are chicken, turkey, beef, and lamb, all of which are suitable for many dogs. Generally, the choice of primary ingredient will come down to whether your dog is sensitive or allergic to any particular meat proteins, and also which of the flavors it prefers.
To Rehydrate Or Not
The freeze-drying process removes up to 99% of moisture from ingredients. This means that the food has a longer shelf life, and it also helps retain more of the nutrients, protein, and vitamins and minerals, in the food. In most cases, the food can be fed as is, without rehydrating, and this can be a good option when using it as a topper on dry or especially wet food. Alternatively, it can be rehydrated.
Most manufacturers provide instructions on how best to rehydrate their food, but the general principle is to add water, cold or warm, at a ratio of between 1:1 to 3:1 water to food. Adding water does not increase or decrease nutrients, so your dog is getting the same benefits from the food, but it is more appealing, yields a more substantial amount of food, and gives an improved texture. You can use bone broth or even goat’s milk to rehydrate the food, if preferred.
Is Frozen Or Freeze-Dried Dog Food Better?
Freeze-dried food undergoes dehydration using a blast freezer. Frozen food is simply frozen for storage.
What Is The Difference Between Freeze Dried And Dehydrated Dog Food?
Although freeze-dried food has been dehydrated, and benefits from being rehydrated before being fed, it is different from dehydrated dog food, which is also available.
Do You Have To Add Water To Freeze Dried Dog Food?
Some freeze-dried dog foods can be served as they arrive. This is especially true of those that come as chunks, nibs, or small pieces. However, the freeze-drying process does remove almost all moisture, which leaves a dried and potentially unappealing meal. Rehydrating ensures your dog gets some moisture with its food and can give it a more appealing smell and flavor. Most picky dogs will prefer the food rehydrated, although other than moisture, it really doesn’t add any nutritional value to the food. Most manufacturers recommend using cold or warm water, but you can use a bone broth or raw goat’s milk to rehydrate the food.
Freeze-dried food is a more convenient alternative to a raw diet and offers greater nutritional benefits compared to dry kibble or wet food. However, it is expensive, and there is an increasingly wide range of freeze-dried foods on the market, making it difficult to be sure that you’re getting the best product for your dog. Hopefully, our reviews above have helped you find the best nutritious food for your dog.
We believe that the high meat content and high-quality ingredients of Open Farm Freeze-Dried Dog Food make it the best overall freeze-dried dog food, while Nature’s Dit Fresh Beef Simply Raw offers the best value for money.
Featured Image Credit: Dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock