Halloween Food Hacks: How to Make Shrunken Heads Out of Apples & Potatoes

A great Halloween party depends on the right spooky ambience. Having some shrunken heads in strategic locations is an easy, fun way to get your guests in the right (frightened) frame of mind, and they require items you can easily find in your kitchen or at the local grocery store.

Here's what you need to get going:

  • apples
  • 1 cup lemon juice (fresh works best, but the bottled kind is okay, too)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • pencils or markers
  • carving knife
  • bowl
  • vegetable peeler
  • uncooked brown or white rice, cloves, other items for decoration

How to Make a Shrunken Head

Thoroughly wash your apples, then peel and core them. Next, combine the lemon juice and salt in the bowl and set aside.

Note the cloves for eyes--a nice detail. Image via Kindling

Take your pencil or marker to sketch a face on your apple, then use your vegetable peeler (great for nostrils and eyes) and knife to carve it. If you're good with your hands and able to visually project the image, you can skip the sketching. Dunk the carved apple in the lemon juice and salt mixture for at least 30 seconds, ensuring that all of it is covered.

After 30 seconds, remove them from the lemon juice and blot dry. Place the carved apples somewhere warm and dry so they can thoroughly wither. Remember, if there's any humidity, they'll just rot. I'd suggest the top of the heater (perhaps with a sheet of aluminum foil underneath) or over your oven (or even inside it). Check out a quick video tutorial here or watch it below.

More Decorating Ideas

Parade Magazine suggests using peppercorns for eyes, while Our Best Bites used rice grains for teeth and cloves for eyes.

Making shrunken heads out of apples is a great activity for kids and adults alike. Image via Kindling

Lots of other kitchen items would work well, too. Flax and chia seeds would make good fake "bugs" and dried oregano or dill could work as fake rot or mold. Just be sure to put these decorations on the apples before they dry out so they'll have a better chance of staying put. (You can also use good ol' Elmer's glue if you find your embellishments are falling off, since the glue will dry clear—unless you plan on using them in cider.)

Martha Stewart suggests displaying the shrunken heads in bunches in a vase. Allison DiNatale, a Martha Stewart viewer, came up with this homemade cider to serve the shrunken heads.

It's a fun variation on the whole bobbing-for-apples game, yes? Image via Martha Stewart

These guys also make a great addition to a party punch, whether you include alcohol or not—though isn't everything better with wine? Check out the ingredients you'll need, along with other spooky concoctions, in our guide here.

Image via maplespice.com

Use Potatoes Instead

You can also carve shrunken heads out of potatoes (Chez Larsson points out that the potato versions tends to look like the Easter Island stone statues) using the same apple-carving method. This version will need to be dried in the oven for a few hours on low temperatures, however, since potatoes are so much denser than apples.

Image via chezlarsson.com

If you need even more Halloween head-based fun, learn how to do pull off the decapitated head in a jar and make a cheap corpse head to frighten your guests.

And as always, be sure to share your own Halloween Food Hacks with us in the comments below as well as on our Facebook page.

Cover image via Scott A. Stoll

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