Drying Fresh Basil: How To Dry Basil From Your Garden


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Basil is one of the most versatile herbs and can give you big yields in sunny summer weather. The plant’s leaves are the main component of the flavorful pesto sauce and are used fresh in salads, sandwiches, and many other recipes. The fresh leaves are used throughout the growing season but the plant will die back as soon as temperatures begin to cool. Drying basil is an easy way to save the delicious leaves and provide you with that summer taste even in winter.

How to Dry Fresh Basil

Dry basil has a more intense flavor when it is fresh but it degrades quickly. Dried herbs are generally three to four times stronger than the fresh herb. The leaves have high moisture content and need to dry quickly to prevent molding. Air has to circulate freely around both sides of the leaf for the fastest drying. Drying fresh basil is an easy way to preserve the fresh lemony-anise to spicy-pepper flavor of the herb.

The first step in how to dry fresh basil is the harvesting. Herbs that are harvested for drying should be harvested in the morning just after the dew has air-dried the leaves. Cut the herbs from the plant before it gets too hot. Remove the stems back to ¼ inch (.6 cm.) above a growth node. This will allow more leaves to flush at the cut point. Harvest more than you would use when drying basil because the leaves will reduce in size by more than half.

There are two quick and effective methods of drying basil. You can cut stems around 6 inches (15 cm.) long and bind them together in small bunches to hang dry. Place a paper bag around the bundles, which has holes punched in it. Hang the drying basil in a dimly lit to dark room with low humidity and warm temperatures. The bag will catch dry bits of the leaves as they fall off. You can also dry basil in a food dehydrator. Lay each leaf in a single layer on the racks and allow them to dry in the machine until completely crisp.

A super fast method of drying basil uses the microwave. Use caution to prevent the herbs from scorching. Lay the leaves in a single layer on paper towels and microwave on low for up to 3 minutes. Check them every minute and remove any that are dry to prevent burning.

Storing Dry Basil Leaves

Dried herbs will lose flavor over time and excess light increases this process. It is best to store them in a cupboard or dark pantry where light cannot penetrate. The container for storage must be dry and air tight. Remove stems and flowers if they were dried with the leaves. Crumble the leaves into containers so they are ready to use in recipes. A rule of thumb is to use one-quarter to one-third the amount of fresh basil leaves listed in a recipe.

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How to Dry Basil and Keep Them Fresh All Year

Basil is one of the easiest herbs you can grow and will reward you with an abundant harvest throughout the summer. Its fresh, pungent flavor is a popular staple in everything from pizza to lemonade.

If you’ve ever grown this herb, you know there’s nothing quite like picking fresh basil and adding it to your recipes. But what about after summer’s over?

To keep enjoying the fantastic flavor of basil through fall and winter, you can easily dry large bunches of the leaves and store them in your pantry. If done correctly, your dried herbs will retain their flavor for months and tide you over to next summer.

There are four main ways to dry basil: air drying, oven drying, microwaving, and using a food dehydrator.

This guide will show you how to dry basil using each method and give you storage techniques to keep your dried herbs as flavorful as possible.


How to Dry Basil in the Oven

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Basil is a delicious, aromatic herb from the mint family. Dried basil makes a wonderful addition to a variety of dishes and sauces, including pesto, herb-rubbed chicken, quiche, and tomato soup. Oven-drying is one simple method for making your own dried basil using leaves fresh from your garden or the supermarket.

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Safety precaution: The FDA recommends washing all herbs and produce under running water before you cook or eat it, even if you grew it yourself or bought it in a farmer’s market. Just use plain water—studies show there’s no benefit to using commercial produce washes. [6] X Trustworthy Source US Food and Drug Administration U.S. government agency responsible for promoting public health Go to source

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Tip: You can oven-dry the basil right after harvesting and cleaning it if you like, but some gardeners recommend allowing the basil to air-dry in a shady area for 3-4 days first. This will reduce the amount of time you need to leave it in the oven. [12] X Research source

Tip: To get the most out of your dried basil, gently rub it in the palm of your hand before adding it to a dish to help release its aroma and flavor. Add the basil at the beginning or middle of the cooking process rather than the end for the best flavor. [21] X Research source


How to Dry Basil Leaves

If you’ve been searching how to dry basil leaves, you’ve probably found several different methods. The most common ways of drying basil include the oven, a food dehydrator, the microwave, and air. Each method has its set of pros and cons.

Regardless of how you dry your basil, you need to properly prepare it. Preparation is key to enjoying great-tasting dried basil leaves. Before you toss your basil into the oven, microwave, or food dehydrator, follow these steps to prepare your fresh basil for drying.

1. Collect Your Basil

You can decide when best to harvest your fresh basil. Some people prefer to collect and dry it throughout the season. Others like to wait until the end of summer and preserve whatever basil they have left.

Plan to harvest your basil in the morning before the heat of the day. This is when the basil leaves are at their best and have more flavorful oils in the leaves.

Use a pair of sharp garden clippers or scissors to cut the basil. Keep the basil plants growing by cutting about a quarter of an inch above the growth node. A growth node is an area on a plant where two leaves grow out opposite one another.

If it’s the end of the season, there’s no need to worry about the growth node. You can cut off as many of the leaves as you’d like.

When basil dries, it shrinks. Try to collect two to three times more basil than you will need.

2. Remove Stems and Rinse

When it comes to rinsing and de-stemming your basil, you can do this in whatever order you like.

If you’re using an oven, food dehydrator, or microwave to dry your basil, remove the leaves from the stems. Simply pinch the base of the leaf and pluck it off the stem. You can toss the stems and any flowers in your compost.

For those who are air-drying their basil, leave the leaves on a six-inch stem. You’ll need the stem to hang the basil.

Use cool water to gently rinse the basil leaves and remove any dirt, dust, or insects. Take note that basil leaves bruise easily. Use a bowl or sink filled with cold water and gently swish them around to rinse.

3. Draw Out Excess Water

Once your basil leaves are clean and stem-free, you’ll need to remove any excess water. Removing as much water from the leaves as possible will help the leaves dry more efficiently.

Those who prefer to air dry their basil need to remove excess moisture to prevent the basil from molding.

Remove extra water by shaking the basil in a strainer or a salad spinner or use a dry towel to lightly pat excess water from the leaves. You don’t need to go too crazy with drying the basil as a little leftover moisture won’t hurt the leaves.

4. Lay Flat

Regardless of the drying method you choose, you’ll need to lay the basil flat.

Those using an oven should lay the basil leaves on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a plate if you’re using a microwave. If you’re using a food dehydrator, you can place the leaves on the dehydrator’s trays.

Space the leaves apart evenly and avoid overlapping. A single even layer of leaves will allow for better airflow and improve the overall drying process.

If you’re air-drying your basil, you’ll need to let it dry to some degree before bunching it to prevent mold. Lay each leafed stem in a single layer no a towel or tray for about an hour or longer. The basil will be ready when all of the surface moisture evaporates.


Processing & Storing Dry Basil

Here is one of my little “secrets” to maintaining maximum freshness and flavor in your home-dried basil. Whole dry basil leaves retain aromatic oils better than crushed leaves over time. More aromatic oils equals more flavor! That is one reason (of many) that store-bought spices tend to be so bland. Therefore, I suggest to process only a small portion of your dried basil at a time and store the rest as whole leaves – especially if you dried a large amount. If it is summer and you don’t intend to use it until winter, keep the leaves whole until then. On the other hand, if you dried only a small handful and plan to use it within a month or so, feel free to crumble it all now for storage.

To process whole dry basil leaves into a flaky ground seasoning, simply crush up the leaves into your desired consistency. You can add the whole leaves to a dry mixing bowl and crumble them up with clean hands. Some folks put them in a ziplock bag and then smash the heck out of it. A food processor or good old-fashioned mortar and pestle will also do the trick. No matter what tool you use, ensure it is 100% dry as to not accidentally re-introduce moisture to your dry basil!

Store dry basil in a glass container with an air-tight lid*. Keep it in your pantry or another relatively cool, dry, and dark location. Add a date and label if needed! Homemade dry basil should stay crunchy and delicious for well over a year, though the intensity of flavor and aroma will degrade with time. We always keep one small spice jar of crushed dry basil ready on hand, and stash the leftover whole leaves away for later.

*Note: Using an air tight lid is essential for good long-term storage, particularly if you live in humid place. Folks who live in really humid climates could also add food-grade silica desiccant packs to the jars to absorb moisture. I find that using a lid with a silicone gasket does the job, along with not opening the jar often.

All re-stocked for winter! I use wine glass writer pens to mark our spice jars and other goodies. The writing stays put when repeatedly touched, but washes off later with a good firm scrub in the sink.

How to Cook With Dried Herbs

Overall there's not much difference in cooking with dried herbs versus cooking with fresh, that is until it comes to quantity. Because dried foods tend to intensify the flavor, you need three times the amount of fresh herbs to give the recipe the same nuances. Of course in some situations, fresh may taste better. Think tossed in salads, Thai food, and fresh basil on a Caprese salad. But often the dried works the same way. This proves especially true in meals that get cooked be that stewed, baked, or fried.


How to Dry Basil

(14 votes, average: 4.43 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 0 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 minutes
  • Yield: Varies
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Here’s how to dry basil using a quick and easy method! It’s great for if you’ve got loads of fresh garden basil and want to preserve it. Tip: The best way to preserve basil? Make pesto and freeze it.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry the basil leaves. Remove them from the stem. Place as many as fit on a single layer between paper towels on a plate.
  2. Microwave on High for 45 seconds.
  3. Remove the plate, spread out the leaves in a single layer. Microwave again for another 30 seconds.
  4. Microwave again on high for one more 30 second interval. At this point the leaves should be shriveled and mostly dry. If not, continue to cook at 10 second intervals until they are.
  5. Cool completely to allow to become perfectly crisp: the leaves will crisp more as they cool. Then crumble it with your fingers to use in recipes.

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