Basil is a deliciously fragrant culinary herb used predominantly in savory cooking. The herb can be used fresh or dried to flavor a variety of dishes including pizza, sauces, salad, pasta, stew, and pesto.
Once harvested, fresh basil only lasts for 2 to 5 days in the refrigerator. If you know you can’t use your entire stash of basil before it starts to wilt, dry it instead. This way you can save your basil from going to waste and use it for months to come.
There are a few steps to ensure your basil dries properly and does not end up spoiling.
Here is a full guide on how to dry fresh basil leaves.
Types of Basil
Basil is a herb with bright green leaves, a sweet smell, and a strong aromatic flavor. The herb is often used fresh for the best flavor but can be dried or frozen for long-term preservation.
Drying basil dulls the flavor slightly, however, it is a great way to preserve the herb and use it for marinades, dressings, coating, sauces, and to flavor quiches, omelets, pizza, pasta, chicken, vegetable, and fish dishes.
The most common type of basil is sweet basil, however, there are many varieties including Thai basil, lemon basil, and holy basil.
Can You Dry Basil Leaves?
Yes, basil leaves can be dried to prolong their shelf life. There are several ways to dry the herbs including air-drying, using a dehydrator, and oven drying.
Using heat-drying methods such as oven-drying may cause some loss of flavor. You may, therefore, need to use slightly more of the dried herb in recipes to get a pronounced flavor.
When drying basil, it is important to make sure that any moisture is completely eliminated before packing as mold will develop if moisture is present.
How To Dry Basil Leaves
Regardless of the method you choose to dry the basil leaves, you will need to clean them first.
Step 1: Trim
Basil leaves are the most fragrant when all the leaves are fully grown, but flowers have not yet appeared. This is the best time to harvest your basil for optimal flavor.
Once you have harvested bunches of basil, cut the leaves from the main stem. Leave a small length of stem on each leaf, so you can bundle and tie a few leaves together without damaging the leaf surface. Discard any yellow or blemished leaves.
Step 2: Rinse
Rinse the basil leaves well in a bowl of cold water. This will remove dirt, chemicals, and small insects. Place the leaves on a clean paper- or kitchen towel and pat them dry lightly. Removing excess moisture is imperative to preventing the growth of mold during drying.
Decide whether you want to air-dry or oven-dry your basil leaves and follow the instructions below accordingly. Air-drying the leaves will take longer to dry. Oven-drying is quicker, but you may risk some loss of flavor.
Option 1: Air-Dry
Step 3: Tie Bundles
Keep a few twist ties handy. Gather small bunches of basil leaves and tie the stems together with a twist tie to form bundles.
Step 4: Hang
Hang the bundles of basil leaves to dry from a hook or wall tack. Choose a place with good sunlight and air circulation for effective drying. After around 2 weeks the leaves should be dark green, dry, and brittle.
If the leaves are not completely dry and are still moist or flexible, hang them to dry for another week. When completely dry, they should break easily when you handle them.
Step 5: Store
Working over a bowl, remove the twist tie carefully from the bundle. Crumble the dried leaves into small pieces with your hands. They should break with little effort. You can store the leaves whole, however, the smaller pieces are more palatable when incorporated into cooked dishes.
Store the dried, crushed herbs in a jar or container with a lid and label it with the date and contents.
Option 2: Oven-Dry
Here’s how to go from fresh basil to dried:
Step 3: Preheat Oven
Set your oven to 200 °F (93 °C) to heat up.
Step 4: Prepare Leaves
When drying leaves in the oven, you can cut off the stems completely. Take the cleaned basil leaves and lay them out on a lined baking tray in a single layer so that they do not overlap each other.
Step 5: Bake
Place the tray of leaves inside the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven door. Turn the oven off and leave the basil inside the warm oven overnight.
The leaves should be dry in the morning and crumble when pinched between your fingers. If the leaves are not yet completely free of moisture, heat up the oven again. Switch it off once it reaches temperature (200 °F/93 °C) and leave the basil in the warm oven to dry further.
Step 6: Store
Crush the dried leaves. Store the basil in resealable plastic bags, spice bottles, or containers.
Freezing basil is a common method to preserve basil leaves, so is drying. The method you choose to obtain dried basil leaves will depend on the time and equipment you have available. Regardless of which method you choose, make sure the herbs are completely dry before packing to prevent them from developing mold.
No need to let any of your basil harvests go to waste. Simply dry it and conveniently use it as a delicious seasoning for 6 more months.
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