Drying basil is a perfect way to preserve a bounty of basil from your garden. However, the process requires a time commitment. This article has all the details on how to dry basil without losing its flavor, and how to store it once it is dried to preserve its flavor for as long as possible.
Fresh basil is a wonderful herb to use in many dishes. However, once it has been picked it does not stay fresh for long. Once you have got to the end of the growing season and it is time to harvest the last of your basil plant, you will need to figure out how you can store the basil for the coming months to get you through until spring.
Drying basil is a great way to preserve its flavor for several months. It might not be quite as good as fresh basil (you might not want to make a salad with dried basil leaves), but for many sauces, soups and stews it will be almost as good.
Drying Basil Methods
If you want to dry your basil, there are 3 basic ways to go about it:
The first way is to use a dehydrator! To do this, spread out the basil leaves on the trays without letting leaves overlap, and leave them until completely dried.
The other ways are to dry them naturally, either between sheets of parchment, or by hanging bunches.
Some people use their oven to dry basil, but I have found that this leads to a loss of flavor – if you can smell the basil while it is drying in the oven then you know that is losing the essential oils, reducing the strength of the final dried herb.
How to dry basil
Step 1: Harvest the basil leaves
Pick the basil leaves. If you are harvesting them at the end of the season then just cut them all off. If you are harvesting leaves and want to plant to continue growing, then check out our post on how to harvest basil without damaging the plant.
Step 2: Prepare the leaves
Discard any leaves that are discolored or damaged.
If you are drying the basil in a dehydrator or between sheets of parchment, cut the leaves from the stems.Otherwise leave them attached to the stems.
The basil leaves will need a quick rinse to get any dust and dirt off them, then pat them dry or use a salad spinner.
Step 3: Arrange the leaves
Whether you are using a dehydrator or sheets of paper on a cookie tray, arrange the leaves so that they are not touching. This will allow them to dry evenly, and more quickly.
If you are drying bunches of basil, tie into small bunches using an elastic band, and cover with a paper bag.
Step 4: Leave the basil to dry
Hang bunches, or place a baking try in a warm dry place until the leaves are completely dry.
Storing dried basil
Store dried basil in an air tight container or sealed plastic bag in a cool dark place for up to 12 months.
Find more info on storing dried herbs in this post: How to store dried herbs.
How to dry fresh basil.
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- Large tray or baking sheet and baking parchment or paper towels OR
- Garden twine or string and a paper bag
Harvest the Basil and Prepare
- Harvest the basil [Note 1].
- Wash the basil thoroughly. Gently shake off excess water and pat dry with a paper towel or use a salad spinner.
Method 1: Dry Basil on Paper
- Prepare the drying surface - line a large tray, baking sheet or other flat surface with parchment paper or paper towels.
- Spread basil leaves out in a single layer on the prepared drying surface.
- Place another layer of parchment or paper towels over the top of the basil.
- Place the tray in a dry area where it will not be disturbed, and leave basil to dry.
Technique 2: Dry Bunches of Basil
- Tie small bunches of basil together using twine or elastic bands.
- Hang the bunches of basil in a warm dry are where they will not be disturbed. Cover with a paper bag to keep the dust off, and leave to dry completely.
Collect and store dried basil
- It will take a few days for the basil to dry - after around 5 days start to check daily to see when the leaves have lost all their moisture. When they are ready they will feel crunchy rather than bend.
- When the basil leaves have completely dried out, roughly chop them.
- Store dried basil in an air tight jar or pot in a cool dark place.
If you want to dry the basil by hanging bunches, cut long sprigs around 6-8 inches long.