How to Dry Bay Leaves

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The flavor of dried bay leaves is a wonderful addition to soups, stews, and any slow-cooked dishes. If you are wondering how to dry bay leaves, the process is actually very simple. Drying your own bay leaves at home can save you money and means you will always have a supply of this wonderful herb on hand!

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Dried bay leaves spilling from a jar
How to dry bay leaves

Drying bay leaves at home

Bay trees are a great addition to any garden, patio, or deck. They are attractive plants that can be pruned and shaped as desired. The leaves also have a floral flavor, similar to thyme, and can be used for culinary purposes. 

Air drying is the best way to dry bay leaves. Any time you apply heat to speed up the drying process you will lose the essential oils that flavor the food when you use the leaves in cooking. See this post on why it is best not to dry fresh herbs in the oven or microwave oven for more details. 

A bay leaf is not generally eaten whole but added to soups or stews while cooking, or vegetable water to add an aromatic flavor to the foods you are cooking. 

You can use fresh bay leaves in cooking, though the fresh leaves have a more subtle flavor, so generally, you should use two fresh leaves in place of a single dry bay leaf.  

Air drying bay leaves is the easiest way to preserve their flavor, and I always like to have a jar of ready-dried leaves on hand for when I need a bay leaf in my cooking. 

When to Harvest Bay Leaves

Unlike other herbs which tend to have the best flavor when the leaves are young and tender, bay leaves have a more intense flavor when they are older. 

Pick mature leaves from the bay tree. Look for darker green leaves without any blemishes or damage. 

The best time to gather herbs for drying is in the morning once the dew has dried. 

Use sharp secateurs or scissors to harvest the bay leaves. A clean cut is less likely to damage the parent plant. 

Dried bay leaves in a pile
Drying bay leaves at home

Drying Bay Leaves

  1. Rinse leaves in cool water prior to drying to remove any residues. Gently shake off any excess water and pat the leaves dry.  
  2. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. 
  3. Place fresh bay leaves in a single layer on the sheet. Try to ensure the leaves are not touching each other. 
  4. Place another paper towel on top of bay leaf layer. This should be loosely placed on top to allow air circulation. 
  5. Place baking sheet in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight. 
  6. Leave until completely dried out. This is likely to take 14 days or longer. You can tell when they are dried as they will curl, and the stems start to split. 
  7. Remove the bay leaves from the stems for storage. 

Storing dried bay leaves

Store dried bay leaves in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag in a cool dark place for up to 12 months. 

For more info on storing dried herbs see this article: How to store bay leaves.

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