Drying thyme is a great way to preserve this flavorful herb. There are a few easy steps to follow, so if you have been wondering how to dry thyme, read on for all the details!
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When it comes to culinary herbs, thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is one of the most versatile. This fragrant herb can be used fresh or dried, making it a convenient choice for cooks.
Fresh thyme is very easy to dry and, if dried correctly, it will retain its flavor well. While it might not be quite as good as fresh thyme, it can be used in place of the fresh herb in many dishes.
It is best to dry thyme without heat
The intention of drying thyme is to preserve the leaves by removing the water, but without losing the natural oils that give it its flavor.
Thyme, like most delicate herbs, is best dried naturally, without using artificial heat. This helps to retain the natural oils better, as excess heat will cause to oils to evaporate.
Trying to dry herbs by raising the temperature during the drying process (for example in the oven or microwave) may dry them quicker, but will lead to the natural oils that give the herb its flavor being lost.
This defeats the purpose of drying herbs, since they will be useless for flavoring foods. This is why we don’t recommend oven drying fresh herbs.
>> Related article: drying herbs without heat.
How to dry fresh thyme
Harvest the thyme
Ensure that your plant is healthy and growing vigorously before you harvest it.
You can harvest from your thyme plants all year however, spring and summer are the best time for harvesting thyme as the softer new growth has the best flavor.
Select a mature stem of around 7-8 inches in length. Use sharp clean secateurs or scissors to cut a thyme sprig around 3-4 inches long, leaving the remainder of the stem length to encourage it to grow back quickly.
Make the cut just above a growth node (leaf pair) as this encourages new growth.
>> Related article: How to Harvest Thyme
Prepare the thyme
Before drying thyme or any fresh herbs, it is important to ensure that they are clean and ready to be used in cooking.
Rinse the thyme sprigs clean to remove any surface dust or dirt. Then pat them dry on a paper towel or a clean dish towel, to remove any excess moisture.
>> Related post: How to harvest thyme
Methods for drying thyme
If you have a dehydrator, then this can be used for drying thyme, however, it is not necessary.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, there are two basic drying methods for air drying thyme:
- Dry thyme sprigs between sheets of paper or parchment
- Dry by hanging bunches of thyme
1. How to dry thyme on paper
Parchment paper is ideal for drying herbs the type of paper you use is important, coated baking papers or waxed papers will not work.
All you need to do is cut the thyme into small sprigs, then them in a single layer between two sheets of parchment, and leave them undisturbed until the leaves have dried out.
It is important that the air can circulate while the thyme is drying, so don’t cover it with anything other than the parchment paper.
When the thyme has been spread on the drying paper, it needs to be placed in a warmish dry location until the water is gone from the leaves.
2. Drying Thyme by hanging bunches
If you have a lot of thyme to dry, then hanging it in bunches may be a better technique to use.
All you need to do is cut the thyme, and tie it into small bunches with twine. Then hang the bunches upside down in a warm place where they won’t be disturbed.
Cover them with a paper bag to keep the dust off while they are drying.
You will probably find that it takes a little longer to dry the thyme using this method, but if you have more than one tray’s worth of thyme to dry, then using the method above isn’t really practical for most of us.
How to store dried thyme
Once the thyme is dried, you can use a knife to carefully dislodge each thyme leaf from the stems.
Do this over a large bowl or a baking sheet so you can easily collect the dry thyme leaves.
Store the dried thyme leaves in an airtight container in a cool dry place.
>> Related article: How to Store Dried Herbs.
Drying Thyme: Frequently Asked Questions
There are two basic methods to dry fresh thyme: between sheets of paper, or by hanging bunches. There are more details in the post above, and the instruction card below.
It takes approximately a week to dry fresh thyme, though the exact time it takes will depend on the technique and location used. Drying on paper is likely to take less time than drying in bunches, and both will depend on how warm the location selected for drying is.
It is not recommended to dry thyme in the oven. While it will achieve dried thyme, the process of raising the temperature so high will mean that the fragrant oils (that you want to retain to flavor your food) will be lost. Though on the upside, your kitchen will smell beautifully of thyme for a few days!
Nothing beats fresh herbs. However, if you use the correct techniques to dry fresh herbs then they can retain most of the same properties and be almost as good as fresh for many uses.
How to Dry Thyme: Step-by-step guide
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- Scissors, shears or a knife
- Large tray or baking sheet and baking parchment or paper towels OR
- Garden twine or string
Harvest Thyme and Prepare
- Harvest the thyme - cut bunches from the thyme plant when the leaves are mature (darker green).
- Wash the thyme thoroughly. Gently shake off excess water and pat dry with a paper towel.
Technique 1: Dry Thyme on Paper
- Prepare the drying surface - line a large tray, baking sheet, or other flat surface with parchment paper or paper towels.
- Cut the bunch of thyme into sprigs, they spread the sprigs out in a single layer on the prepared drying surface.
- Place another layer of parchment or paper towels over the thyme stalks.
- Place the tray in a warm dry area where it will not be disturbed, and leave thyme to dry.
Technique 2: Dry Bunches of Thyme
- Tie thyme into small bunches - take a small handful of thyme stalks and loop the twine tightly around the bunch a few times and secure with a knot.
- Hang the bunches of thyme in a warm dry area where they will not be disturbed, and leave to dry completely.
Collect and store dried thyme
- It will take a few days for the thyme to dry - after 4 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 thyme leaves have completely dried out remove from the parchment, remove from the stems by shaking and use a knife to gently scrape the stems. The leaves should fall off easily.
- Store dried thyme leaves in an air tight jar or pot.
You may also like:
- Growing Thyme from Cuttings
- How to grow thyme indoors
- How to grow thyme from seed
- What to do with Rosemary Cuttings?
- How to Dry Sage
- How to Dry Bay Leaves
- How to Harvest Oregano (without harming the plant)
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