Basil is among the most widely used herbs worldwide. Since fresh basil only lasts a couple of days, it’s always a wise idea to dry fresh basil at home to have dried basil whenever a recipe calls.
Today I will show you how to dry fresh basil leaves for long-term storage. The four methods I’ll show you today will enable you to have higher-quality, better-tasting, and more affordable dried basil on hand!
For more handy kitchen tutorials like this, keep an eye on the weekly posts I release on my blog!
Some that still come in handy in my kitchen include How To Tell If A Lemon Is Bad and 5 Substitutes For Cornmeal.
Why Would You Want Dried Basil Leaves?
This may seem like a very strange tutorial to cover today. But you would be shocked to learn why dry basil is not a bad idea at all, especially if you have lots of basil plants at home.
While the fresh herb is good in itself, there are some recipes that call for dried basil. And instead of buying pre-dried basil from the store, I will teach you easy ways to dry basil in the comfort of your kitchen.
However, the biggest reason people want to know how to dry fresh basil leaves isn’t necessarily for the benefits. More often than not, it’s actually because they just harvested a ton from the garden.
Another situation I find myself in quite often is not being able to find dried basil. In that case, I frequently have to make my own. Luckily, if you make a big enough batch, it will easily last you a couple of months.
If you are also struggling to find fresh basil, buying it in bulk (when you do find some) and drying it is a fantastic way to ensure you at least have something basil-flavored in your home.
Benefits Of Drying Basil
So, I briefly mentioned that there are actually benefits of making dried basil at home.
First, you have complete control over the drying technique. You will see that I’ve listed four methods today. All of them work, but some are far better than others. A great example of this is when you compare air drying with microwaving.
Air-drying basil leaves will help trap the fresh flavors and keep many of the nutrients. If you microwave the leaves, most of the nutrients will be destroyed, and the flavor will also be slightly less fresh and aromatic.
The second reason I love drying herbs myself at home is that I know exactly what goes into the final product. Believe it or not, but MANY spices and herbs you buy on the market are bulked up with other ingredients.
When you make your own dried basil leaves, you can rest assured knowing they didn’t undergo any chemical drying processes or have artificial additives.
With that, I can also say that the product you make is much fresh and of higher quality than what you buy in a store.
And finally, making your own dry basil leaves will save you money. Buying a bottle from the store is usually quite expensive and a massive waste of packaging.
If you make your own, especially if you harvested it from a plant or your garden, you will get a lot more bang for your buck!
So, let’s take a look at how to make dried basil leaves from fresh leaves.
Preparing Fresh Basil Leaves For Drying
Before the drying process can start, you have to clean the leaves. This includes washing, wiping, and drying the leaves first.
Step 1: Clean the leaves
To start, once you’ve picked the leaves, make sure they don’t have any bruised or rotting pieces on them. This will affect the final flavor of your batch.
You can leave the stems. They also have the basil flavor and will only add to your batch.
Step 2: Wash
Don’t forget to wash basil leaves before you dry them. Rinse the leaves and stems in cool water. The water shouldn’t be icy, and running water may tear the leaves. Just fill a basin and gently rinse them off.
Step 3: Wipe them down
If there are any stubborn stains, you can wipe them off with damp paper towels or cloth.
Step 4: Dry the leaves slightly
Once the leaves have been cleaned, place them on pieces of paper towel and pat dry to drain excess water. If you have one at home, using a salad spinner would make this step easier.
They don’t have to be completely dry as a bone, but the more you remove them here, the better (and quicker) they will dry later.
Drying Fresh Basil: How to Dry Fresh Basil Leaves
As I’ve mentioned, there are a couple of methods I will show you today. While they all work effectively, some are much better than others. Let’s take a look!
Method 1: Using An Oven
Oven drying basil is great as a quick method that preserves the flavor and nutrients of the fresh leaves well. And almost everyone has an oven!
To start, preheat the oven to its lowest temperature setting. This is usually around 160ºF (70ºC).
Place the dry basil leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet or baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Try to pack as many leaves as you can inside the oven. And use multiple trays, too, if you can. This is a lengthy process. So to save yourself some time, effort, and money, add as many packed trays as you can.
Put the baking tray with the basil in the oven. This process will take about an hour to 1 1/2 hours, but most likely a lot longer.
Once the leaves are completely dried (they will crumble between your fingers), you can leave them to cool at room temperature for a couple of hours.
Don’t put the heat too high to “dry the leaves quicker.” The lower the heat, the longer it will take, but the better the flavor and quality will be. A high heat may also burn the leaves. Just be patient. It’s a pretty hands-off process.
If it is at all possible, leave the basil leaves to air-dry for a couple of days before drying them in the oven.
Method 2: Use A Food Dehydrator
Drying basil in a dehydrator is one of the easiest and safest ways to do it. This appliance is designed to remove moisture from all kinds of food. And it can work at low temperatures, ensuring the quality will be much better.
Heat the dehydrator on the “herb setting.” It’s usually around 95ºF (35ºC). Stack the leaves on the dehydrator tray in a single layer and leave them for 12-24 hours. They should be crumbly and crisp when they are done.
Personally, I think it’s always better to dehydrate basil than use an oven. The downside is that you need the appliance and that it takes a long time.
Method 3: Natural / Air-Drying
If you don’t have any equipment at home, you can always air dry fresh basil. However, this works for basil leaves that still have stems, which is perfect if you have a basil plant at home.
Gather the stems and wrap them together tightly using a string. Leave them to hang upside down in front of a window. You need direct sunlight to quickly dry the leaves, and the airflow will help deter bacterial growth and pests.
This technique takes a couple of days. But it helps retain the best flavor and most nutrients. Not to mention, it adds a beautiful countryside feel to your home!
Method 4: Use A Microwave
Using a microwave is by far the quickest method to dry basil leaves. However, it removes the most flavor and destroys any nutrients left. Nevertheless, it works and will still give your food a basil flavor.
Place a piece of kitchen towel on the microwave plate. Then, stack the leaves in a single layer. Cover them with another piece of towel.
Microwave the leaves in 30-second intervals. You will need to repeat this about three to four times.
The leaves will become more shriveled and can be used in food immediately. However, this technique doesn’t make dried basil suitable for long-term storage.
You will need to use another method to complete the process.
But again, I don’t recommend this technique because it destroys the flavor.
How To Store Homemade Dried Basil Leaves
Once you’ve successfully dried your basil leaves, you can store them inside an airtight container. I always recommend using a glass jar for storing dried herbs. That way, you will clearly see if the dried herbs developed excess moisture or have grown mold inside.
Many people like to store dried basil leaves whole, whilst others like crushed dried basil leaves. It’s up to you.
You can then place the dried basil in a glass jar or any airtight container. Never place your dried basil leaves in a paper bag, plastic bag, or anything that introduces excess moisture.
The airtight container can be stored inside a pantry or cupboard. Make sure it’s not in direct light or near a heat source. These elements cause your herbs to lose flavor quickly. Also, do not leave the container open for longer. You have to keep the dehydrated basil dry to preserve flavor.
I also recommend labeling the container to have quicker access when you need the dried basil, especially when you store different dried herbs together.
Uses of Dried Basil Leaves
After you dry your basil leaves, you may wonder what are ways to use them. Here are some ideas to fuel your creativity. Dried basil leaves are a versatile ingredient that can enhance the flavor of various dishes. They offer a convenient alternative to fresh basil and can be easily stored for longer periods.
One popular use is in Italian cuisine, where dried basil is a key component of pasta sauces, pizza toppings, and marinades. It adds a distinct herbal note and complements the flavors of tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil.
Dried basil also works well in soups, stews, and casseroles, snacks like my Caprese Empanadas, infusing them with a subtle and earthy taste. Additionally, it can be sprinkled over salads, roasted vegetables, and grilled meats for an aromatic touch.
Furthermore, dried basil is commonly used in spice blends and seasoning mixes, contributing to the overall taste profile. While it may not provide the same vibrant flavor as fresh basil, dried basil leaves are a convenient pantry staple that adds a delightful herbal essence to a wide range of dishes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Properly dried basil leaves last up to three years when stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. However, remember that a great way to preserve basil is to let the leaves dry evenly, as moisture causes spoilage and mold growth.
Substituting dried basil with other herbs is not a bad idea. Whenever you run out of dried basil, you can always use fresh basil or other fresh herbs, like oregano and thyme. I always encourage my readers to have their own herb garden so they can harvest basil anytime and make their own dried basil for their favorite recipes.
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