The use of herbs can take your dish to the next level of awesomeness.
Seriously, so many people underestimate the brilliance of using herbs while they’re cooking. Basil is no different - it’s vibrant, aromatic, and enhancing!
You can use basil both straight from the plant and dried down. While most people prefer using fresh basil, it doesn’t last nearly as long as dried basil does. Dried basil leaf lasts a very long time.
If you have a sprig of basil that you don’t want to go to waste, why don’t you dry it and use it over and over again?
Drying basil is a very simple task that doesn’t take much preparation work. Below we’ve got a comprehensive guide on how to dry your basil in the oven. It will show you how to turn any fresh herb into a dried herb.
However, this isn’t the only method for drying your basil. We’ll also mention a few different methods below, too.
Preparing your basil for the oven
Before you put your basil in the oven, you’ll need to prepare the leaves quickly before doing so.
The most important thing to do is to wash your basil leaves properly and dry them thoroughly. You want to wash the leaves so that all of the bacteria is removed, and dry them so that the leaves don’t cook in the oven.
If there is any water on the basil leaves at all when they go into the oven, the leaves will cook rather than dry. So, make sure that you dab the leaves with paper towels as much as is necessary to keep them dry.
You should leave the basil leaves flat on the baking sheet so that no water pools and gets left behind.
You should also remove all of the stems from your basil leaves as these do nothing for the taste of your dishes. We personally suggest that you leave your basil leaves at room temperature for a few days before putting them into the oven so that you don’t need to leave them in the oven for so long.
Reducing the oven time for your basil leaves will improve the efficiency of your home and ensure that your energy costs don’t skyrocket too high thanks to drying basil.
The general consensus is that you should dry your basil leaves for anywhere between one day and one week. We’ve personally found success in two to three days.
Drying basil in the oven
Once you’ve left your basil leaves to dry at room temperature for a few days, it’s time to move onto the next step. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Fahrenheit or whatever the lowest temperature is that you can reach with your oven.
You want to use the lowest temperature to prevent your basil from becoming burned. If your lowest setting is about 180 degrees Fahrenheit you should dry the basil with the oven door slightly open. This will allow some of the heat to escape during the cooking process.
Lay your basil out on a baking sheet or cookie sheet on top of a metal tray. This will prevent the basil from sticking to the metal when you try to remove the dried basil. The basil leaves should not overlap or touch, so if you have too much basil you’ll have to complete the process more than once.
Take the baking tray and place it in the oven for one and a half hours. This is the minimum amount of time that the basil will require when drying, so don’t bother checking it before this time. Once this time has surpassed you can take the basil out of the oven and see if it’s crumbly to touch.
If the basil doesn’t crumble when you touch it, you’ll need to return it back to the oven for a longer time. The process can take up to four hours, so check the basil every half an hour to an hour until you find that it breaks easily when touched.
Once you’ve reached this point you can remove the basil from the oven and leave it to cool. It’s important not to rush the process as half-dried basil leaves won’t keep for as long as completely dried basil. They might also stick together and become wasted.
After the basil leaves have had enough time to completely cool, crumble them up into tiny pieces. This won’t take much as they should be very fragile. As the basil cools down it will become crunchy and easier to crumble up.
Move the dried basil leaves to an airtight container, much like the spice jars that you see store-bought dried herbs in. Store your herbs in a cool and dry place and they will keep for anywhere from six months to a year. That’s much longer than fresh basil would last!
Alternatives to the oven
Drying basil in the oven can be a very time-consuming process.
Although there is not much preparation work to do for this method, it does require multiple days of work to complete.
If you don’t want to keep the oven on for such a long time when drying your basil, don’t despair. There are other methods to dry your basil, which we’ll look at below.
Using a microwave
If you’re pressed for time and want to use your dried basil as more of a decoration rather than an actual ingredient, you can use the microwave to dry it. Simply place the basil leaves on a microwave-safe plate and blast them for 60 seconds.
Yep, you heard us right - dried basil in just one minute. However, the results are often lackluster and leave you with a lot of wasted basil. The taste is all but gone, the smell is hardly there anymore, and even the color becomes dull.
Your basil will lose everything great about it if you choose to dry it in the microwave. We think that you should use another method if you want to still enjoy the flavor and smell of basil in your dishes.
Using a dehydrator
Many people consider a food dehydrator to be the best method of drying herbs, and basil is no different. In fact, if you are someone who wants to start drying a lot of their own herbs and spices, you might benefit greatly from investing in a dehydrator.
This method allows you to leave the basil to it without having to worry about your oven being left on for a prolonged period of time. The method of using a dehydrator is similar to that of the oven - wash and dry your basil and lay the leaves in the dehydrator so that they’re not overlapping.
Some dehydrators have herb settings that you can use with pre-programmed settings. However, if yours does not come equipped with this feature you can simply use your dehydrator at the lowest temperature setting possible.
Dehydrators take anywhere from six to 24 hours to completely dry basil. Once the leaves crumble under your touch you can transfer them to your spice jars and store them away.
Air drying basil is undoubtedly the longest method of drying your basil leaves, but it works well if you don’t want to use the oven for such a long time and you don’t have a dehydrator.
Some people swear by hanging their basil stems upside down and leaving them in a dark, dry place to dry out.
However, this is not always the best method as the leaves might break off and not dry properly. We would stick to drying them flat on a drying rack. Look for one made up of mesh in which the holes are not very large.
Wash and dry the basil as usual and cut off the stems from the leaves. Lay them on the drying rack so that they’re not overlapping one another and leave the drying rack in a humidity-controlled area. Too much humidity in the air could promote mold growth instead of the herbs drying.
Your basil will need a minimum of one week to dry when using the air drying method. However, there are some factors that affect this such as the temperature of your home while drying the herbs.
Which is the best drying method?
Every way to dry basil will work for someone, so you have to find which one will work the best for you. Personally, we find that the dehumidifier or oven works the best for us.
Using a dehumidifier can be very simple and you can leave it alone to do its thing, but not everyone has one to spare.
So, using the oven is also another great option for drying basil. The only issue with using the oven is that you won’t be able to use it for other meals while your basil is drying. Not everyone is happy to leave their ovens on and unattended for such a long period of time, either.
Personally, we wouldn’t recommend using the microwave for drying your basil leaves. A lot of the taste and aroma are lost while using this method, although it is incredibly quick.
You could always try the method out for yourself with one or two leaves to see if you don’t mind the new taste and smell.
We also wouldn’t suggest the air drying method, unless you have no other alternative option. It’s the longest method by far and many people are disappointed that their herbs have grown mold rather than dried out.
We think that there are easier ways to dry basil, but many people do still have success with this method.
Finding and harvesting your basil
Before you even think about drying your basil, you need to know where to find it and how to harvest your herbs.
If you’re wondering the best way to gather basil ready for drying, keep reading this section.
You can either purchase readily grown herbs from the store or grow your own. Buying your basil from the grocery store is quick and doesn’t require any effort from you, but you’ll have to keep buying new amounts every time you want to use them.
If you wanted to dry the herbs, you’d also have no idea how long ago the basil was harvested. This might affect the shelf life of your dried herbs, so be wary of this factor.
You also won’t know if any chemicals or pesticides will have been sprayed onto your basil if you buy it from a store.
Alternatively, you can grow your own herbs. They’re very simple to grow and you can bulk buy seeds that will last you for many growing seasons. You’ll know exactly how your basil has been treated because it will have been grown by you.
You’ll have the option to use minimal chemicals on the herbs so that you’re not ingesting anything potentially dangerous. Many herbs can grow both indoors and outdoors as well, so you don’t even need a large outdoor space or a lot of supplies.
A basil plant also gives you unlimited produce if treated properly. But we’ll talk more about that in the next section. If you’re thinking of growing your own herbs, there are plenty of kits on the market that can help you get started!
Most people think that you simply have to chop off the leaves of your basil plant in order to harvest your herbs, but this is a sure way to kill your plant.
Part of the appeal of a basil plant is that you can continue reaping the rewards multiple times rather than having to buy new herbs from the store every time you need them.
To ensure that your plant will continue thriving even after you harvest your herbs, you need to keep two-thirds of the plant intact after each harvest.
This means that you should only harvest up to a third of your plant at once. Then you’ll have to wait for it to grow again before you can take your next crop of basil.
Many gardeners believe that your basil plant should be at least 6 inches tall, but we say that you should wait until it’s closer to the 8-inch mark. This will ensure that the plant is big enough to handle a few fewer leaves.
How many basil leaves you need will determine how you harvest your plant. If you only need a few leaves for a single dish, simply pluck how many you need off of the plant.
However, if you need more for drying the herbs, you can cut off an entire section of the plant to separate easily.
You should always cut from the top of the plant first. This will promote new growth so that you can enjoy more bail in a few weeks. We think that you should wait a few weeks in between harvesting to allow your basil plant enough time to recover and begin growing again.
How to clean basil correctly
The cleaning process of basil leaves is incredibly important before drying your herbs.
There are a lot of potential germs on your basil that need to be washed off before you can begin the process. You can also wash off any chemicals used on the basil as well as trapped soil or bugs that have made a home on the leaves.
Basil leaves are super delicate and can break very easily, so you need to be careful when cleaning the leaves. Pull each basil leaf off of the stem and throw away any that have holes or suspicious-looking spots.
Now that you only have the best leaves left, fill a bowl with clean water, and add the leaves to it. Gently swirl the water around so that the leaves move underneath the water. Leave them to soak for up to five minutes before removing them and laying them on paper towels.
Pat the leaves with another paper towel, getting off as much water as possible. Your basil leaves need to be as dry as possible before going into the dehumidifier or oven, so leave them to air dry for at least a couple of hours.
We hope that you’ve learned a valuable lesson on how to dry your basil leaves.
Whether you’ve bought it from the store or grown it from scratch, there is an ideal way to dry it out there for you.
We recommend using the oven to dry your basil or investing in a dehumidifier, but others have found success with air drying and using a microwave.
Test them out for yourself and enjoy your freshly dried basil!