Dry Basil can be a tasty addition to many dishes, so you might want to have some available and ready to use the whole year. Summer can give you huge yields, but as winter approaches, the leaves start to die off. What to do, then?
Harvest some fresh leaves and dry them! There are many ways you can do it, but the easiest ones are doing it in the microwave, the oven, or the traditional way. Each one of these methods takes a bit longer than the first, but all give excellent results.
To dry basil, you just have to wash the leaves, lay them out on a cookie sheet or tie the stems into a bundle, and either heats them up or let them air dry.
Whichever technique you choose, here you’ll find a step-by-step guide and some tips to obtain the best (and most delicious!) results.
Let’s get started!
How to Dry Basil in the Microwave
Drying basil in the microwave is the fastest method to preserve your freshly harvested leaves. It’s a very simple process that preserves most of the original flavor, but it has the drawback of not allowing you to do large batches.
So, if you only require a small amount of dried basil quickly, this is a great technique to get it. You just need a microwave, obviously, and some paper towels.
Preparing the basil for the microwave is pretty similar to what you’d do if you planned to bake them in the oven:
- Harvest a few good-quality basil leaves that have no brown spots or big holes on them.
- Rinse them in cool water, discarding any bad sections.
- Remove any excess moisture with a kitchen or paper towel and let them air dry for about an hour.
- Lay out the leaves in a single layer on a paper towel, making sure that none of them are overlapping.
- Place another paper towel on top of your leaves.
Since each microwave is different, you might need to experiment a bit to find the right time and power setting before you can get it just right. However, here are some general guidelines you can follow:
- Turn on the microwave at medium power to start on the safe side.
- Microwave 30 seconds.
- Check the leaves and keep microwaving in short intervals of 15 to 20 seconds.
- You’ll notice that the leaves will start to curl and dry after a few bouts.
- It should take 2 or 3 minutes for the basil leaves to completely dry, depending on the power of the microwave and the size of the leaves themselves.
- Once they’re ready, let them cool off before crushing them with your fingers and storing them.
As you can see, you just need a few minutes to dry your basil leaves. However, there are some things you should keep in mind:
- Medium and lower temperatures will give you a better result, even if it takes a bit longer.
- Microwaves don’t heavenly most of the time, we recommend that you check that you check the leaves between the intervals and remove those that are done, so you can keep heating the rest.
How to Dry Basil in the Oven
There are two ways of drying basil in the oven. Both are fairly simple and easy methods, but one takes only a few hours while the other can take up to a day, and both require that you keep a close eye on the oven to avoid burning them.
You’re going to need an oven, a flat baking sheet or roasting pan, and parchment paper.
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, here is what you should do:
As with anything you want to preserve, freshly harvested leaves should be prepared before they can be dried to remove any dirt and bugs.
- Harvest your basil leaves and carefully remove them from the stem. You can simply pinch them off with your fingers, but avoid bruising the leaves.
- Wash your basil in cool water, discarding any that have brown spots or large holes.
- Pat them dry on a kitchen towel and let them air dry for about an hour.
- While you wait for them to dry, you can preheat your oven to the lowest temperature possible (it should be less than 200 °F).
Once your basil is ready and your oven preheated, it’s time to start drying the leaves.
- Line a baking sheet or roasting pan, with parchment paper so that the leaves won’t stick and burn or discolor.
- Lay out the leaves in a single layer. You need to make sure that they don’t overlap, so you might need an extra baking sheet if you have a big amount of leaves.
- Place the roasting pan or baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven.
- For the first method, you should bake the leaves at 200 °F for about 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them in overnight. This way you can avoid burning the leaves if you don’t have the time to keep an eye on them as they dry.
- The other method involves heating them in the oven at the lowest setting for approximately 1 to 2 hours. We recommend setting a timer to check them often.
- Once the leaves are completely dry, you’ll notice that they’re crispy and crumbly.
- All that’s left is to let them cool, crush them with your fingers, and store them. We tell you exactly how you can do that below.
If you aren’t in a rush and prefer drying basil the traditional way, you’ll just need some twine or a few rubber bands and patience! Air drying basil can take between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on several factors, such as weather conditions and the temperature and ventilation of the room you hang the bundles in.
If you’re ready, this is what you should do:
- Prepare the leaves as you would with any of the other techniques we’ve mentioned so far, but without removing the leaves from the stems.
- Make sure the leaves are completely dry before the next step.
- Grab some twine and tie 3 or 4 stems together. We like to make small bundles because basil tends to mold due to its high water content.
- Now comes the hardest part: finding a suitable place to hang the stems in. You need to hang them upside down and keep them out of direct sunlight. The area needs to have good airflow and low humidity levels in the air.
- If you hang them up against a wall, turn them over every day so the basil dies evenly.
You’ll know when the basil is completely dry because the leaves will break rather than bend. As we’ve mentioned before, air drying basil takes a while, but it produces the most delicious results.
How to Store Basil Leaves
Once your basil is completely dry, it’s time to store it. Just like with any other herbs and spices, you should keep your basil leaves in a small, airtight glass container away from sunlight.
After some years of drying basil leaves, we’ve learned that they retain their flavor and aromatic compounds longer if the leaves are stored whole. Because of this, we prefer crushing them only when we’re going to sprinkle them on top of a dish.
If you can, follow our advice and store whole leaves because trust us, it’s completely worth it.
Under proper storage conditions, dried basil should stay crunchy and delicious for about a year. We suggest labeling the jar so you can keep track of how old your leaves are.
Basil is already an incredibly versatile herb, but drying some (or several!) leaves can give you even more options, especially when fresh ones aren’t readily available.
Dehydrating basil is one of the easiest ways to preserve it, and the best part is that you don’t need any fancy appliances to do it. You can either microwave them, bake them in the oven, or let them air dry.
To help you in this, we’ve provided a complete guide and some great tips so that you can make some delicious homemade dry basil after your summer harvest!