You can dry basil leaves at home using a dehydrator, oven, microwave or simply air dry. Follow this in-depth guide on how to best preserve fresh basil leaves.
Who doesn’t love basil? Anyone that loves Italian food is a fan of this fresh herb that pairs beautifully with cheesy pasta dishes, seafood and almost anything out of the oven.
The problem is that you cannot store the fresh leaves for very long, especially if they are store-bought. Find yourself with more basil than you can use at the moment? Dry them!
Dried basil leaves can keep for up to a year (no kidding). Once they touch a little moisture from steam, hot water or the sauce that you are preparing, all their aromatics are released again.
Had a too successful harvest from your very own basil plants or bought too much basil at the farmer’s market? These 4 easy ways to dry basil leaves help prevent any going to waste.
When to Dry Basil
Loose fresh basil leaves do not last for very long. After approximately 3 days they will already start to wither and turn black, even in the fridge.
Admit it, how many times have you bought fresh herbs and then forgot it was even in your fridge? Dried herbs are a great solution to this type of food waste. It is kinder to the environment and kinder for you wallet.
So, if you find yourself with some basil and not enough time to use them while they are fresh – dry them!
This is also a great solution for anyone that keeps their own herb garden or a basil plant at home. You can harvest your own basil leaves and dry them before their growing season ends.
Hot tip for those with a basil plant: the best time to dry fresh basil leaves from the plant is before they start flowering. These leaves tend to be sweeter than towards the end of the season.
How Do You Dry Out Fresh Basil Leaves?
There are four ways to dry out fresh basil leaves. You can use basic household appliances like the oven and microwave, level up with a proper dehydrator or just let them air dry in the sun – it all works great!
Before You Start
For method 1, 2 and 3, the first few steps are identical. This is how to prepare fresh basil leaves for drying in an oven, microwave or dehydrator.
- Remove the stems
Gather your fresh basil leaves and either pluck or cut away the stem so that you are left with only the beautiful leaves.
Don’t throw away the stems! You can finely chop them and add them as aromatics in any sauce, pesto or fresh herb blend.
- Wash the basil leaves
It is best to use ice water as this keeps the flavor inside and prevents the leaves from wilting.
- Thoroughly dry off the washed leaves
You can dry them by spreading them out and patting them dry with a kitchen towel or pop them into a salad spinner. Try to remove as much moisture as possible for the best results in the drying method. For best results, leave them between two layers of a kitchen towel overnight.
Try these different methods for drying basil leaves and let us know which one you prefer.
Method 1: How to Dry Basil in an Oven
The risk with drying your basil in the oven is that it might get burned when the heat is too high. That is why it is very important to turn your oven on to the lowest possible temperature and keep an eye on the basil.
- Preheat oven at its lowest setting
On most ovens this will be between 150°F – 200°F.
- Lay out parchment paper on a baking tray
You can use a reusable baking sheet, as well.
- Spread fresh basil leaves in a single even layer on the baking tray
The leaves can be close together but they cannot overlap in any way. Overlapping leaves will build up steam which is the opposite of what you want when drying basil.
- Slide basil into the oven
Place the tray in middle of the oven. There is no need to place it higher up.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes
The average cooking time is around 40 minutes to an hour but you should check in frequently to avoid burning your basil.
- Check your basil leaves every 10 minutes
Very carefully pull out the tray and feel whether the leaves are dry yet at 10 minute intervals.
- Rotate the baking tray
Each time you check the basil leaves, rotate your baking tray to get a more even spread of heat. This is to compensate for ovens that have different heat sinks.
- Remove basil once they’re slightly crunchy
You know the basil leaves are ready when they look crispy and are easy to crumble with your fingers.
- Let basil cool down
Once they are ready, pull out the baking tray and leave the basil leaves to cool.
- Crumble the leaves
After cooling, you can crumble the basil leaves into sanitized jar. Any leftover jar will do as long as it has a good airtight lid.
- Store in a cool dry place
Like with any dried herbs and spices, keep the jar of dried basil away from too much heat and moisture.
Method 2: How to Dry Basil in a Dehydrator
Using a dehydrator is the most foolproof way to dry any herbs. Most dehydrators even have a special setting specifically for herbs.
- Spread the basil leaves over the drying trays
Unlike in the oven, it is best to leave enough space between each leaf for the best air circulation. If you have lots of basil you will have to spread them over several trays.
- Set the food dehydrator to 95°F
This is likely to be one of the lowest possible settings. Slightly higher at 100°F is also still fine. Alternatively, use the machine’s setting for drying herbs.
- Leave it
Once the basil leaves are in the dehydrator there is really nothing else left for you to do. There is no need for flipping or turning – just relax.
- Check in after 2 hours, 6 hours, and 12 hours
Dehydrators work slowly so you might as well leave it overnight. Check in at the beginning after about 2 hours to make sure they are spread apart enough and then do another check at the halfway mark.
- Check the basil
Check if the basil is dry enough by trying to crumble one with your fingers. It should easily fall apart and not just become wrinkled.
- Crumble the basil into a jar
Once the basil is fully dehydrated, crush it into little pieces and store in an airtight sanitized jar. Leave the jar in your kitchen cupboard where it will keep for up to a year.
Method 3: How to Dry Basil with a Microwave
This is the quickest method but it also requires the most effort. While you can leave the oven and dehydrator to do its thing, you need to pay close attention when drying basil leaves in a microwave.
- Place a paper towel on a microwave-safe food container or plate
The paper towel is to catch any remaining moisture there might be.
- Spread out the basil leaves on the paper towel
For the microwave method, you want there to be a little space between each leaf. No overlapping!
- Set your microwave to its highest setting
If the highest setting burns the leaves too quickly, you can set it to a lower wattage. This step may require some trial and error.
- Set the microwave to 20 second intervals
Stop the microwave every 20 seconds and check whether the basil is dry enough and not getting burned.
- Repeat until the basil is dry to the touch
Generally, drying basil in the microwave only takes around 3 minutes but this will be longer or shorter depending on wattage and how heat spreads in your microwave. You know the basil is dry enough when you can easily crush it with your fingers.
- Crumple with your fingers
Crush the basil into tiny pieces using just your fingers. Many people choose this method when they want to immediately use the dried basil. Store any leftover dried basil in a clean jar with an airtight lid.
Method 4: How to Air Dry Fresh Basil Leaves
This is the way grandmas in Italy dry their basil leaves. Give a nod to traditional cooking with super simple way of drying fresh basil.
- Wash the basil sprigs
Note that with this method there is no need to remove the stems. In fact, you need the stems.
- Dry the basil with a kitchen towel
You can leave the basil to sit overnight or throw them into a salad spinner to remove the moisture faster.
- Gather into a bunch and tie off
Gently group the basil sprigs together into a bunch and keep them that way using a strong tie. You can use anything from string to a rubber band or even a hair tie.
- Hang the basil upside down in a dry cool room
Use a string to hang the basil bunch with the leaves hanging down and the stems at the top. You should hang them to dry in a drier room that remains between 60°F – 80°F and away from direct sunlight.
- Don’t leave it in the kitchen or other moist room
It is very important that the room that the basil is drying in stays dry. If there is too much moisture in the air the basil can start to become moldy.
- Don’t touch it
Although it’s tempting, try to avoid touching the basil leaves while it is drying. Also, make sure that no pets are able to get a nibble off it.
- Let dry for 2 – 4 weeks
Air drying basil leaves is the slowest method so you have to practice your patience. As always, you know it is ready when you are able to crush the leaves into tiny pieces with your fingers.
- Cut off the stems
Once the leaves are dry enough, you can remove the tie and cut off the sprigs. Crumble the dried basil leaves into a clean airtight jar for storing.
What Is the Best Way to Preserve Fresh Basil?
Drying fresh basil leaves gives you the longest storage time. You can use dried basil leaves for up to a year.
The best way to dry fresh basil is with a food dehydrator. This method minimizes the chances of failure since there is barely any risk of burning.
If you don’t have a dehydrator you can use the oven method. This is a great option if you have a lot of basil leaves and don’t need it immediately.
The quickest way to dry basil leaves is with the microwave method but this is also the easiest way to burn them so be cautious with your timing. Since this method is so quick, you can practice with just 1 or 2 leaves before drying them in larger volumes.
Finally, you can preserve fresh basil leaves by air drying them. However, this process can take several weeks so you won’t be able to use the leaves any time soon.
Preserving Fresh Basil Without Drying
If you don’t want to dry your basil leaves you are in a race against time. Basil leaves shrivel quite easily but they also need some moisture.
To keep fresh basil fresh for longer, keep the stems on until you use it. Arrange the basil sprigs into a jar filled with water.
You want the stems to be fully submerged but the leaves should remain dry. This may mean having to remove some of the lower leaves, depending on the height of the jar.
Then, cover the basil and jar with a plastic bag. This will trap the moisture that comes up through evaporation.
Refresh the water every few days. Also, keep the basil away from heat and direct sunlight.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How Long Does It Take to Air Dry Basil?
It takes 2 – 4 weeks to air dry basil. How fast it dries will depend on conditions in the room: temperature, humidity and sunlight. Ideally, the basil is kept away from direct sunlight in a very dry room that stays between 60°F – 80°F.
Is It Better to Dry or Freeze Basil?
Freezing basil lets the leaves keep their essential oils which is what adds more flavor to dishes. However, once frozen basil starts to thaw the leaves can get mushy and develop dark spots. Drying basil prevents this and it also lets you store the basil for longer.
Is Dried Basil Stronger than Fresh?
There are mixed opinions on this. What is true is that when a recipe calls for fresh basil, you can substitute in a smaller amount of dried basil for the same flavor intensity.
Basil is one of the most commonly used herbs as it is a staple in many different cuisines. That is why many homecooks like to keep some basil at hand.
Unfortunately, fresh basil leaves only last a few days which is why many people recommend drying your own basil. You can dry basil in the oven, microwave, food dehydrator or even air dry it.
Whichever method you choose, the dried crushed basil leaves can be used for a very long time. When drying basil, make sure that you wash them properly and remove all the moisture before you start the real drying process.