While most people would rather eat their basil fresh, drying it up comes with its own advantages. For example, having basil in winter when you’re less likely to find it in shops is only possible when you’ve dried the basil beforehand.
But making this convenient type of basil is not as easy as it seems. You can try various methods, and they all come with specific ups and downs you should be well-aware of before trying to dry the herb.
It is not a challenging endeavor still. But learning how to dry basil leaves could be a bit more complicated than you initially thought. If you want to get rid of that complexity, this article below may help you out.
We’re going to teach you everything there’s to this process in different ways. On top of that, you’ll learn all the benefits of drying basil and even how to store it. Take a look below and learn all that!
What is Basil Exactly?
There are many names for basil, like St. Josephs Wort or even Great Basil. Either way, it comes from the same plant: the Ocimum Basilicum.
Basil also has different varieties to consider. You could find lemon basil, Thai basil, and even sweet basil. In either of its types, this herb appreciates dry and warm places. That’s why it’s known as a tropical herb.
Despite that, you can find basil almost anywhere in the world. It is common in Southern US, Australia, Southern Europe, and even Southeast Asia. In all these regions, it requires constant sun exposure, and it is pretty vulnerable against cold.
What makes basil such a popular, widely-grown, and sought-after herb is the intense flavor and smell it offers. Thus, it is one of the leading seasoning ingredients for thousands of recipes worldwide, especially in Asian countries.
Considering how popular it is and how widely-used it’s become, it’s not a secret why people also decide to dry it up.
Why Dry Basil?
So, we already explained how popular it is. People use it almost anywhere and it is one of the main ingredients in many recipes. However, why do people decide to dry it exactly? Here are a few reasons to consider:
Longer Use Span
If you’re growing basil at home, you’ll realize that the plant will die in the colder months. When that happens, you’ll have no basil to use – unless you dry it before.
Dried basil can last several months on shelves as long as it is appropriately stored and uncontaminated.
When you buy dry basil from the shop, you’ll find the cost a lot higher than buying fresh basil. If you live in places where cold seasons last a long time, purchasing this dried basil may not be your best budget idea.
To save that money, you could instead choose to grow the basil in the warmer seasons and dry it up. You’ll find this extremely affordable when compared to dry basil from the shop.
Believe it or not, dried basil can actually have a more pungent taste and smell than fresh basil. This happens because the plant starts to break down, exerting all the components out, which increases both its scent and flavor.
Lastly, when you dry basil at home, you’re always aware of all the components poured into it. Generally, you don’t need a single thing to dry apart from the basil itself. You can’t say the same about the dried basil from the shop.
These commercial dry basil bags typically have preservatives and other chemicals and ingredients to make them last longer. You probably don’t want those in your basil.
How to Dry Basil at Home: 6 Methods to Consider
Are you convinced of drying basil at home? If yes, then check the different methods on how to do so below:
1. Air Drying Method
There’s no easier or cheaper way to dry basil than using the air. As simple as it sounds, the process requires no special tools or machines. Just leave the basil to dry with the air – nothing else.
This is a traditional way to dry basil. And surprisingly, one of the most satisfactory because the basil never loses any of its properties. The other way around, basil becomes stronger in both smell and flavor this way.
Having said that, this method may take anywhere from 2 weeks in warm areas (70 degrees Fahrenheit) to 5 weeks in cold ones (as low as 55 degrees). If the environment is humid, this may take even more. But apart from all that, it is a safe, easy, and economical way to do so.
Here’s how to air-dry your basil:
- Grab a bunch of basil leaves and tighten it with a rubber band or with a thread.
- Check that the bunch doesn’t drop any leaves when you turn it upside down.
- If the bunch doesn’t drop any leaves, you can hang it in an open area.
- This area should be completely free of unwanted moisture (rain or morning mist)
- Place it in a visible area (so you won’t forget it) that doesn’t bother the eye or your daily household chores
Once it’s planted, you should leave it to dry freely. The less you touch it, the faster it will dry up.
2. Sun Drying Method
Another natural way of drying basil leaves using no machines or chemicals is with the sun. It seems obvious, but the sun is one of the most effective forces for drying stuff. And basil leaves will certainly dry with it.
With that said, we only recommend this method in tropical environments with temperatures over 70 degrees. Otherwise, try the other methods. Here’s how to proceed with this one:
- Harvest the best leaves from the stem. Wash them before leaving them to dry.
- Then place them in a plastic or metal container, well-separated. You should leave a small gap between the leaves, so they all receive the same amount of sun.
- The wind will be a dangerous force for the basil. To prevent them from flying away, you can always place a wire mesh on top of the container.
- When the wind is soft, or there’s none at all, we recommend taking the mesh away for a few hours. Be careful not to leave it off for too much.
- Leave the leaves to dry for 2 or 3 days and check back. If the leaves are still fresh, then leave them for 3 more days. Depending on the sun’s potency, this might take a bit more than a week.
Try not to forget about the leaves. Harvested basil will dry fast. When left for too long, the leaves will lose all their scent and smell – and you don’t want that.
3. Oven Method
The second easiest method of drying basil leaves is using the oven. But this one is a bit more complicated nonetheless, as it requires you to harvest the basil first. Thankfully, it is a lot faster.
The only downside of this method is that you may eventually burn the basil. If you leave it baking for too long, there’s a high chance the leaves won’t dry up but burn to the point of being useless.
Don’t worry, though. If you follow the steps below, you can prevent that from happening.
- First off, remove all the leaves from the stem. Proceed to wash them deeply.
- Leave them to dry for at least 4 hours, so they lose all their humidity.
- Once they’re dried, you can place them on a baking sheet. Try using a lined sheet to prevent them from sticking to the surface.
- Now you can turn on the oven. Use the lowest temperature possible and leave them baking for 10 hours. You can turn the temperature up but don’t leave them more than 4 hours in that case.
- Once you see the leaves hardened and dry, you can take them out. Crumble the dry leaves and you’re done.
It is essential to not let the leaves burn. If you see the leaves turning brown, turn the oven off immediately.
4. Microwave Method
The fastest method to dry basil leaves is with a microwave. It may seem a bit dangerous for the leaves, and it is. But with the right procedure, you can save a lot of time and effort that other methods don’t.
This is especially useful if you’re drying just a bit of basil. Two or three stems of basil inside the microwave should be the right amount for this method.
Either way, here’s how to proceed:
- Pinch the leaves from the stem. Believe it or not, the stem doesn’t have the same flavor as the leaves, which may cause an unwanted taste afterward.
- Wash the leaves from any impurity on the surface. Remove the moisture with a paper towel later.
- You can leave the leaves to dry. But if you don’t have time, you can place them directly in the microwave. If the leaves are moist, place a towel below to prevent them from sticking.
- Now you can turn the microwave on. We recommend setting it up to the highest temperature for 30 seconds.
- You’ll see how the microwave starts heating up the leaves. If they start to get stiffer and their color gets a bit darker, then it’s working.
- Follow the same process for about 3 to 5 minutes. When checking, touch the leaves. If they feel like crumbling, then you’re done.
In this method, you should always be careful not to over-cook the leaves. All microwaves have different temperature settings, so the highest one could be a lot different between models.
5. Food Dehydrator Method
What’s easier than using a tool specifically designed to dehydrate food to dry up your basil? Nothing, right?
That’s why you can’t forget about this method. Sadly, food dehydrators are not easy to come by. Even worse, buying one can be pretty expensive. But if you already have one (or have access to), don’t hesitate to use it.
Here’s how to use a food dehydrator with basil:
- You can dehydrate the entire basil stem with the leaves, or you can harvest it first. We recommend the latter for better results.
- Look for a setting to dehydrate herbs. That should get the job done. Otherwise, set it up to the lowest setting.
- The process may last anywhere from 2 hours up to 6 hours. You will have to let the dehydrator do its job.
- In some cases, the basil may last 12 hours or even a whole day. If you check after 6 hours and the leaves still look fresh, then leave it be. The dehydrator is just slow.
Once the leaves are dried, just take them out. As you can see, it was easier than most other methods. But because it is expensive, it may not be for everyone.
6. Radiator Method
If none of the previous methods is possible in your case, you may still have a last and less typical option: using the radiator of your home.
That little oil radiator under the window or close to the living room that keeps the place warm in winter – it can also help you dry basil.
This method is like air-drying and sun drying – it requires a lot of time. But luckily, it is inexpensive as long as you’re using the radiator for other purposes.
Here’s what to do:
- You can dry the basil with the stem or only the leaves, as you prefer. But it’s preferable to harvest the leaves and place them on a small plate.
- This plate will go directly on top of the radiator. If you’re drying a lot of basil, you may need additional plates or bowls.
- Now it’s just a matter of time. The basil should start drying right away with the heat from the radiator. But don’t be surprised if it takes a week or two.
You should get the leaves off the radiator once they start crumbling when rubbed. Otherwise, leave them to dry further.
How to Store Basil After Drying
While storing basil may not feel like too hard of an endeavor, you may still want to do it well. Otherwise, you may easily get rotted basil that doesn’t smell or taste well. And that can make you feel like drying it was a total waste of time. To prevent that, follow these steps:
- Start by crumbling all the leaves (and stems) until you have only small basil crumbles.
- Look for a small container with a lid. We recommend glass containers for their ability to keep the interior dry. You may also use a thick plastic bag like Ziploc if preferred.
- With the dried basil in a container or bag, look for a dry area to store them. Top shelves on kitchens are perfect for this. You may also leave it close to the refrigerator or kitchen to keep it warm.
This storage method should give you no less than 3 months of dried basil. In some cases, it may last up to a year. In any case, make sure to store it properly, as stated above.
Does drying basil feel like a worthwhile endeavor? If yes, nothing is holding you back.
We focused on teaching you how to dry basil leaves in the most comprehensive way possible and briefly enough to start at once.
If you feel like this guide helped you, then get to work. Drying that basil for later use will be a fantastic experience, especially when you’re preparing a delicious omelet on a winter morning. You’ll appreciate having dry basil ready at home.