Basil is one of the most popular herbs in the world, known for its fragrant aroma and savory flavor. If you grow basil plants in a home herb garden, you most likely have bountiful fresh basil ready to be preserved so you can enjoy them year-round to enhance your dish at a moment of notice. Whether you are new to gardening or an expert, no one wants to waste bountiful fresh basil leaves. So, how do you preserve your precious herbs?
Drying fresh basil is a chef's secret to keeping the flavors of summer alive all year long, as it is a great way to preserve its freshness and taste. Not only is drying your own dried basil an easy and cost-effective way to preserve the herb, but it also intensifies its aroma and taste. Dried basil is a pantry staple everyone should have on hand, perfect for flavoring pasta sauces, soups, or roasted vegetables. So why not give it a try?
We have put this guide for you to help you dry basil at home. With different methods and simple steps, you can easily dry basil at home and enjoy its fresh taste all year round. So give it a try and elevate your cooking with the delicious taste of dried basil.
6 Methods To Preserve And Dry Fresh Basil Leaves
There are six different methods to preserve fresh basil, and which methods to use depends on what tools and how much time you have.
Let Mother Nature do the work. Air-drying basil is a simple and traditional method to preserve basil. Hang stems of freshly picked basil in a warm, dry location with good air circulation. This method is great for those who want to preserve the basil's natural flavor and aroma and retain its vibrant green color.
Consider investing in a dehydrator if you frequently plan to dry basil or other herbs. Dehydrating fresh basil preserves its flavor and nutritional benefits, making it a healthy and tasty addition to your cooking.
Drying fresh basil in the oven is an easy and efficient way to preserve the fresh flavor of this aromatic herb. Spread basil leaves on a baking sheet and place in an oven set to the lowest temperature for several hours.
The microwave method is a quick and convenient way to dry basil. It is the perfect method for those who need to dry basil fast and are in a rush. Also great for those who don't have space to air-dry or have a dehydrator and want to avoid air-drying their basil. If you choose the microwave method, just be mindful of not over-microwaving the basil, as it can result in a loss of flavor and aroma.
If you live in a sunny place, lay the fresh basil out in the sun and let Mother Nature do the work. Not only is sun-drying basil cost-effective, but it's also an eco-friendly alternative to store-bought dried basil. So, bask it in the sun and enjoy the delicious taste of sun-dried basil for months to come.
Infuse In Oil
Aside from drying basil leaves, you can also preserve them in oil. Preserving basil in oil not only locks in its fresh flavor but also its vibrant color. Use it as a condiment for a quick flavor boost, or add it to pasta sauces, soups, and stews for an aromatic touch.
How To Air Dry Basil
Choose fresh basil leaves that are free of brown spots.
Wash the leaves gently under water and let them air dry completely.
Once the basil is dry, bundle a few stems together, tie them with a rubber band or string, and let the leaves air dry.
Find a warm, dry place to hang the bundled basil, away from direct sunlight and moisture. Recommend on a windowsill or in a pantry.
Check the basil every 12-24 hours, and turn it over to ensure it dries evenly. Depending on the humidity levels, it can take anywhere from 2-3 days or more to dry the basil completely and crisp to the touch.
Once dried, remove the leaves from the stems and store dried basil in an airtight container, such as a mason jar or plastic bag, in a cool, dark place.
How To Dry Basil In The Microwave
Gently wash the leaves under water and pat them dry with a towel or paper towel.
Arrange the leaves in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate or dish.
Cover the basil with another paper towel to prevent splatter.
Microwave the basil on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time, depending on the strength of your microwave.
Check the basil after each interval and continue microwaving in 30-second increments until the leaves are dry and crispy.
Remove the dried basil from the microwave and let it cool completely. Store the dried basil in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, spice jar, or plastic bag.
How To Dry Basil Using Food Dehydrator
Gently wash the leaves under and pat them dry with a towel or paper towel.
In the dehydrator tray, arrange the leaves in a single layer.
Set the temperature to around 95°F and let the basil dry for 4-6 hours or until crispy. Keep an eye on the basil as it's drying, and rotate the trays if necessary to ensure even drying basil.
Once the basil is completely dry, remove it from the dehydrator and store the dried basil in an airtight container. If the dried basil is stored in a cool, dark area, it will last up to 6 months.
How To Dry Basil In The Oven
Gently wash the basil leaves under water and pat them dry with a towel or paper towel.
Preheat the oven to the lowest setting, usually between 170-180F.
Arrange the basil leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet or parchment paper.
Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour or more until the basil is crisp and dry. If it needs to go longer after the hour mark, be sure to check on them every 5-10 minutes to avoid burning the leaves during the process.
Once dry and crispy, remove from the oven and let cool.
Store the dried basil in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
How To Dry Basil In The Sun
Select a warm, sunlit day to collect a bunch of basil and dry the herb to preserve its flavors.
Wash the leaves and pat them dry with paper towels.
Place the basil leaves in a single layer on a clean, flat surface.
Place the basil in direct sunlight for 4-6 hours, occasionally turning to ensure even drying basil.
Once dry and crisp, remove the dried basil from the sun and store it in airtight containers or spice jars.
Note: Drying fresh basil under the sun will cause a loss of basil flavor over time, as excessive light can accelerate this process. Avoid leaving your herb directly under the sun for too long, and store your dried herbs away as soon as it is done.
How To Infuse Basil In Oil
Choose fresh basil leaves and wash them under water thoroughly.
Blanch the basil for 30 seconds to one minute in boiling water, then rinse the bail under cold water.
Pat the basil leaves dry with paper towels or in a salad spinner.
Place the basil leaves in a sterilized glass jar.
Pour extra-virgin olive oil over the basil leaves, ensuring they are completely covered.
Then refrigerate the finished jar for up to 3 months.
Which Method is the Best Way to Dry Fresh Basil
The best way to dry fresh basil depends on personal preference and available resources.
Air-drying basil is a traditional method that helps preserve the flavors and aromas of the basil. It requires minimal equipment and is relatively hands-off once the basil is hung up to dry. It can also be an aesthetically pleasing way to dry herbs.
However, air drying takes the longest time compared to other methods, usually a couple of weeks. It requires a warm, well-ventilated area, which may not be easily accessible to everyone. There is also a slight risk of mold or spoilage if the conditions are not ideal.
Oven-drying basil is quicker than air-drying basil, taking around 1-2 hours. The adjustable temperature settings of the oven provide greater control over the drying process, enabling precise regulation of the drying conditions. It is a suitable option for those who want to dry basil in a shorter amount of time.
However, drying basil in an oven requires electricity and may result in some loss of volatile oils due to the higher heat. It is important to closely monitor the basil to prevent it from burning or becoming overly dry.
Using A Dehydrating
Using a food dehydrator provides consistent and controlled drying conditions, ensuring efficient moisture removal from the basil. It is faster than air-drying basil but gentler than oven-drying, allowing for better retention of flavors and nutrients. Dehydrators often have multiple trays, enabling you to dry larger quantities of basil at once.
The main drawback of using a dehydrator is the requirement of owning one, which may not be available to everyone. Additionally, it takes longer than oven drying, usually a few hours.
Microwaving basil can significantly reduce drying time compared to other methods, and it typically takes only a few minutes, allowing you to have dried basil ready for use almost instantly. Microwaving basil at a low power setting can help retain the leaves' vibrant green color better than other drying methods.
Microwaving, however, can make the basil leaves more brittle and prone to crumbling. The texture may not be as desirable as basil dried using other methods, and achieving uniform drying in a microwave can be challenging. Some parts of the basil may become overly dry or even burn, while other parts remain moist.
How To Harvest Basil
Whether you are new to growing your own basil plant or an expert, here is how to harvest:
It is important to choose plants that are healthy and vibrant to harvest. Look for basil plants that are at least 6-8 inches tall and have bright green leaves without any signs of yellowing, wilting, or browning. These plants will have the most concentrated oils and the best flavor.
Avoid harvesting from stressed or damaged plants, as this will result in lower-quality basil. By selecting healthy basil plants, you'll ensure that the basil you harvest is of the highest quality.
When harvesting basil, cutting it early in the morning is recommended, as it is when the oil is most concentrated. It's important to cut the stems above a set of leaves, leaving at least two sets of leaves for the plant to continue growing. This is called "pinching," which encourages the plant to produce new growth, leading to a full, bushy basil plant.
Harvest no more than one-third of the plant at a time. If you need a large amount of basil, consider succession planting (planting new basil every 2-3 weeks) to keep a constant supply.
How To Wash And Dry Basil Properly
To prepare the basil leaves to dry, you'll need a handful of fresh basil leaves, a paper towel, or a cloth. To wash and dry the basil properly, you will need to gently rinse the basil leaves under cool running water, just like how you need to be gentle when harvesting basil leaves. Pick out any brown and bruised leaves. Once you have finished washing them, pat them dry with a paper towel or cloth. This step is important because any moisture on the leaves can cause mold and spoilage during drying.
Tips To Dry Herbs
Arrange the basil leaves properly
Place the basil leaves in a single layer; they should not touch each other, as this will prevent them from drying evenly.
Use Low Heat
It may be attempting to use high heat to speed up the process of removing moisture, and you will need to use low heat for drying herbs. Low heat is ideal for preserving flavor and getting consistent results without burning the herb.
Check Your Basil Regularly
Regardless of your chosen methods, checking on the basil frequently is recommended. Rotate or flip if necessary to ensure even drying basil.
Once you have dried basil leaves, make sure you store the dried basil in an airtight container or jar. It should then be stored away from direct sunlight and in a cool and dry location. Consider freezing basil in ice cube trays with olive oil or vacuum-sealing for longer storage.