How to Preserve and Dry Fresh Basil

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Drying basil in the oven is not a dautning task by a long shot. It’s a versatile and aromatic herb that’s great for soups, meat dishes, Italian cusine. A pinch of fresh basil adds a little zing to lots of dishes and if you store it right it can last a few years as long as you choose a cool, dry spot.

It’s not only a great herb to plant alongside your veggies too. We’ve had basil plants in the ground since the middle of April, and although it thrives in warm conditions, we noticed one plant on the verge of “bolting” If you’re not familiar with that term it’s a another phrase that means the pliant is turning to seed. If that happens, it will render the herb less useful.

You can save the flowering part and extract the seeds and save them to plant at a later time. Of course that’s going back to square one. So we trimmed our plant a the very top and removed the top sprig. If you notice this, snip the top sprig to keep the whole plant from “bolting”. Anyway back tot he preserving and drying part. Snip additional sprigs and leaf clusters at the end however many you want to preserve.

You may want to wash them off first, which is a good idea, to remove dust, dirt and unwanted residue. Rinse the leaf sprigs and pat them dry. If the leaves are damp it could make it vulnerable to fungus.

spread out leaves

Air drying basil leave can work too but you’ll have to keep them in a safe place where dirt straggles won’t fall on them.

The oven or dehydrator is the best way to go.

I have heard of people using the microwave, but I’m strongly opposed to it for something like this. As it heats in “spurts” it’s hard to gauge if some food items have gotten the right amount of treatment. I’m not a microwave stalwart – it’s a good tools for some food items, terrible for others.

I’m using my home oven – it’s a convection oven which produces even heat distribution via a circulating fan in the back.

basil cuttings

First, I remove the teeny tiny bud-like thing on the top which is a sign of about to turn to flower, I just pinch it off (inset pic.) Carefully remove the leaves form the stem . Place them on a cookie sheet (I’m using parchment paper which is ok too to line the sheet pan with.) Make sure the leaves are spread out and not overlapping each other.

Preheat the oven to the lowest setting. As oven s vary, it’s probably going to be about 170-180 degrees F. Place your baking sheet on the middle rack. As a pro tip, use a wooden spoon, as I did here, and insert it or wedge it between the oven door, so that as heat escapes it will not bead back onto the leaves (which could cause dark spots.)

drying out basil leaves in oven


It will probably take about 10-15 minute tops. It took mine about 15. The resulting leaves should be dry and crumble easily between your fingers, but not be burnt. you can preserve them as single leaves in something like a mason jar, or crumble them, it is said that if you preserve whole leaves it will enrich their flavor when you go to cook a recipe.

dried basil leaves

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