You can dry fresh basil using a food dehydrator, oven, or by air drying it. To air-dry basil, hang the herbs in a dry place for 2 to 4 weeks. To dry fresh basil in an oven, bake the leaves at 175°F for 3 to 4 hours. If using a dehydrator, use the herbs setting and dry the basil for 12-24 hours.
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How to Air Dry Fresh Basil
Air-drying basil is an easy method of preserving fresh herbs, but it takes about two weeks to air-dry basil in the summer.
Follow these steps to dry fresh basil leaves naturally:
- Separate the basil leaves from the basil stems and discard any blemished leaves.
- Wash the leaves in cold water in a colander.
- Spread the leaves on a kitchen towel or paper towel to remove excess moisture.
- Tie bunches of basil leaves together with a rubber band, string, or twine.
- Hang them upside down in a dry place, away from direct sunlight, in an area with good ventilation.
- Check the drying process after one week. Fully dried basil leaves should crumble easily using light pressure when rubbed between your fingers.
- Store dried basil leaves in a paper bag, glass jar, or any other airtight container in a cool, dark place. For maximum shelf life, store whole leaves and crush them immediately before use.
How to Dry Basil in a Food Dehydrator
If you have access to a food dehydrator, it can be the best choice to dehydrate basil leaves. A dehydrator is the optimal drying method for drying herbs because it removes moisture from foods using steady, low heat. However, it takes longer to dry fresh basil leaves using a food dehydrator than an oven.
- Harvest fresh basil leaves using garden shears or scissors.
- Wash basil leaves in cool water.
- Remove the leaves from the stems.
- Use a salad spinner to remove excess water, or pat them dry with kitchen towels.
- Spread the basil leaves on the dehydrator trays in single layers, but do not overlap them.
- Heat the food dehydrator to a temperature between 95-115ºF or use the lowest temperature setting.
- Check the leaves every few hours to ensure even drying. Once dried, the basil leaves should crumble easily.
- Remove the leaves from the dehydrator and let them come to room temperature.
- Store whole leaves in airtight containers, away from direct sunlight. To use your dried basil leaves, crush the leaves using a mortar and pestle or with your fingers.
Drying Basil in an Oven
Oven drying is the fastest method of drying fresh basil. If you want the strongest basil flavor possible, making dried basil leaves in an oven can be done quickly and safely. However, low heat is important to avoid scorching the leaves.
Here’s a step-by-step tutorial for drying fresh basil leaves in an oven:
- Harvest fresh basil leaves and discard stems and damaged leaves.
- Wash basil leaves in cool water.
- Preheat your oven to its lowest setting, no higher than 175°F. If the lowest setting is higher than this, keep the oven door open to lower the temperature.
- Place the leaves on a baking sheet or cookie sheet in a single layer to enhance airflow.
- Bake the basil leaves for up to four hours or until they’re completely dried.
- Remove dried leaves from the oven and cool to room temperature.
- Store dried leaves whole in airtight containers in a dark, cool place away from direct light and excess humidity.
How Do You Dry Basil Without the Leaves Turning Brown?
To prevent basil leaves from turning brown when dehydrating them, use the lowest setting of your oven or dehydrator and make sure not to overcook them in the oven. Overbaking will ruin the basil flavor.
Should Basil Be Washed Before Drying?
It’s important to wash basil leaves before drying to ensure the dried basil leaves are free from dirt, pesticides, and insects. You can use a colander or mesh strainer under cool, running water and then dry using a salad spinner, kitchen towels, or paper towels.
What are the Health Benefits of Dried Basil?
Drying basil offers numerous health benefits, including:
- Basil can be used to help treat bites from poisonous insects.
- Dried basil leaves are rich in antioxidants that help fight against free radicals.
- Dried basil leaves have antibacterial properties and can help protect the body from skin, urinary, gastrointestinal, and respiratory infections by fighting bacteria.
- The essential oils in dried basil (such as citronellol, eugenol, and linalool) can help reduce inflammation.
How Long Does It Take to Dry Basil?
Air drying is an easy method of preserving fresh basil leaves, but the drying time is 2 to 4 weeks. If you’re using an oven, the drying process can take 2 to 4 hours, excluding prep time. If using a food dehydrator, the time will take 12 to 24 hours to completely dry basil leaves, depending on the moisture content and the dehydrator’s temperature.
What is the Best Way to Store Dried Basil?
The best way to store dried basil leaves is in an airtight container, like a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store the container in a cool, dry place, away from heat and direct sunlight.
Storing whole leaves in spice jars will help preserve the basil flavor and extend the shelf life of this herb. Crush the leaves only when you need to use them.
What is the Shelf Life of Dried Basil?
Dried basil leaves can last up to three years. However, it’s recommended to use dried basil within six months of dehydrating for the best flavor and aroma.