How to Store Dry Herbs for a Long Shelf Life

Woman storing dried herbs in glass jars
The best way to maximize the shelf life of dried herbs is to store them whole in vacuum-sealed containers. Storing dried herbs with this method increases their shelf life from 6 months to 1 year, depending on the type of herb.

What is the Best Method for Storing Dried Herbs?

The best method for storing dried herbs long-term is to pack them whole in labeled vacuum-sealed Mylar bags. There are many reasons why this is the best method:

  • It extends the shelf life of the herbs.
  • Storing dried herbs whole rather than ground or crumbled helps retain flavor.
  • To keep track of shelf life, label each container with the contents inside and the dehydration date.
  • Vacuum-sealed containers work better than plain storage containers due to low oxygen and moisture levels.
  • When stored whole, the cells that contain essential oils remain closed to the air, which helps prevent the loss of aromatics.
Vacuum bag full of dry herbs being sealed by a vacuum sealer machine
Vacuum-sealing dry herbs

How to Condition Herbs Before Storing Them

Before putting dried herbs in long-term storage, it’s important to condition them in clean and dry airtight containers like mason jars. Follow these steps to condition dehydrated herbs:

  1. Portion them into small batches.
  2. Put them in airtight containers at room temperature in a cool, dry, dark place for 3-7 days.
  3. Shake each container 1-2 times daily, watching for moisture signs in the container or the herbs sticking together or to the container.
  4. Proceed with long-term storage if the herbs do not condensate in the container or stick together or to the container after shaking it.
  5. Re-dehydrate any herbs that show these signs and discard the ones that get moldy.

How Long Do Dried Herbs Last in Jars?

Dried herbs last six months at room temperature in mason jars or other glass containers with rubber bands or screw-top lids. When stored under cold conditions in the freezer or refrigerator, dried herbs will keep for 12 months in the same jars. Amber-colored jars are ideal for blocking light, one of the most significant enemies of dried foods.

Herbs inside glass jar sitting outside on picnic table
Herbs inside glass jar

How Long Can Dried Herbs Be Stored?

You can store dried herbs for six months to five years. Different herbs have different viability times in storage. The storage life will depend on the storage containers, the type of herb, and the storage method. For example, whole herbs last 4-5 years, while ground herbs last 2-3 years on average.

How to Test the Potency of Stored Dried Herbs

To test the potency of any dried herb, crush a small amount of the dry herbs in your palms.

  1. If they have a strong herb scent that corresponds with the known scent of the herb, they are still high-quality herbs and can be used normally.
  2. If they have a weak scent, they are close to the end of their useful life. Add more than the recipe requires, or toast the dry herbs over low heat in a shallow pan before using them to rekindle some of their potency.
  3. If testing an herb blend, you should be able to distinguish different aromas. If you can’t, or the blend has only a faint smell, discard and replenish.
  4. If there is no discernible scent or the herbs smell like ordinary green leaves, discard them and replace them with freshly dehydrated herbs.
Small amount of dried herbs in the middle of an upturned palm
Dried herbs in hand

How Do You Store Dried Herbs in a Refrigerator?

Storing dried herbs in the refrigerator is unnecessary. Many things could go wrong with the herbs in cold conditions, and you could lose them to moisture since the fridge is a high-moisture environment.

If you still wish to store dried herbs in a refrigerator, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Avoid plastic bags as they eventually allow moisture in, which rehydrates the herbs.
  • Avoid returning dried herbs that have been cooled to room temperature to the fridge.
  • Refrigerate hardy herbs like tarragon, cilantro, dill, chives, and parsley.
  • Store dried herbs in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
  • Store herbs in vacuum-sealed storage containers, preferably glass jars.
  • Store the herbs in small quantities, preferably in single servings.

How Long Do Dried Herbs Stay Fresh in the Freezer?

Dried herbs will typically last 12 months in the freezer. It’s best to freeze the herbs in vacuum-sealed Mylar bags to avoid air, moisture, and light, especially if you’ll open the freezer often.

Alternatively, you can freeze fresh herbs in an ice cube tray. Pour small amounts into each compartment, add some water, and freeze. Take out the cubes and place them in a larger, airtight container in the freezer. Herbs that have been frozen can be dehydrated after they have been thawed.

Portioning herbs in ice cube trays
Herbs in ice cube tray

How Long Does it Take to Dry Herbs?

The duration it takes to dry your own herbs depends on the drying method. The best method for thorough dehydrating is to use a food dehydrator which typically dries herbs in 4-8 hours. For those who want a faster method, it’s easy to dry herbs in the oven in 1-4 hours.

Air drying is the slowest method for preserving herbs, taking 1-6 weeks, depending on the type of herb. The method relies heavily on proper air circulation and humidity levels below 60%.

Here are the drying times and temperatures for some common garden herbs:

Type of HerbTemperatureTime Frame
Coriander95°F4-5 hours
Dill95-100°F4-6 hours
Fennel95°F3-4 hours
Lavender95-105°F24-48 hours
Lemon balm95°F12-18 hours
Mint100-105°F2 – 5 hours
Oregano95-125°F6-18 hours

Is it Better to Dehydrate or Freeze Dry Herbs?

Freeze-drying herbs is much better than dehydration at retaining flavor, aroma, color, and nutritional value. Freeze-dried foods also last longer than dehydrated ones and can keep for 10 to 25 years. The downside to freeze-drying is that you’ll require a special machine—a freeze-dryer, which is quite expensive.

Storage conditions remain relatively the same for both dehydrated and freeze-dried herbs. Both can be kept at room temperature in airtight containers. However, freeze-dried foods in long-term storage require vacuum-sealed Mylar bags with an oxygen absorber.

Alex Maina

Preserving food has become a meeting point for Alex's passions—gardening, cooking, and writing. Having grown up on a farm with cows, goats, chickens, and fresh fruits and vegetables, Alex knows the importance of preserving food for leaner times. He spends his time drying and canning foods, trying new recipes, and writing for Dehydrated Cookbook.

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