How to Dry Basil Leaves

Posts feature partner companies & may be sponsored. Post contains affiliate links & I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sharing is caring!

Basil is a delicious and versatile herb, but sometimes you might have more than you can use before it goes bad. It’s a shame to let any fresh herbs go to waste, so it’s important to know how to dry basil leaves so you can use your bounty all year long.

Whether you want to air dry it, oven dry it, use a microwave oven, or put it in a dehydrator, by following these simple tips, you’ll be able to dry fresh basil in no time and enjoy its flavor for months to come.

Ideally, you will be preserving basil from your garden all summer long. To encourage abundant growth, harvest basil every few weeks during the peak of summer.

fresh basil on a wooden cutting board with text overlay 'How To Dry Fresh Basil'

Harvesting fresh basil for preserving

Harvesting fresh basil for preserving is simple yet requires a bit of planning.

The best time to harvest is early in the morning when the leaves are fully turgid before the heat of the day wilts them. Sun wilted plants will be low in aromatic oils that give basil its delicious smell.

If this isn’t possible, snip off your slightly sun-wilted stems and refresh them by putting them in some cool water for about an hour before drying.

For best results, use a sharp knife or pruning shears to make a clean cut just above a leaf node on the stem. This will encourage the plant to produce new growth.

Harvesting basil can be done throughout the season, but it is generally best to wait until the plant has produced at least six inches of new growth before making your first cut.

Be sure to leave enough foliage on the basil plants so that they can continue to produce new leaves.

With proper care, a single basil plant can provide an ongoing harvest throughout the growing season.

fresh basil on a wood background with scissors and string

Preparing fresh basil for drying

Preparing fresh basil for drying is a simple process that only requires a few minutes of your time.

First, take a close look at the plant and remove any yellow leaves. Dying leaves are low in aromatic oils and will generally just reduce the quality of your dry herbs.

Next, check for pests and if you find any, wash the basil thoroughly. I’ve had some surprises here. Not many pests are attracted to a basil plant but it does happen.

fresh basil being washed in the sink before drying

Once the basil is clean, remove any excess water by gently patting it dry with a paper towel. You can also dry it with a salad spinner if you have one.

Finally, trim the stems and leaves as desired. Once the basil is prepared, it’s ready to be dried!

Tips for air drying basil

Air drying basil is fairly simple, however, it’s also the slowest basil preservation method and the most likely to result in moldy basil. However, if you want simple, this is it.

Supplies you will need

  • Scissors or herb snipping shears
  • String
  • Fresh basil leaves that have been washed and dried gently on a towel or with a salad spinner
fresh herbs hanging from ceiling to dry

Directions for air drying

Once your fresh basil is washed and pat dry, it’s time to get it ready for air drying.

  1. Start by cutting the stems of your basil so they’re about 4 inches long.
  2. Gather a few stems together and tie them with string, making sure not to bunch the leaves too tightly together or they won’t dry properly. A few leaves that get moldy will ruin the whole bunch.
  3. Hang your bunches of basil upside down in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
  4. Check on your basil every few days, and when the leaves feel papery to the touch, they’re done!
  5. Once your basil is completely dry, carefully remove the leaves from the stems. I prefer to crush them right away so they take up less room in my spice jars.
  6. Store the dried basil leaves in airtight containers at room temperature for up to six months.

Dried basil will maintain its flavor and freshness best if stored out of direct sunlight so make sure your spice rack isn’t right near a window.

Oven drying basil

If you need to dry basil quickly, oven drying is the way to go. It’s also a good option if you don’t have a lot of space for air drying.

Supplies you will need

  • Fresh basil leaves that have been washed and dried gently
  • Baking sheets
  • Parchment paper
  • Oven

Directions for drying basil in the oven

  1. To dry basil in the oven, simply preheat your oven to the lowest setting, which is usually between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and spread out your basil leaves in a single layer.
  3. Bake for about two hours, or until the leaves are dry and crumbly. Open the oven door occasionally to peak at your basil because oven times will vary.
  4. Once your basil leaves are completely dry, remove the baking sheet from the oven and let it cool. You can also just turn the oven off and leave the oven door slightly open and allow them to cool slowly.
  5. If, once your basil cools you find that they don’t seem dry, you can pop them back in the oven to remove excess moisture.
  6. You can store the dried basil leaves in an airtight container or glass jar at room temperature for up to six months.
fresh basil on a dehydrator tray

Dehydrating basil

Dehydrating basil is a quick and easy method for drying herbs. It’s also the best method for preserving the color of the basil leaves.

Supplies you will need

  • Fresh basil leaves that have been washed and dried gently
  • Dehydrator

Directions for drying basil in a food dehydrator

  1. Set your dehydrator to 135 degrees Fahrenheit and spread out your basil leaves in a single layer on the dehydrator tray. You will need several dehydrator trays and will probably have to do this multiple times.
  2. Dehydrate for two to four hours, or until the leaves are dry and crumbly.
  3. Once your dehydrated basil leaves are completely dry, remove them from the dehydrator and let it cool.
  4. You can store the dried basil leaves in an air tight container in a cool dark place for up to six months. The faster you use it, the more flavor it will have.

Drying basil in the microwave

If you need to dry basil quickly and don’t have a dehydrator, the microwave is a good option. TO dry basil in the microwave oven, there are several methods that will work, but you basically want to use short oven times and paper towels to absorb moisture.

Supplies you will need

  • Fresh basil that has been washed and dried gently
  • Paper towels
  • Microwave-safe plate

Directions for drying fresh basil in the microwave

While some people have concerns about preserving food using a microwave, I am not really one of them. I do recommend you use an unbleached paper towel if at all possible.

  • Place your basil leaves between two paper towels on a microwave-safe plate.
  • Microwave it on high for 45 seconds.
  • Check the leaves and if they’re not dry, continue to microwave for another 30-second interval.
  • If it still isn’t dry, continue short 10 to 15-second intervals until it is. All microwaves are different so times will fluctuate slightly.
  • Once your basil is completely dry, remove it from the microwave and let it cool.
  • You can store the dried basil leaves in an airtight container at room temperature for up to six months.
dried basil on a wooden spoon in front of a glass jar of basil and a basil plant

Storing Dried Basil

No matter which drying method you choose, make sure your basil leaves are completely dry before storing them. If there is any moisture left in the leaves, they will mold and spoil quickly.

Once your basil is dried, you can store it in an airtight container or glass container with lid at room temperature for up to six months.

Drying basil is a great way to preserve its flavor and aroma. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy your herbs all year long!

Which is the best drying method?

The best method for drying fresh herbs will completely depend on your situation. If you live in a humid climate, I don’t recommend trying to air dry basil. It will get moldy before it dries out completely. For humid climates, use a food dehydrator or dry basil in the oven.

If you are looking for the cheapest way to dry fresh basil and don’t have a food dehydrator, I recommend you toss it on a baking sheet and put it in the oven.

Of course, if you live in a hot climate without an air conditioner, you might not want to heat up the house just to dry a fresh herb or two.

So, as you can see, the best preservation method for herbs will depend a lot on your personal situation. However, I definitely recommend you learn how to preserve fresh basil one way or another so it doesn’t go to waste!

Substituting dried basil for fresh basil

If a recipe calls for fresh basil, you can substitute dry basil leaves instead. A good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs.

What can you do with dried basil?

Now that you know all the ins and outs of drying fresh basil, what do you do with dried basil once you are done? There are so many ways to use this versatile herb!

Dried basil can be used in any recipe that calls for fresh basil. Simply add it to your dish as you would any other dried herb. Dried herbs can be more potent than fresh herbs so you will need less.

Its also a great way to add flavor to homemade seasoning blends. Try mixing dry basil with other herbs like oregano, thyme, and garlic powder to create your own Italian seasoning blend.

You can also use dried basil to make a flavorful tea. Simply steep a teaspoon of dried basil in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes. This makes a great digestive tea or can be enjoyed as is.

fresh basil and knife on cutting board

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

So, what is the best way to dry basil leaves? Any way you can! Personally, I dry basil in my dehydrator several times each summer.

PRO TIP: If you find that your herbs stick to the dehydrator trays, try giving them a light spritz of olive oil. Use a very small amount. (I use the COSORI food dehydrator and have been very happy with it)

Basil is pretty easy to crush with your hands, however, other herbs are a bit more challenging. If you want to dry other herbs, invest in a good mortar and pestle and a small food processor.

If you love that strong basil flavor but don’t want to dry it, try pureeing it in olive oil and freezing it in icecube trays instead. Once they are frozen, you can pop out your basil cubes and store them in zip top plastic bags in the freezer.

If you want more great herb gardening ideas, check out my post on herb gardening tips for beginners!

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment