How to dry basil?

It’s the end of the summer and your garden is overrunning with fresh basil! Need to know how to dry basil so you can use it later?

Fortunately, you do not need excessive preparations or equipment to dry it. You can easily stock up your spice pantry and use your basil in various delicious dishes.

There are many ways you can dry basil for winter use, but the best way to do them is through a low and slow dry method.

I have shared all the beneficial characteristics of basil and tips for preparing them to add to your dishes throughout the year.

Health benefits of basil

Basil is a plant that is widely grown today. Even many homeowners plant basil in their gardens or kitchens. This flavorful herb is a staple in Thai and Italian cooking and is used as a flavoring in many different cuisines.

Basil comes in more than 60 different types, with sweet basil being one of the most popular. The herb has rounded, frequently pointed leaves.

Although some kinds contain touches of crimson or purple in their leaves, this plant is generally bright green.

basil plant in a garden

Along with various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, basil also includes beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zeaxanthin.

These antioxidants and basil’s essential oils are mostly responsible for their beneficial effects on health.

When possible, choose fresh basil to get the most benefits as these chemicals largely vanish during drying.

Basil has the following health advantages:

1. Reduces oxidative stress

Antioxidants are abundant in basil. Lime and lemon basils have limonene, while sweet basil includes a chemical called eugenol.

These antioxidants and others like anthocyanins and beta-carotene aid in the body’s fight against free radicals.

Free radicals might otherwise cause cellular damage and raise your risk for several illnesses like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.

2. Helps prevent cancer

The sweet basil you use in your favorite recipes is slightly different from holy basil, commonly known as Tulsi.

Nevertheless, its phytochemicals may offer some protection against several cancers, such as skin cancer, liver cancer, mouth cancer, and lung cancer.

3. Improves blood sugar regulation

Your diet may benefit from including basil if you have high blood sugar. Basil extract was found to help with this in a study on diabetic rats.

Additionally, basil treatment may benefit the long-term effects of elevated blood sugar.

4. Help prevent heart disease

The herb’s essential oils may be able to decrease your triglycerides and cholesterol. Basil contains eugenol, which can inhibit calcium channels and thus reduce blood pressure.

Magnesium, also present in basil, helps increase blood flow by allowing muscles and blood vessels to relax.

5. Decreased inflammation

Eugenol, linalool, and citronellol are a few of the essential oils in basil that can aid in reducing inflammation in the body.

These anti-inflammatory qualities may aid in reducing the likelihood of inflammatory diseases like arthritis, gastrointestinal problems, and heart disease.

6. Protect from infections

Antibacterial properties exist in basil. The herb’s oils may aid those suffering from skin, respiratory, urinary, and gastrointestinal infections in fighting bacteria.

Why should you dry basil?

Drying herbs like basil can be an inexpensive and cost-effective process which many benefits, including:

  • Higher quality: Growing basil in your garden is a wonderful way to enjoy fresh or dried herbs, as you know their quality.
    However, store-bought basil leaves can grow anywhere, raised in any conditions, or the growers can even spray pesticides or other chemicals.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Preparing homemade dried basil is the best way to save up some cash rather than buying ordinary ones at the grocery store.
    Spice jars are quite expensive depending on the brand and quality, but a basil plant can be cheap while yielding more overtime.
  • Eliminate waste: Drying basil leaves can extend its lifetime, ensuring that nothing from the plants will go waste after the growing season. In the off-season, you can use these dried herbs to prepare amazing recipes.
  • Strong flavor: Dried basil leaves have a more substantial essence and intensive flavor than fresh leaves.
    The flavor profile changes like fresh basil have a sweeter and almost minty-like texture. Dried ones turn out to be more savory, usually found to be mixed in a spice blend like Italian seasoning.

Dried basil in a white ceramic bowl on a bed of dried basil

Harvesting and preparing fresh basil

It is best to harvest basil before it starts growing flowers as it can get bitter.

When you are harvesting basil, so you don’t have to bruise it. Use clippers to clip off the stems instead of pinching out the leaves. I do this because it will help the plant to grow bushy.

Once you have rinsed the basil it needs to be preserved quickly. It tends to oxidize and turn black from bruised areas. I like to get the leaves processed within an hour of harvesting.

If you harvest a large amount of basil, then take a huge bowl of cold water or use your sink to fill up water. Pour the basil and swish it around a bit to get rid of dirt in the water. Sometimes you will see bugs that will be removed easily.

If you don’t have a salad spinner or if you are going to dry the basil in branches, use several kitchen towels and pat it to dry.

Air drying basil

You can easily air-dry basil, but first, you need to learn a couple of things.

Fresh basil has a higher moisture content which is why when you dry basil by hanging and air drying it, make sure to bundle it in small bundles. This is because basil can grow mold, and you don’t want to spoil them.

Tie 2 to 3 stems of basil together twice in a loop as you do with the Christmas ornaments. Hang them in an area where they are out of sunlight and have good airflow. Sunlight can destroy the elements of basil like volatile oils which gives flavor to it. 

If you hang them against a wall, make sure to turn them over every day so that they can dry evenly without getting any mold. It would be completely dry in 4 to 5 days. You will notice the dryness when the leaves break and don’t bend.

How to dry basil in the oven

Prepare the basil leaves and put the basil leaves on a baking sheet with parchment paper in a single layer. The metal in the baking sheet will cause them to turn to discolor, which is why use parchment paper.

Now put them in the oven and set the temperature at the lowest setting. You will need to keep an eye on the oven, so they don’t burn.

I turn the oven off after keeping it at 175℉ for 15 minutes and check the basil a couple of hours later. If it’s not dried properly start heating at 175℉ and then turn it off. Rest the basil to cool down, and after that store them.

Drying basil in a microwave

If you have less time in hand, then you can go for the microwave version of drying basil using short and quick bursts.

However, keep in mind that when you use the microwave to dry things, it reduces its quality and nutrient profile of the food.

When we are microwaving the leaves, it radiates them and degrades the nutrient value as they dry quickly.

  • Put a paper towel on the microwave plate, place the prepared leaves on the towel in a single layer and top it with another towel.
  • Start microwaving at 3×30 second bursts, which will make the leaves shrivel. After that, keep it at room temperature to dry out.
  • Not all microwaves are the same, so check every 30-second. If it’s not dry fully after 90 seconds, do a couple of 10-second bursts until it’s dehydrated.

How to dry basil in a dehydrator

A dehydrator is probably the best and easiest way to dry basil. But, you need to make sure that you are doing it properly.

Start preheating the dehydrator at the herbs setting if it has one. If not, do it in the lower possible setting which is at 95℉. 

This process will take about 10-12 hours depending on the moisture level. Dehydrate the basil until it’s properly dried and becomes crispy and crumbly.

sweet basil plant close up

How to store dried basil leaves?

Once the dehydrating process is done, it’s time to store the basil. You can keep them as whole leaves or crush them with your hands or use a mortar or pestle.

Store them in an air-tight container or optionally you can use spice jars or storage glass jars. A paper bag, plastic box, or other biodegradable container is not a good choice to store spice as it will destroy the flavors over time.

Dried basil has an almost 1-year shelf life if you make sure to keep it in a dry, cool, and dark place.  

You can freeze them by crushing the dried leaves with olive oil and freezing them in ice cube trays. Simply take the cubes out when you need them for recipes throughout the year.

You can also prepare dried basil pesto and store them in ice cube trays. Defrost the cubes and use them in noodles or pasta, as a marinade for vegetables. 

More fresh produce tips:

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