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Basil is a great herb for your garden. It smells good, grows easily, and can repel bugs. You can grow it indoors or outdoors near a sunny spot and use it in cooking.

Drying basil preserves it for later use and gives it a different flavor. With dehydration, you can preserve this herbaceous plant at peak freshness, saving its aromas for future uses all year round.

Let’s discuss five different methods for drying basil with the help of a dehydrator, air fryer, oven, microwave, or air drying.

Fresh green basil on black wooden table, flat lay

How to Harvest Basil for Drying

If you are growing basil, it’s important to pick it in the morning after the dew dries but before it gets too hot. Harvesting in the heat or when it’s wet can cause wilting. In addition, Morning harvesting is ideal when the plant’s oils are most potent.

Use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut the basil stems just above a leaf set. This promotes bushier growth. You can harvest single leaves or whole stems, depending on your needs. After harvesting, bring the basil indoors.

While growing your own basil is convenient, not everyone can. Therefore, you can buy fresh basil from the store and dry it using the methods below. It’s more cost-effective than buying dried basil.

Horizontal view of female hand holding fresh large leaf basil with herb garden in background

Preparing Basil for Drying

When preparing your basil for drying, remove any bits of leaf or steam damaged or bruised. 

Wash the herbs by rinsing them in cool water and shaking them dry. You can also pat them dry with a paper towel to help absorb some excess moisture. 

1. How to Air Dry Basil

Bunches of different herbs on wooden background

Air drying basil is one of the simplest methods. Basil, with its low moisture content, dries easily indoors. It’s a favorite of mine because it’s hassle-free.

To air dry basil, gather the stems into small bundles and tie them with string or kitchen twine. Hang them to dry, or lay them flat on a tray, wax paper, or baking sheet.

For larger quantities, consider using an herb drying rack.

Clean them indoors in a well-ventilated spot, away from moisture and direct sunlight. Avoid areas near stoves or dishwashers, as they can introduce moisture. Drying outdoors might seem tempting, but it often leads to flavor and color loss.

Basil usually takes about two weeks to air dry. You’ll know it’s ready when the leaves become brittle and easily fall off the stems.

Tip: Keep your bundles small for quicker drying, and check regularly for any signs of moisture or mold. If you spot any, your bundles might be too large, or the drying location might not be dry enough.

2. In a Food Dehydrator 

Fresh green basil on a food dehydrator tray on a wooden table with copy space, top view. Food preservation method.
  • After washing and drying the herbs, spread the basil in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. Set the dehydrator temperature between 95°F to 115°F and let it run for 1 to 4 hours.
  • To prevent overdrying, it’s essential to check the basil regularly.
  • Basil is dry when crumbles easily, and the stems snap when bent.

Related post: How to Choose a Food Dehydrator

3. How to Dry Basil In the Oven 

Not everyone has a dehydrator at their disposal, but oven-drying basil is a convenient alternative.

  • To dry basil in the oven, start by cutting your washed and dried basil into smaller pieces, roughly 2 inches in size. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the basil sprigs in a single layer.
  • Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature setting, typically around 170°F. Bake the basil for 2-4 hours, checking regularly to ensure they don’t over-dry. The basil is ready when the leaves are completely dry, brittle, and easily detached from the stems.
  • If your oven’s lowest setting is closer to 200°F, drying time will be shorter, so keep a close eye on the basil and check it every 15 to 30 minutes.

4. In the Microwave 

Microwaving is a speedy option if you need to dry a small batch of basil quickly.

  • Cut the stems into smaller sprigs or remove the leaves from the stems for even quicker drying.
  • To microwave basil, place a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate, arrange the basil on top in a single layer, and cover it with another paper towel.
  • Microwave in 30-second intervals until the basil leaves are dry and brittle. Check after each interval to prevent burning. This process takes about 2 minutes on average, but timing varies depending on your microwave’s wattage.

Tip: For very powerful microwaves, consider using half power to prevent overcooking.

Drying Basil Leaves in an Air Fryer

  • Lay the basil leaves in a single layer on the air fryer basket or tray. Make sure they are not overlapping to ensure even drying.
  • Turn the air fryer to a low temperature, typically around 170°F. This low temperature will help to dry the basil leaves gently without burning them.
  • Let the basil dry for about 2 hours. Check the leaves periodically to ensure they are drying evenly and not becoming too crispy.

Related post: Can You Dehydrate in an Air Fryer?

How to Dry Basil Leaves for Tea

Any of the above processes can dry basil leaves for tea. My favorite methods are air drying and using the air fryer. However, you can also dry it in the oven or use a conventional dehydrator.

Herbal tea

How to Use Dried Basil

Dried basil can be used in several ways. Here are some ways you can use dried basil:

  • Seasoning: Sprinkle dried basil on pasta dishes, pizzas, salads, soups, stews, and roasted vegetables for flavor.
  • Herb blends: Mix dried basil with other dried herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram to create your own custom herb blends or seasoned salt for seasoning meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables.
  • Homemade sauces: Add dried basil to homemade tomato sauce, pesto, marinades, salad dressings, and dips for extra depth of flavor.
  • Baking: Incorporate dried basil into bread doughs, pizza doughs, focaccia, savory muffins, and biscuits for a savory twist.
  • Infusions: Steep dried basil in hot water to make basil tea, which can be enjoyed hot or cold. You can also infuse dried basil into oils and vinegar for cooking and salad dressings.
  • Flavored butter: Mix dried basil with softened butter to create a flavorful basil butter. Spread it on bread, melt it over cooked vegetables, or use it to top grilled meats and seafood.
  • Homemade seasoning blends: Combine dried basil with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to create a versatile seasoning blend for seasoning meats, vegetables, and potatoes.
  • Italian dishes: Use dried basil in classic Italian dishes like spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, bruschetta, caprese salad, and margherita pizza.

Know that dried herbs are more pungent than fresh herbs. Subsequently, you should use ⅓ the amount asked for when substituting dried basil for fresh.

How to Store Dried Basil

Once adequately dry, basil should be stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dark, and dry location like your spice cabinet to preserve the quality. 

You can store whole basil or remove the basil leaves from stems to pack more herbs into smaller containers. 

Dried herbs are best kept in glass containers or spice jars for the best flavor. After storing, be sure to label and date your freshly dried basil. Although they last longer, home-dried herbs are best used within a year for peak flavor.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the best way to dry fresh basil?

The top two methods of drying basil are using a dehydrator or hang-drying indoors, as herbs are best dried at lower temperature settings. An oven or microwave will also work, but the higher settings on ovens cause more loss of flavor.

What is the fastest way to dry basil?

Wondering how to dry basil quickly? Using a microwave to dry basil will be the fastest method. This method takes less than 5 minutes.

Can you sun-dry basil? 

Yes, you can sun-dry basil. However, sun-drying your basil will cause it to lose more flavor and color. If you are looking to capture the power of the sun to dry your herbs, consider looking into a solar dehydrator.  

Should basil be washed before drying?

Yes, it is always best to wash the basil before drying.

How long will dried basil last?

Freshly dried basil is best used within a year for peak flavor.

Is it cheaper to dry your own basil?

Yes, it is significantly cheaper to dry basil than to buy it already dried in a spice bottle.

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