Drying or dehydrating foods is a great way to increase their flavor potency. Dried bay leaves, for example, have three to four times more flavor than fresh ones! In addition, dehydrated bay leaves are a delicious seasoning to enhance various everyday recipes, such as meats, sauces, soups, among many others. So, learn here how to dry bay leaves, either naturally or using a dehydrator, an electric oven or a microwave, to enjoy the properties of this delicious spice!
Method 1 of 4: Drying the Bay Leaves Naturally
Step 1. Place one or two paper towels on a baking sheet
Use a baking sheet large enough to accommodate all the bay leaves so they don't touch each other. Also use enough paper towels to cover the entire pan with a layer of them.
Step 2. Spread the bay leaves across the paper towels
Do not overlap the sheets, so they have their own space and dry evenly. If you have a lot of bay leaves, use another baking sheet.
Do not mix bay leaves with other herbs as they will have different drying times
Step 3. Place the baking sheet in a warm, dry place with plenty of ventilation
The sink or kitchen table is the perfect place, as long as it doesn't hit direct sunlight, as this will cause the leaves to wither and turn brown.
Indirect sunlight is good, but not ideal either
Step 4. Turn the sheets after a week
Turning them over will allow each one to dry evenly and at the same rate. If some leaves seem to dry faster than others, check to see if you can't turn them over too soon, with only three to four days of dehydration.
Step 5. Leave them to dry for another week
If the leaves are still damp, soft, or dark green in places, let them dry for another three to seven days.
If some of the leaves are already dry, remove them from the baking sheet and store them in an airtight container
Step 6. Take the leaves off the stems and store them in an airtight container
Discard the stem and store the whole or chopped leaves in a zippered plastic bag or other airtight container in a cool, dark place at between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius.
- To chop or grind the leaves, break them with your fingers and crush each larger piece with the back of a spoon until you get a coarse, sandy texture. If you prefer, you can crush them using a mortar and pestle.
- Whole leaves retain their flavor and aroma longer than crushed ones.
- When properly stored, dried bay leaves can last up to a year.
Method 2 of 4: Using a Dehydrator
Step 1. Preheat the dehydrator to 35 to 45 °C for about 30 minutes
Leave it at 50 °C if you live in a high humidity region.
Read your dehydrator's instruction manual first to see if it reaches the suggested temperatures for drying bay leaves
Step 2. Wash bay leaves under fresh water
Gently massage the leaves to remove all dust and debris by holding them under a low-pressure stream of water (just turn on the faucet slightly). Then, gather a bundle of leaves and shake it gently to remove excess water, then dry them with a paper towel.
- You can also put the leaves in a sieve and shake them with your fingers.
- Allow them to dry completely for one to two hours before placing them in the dehydrator.
Step 3. Arrange the sheets in the dehydrator trays in a single layer
They cannot be leaning against or overlapping each other, as they will not dry unevenly. If the dehydrator has multiple trays, use as many as needed for the amount of bay leaf you are dehydrating.
If your dehydrator has several stacked trays, the top one will be the coldest and will take longer to dry the bay leaf. Then use the bottom trays to dehydrate the leaves more quickly
Step 4. Let the leaves dry for one to four hours, checking them out every hour
Bay leaves can take one to four hours to dry completely, depending on your dehydrator and the humidity level in the air. So if they aren't brittle and crunchy after an hour, leave them for another 30 minutes to an hour before checking again.
Read the instruction manual that came with the dehydrator to see if it offers any suggested drying time for this case
Step 5. Take the bay leaves out of the dehydrator and let it cool
They will be dehydrated when they start to curl or disintegrate and the stems start to break down. When they're done, let the tray cool in the kitchen sink for an hour.
Avoid exposing dried leaves to direct sunlight while they are cooling
Step 6. Remove the stems and store the dried leaves in a plastic bag or other airtight container
Carefully separate the leaves from the stalks and store them in an airtight container, either whole to retain more flavor, or chopped if not using the whole leaves in recipes.
- Store them in a cool, dark place between 18 and 24 °C.
- Throw the stalks in a garden or use them for compost.
Method 3 of 4: Drying the bay leaves in an electric oven
Step 1. Turn the oven on at the lowest possible temperature
If your oven ranges from 30 to 45 °C, even better! Otherwise, set it to the lowest possible temperature and leave the door slightly open throughout the process. Alternatively, see if your electric oven has a separate heater or similar heating configuration to use.
- Drying bay leaves at temperatures above 45°C will affect their flavor, so it's important to leave the oven door slightly open if it's hotter than that.
- If leaving the oven door open, do so in a place where children and pets cannot reach to avoid getting burned.
Step 2. Place bay leaves in a baking dish
Use a clean baking sheet that is large enough to accommodate all the leaves with about 5mm apart so that they dry evenly.
The roasting pan must be completely clean, without any traces of oil or non-stick spray so as not to harm the laurel dehydration process
Step 3. Place the baking sheet on the lowest oven shelf
The shelf closest to the heater is the best place to brown and dehydrate the leaves, leaving them tasty and crunchy. If your oven has hot or cold spots, be prepared to rotate the tray during the drying process.
Remove any other baking sheets that are unused in the oven so as not to harm the heat and air circulation inside it
Step 4. Leave the sheets in the oven for 30 minutes before turning them over
Turn each bay leaf so they are all evenly dry. Use oven mitts to carefully remove the baking sheet from the electric oven without having to put your hand inside it. Then take each leaf by the stalk and carefully turn it over.
If leaving the door open, rotate the entire tray so that the sheets that were at the front of the oven are now at the back
Step 5. Wait 45 minutes before seeing if the leaves are already dry
Use an oven mitt to slide the tray out of the oven and use your fingers to feel if each sheet is dry enough. If you can still bend the sheets without breaking them, leave them in the oven for another 15 to 30 minutes before checking again.
If they are already brittle and break when you touch them, take them out of the oven and let them cool in the sink
Step 6. Turn off the oven when the leaves are crispy and dry
Bay leaves take about an hour to completely dehydrate, but this can take longer if you live in a humid climate. When the leaves are dry, turn off the oven and let them cool in the tray for an hour or so.
If the leaves look discolored or extremely brittle, turn off the oven and wear gloves to place the tray in the sink so they dry without further heat
Step 7. Take out the stems and store the leaves in a closed container or zippered plastic bag
Take the stems from the leaves and throw them in the garden or use them for compost. Then store the leaves in an airtight container or zippered plastic bag. When properly stored, dried bay leaves retain their flavor for years!
- You can use dried bay leaves for up to three years, but their flavor and scent will diminish over time.
- You can also crush the leaves immediately if you like, but be aware that this way they will lose their flavor more quickly.
- If you're already going to use the leaves for cooking, use the amount, because a little freshly dehydrated bay leaf is usually more than enough!
Method 4 of 4: Using the microwave
Step 1. Line a microwave dish with paper towels
Do not use paper towels made from recycled paper as they contain small metal fragments that can ignite in the microwave. If you prefer, you can also use a clean dish towel.
If you are going to use a dish towel, be very careful and never use one that has metal tags to avoid the risk of burning the microwave
Step 2. Place the sheets on the paper towel before covering them with another layer of paper
Distribute the bay leaves on the paper towel so they don't touch each other. Then cover them with another layer of paper towel.
If using a large dish towel, fold it over instead of using another one to cover the bay leaf
Step 3. Heat the sheets on high power for 35 to 45 seconds
Bay leaves contain a lot of oil, so they need enough time to dry, but not so long that they get burned. The 35-second time is recommended for a standard 1000 watt microwave, but depending on your wattage, decrease this time to 30 seconds or increase it to 50 seconds.
Do not heat the leaves for more than 70 or 80 seconds to avoid burning them
Step 4. Remove the stems from the leaves and store the bay leaf in an airtight container
Bay leaves will be completely dry when they are crunchy and crumbly. If they are still soft or bend without breaking, microwave them for another ten to 20 seconds before checking again.
- If the leaves are brown and smell of burning, throw them away and try again with fresh leaves.
- Again, remember that whole bay leaves retain their flavor longer than chopped or crushed ones.
- Remember that dried leaves are much stronger than fresh ones. So, remember to adjust the amount if the recipe you are making considers fresh bay leaves and you are going to use dehydrated ones.
- Use the microwave to dry small amounts of bay leaves.