How to dry basil – lock in the flavour of long Mediterranean lunches before winter hits

 Dried and fresh basil on countertop
Dried and fresh basil on countertop

If you're in your gardening era, then learning how to grow basil from shop-bought is probably something you've had on your list as one of the easier supermarket herbs to keep alive.

Therefore, knowing how to dry basil simply goes hand-in-hand, both for the money-saving aspect, as well as always having a supply on hand that you can say you worked hard for yourself.

Fresh basil in pot

How to dry basil

Whether you're a pro in the kitchen or a novice cook, there's one thing that many of us can agree on: being able to say you're the proud owner of a thriving kitchen counter or windowsill herb garden.

However, as summer regrettably comes to a close (sorry for the bleak reminder), if you want to lock in the flavour and aroma of sweet Mediterranean lunches for longer (hello, Italian Nonna chic), learning to dry basil is something to hop on sooner rather than later.

'If you grow basil in pots or in your garden, you can dry the leaves for the winter,' starts Lucy Johnson, sustainability expert founder of Green Salon. 'Basil leaves are full of oil just before the plant flowers so picking them at this point makes sure you trap the most flavour.'

Fresh basil plant in pot

Step-by-step guide

1. Harvest and clean the basil leaves

'The best way to air dry basil is to cut the leaves from the stem,' starts Lucy. Therefore, now is probably a good time to make sure you know how to harvest basil correctly.

'Make sure to leave a centimetre of stem so that you can tie the leaves together. Then, rinse them in cold water before laying them out flat to dry,' she explains.

Alternatively, you can also pat them dry with a clean towel.

2. Dry the leaves

Once they're dry, Lucy advises to 'tie 10-12 leaves together with twine and hang your basil leaves up in the kitchen for 3-4 weeks.' This flower and herb drying rack from A Place for Everything will do just the trick.

Lucy suggests popping them in a spot with some sunlight. 'As long as it is not direct, and enough circulating air to help them dry.'

A white kitchen range cooker with silver hob cover and white fitted cupboards under a  window

Alternatively, if you're in a hurry you can opt for the oven-drying method.

'Wash it, pat it dry completely, and then place it on the bottom shelf of your oven on the lowest temperature it allows (90 degrees or lower) for 20-30 minutes until completely dry and brittle,' advises Joe Hurd, TV chef, ingredients expert, and ambassador of Lifetime Training’s Chef Academy.

Lucy adds, 'Leave the inside the oven overnight.'

Kitchen with tiled splashback, pink tiles and terracotta floors

And if you're really in a hurry, you could even dry them in the microwave.

'Take a plate with a rim, cover it with cling film, place the basil on the cling film, then cover again with another layer of cling film, and pop in the microwave,' explains Joe. 'The time really does depend on what type of basil you’re using here. This will dehydrate the basil.'

'As microwaves vary it's worth checking every 30 seconds to make sure they are not cooking,' adds Lucy. 'Whichever way you choose, you’ll know the basil is dry when it crumbles if you rub it between your fingers.'

White kitchen with tiles and cooker

4. Storing the dried basil

'You'll need an airtight container that is 100% dry,' starts Lucy. 'I like to put mine in pretty jam jars that I've kept.' Not to mention, putting them in personalised and uniform containers is an easy way to make a pantry look expensive.

We love these Kilner jars available in a range of sizes from Dunelm.

Kilner 250ml Preserving Jar

Kilner 0.5 Litre Round Clip Top Preserve Jar

Kilner 1 Litre Round Clip Top Preserve Jar

'Store the leaves unbroken and leave them in a cool dark place. You can then crumble the leaves when you take them out for cooking. They'll store this way for a year or so' says Lucy.

And voila, you've successfully learned how to dry basil in four easy steps.

Dried and fresh basil on countertop


How long does it take to dry basil?

If you opt for the air-drying method, basil can take as long as four weeks to completely dry.

If you opt for the oven-drying method, Richard Price at online supermarket, Britsuperstore, says, 'Drying time can vary based on factors like humidity, temperature, and the size of the basil leaves.' It could take anywhere from two to four hours to dry completely.

Regardless of what drying method you choose, you'll know they're ready when the basil crumbles when you rub it between your fingers.