If you want to know how to dry basil in a dehydrator, this article is for you. This technique is great when you have a lot of basil to dry. If you have smaller amounts, you might want to consider drying basil in the microwave or hanging your basil to dry. Of course, you could also freeze it or make pesto with it.
I like using the dehydrator to dry basil, because it’s easier, quicker and more consistent than hanging to dry. While I freeze some basil, I like having dried basil on hand for more flexibility in where and how I use basil, since I don’t always want the water or oil that comes with freezing basil.
No matter which method you use, here are some important things to remember about drying basil…
- basil is easily bruised – handle gently every step of the way
- water drops lead to brown spots – remove surface moisture from leaves before drying
- basil leaves have a high oil content – this means they will take quite a bit of time to dry and require plenty of air circulation
- basil leaves may turn rusty colored when dried – be prepared for discoloration
Some discoloration of basil is normal and expected. However if you’re basil turns black or has black spots, that might be a sign of mold or mildew – this is not good! If you suspect mold, toss out your basil. It will have lost its flavor and more importantly, you do not want to ingest mold. To prevent mold, make sure your basil dries relatively quickly and has plenty of air circulation. A dehydrator helps by speeding up the drying process. If you are hanging basil to dry, make sure the bundles are small so air can get at every leaf.
With those key points in mind, here’s how to dehydrate basil leaves.
Step 1 – Wash
Wash your basil. I bet you’ll be surprised at how much dirt is on those leaves! Step 2 – Remove Surface Water
Dry your freshly washed basil leaves. I spread them out on towels, pat them gently and then just let them lay out for an hour. It was such a lovely day with a gentle warm breeze, that I did this outside this year.
Step 3 – Arrange on Trays
Gently remove the leaves from the stems and lay them out on the drying screens so there is space between them for air to circulate. By removing the stems, everything dries more evenly and quickly.
Step 4 – Dehydrate Until Crumbly
Place dehydrating trays in dehydrator and set at herb setting (just about the lowest setting there is) 35°C or 95°F. If humidity levels in your house and outside are low, start checking at 6 hours, but don’t be surprised if basil takes 12 to 24 hours to dry completely. You will know basil is dry enough when the leaves are crisp and crumbly. If they wrinkle in your hands but don’t crumble into bits, they’re not dry enough!
Step 5 – Store Whole Leaves in Jar
Remove from tray and place in well sealed glass jars. You’ll get longer lasting flavor from dried basil by keeping leaves whole. In other words, DO NOT crumble until ready to use. Basil will start to lose flavor after about 6 months but I use until next year’s basil crop is ready. By that time, I usually end up using more dried basil than a recipe calls for, but I’m still getting basil flavor.