Fresh bay leaves have a lighter, more floral flavor, and they keep for weeks in the fridge. If there are more leaves than you need, it will be good to dry them out.
Air-drying bay leaves is the best way to preserve their fragrant and flavorful essential oils, but this takes approximately 15 days, you can also use a dehydrator to shorten the time.
- Lay a paper towel onto a large baking sheet enough to accommodate all of the bay leaves so they’re not touching.
- Spread the bay leaves onto the paper towels. Don’t layer the leaves on top of each other, let them have their own space to ensure that they dry evenly. If you have a lot of bay leaves, use another baking sheet.
Don’t mix bay leaves with other herbs because they’ll have different drying times.
- Place the baking sheet in a warm, dry room that has plenty of ventilation. Make sure the leaves aren’t exposed to direct sunlight because it will cause the leaves to wilt and brown.
Indirect sunlight is okay, but not ideal.
- Check on the leaves after 1 week and flip them over. Flipping the leaves will allow each one to dry evenly and at the same pace.
- Let them dry for 1 more week. Notice whether there is any remaining moisture left in the leaves. If they are still dark green in spots or soft, they may need another 3 to 4 days or 1 full week to dry.
If some of the leaves are already dry, remove them and store them in an airtight container.
- Strip the leaves away from the stems and store them in an airtight container. Discard the stem and store the whole leaves in a plastic zipper bag or airtight container. When stored properly, dried bay leaves will last for up to 1 year.
- Rinse the bay leaves under a cool, gentle stream of water. Gently massage the leaves to remove any dust and debris then shake off as much of the water as possible and pat them dry with a paper towel. You can also put the herbs in a colander and stir it around with your fingers.
Let them dry fully for about 1 to 2 hours before putting them in the dehydrator.
- Set your dehydrator to 42°C.
- Arrange the herbs on dehydrator trays in a single layer. Make sure the herbs are not touching or overlapping in any way to prevent uneven drying. If your dehydrator has multiple shelves, use a second dehydrator tray if you need to.
- Allow the herbs to dry for 1 to 4 hours, checking on them each hour. Bay leaves can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours to dry depending on your dehydrator and the level of humidity in the air. If they’re not brittle and crispy after 1 hour, leave them in for another 30 minutes to an hour before checking again.
- Consult the instruction booklet that came with your dehydrator to see if it offers any suggested drying times.
- Remove the dried leaves from the dehydrator and let them cool. You will know they have completed drying when they begin to curl or crumble and the stems start to split. Leave the tray on the kitchen counter to cool for 1 hour.
- Avoid exposing the dried herbs to direct sunlight while they’re cooling.
- Remove the stems and store the dried leaves in an airtight bag or container.