Dried basil is almost as versatile as the fresh herb and is easy to make. Whether your backyard garden delivered a bumper crop of the herb or you simply bought too much at the grocery store, you may find yourself needing to preserve fresh basil by drying it. Here are some of the best ways to dry basil:
In the microwave
The fastest tool for drying basil, the microwave has a few other benefits including the fact that it helps to preserve the natural bright-green color of the leaves. Microwave drying is suitable for small batches of basil leaves that you need right away.
For example, you might dry basil in this way if you needed dried basil for a dish where fresh basil would not be an appropriate substitute. To dry basil in the microwave, you will need to ensure that the leaves are free of moisture, then place them on a paper towel in the microwave. Dry over five minutes running the microwave in 30-second bursts. Stop when the leaves become brittle and easy to crumble.
Keep in mind that it is possible to go overboard here and burn your basil so keep an eye on the leaves.
The simplest method of drying basil leaves, air-drying does not require the use of any appliances or electricity. You can use this method to dry as much basil as you want as long as you have enough space. To air-dry basil, ensure that there is no moisture on your basil leaves. Wet leaves can become moldy when you attempt to air-dry them.
Next, make small bundles of the basil sprigs and hang them in locations where there is dry air circulating. You will want to keep the bundles small and space them out so that air can flow between them to make the drying process as efficient as possible.
The downside of air-drying is that it takes a lot of time. Depending on the sizes of the bundles, it can take up to four weeks to dry them properly.
With an oven
A gas or electric oven won’t be quite as fast as the microwave, but it is faster than air-drying. As with the other methods, you should make sure that the surfaces of your leaves are completely moisture-free then spread them flat on a baking tray. You want one layer of leaves.
Heat the oven to the lowest temperature that it allows, which is usually around 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the leaves in and let them heat for 20-30 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the basil leaves in for about an hour. You will know that the basil is dried when leaves crumble easily. Basil dried like this will lose some of its color and become a dull gray-green but it will also retain much of its flavor.
In a food dehydrator
Food dehydrators do a great job when drying basil because they were designed to dry out food without burning it. The appliance uses fans to circulate air that is heated to a precise temperature to help remove moisture from your basil leaves without damaging them.
Food dehydrators are the best way to evenly and consistently dry basil while helping to retain its flavor. The time taken to dry out basil leaves will vary from appliance to appliance but you will need to lay the leaves out in a single layer to ensure that they all dry at the same rate.