Many of our favorite culinary herbs grow on big plants. Rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, and tarragon can all grow to be 2 feet or taller. As a result, we’re often left with an over-abundance of herbs that have a limited shelf life.
While nothing can replace the flavor of fresh culinary herbs, dehydrating can help save whatever you can’t use right away. It is incredibly easy to dehydrate fresh herbs and store them for later.
You also can save money by drying your herbs and crushing them, replacing some of your most commonly used herbs on the spice rack.
So, in this article, I will show you how to easily dehydrate herbs using 2 simple methods: Air drying and with a dehydrator (or oven). Let’s get into it!
Which herbs are best for drying?
Most of the commonly grown herbs dry and store well. There are only a few exceptions. Here is a list of some of the best herbs for dehydrating:
You’ll notice a couple of herbs missing. Notably, basil, chives, and cilantro are not great candidates for dehydrating. These herbs lose much of their flavor when dehydrated (but feel free to dry them and decide for yourself). Dried chives that you buy from the market are usually freeze dried to preserve their shape, color and flavor.
Whichever herbs you like, you can easily grow them yourself. We have even had success growing a variety of herbs indoors using hydroponics! It’s always nice to have a year-round supply of fresh basil and thyme.
How to dehydrate herbs
The best time of year to dry your herbs is when they are actively growing and at the peak of their health. Mid to late summer is usually a great time of year to start drying herbs to storage.
Once you’ve chosen the herbs you’ll be drying, you can get started. All you’ll need is a pair of pruning shears or scissors, string or twine (if air-drying), or a food-dehydrator for quicker drying.
- Harvest the fresh herbs. The first step is to gather your fresh herbs. Most herbs can be harvested as needed, and will grow back. Harvest all of the healthiest foliage on your plants with a pair of sharp shears.
- Wash off the herbs with water. Give your fresh cut herbs a nice rinse under cool water to remove any excess soil or pests that may be on the leaves. I like to use the hose on the “shower” setting to clean up my herbs. Pat the herbs dry with a paper towel or similar.
- Tie the herbs with string (for hang drying). If you live in a dry climate, air drying may be the easiest method of dehydration. Using string or twine, simply tie the herbs by the ends of their stems and hang them in a room with good airflow.
- Use a food dehydrator (for faster drying). Since our climate is humid, my preferred method of drying is in a food dehydrator. Lay out your herbs on the dehydrator trays in a single layer and set to the lowest temperature (around 100°F) until the herbs are crispy and dry.
- Crush the herbs and store. While you could store the herbs whole and crush them as needed, you’ll save space by crushing them in advance. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the herbs into a flake (not a powder).
Can I use the oven?
The dehydration process can be done in an oven, though it will increase drying time. Arrange the fresh herbs on a baking sheet and a cookie drying rack (or parchment paper). Set the oven temperature to the lowest setting and turn on the convection setting if available.
Some modern ovens and toaster ovens have a “dehydrate” setting, so check for this as well. The ideal temperature is around 100°F, but most ovens do not go this low.
Check the herbs every couple of hours and avoid burning them. Once crispy (not pliable at all), the herbs are ready for storage.
Storing dried herbs
Home-dried herbs are almost always more flavorful than store bought herbs. But it’s important to preserve that flavor with proper storage technique.
First off, always make sure your herbs are fully dried before storing. Any remaining moisture can lead to rot or mold, ruining your herbs.
For the best flavor, store the dried herbs in an airtight container such as a mason jar or a re-used spice container. Reducing the amount of air and light exposure will help retain flavor for longer.
How long do dried herbs last? With proper storage, dry herbs can last for 1 year or longer. Many herbs will begin to lose their flavor before this, so try to use or share your herbs sooner rather than later.
For the longest shelf life, store your herbs in a dry, dark location. You can also use a desiccant packet to remove moisture from the containers. This can save your herbs from mold if the air is humid.
Tip: For the freshest flavor, keep the whole leaves of your dried herbs. Crush them just before use, releasing all the flavor.
Once I realized how easy it was to dry my own herbs, I never looked back! Every season, we always have a fresh herb garden full of our favorites. Good luck!