How to Perfectly Dehydrate Basil Every Time
Updated: Jan 19
For 2021 I gave myself one main food/gardening goal: to become self-sufficient in basil.
During 2020, like many others, my childhood passion for gardening came back to life. Starting with a small basil and roma tomato kit, I realised I wanted to get back into gardening, as well as dedicate more time to my interests in cooking, baking, and preserving.
After slightly fixating on my hunt for an excalibur dehydrator, I was beyond fortunate enough to be gifted one for my birthday in late December. That meant one thing was for certain: I could try preserving basil with the dehydrator instead of the oven or paper bag method.
For those of you who may not know, basil has to be my favourite herb. My partner and I use it in a lot of cooking and because I enjoy making food, I've done what I can to dive into scratch cooking and meal prepping.
Have you ever had home grown and preserved basil before?
I can tell you that the flavour is far superior than any store bought variety. So long as I am capable, I will never go back to buying it.
I have a basil 'jungle' on my windowsill which I started in December 2020, now in July 2021 it's continuing to thrive and I've even started a second planter filled with five offcuts I took and propagated!
My first few attempts at drying basil in my dehydrator were rather... disappointing.
The instructions I had in the booklet told me that you put the herbs whole onto the trays and leave for a few hours on the lowest setting (35°c/95°f) and then you'd have your perfectly dry herb.
They were wrong.
So I went to google, which told me to put the leaves in whole for 24 hours and then you'll have your perfectly dry herb.
They were wrong.
I don't understand why this happens, whether or not it has something to do with where I live, the temperature, or humidity levels. I haven't the faintest idea, but what I do know is this: I figured out how to dry my basil.
The method I'm going to share with you below is the process I follow every time I preserve basil in my dehydrator. Each time I get great results — so great that I'm now needing a second excess jar to store it all in! (Excess jars may or may not be empty biscoff spread jars, which make fantastic herb storage for those wanting to throw fewer jars away!)
Note: It is possible to dry basil in the oven on the lowest setting, but as I haven't needed to, this is something I have not tried and cannot share any experience or results.
How to Preserve Basil
What You Will Need:
Tea Towel (Or some type of cloth to dry with)
Colander or Bowl
Mortar and Pestle (Or bowl and rolling pin)
Silica Gel Pack (optional)
Step One: Take your basil (homegrown or purchased) in a colander or bowl and wash thoroughly with room temperature water.
Once thoroughly washed, spread them out onto an open tea towel to gently pat dry.
Step Two: Taking your sharp knife, begin finely chopping a small handful of basil, adding extra handfuls as you go. The key is to get the pieces as small as possible so they have the best chance to fully dry.
This step is the most time consuming so I recommend having some music, a podcast, an audiobook or something to listen to while you work.
I would like to note that I include the stems in the diced basil. I used to remove them, but all that did was take extra time and add more to the compost bin when it was perfectly capable of being used dried. It's each to their own whether to keep or remove the stems.
Step Three: Once all of the basil is finely chopped, you should have a nice pile of diced basil on your chopping board.
Taking your dehydrator trays — I have a 5 tray Excalibur — spread the basil onto the trays in a thin layer. Do what you can to prevent big clumps from sticking together. If you don't have a sheet to cover the polyscreen with, cover your trays with parchment paper beforehand to stop the herb from falling through.
If you have any spare trays, take the polyscreen and rest them over the herbs. This prevents them from flying around your dehydrator. (Discovering this tip was incredible! Never going back!)
Step Four: Place the trays into your dehydrator, set it to 35°c/95°f for 24 hours.
Once the 24 hours is up, gently run your fingers across the trays to see if there are any pieces not fully dry. Dried basil should feel like a crunchy leaf under your fingers.
Step Five: Discard any pieces that aren't fully dry. I do this by adding them to my compost bin.
Taking a mortar and pestle, or a bowl and rolling pin, add your herbs to the container and use your tool (in my case, the end of a rolling pin) and gently crush the herbs until the majority become fine.
You don't have to crush them if you're happy with the size. Personally, I prefer the variety of pieces in the container.
Step Six: Store your dried basil in your preferred container.
I use a spice jar and two 'excess' jars which I use to refill my spice jar only when it's completely empty.
Optional: If you have any concerns about moisture when storing the basil in a jar for a long period of time, add a silica gel packet. This will take any moisture left in the basil keeping your preserves fresh and usable.
More posts from the series:
How To Perfectly Dehydrate Bay Leaves (Coming Soon!)