5 Easy Ways to Dry Your Fresh Herbs for Cooking or Crafting

Here's how to dry herbs from the store or your garden so you can enjoy them year-round.

Fresh summer herbs vanish quickly once winter arrives. However, by learning how to dry herbs at home, you can continue to enjoy the flavors and scents of these aromatic plants from your garden throughout the seasons. For most herbs, this is easy to do and doesn't require much time, so it's well worth the effort—especially when you consider how much dried herbs cost in the grocery store. Figuring out the best method for drying each type of herb may take a little trial and error, so you may want to keep notes about your successes, discoveries, and inspirations. Here are 5 easy ways to dry herbs.

bowls of dried herbs
Carson Downing

Tips for Harvesting Herbs

The best time for harvesting herbs is in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before the afternoon sun has sapped the plants' color and fragrance. For the health of the remaining plants, leave a few inches of stem on each as you make your cuttings. And never harvest more than one-third of the plant at a time.

How to Dry Herbs

When growing herbs in your garden, your aim is to give the plants the water and sunlight they need to thrive. When drying herbs, the idea is to remove moisture from the plants with the least loss of flavor and scent. It's all about getting the right combination of air movement and warmth, while excluding light.

1. Air Drying

Hanging herbs in bundles is the simplest drying method. Gather together three to six sprigs and tie the stems together with string, yarn, or a rubber band. Hang the bundles upside down in a dry, dark place (sunlight will diminish color, fragrance, and flavor). A well-ventilated attic or basement works well. Your herbs should be fully dry within about a week (probably less). For cooking herbs, make sure the plants are brittle. Then remove the leaves and store them in airtight jars or bags. For crafts projects and other creative endeavors, you may have better results with herbs that are still a bit moist.

Alternatively, if you don't have room for hanging herbs, you can also lay them flat to dry. After rinsing them and patting them dry with a paper towel, spread out the herb sprigs on a sheet of waxed paper so they don't overlap one another. Let them dry, undisturbed, at room temperature out of direct sunlight. See below for approximate times on how long the herbs will need to dry, whether you choose to hang them in bundles or leave them to dry flat. The amount of time can vary quite a bit, depending on the humidity and temperature, the freshness of your herbs, and the size of the leaves.

  • Basil—6 days
  • Chives—24 hours
  • Dill—24 hours
  • Marjoram—1½ days
  • Mint—1½ days
  • Oregano—4 days
  • Rosemary—4 days
  • Sage—4 days
  • Summer Savory—4 days
  • Tarragon—2 days
  • Thyme—2½ days

To determine if your herbs are done drying, crush a few leaves between your fingers. A completely dry herb should crumble easily.

2. How to Dry Herbs in the Oven

To dry your herbs in the oven, set the temperature to 180℉. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange your herbs into a single layer, making sure not to overcrowd the sheet. Let them bake in the oven for two to four hours. Keep in mind, the herbs lose some of their flavor because they cook a little bit. So, next time you're cooking up something tasty, add a little extra than you normally would.

3. How to Dry Herbs in a Microwave

If you want to work with your herbs the day you harvest them, dry them in the microwave. Place herbs in a single layer between two paper towels; microwave 1 minute, testing for dryness every 20 seconds. Once the herbs are dry, remove the stems. This is the speediest way to dry herbs for cooking or other projects, but it only works with some types of herbs. While some herbs can hold up in the microwave, delicate herbs will wither and turn brown. So save the microwave for woody herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano rather than more delicate herbs like basil and parsley.

4. Dehydrating Herbs

If you have a dehydrator, you can use it to dry out your herbs faster than hanging them to dry. To prep herbs for the dehydrator, pull the leaves of small-leaf herbs—like oregano, thyme, and rosemary—off their stems. For broad-leaf herbs like basil and sage, strip the leaves from the stems and cut them in half (you can also leave them whole, but cutting them will decrease the dehydrating time). Cut chives into ¼- to ½-inch pieces.

Place prepared herbs on the dehydrator tray. If the herb leaves are small, line your dehydrator with a mesh or leather dehydrator sheet. Dehydrate at 95°F until the leaves are crisp enough to crumble. If the leaves are blowing around during the dehydrating process, place another dehydrator sheet on top of the herbs to hold them in place. Cool the dehydrated herbs before storing them. See the list below for the approximate length of time each herb needs to spend in the dehydrator to be dry enough to crumble.

  • Basil—18 hours
  • Chives—7 hours
  • Dill—12 hours
  • Marjoram—5 hours
  • Mint—8 hours
  • Oregano—12 hours
  • Rosemary—12 hours
  • Sage—8 hours
  • Summer Savory—20 hours
  • Tarragon—17 hours
  • Thyme—5 hours

5. Desiccant Drying

Moisture-absorbing substances speed the process of drying herbs, and they preserve the colors and shapes of your prettiest sprigs. Sand, borax, and cornmeal are traditional drying agents (but don't use sand, borax, or silica gel to dry any herbs you want to use for cooking). To desiccant-dry flowers—such as the pink, spherical blooms of chives—put them in a container and cover them with clean, dry sand or a mixture of one part borax to three parts cornmeal. Leave the container open to allow for evaporation. The blooms should be dry in three to five days.

Silica gel, available at crafts stores, has lighter granules that are less likely to damage petals. For most uses, pour about an inch of gel into a moisture-tight plastic, metal, or glass container; add herbs; then cover them with more gel. Drying time will vary from about two to 10 days. Use a small paintbrush to remove crystals between the petals.

Between these 5 drying methods, your fresh herbs will never need to go to waste again, whether you pick them from your own garden or pick up a bounty at your local farmer's market. Once your herbs are dried, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Or, if you don't want to wait to dry a big batch of herbs, you can learn how to freeze them, too!

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