Drying fresh basil from your garden in a dehydrator

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Earlier this Spring I planted two basil plants in my herb garden, one Cinnamon Basil, and one Sweet Basil. They have been doing remarkably well this summer, and because I used plastic mulch around them have not been smothered by weeds, unlike my flowers ?

I had plans for my Basil, but summer happened and I forgot about them, only running out to the garden occasionally to pick a few leaves as needed for different dishes I was making. But just this week it happened, I walked by my herb garden and BAM!  My Cinnamon basil was in bloom.
How to dehydrate basil- Home in the Finger LakesBasil is still good after it has bloomed, but the flowers send a signal to the rest of the plant that it’s life cycle is near the end, time to make seeds and call it a day…
I pinched off the flowers on my cinnamon basil plant and the buds on my sweet basil plant that had not yet started flowering. Isn’t it pretty?

How to dehydrate basil- Home in the Finger Lakes

I decided to cut my losses and harvest a good majority of my cinnamon basil. Because I was not really prepared to make something with my basil right then, I figured my best bet was drying it. Drying herbs of all kinds seem to be the best method of storage I have tried. They take up relatively little space and are easy to use once dry, it can also be a money saver at the grocery store, quality dried herbs can fetch a pretty penny. Oh, and it is easy, like crazy easy to dry herbs, trust me. No degree in food science needed! But a dehydrator is super helpful. I tried a few times with varying degrees of success in the oven. After a couple of inconsistent tries at dehydrating in my oven last year, I ordered my Nesco 600-Watt Food Dehydrator  from Amazon, and have been very happy with it. It is worth the $60 if you really want to dehydrate foods.

How to dehydrate basil- Home in the Finger Lakes

Drying Fresh Basil

So anyway, If you want to try here is how to dry basil:

    1. Harvest your basil, mid-morning is best, evening works too, just avoid harvesting in the hot midday sun.
    2. Rinse your basil. Trust me, don’t skip this step. I thought mine were clean and found a small worm and couple of bugs in my rinse water. I prefer a large bowl of cold water to rinse, gently swirl the herbs in the bowl to remove dirt and bugs.
    3. Blot basil dry with paper towel. Then lay the leaves on a paper towel, a single layer without allowing leaves to overlap. Cover with another towel and another layer of leaves, to absorb any water in the creases of the leaves.
    4. Lay the basil out on the dehydrator racks, leaving space between them for the air to circulate, and only one leaf thick on each rack. I cut my larger leaves in half on the stem to help with the drying process.
    5. Set your dehydrator to the setting indicated by the manufacturer of your dehydrator for herbs, mine was 90°F.
    6. Wait until the basil is dry, you will know when it snaps and crumbles easily. The stems should feel brittle and break when bent.
    7. Pack dried basil into an airtight container. I like glass, Ball jars work great for this. Because I know I will not be using my basil right away I sealed mine up with a Foodsaver attachment that vacuum seals glass jars. The FoodSaver Jar Sealer fits on pint- and quart-sized Mason jars and is for use with any FoodSaver machine that has an accessory port. Also, a good investment if you are interested in preserving foods you have harvested.
    8. I am going to state the obvious here because just a little while ago I skipped this step in my own kitchen, and you would be surprised how much Homemade Sazon looks like Taco seasoning, anyway save yourself some frustration later and slap a label on that jar. Here is an adorable set of free PRINTABLE VINTAGE HERB AND SPICE BOTTLE LABEL  from Lia Griffith – handcraft your life.

Drying fresh basil from your garden in a dehydrator- Home in the Finger Lakes




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  1. I have the same dehydrator. I have sweet basil leaves in as I type this. They are going on 19 hours of drying and still very green and pliable. I have on the dehydrator on herb setting which is 95. It takes FOREVER to dry basil. I am in NW Tennessee. It is humid here but not inside my house.

  2. How long does it take to dehydrate Basil in the dehydrator? My first time doing it. I bought a Nesco and my basil has been in there 24 hours at 95 degrees and still not dry. I did not cut the leaves but I removed the leaves from the stems. I’m drying Genovese and Thai basil if that helps.

  3. Our basil is huge! I want to dehydrated as much as possible. Is it possible to kill the plant if I take a majority of the leaves off? How do you safely harvest the leaves all at once? Thanks!

    1. Hi Rachel!
      Don’t be afraid to aggressively prune your basil (it is actually good for it! Basil will keep growing tall if not harvested regularly, and will begin looking lanky quickly)
      Harvest the leaves from the top of the plant down, cutting back up to a third of the total plant height. Be sure to cut or pinch a whole stem of basil right above a pair of leaves. In a few weeks, your basil plants will be ready to harvest again, and will begin to take on a fuller more bush-like appearance.
      Enjoy your basil!

  4. I have been dehydrating herbs for several years and each year I make my own herb blend with basil, Marjoram, thyme, rosemary and spicy basil and Parsley! I dry the herbs then I grind them into a powder in my coffee grinder and mix them including some sea salt and package in old brown medicine bottles then I give them away to friends for Christmas also to my son and they use them to season a variety of items and just love them! You can use any kind of herb combination you like! I usually get so much Parsley I dry it amd just put into pint canning jars to use in many dishes! I love growing and preserving my own herbs! Also if you do not own a dehydrator you can dry your herbs by hanging them on a clothes hanger with a close pin or rubber bands and placing them upside down in a brown paper bag in a cool dry place the herbs will dry and drop into the paper bag!

  5. What do you use cinnamon basil for…..that sounds yummy. I found chocolate mint this year and was amazed at the flavor. Also a spicy basil that is out of this world.
    I have a question for you I used my dehydrator it too is a nesco, but my lemon basil turned brown. Could this be that it had to much water on it when it dried.

    1. Those are Oxygen Absobers. The presence of oxygen decreases the storage life of dried foods, and causes deterioration. Oxygen absorbers are small packets that contain an iron powder. These food-safe packets are made of a material that allows oxygen and moisture to enter but does not allow the iron powder to leak out. Oxygen Absorbers are safe to place on top of and be contact with food. Something to keep in mind when using oxygen absorbers is that you do need to limit their exposure to air, try to get them out of the container they came in and into the container you are vacuum sealing in a bout 10 minutes, and reseal any unused oxygen absorbers that you are not using. I wrote a little bit about that near the bottom of this post on Dehydrating Fresh Herbs, you can buy Oxygen Absorbers for Dehydrated Food at Amazon

  6. I know times for drying vary, but this is our first run and we are wondering when we should start checking on it. How long did you run the dehydrator for? Lightly loaded trays.

    1. Hi Melanie, I have had a ton of variation over the years with basil, I have had it try as soon as 6 hours and as long as over night. The biggest factor seems to be atmospheric humidity, if it happens to be dry where you are I would start checking as soon as 5 hours. Dried basil is awesome to have on hand, good luck!

      1. Mine has been drying for over 24 hours and is still not dry. I had it at the lowest setting as was recommended, but finally turned it up. Some leaves are now brown while others remain green

        I’m afraid if it takes this long for basal, it will take a month for pineapple and such and even longer for meat. I’m open for suggestions!

  7. I had a spot by my porch with no grass… Poured 4 packages of seed down and watered it… Harvested half a pound of just leaves today 🙂

  8. Thank you so much for the great tip, Jennifer! My basil plants are out of control! When I saw that my first one was doing really well, I had my husband plant two more….I’m quickly learning that sometimes less is more. I’ve been making tons of pesto and freezing them, adding them to as many dishes as possible..and still they’re monstrous. Now I know what I need to do..dehydrate!

    1. It is crazy how well the basil did this year. I am with you I put two plants in but could of easily had more than enough basil with just one plant.