Making your own dried basil is super simple with a home dehydrator. A few steps and a lot of hands off time, and you can check one more thing off your grocery list forever.
When we moved to this little homestead of ours, I definitely envisioned us making everything and never going to the grocery store again. I thought we would have lots of animals, an insanely huge garden, and a pantry filled with canned food, braided onions, home cured sausages, and everything else. The reality is… I still want that, but we are getting there slowly. But I’ve learned to take the easy wins and do what I can to be more self sufficient, without constantly wanting the next project.
Drying basil in the dehydrator is one of those easy wins. Even if you don’t have an in-ground garden, you can still do this if you have a container garden with basil plants. Even though it takes a while, it’s very very easy, and if you have a dehydrator you don’t need any other piece of equipment.
Helpful dehydrating tools:
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- I have this budget friendly dehydrator and it it works fine for fruit leather and herbs.
- Four ounce mason jars are perfect for dried herbs and other little kitchen projects.
Drying basil in the dehydrator, step by step:
We begin with harvesting, a step that can go surprisingly wrong. Really take a look at the plant you are planning on harvesting. Smell the leaves. Make sure that is a true sweet basil smell and no weird licorice or other smell has crept in. Basil, especially if you save your own seeds, can sometimes grow into a weird variety.
If you are happy with the quality of the plant, go ahead and start harvesting. Do this in the morning, after the dew has dried. A general rule is that you don’t want to harvest more than ¼ of a plant to avoid stressing it out. If a frost is predicted and the plant is going to die anyway, just pull all the basil leaves you want.
Preparing the leaves:
Immediately after harvesting, bring the leaves in and start prepping them. First strip them off the stems, then wash and dry the basil. Simply rinse and gently pat it dry with paper towels. Handling it too roughly will leave black marks on the leaves. Not the end of the world, but not something you want all over.
If you start with wet basil in the dehydrator, it will take hours and hours just to dry off the excess water. So the dryer you can get it, the better.
Set up the dehydrator:
Since drying basil takes up a lot of surface area, get out every dehydrator tray you have. We want to lay the leaves in a single layer, with space in between each one so there is plenty of air circulation.
The dryer the air of the room, the faster the basil will dry. So resist the temptation to place it outside. Set it to 90 or 95 degrees, and press start.
How long will it take for the basil to dry?
A long time. At least 12 hours, and probably more like 24. I always check mine at about 8 hours into the drying process and it just looks like wilted leaves. But soon after this stage, the leaves will start to shrivel and dry.
The basil is done when it is completely dry and crumbles easily. I usually test a few leaves, and if they crumble, I move on to the next step.
Storing the dried basil
I pull everything out and put them on a clean tea towel. Start crumbling by hand, however fine you want it to be.
I often find that some leaves are ready before the others. Simple pull out the ones that aren’t ready, place them back in the dehydrator, and run another 1-2 hours.
When everything is done, store the dried basil in small mason jars or in old spice bottles. Make sure you label them. If you are drying herbs on a regular basis, you will find that they all look very similar in jars!
So, even if you have a small garden, you can accomplish the simple preserving project. Every homegrown and homemade item adds a sense of satisfaction. And if that’s not your thing, remember that dried herbs are absurdly expensive at the grocery store.
Want more simple food preservation projects?
Chewy dried strawberries are dried in the oven but are almost as easy to do
Cowboy candy is a canning project that can also be stored in the refrigerator if you’re not ready for canning.
If you are interesting food preservation, be sure to sign up for access to the printable library, which has a canning planner.