Drying herbs is a great way to extend the flavor of a bountiful crop. Traditionally, herbs are hung to dry. This low-tech option calls for tying clean herbs into bundles by their stems (I use plain kitchen twine or cotton string, but rubber bands work too), and hanging them upside-down to dry in a cool, preferably not-sunny place until they are fully dried out—often up to a few weeks.
Luckily, for those of us without a lot of patience or extra herb-drying space, it's quick and easy to dry herbs in a microwave oven instead.
Drying Herbs in the Microwave in Two Steps
All it takes is two very simple steps:
- Make sure the herbs are squeaky clean first: Wash the herbs in cool water, swishing them around to remove any dirt or dust from the leaves. Lift the herbs out of the water and pat them thoroughly dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Remove and discard any stems.
- Lay the cleaned herbs in a single layer on a microwaveable plate and microwave them in 30-second sessions, turning the leaves over between each session. Repeat until the leaves are completely dry and brittle, usually within 4 to 6 sessions (a total of 2 to 3 minutes microwaving time).
Which Herbs to Dry
When it comes to drying, not all herbs are created equal. Delicate leafy greens simply loose too much of their flavor when dried. Heartier, woodier herbs, however, can stand up to being dehydrated and still have plenty of flavor to share. Think of these herbs as the ones to dry:
- Bay leaves
Don't bother drying fragile herbs like parsley or basil. Chervil, dill, and cilantro fall into the same boat. Such tender leafy herbs just turn to vaguely flavored dust when dry. Try freezing them instead—see How to Freeze Basil, How to Freeze Cilantro, and How to Freeze Parsley for specifics.
An exception to the rule is mint. Dried mint doesn't have the same vibrant flavor as fresh, but in some uses—salad dressings and marinades—its more mellow, more savory flavor can be quite pleasing.
How to Store Dried Herbs
Store the dried herbs in air-tight containers, such as screw-top glass jars. I like to store them as whole as possible, crumbling them only when it's time to use them, but if you want to break them up so they fit on jars or you need to pack them tightly, that's okay.