How to Dry Herbs

Drying your own fresh herbs at home is easier than you think! It’s a great way to use up a wilting bundle or preserve your garden’s bounty. Here are four easy ways to dry herbs.

Sprigs of Dried Herbs on a Wooden Cutting Board

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Fresh herbs are some of the most common types of produce to go to waste, but they don’t have to be. When you learn how to dry herbs in a way that works best for you, you can preserve their flavor and put them to use in your kitchen for months to come. 

Maybe you only needed a few sprigs for a recipe, but had to buy a whole bundle. Perhaps you have an herb garden with a harvest much bigger than you can use during the season or a neighbor who shares their bounty. When you only need a tablespoon chopped here and five leaves there when cooking, it’s easy for big bundles to be forgotten as they wilt away in the fridge. Whatever the reason is that you have extra on hand, there are many ways you can dry herbs and many advantages to doing so. 

Home Drying Vs. Buying Dried Herbs

Home-dried herbs have a scent and flavor that stands out in your rubs, sauces, soups, and salads. When you dry your own herbs, you’ll immediately notice their potent aroma and vibrant flavor. There are certainly many varieties of high-quality store-bought dried herbs, but it’s impossible to know exactly how long they’ve been sitting on the shelf before you bring them into your kitchen.

Drying your own fresh herbs is also easier on a budget. A bundle of fresh herbs usually costs under $3 at the supermarket or farmers market. Depending on the brand, dried herbs can cost $6 to $10 for a small jar. Drying your own herbs takes minimal effort and you’ll save money while knowing you are using herbs with a guaranteed freshness. 

Sprigs of Dried Herbs on a Wooden Cutting Board Next to More Fresh Herbs and a Roll of Twine

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Which Herbs Can Be Dried at Home?

Some herbs are a better fit for drying at home than others. Hearty herbs with woody stems—such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, dill, bay leaves, and sage—are the best air-drying candidates. This is because they have a lower moisture content, allowing them to dry without special equipment. 

Soft herbs with a high moisture content, like basil, cilantro, chives, and mint, aren’t the best for air drying. This doesn’t mean you can’t dry them, but they need to be dried quickly so that that mold doesn’t have the chance to develop. A kitchen dehydrator may be necessary to dry them evenly. 

How Long Do Dried Herbs Last?

When herbs are fully dried to the point of being brittle with no moisture remaining, they can last in an airtight container for 6 to 12 months. You can store them as leaves or crumbled into a fine powder. Either crumble the leaves between your fingers or add them to a spice grinder and pulse a few times. 

Your herbs will lose potency in both their aroma and flavor over time; this may vary from herb to herb. While home-dried herbs can be used for up to 1 year, I aim to use mine within 3 months to ensure they have the most flavor. 

Sprigs of Dried Herbs on a Wooden Cutting Board Next to More Fresh Herbs and a Roll of Twine

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Four Ways to Dry Herbs

There are four main ways to home dry herbs: air drying, oven drying, microwave drying, and using a kitchen dehydrator. The exact time (and the best temperature, if using equipment) will depend on your location and the season. More humid air will require longer drying times. You’ll also want to make sure the herbs are clean before drying them. Shake them well and rinse any dirt away with water. Then pat dry with paper towels until no moisture remains. 

Air drying is the most hands-off method and the one that I prefer. You can tie up the bundles, hang them, and then forget about them for 10 to 14 days. Keep checking back until they are ready to package. 

Simple Tip!

I often see the step of putting the herbs in a paper bag, but I’ve never found this to be necessary. The herbs dry completely and the aroma and flavor are excellent without using a paper bag. You will also get to experience the lovely scent as they dry. 

Microwave drying is the fastest method if you need dried herbs quickly, but it does take some trial and error. Different herbs dry faster than others, so watch them closely and use short intervals. Lay sprigs of herbs on a paper towel and then microwave on high for 30 seconds. From that point, use 15- to 30-second intervals until the herbs are brittle and completely dry. The total time can be anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes.

Simple Tip!

Don’t go overboard with your microwaving time. The herbs can go from dry to scorched (and smelly) in a matter of seconds.

Sprigs of Rosemary Tied Together with Kitchen Twine

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Oven drying is more hands-on because you’ll need to pay attention. Your oven will be running for about 2 hours. There’s no leaving the house and forgetting about it when using this method. Most herbs will dry completely when scattered on a baking sheet and baked at about 180°F for 1 to 2 hours. 

Dehydrating: An electric kitchen dehydrator can be effective for drying herbs. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for your model, but in most cases when leaves and short sprigs are arranged on trays in a single layer, they will dry in 1 to 3 hours at 90 to 115° F. 

How to Air Dry Herbs

  1. Bundle the herbs:

    Arrange the herbs into bundles with 5 to 6 sprigs each. The length of the sprigs doesn’t matter, but align the cut end of the stems so that they can be tied together. 

    Sprigs of Herbs (Rosemary and Oregano) on the Counter

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

  2. Cut a piece of twine:  

    Cut a 5-inch piece of kitchen string or twine. It needs to be long enough to tie around the bundles with ends long enough to then tie around what you plan to use to hang the bundles.

    Hands Cutting a Piece of Kitchen Twine and Sprigs of Herbs (Rosemary and Oregano) on the Counter

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

  3. Tie the herb bundles:

    Use kitchen string or twine to securely tie each bundle of herbs at the cut end. Secure it with a tight bow or knot.

    Sprigs of Herbs Tied Together with Kitchen Twine

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

    Sprigs of Rosemary Tied Together with Kitchen Twine

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

  4. Hang the herbs:  

    Choose a corner of a room that gets good air circulation, but that is away from direct sunlight to hang your herbs. You can tie them onto a string or indoor clothes line. Hangers and a coat rack are also good tools for air drying herbs.

    Sprigs of Herbs Tied onto an Indoor Clothing Line

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

    Sprigs of Herbs Attached to Hangers and Hung on a Coat Rack

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

  5. Dry the herbs:  

    Let the herbs hang to dry for 10 to 14 days. They are ready when they turn brittle and the leaves crumble easily when touched. 

    Sprigs of Dried Herbs (Oregano and Rosemary) Tied Together with Twine

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

  6. Un-tie and separate the stems:  

    Carefully un-tie or cut the strings tied around the stems. Separate the stems working on a flat surface to catch loose leaves that will fall off the brittle, dried sprigs.

    Sprigs of Herbs (Twine Removed)

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

  7. Prepare the herbs to store:  

    Remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container. You can store the herbs as leaves and crumble before using, or crumble them between your fingers into finer pieces before storing.

    Herbs Removed from their Sprigs, Crumbled, and Stored in a Jar

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Put Those Dried Herbs to Work