Dry fresh herbs in 30 seconds flat – really!

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Hello, No-Knead Garlic-Cheese Flatbread!

Nice to see you, Garlic Herb Mac & Cheese.

Ah, Herb & Onion Rolls

What do all of these have in common?

Herbs.

And, unless it’s summer, or you’ve got a windowsill garden, or you live in temperate climes year-round, that means dried herbs.

But it doesn’t have to mean tasteless, drab, stale herbs.

There’s a fast, simple way to preserve your garden-fresh herbs — their flavor, AND their color.

The secret?

Your microwave.

Example A: parsley. Just picked, from my deck-rail planter.

Example B: parsley. Microwaved for 1 minute. DRY AS TOAST, ready to store.

Yet still aromatic, still bright green.

Example A: Tarragon. LOVE this licorice-like herb; it’s great with chicken.

Example B: microwave-dried tarragon.

Simply run thumb and finger along the stem from bottom to top to remove leaves; then crumble between your fingers, and store in a glass jar, ready for your salad dressing, bearnaise sauce… or tarragon chicken. (Check out Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One, p. 262, for a great recipe.)

Microwave-dried mint. Light as a feather; green as the day it was born.

Ready to crumble and use in…

Tzatziki, perhaps?

Honestly, this simple trick works like a charm.

You’ll have to experiment with your own herbs and microwave; I found that the time needed to dry each type of herb varied quite a lot, with mint being the quickest to dry, parsley the slowest.

Times will also vary depending on the quantity of what you cook; I’d suggest a smaller amount of herbs at a time, rather than larger.

Try just 1 or 2 sprigs first, to get an idea of how long it’ll take; start with about 20 seconds, take them out, wait a minute, then see if they’re completely dry.

When you’ve nailed the time, simply lay the fresh-picked herbs in a single layer on a plate, not crowding them. Cook until dry.

That’s it.

Oh, and one last thing: Check this space Wednesday, Nov. 2, for Butterflake Herb Loaf, a truly outstanding recipe from our Baking Sheet newsletter.

And the perfect vehicle for the herbs you’ll be drying soon!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Stephanie

    Perfect timing. With frost on the pumpkins here in Ohio I have an abundance of parsley I don’t want to go to waste. Now I’ll have some Christmas gifts. Thank you.

    You’re welcome, Stephanie. My husband came in with a huge “bouquet” of herbs Friday, having cleaned out my deck-rail planters… And I took care of the whole thing, from fresh to dried, crumbled, bottled, labeled, and stored, in under an hour! It was so cool… I’m thinking this will be very useful when your recipe calls for, say, 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, and you have to buy the whole big bunch… PJH

    Reply
  2. Susan

    just be careful! I remember once setting sage alight by drying it for too long. Turn the microwave on for short periods and keep an eye on it. Thanks for the tip! ~Mel

    Reply
  3. wingboy

    Just in time before the big snow?

    Does nuking the herbs drive off the essential oils?

    Hey, Tom. This method is most effective for herbs with lower oil content: PJ used all low-oil herbs. The microwave agitates the water molecules in the leaves and causes them to evaporate through the pores. Herbs like rosemary and thyme, which have more oil, don’t work as well; the oil is a more effective heat conductor and “cooks” the leaves. Susan

    Reply
  4. dgcbooth

    Any way to do this in the oven? I don’t have a microwave. I also live in Oregon and just hanging them to dry doesn’t work like it did when I lived in AZ (now they just turn brown :( ). thx! You can dry your herbs in the oven, but they don’t keep the bright colors as with microwaving. To oven dry, spread a layer of leaves or stems on a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan. Place the herbs in a warm (up to 180 F) oven for 3 to 4 hours. Leave the door open and stir the herbs periodically until they are thoroughly dry. ~Mel

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  5. sallybr

    Cannot thank you enough! I have a HUGE tarragon plant outside, and was wondering what to do before the first frost hits

    awesome idea, will be doing it tonight…

    Reply
  6. Paula_G

    I saw this last night and tried it this morning with cilantro. It was perfect. A beautiful bright green just ready for crumbling and adding to my seasoning mix. I am sold. Will remember this from now on.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You will need to process it for about 1 minute in your microwave, happy baking! Jon@KAF

  7. marcin

    Tomorrow’s experiment: I wonder if you could dry onion that way too, if you watched it and were really careful. Are you thinking that might be possible? Is that why you put the herb and dried-onion recipe here? I’m so excited to have this information about the microwave and herbs. I used to grow many herbs than I do now–I gave up trying to preserve them. Now I can’t wait to grow tarragon and thyme again. Thank you.

    Hmmm, I have no idea, Marcin, if you could do onion this way. I put the roll recipe in because it uses dried herbs, and wasn’t considering the onion… How about giving it a try and letting us all know how it goes? PJH

    Reply
  8. Alyssa

    I just tried this with rosemary and thyme. The rosemary worked pretty well, but some of the leaves started turning brown. With the thyme however almost all the leaves turned deep brown almost immediately. any thoughts on why?

    My first thought is that it’s some kind of a chemical reaction, but I wouldn’t know for sure. Perhaps thyme dries REALLY quickly – if you have any left, start with, like, 10 seconds, and see what happens. Thanks for posting your results here, Alyssa – it helps all of us figure out how this will work with various herbs. PJH

    Reply
  9. glpruett

    Thanks sooooooooooooo much for this tip! I had just harvested my herbs from my deck rail planters over the weekend, and had them all over the kitchen counters. I was dreading the process I used to use to dry them, and then I saw your blog. Last night, in between the trick-or-treaters, I was able to get all of my herbs dried and put in jars which now line my kitchen counters and look so very much better than the herb harvest! I LOVE the fresh, green color the herbs maintain with this method.

    Plus, PJ, now I know we share two things in common–love of baking and deck rail planters full of herbs!!! Thanks again.

    Deck-rail planters are so handy – just step out of the kitchen, snip-snip, back you go… Glad it worked well for you. PJH

    Reply
  10. Cindy Leigh

    I missed this in time to dry this summer’s herbs, but so often I buy fresh herbs in the off seasons for a recipe and don’t use all of them. I’ll give this a try then.

    I know, Cindy, I hear you – especially cilantro, I’m always left with a bunch of that I don’t know what to do with… Have fun experimenting! PJH

    Reply
  11. Karen

    Regarding the thyme and rosemary – I find that if I just tie a bunch with a string or rubberband and hang it upside down in the kitchen (bit of a witchy decor twist), it air dries in a few days. Those 2 have hardly any water content to vaporize, which of course is why they can thrive even in hot dry weather. I imagine same would be true of curry leaf, allspice leaf, bay leaf, maybe marjoram, a few others. But for the others that have significant water content (the ones that wilt in hot dry weather) – this is genius! thanks!
    Karen, I think you’ve put your finger on it beautifully! Susan

    Reply
  12. Metalhaid

    This is just the BEST tip ever. I wanted to provide one of my own – I’m responding to the gal who asked about drying onions. I find they freeze really well, so why use dried when you can have fresh? Either you can take advantage of a sale at the farmer’s market & then process them (cry! for hours!) OR you can be lazy like me and take advantage of when the already-chopped ones are on sale and buy 5-6 pkgs, then throw them in the freezer for whenever you need a handful of chopped onion. I don’t cry – they keep great – my food ROCKS – win, WIN!
    I had no idea onions did well in the freezer. Thanks for that! Elisabeth

    Reply
  13. Millie

    What is the best way to dry basil? It has thrived in my garden, my first year at gardening in Florida.

    I like to lay my basil leaves out on paper towel in a draft-free spot (like a shelf in my kitchen) and leave them to dry over 2 days or so. You can also try the microwave-drying technique and check every 20 seconds to see how the leaves are doing! Be sure to layer them in a single layer with space between the leaves. Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
    1. Julie Smith

      I just tried this on a dinner plate in the microwave. They are wet and not totally dried; single layer. So, next put on a paper towel to dry? Or do I need to nuke longer…45 seconds +?

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Nuke longer, Julie. It’s trial and error at first, but once you nail it for any particular herb in your own microwave, write it down – you’ll be good to go from then on. Good luck – PJH

  14. Claire

    Regarding the onions: I peel the onions and slice them using my food processor and then freeze the slices. Works great. I do the same with carrots, except I also shred them to use in soups.

    And I’m going to try drying my huge crop of basil using your method. I truly hope it works as well as parsley. I usually wash & dry the basil and pick off all the leaves and freeze them. But, this method sounds wonderful.

    Crossing my fingers!

    And thanks!!!!!

    Reply
  15. Brenda

    Fabulous time to bring this back! My planter at the back door is just busting with freshness. Bundled a few last week to dry in the garage but will give this a try! Thank!

    Reply
  16. Charley

    I advise against drying oregano in the microwave…..started a fire twice (you think I would have learned after the first try). There may be too much oil.

    It certainly is one to be cautious of! Thank you for offering the advice–it may be best to let oregano air-dry or oven-dry gently! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  17. Gert

    What about basil?

    Basil is one of the slightly-in-between plants: it has a fair amount of moisture and should dry similar to the parsley, but you’ll want to check it often as it heats in the microwave. Perhaps try one leaf and see how you make out. The smaller basil leaves might work better in the microwave while the larger, heartier leaves would be best left to air-dry over a few days. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  18. Valleri

    I freeze my basil leaves on cookie sheets then throw them in a plastic ziplock before tossing them in the freezer. I don’t like commercial dried basil. Glad to see this great option!

    Reply
  19. Be

    After drying, how do you store these herbs? Ziplock bags, jars? Other containers? Thanks.

    I love to keep my herbs in small glass jars that I’ve saved – but any kind of airtight container would be fine. It’s best to keep them dark, too, if you can – in the cupboard, rather than out on the counter. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  20. Carmen

    I also chop my carrots and celery and I put them in individual freezer bags and freeze them. they keep well and I always have then ready for any recipe requiring them.

    Reply
  21. Gayle

    I’ve been drying herbs for years this way, only I’ve taken the trays from my food dehydrator, spread the herbs on the trays, and stack them up. Right into the micro they go. I dry the herbs for a minute or so at a time, then rotate the bottom tray to the top until they are all dried. I can get bigger quantities done that way.

    GREAT idea, Gayle! I’m definitely going to dig out my dehydrator trays and see if they fit in my microwave. Thanks – PJH

    Reply
  22. Kim

    If you freeze basil leaves instead of drying them, how long do they keep in the freezer? Also, can you use the microwave process with Chives? If yes, what is the suggested time and should I chop them first? Thanks.

    Kim, anything kept in the freezer gradually deteriorates over time. There are too many variables (e.g., type of freezer, temperature, how basil is wrapped) to hazard a guess at shelf life; simply freeze, use, and when it no longer tastes strong/good, compost. And yes, you can microwave chives; if you chop them they’ll be easier to store. Freeze in 15-second increments until they feel dry/crisp. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
    1. Jim

      I blanch the basil quickly with boiling water, that keeps the leaves green, then dry on paper and freeze. It works with dill, coriander etc. Do not look to keep them too long though but as a short fix it is OK. I have also had spinach the same way and used it in curries etc. Its better than throwing it away.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Blanching is a great solution to preserving the color/freshness of all kinds of vegetables AND herbs. Thanks for sharing, Jim. Indeed, none of us wants to throw any of our garden goodies away! :) PJH

    3. Anna Cordeiro

      I freeze basil in small ice cube trays using olive oil–it doesn’t work for all recipes, but for things like pasta sauce and pizza I just pop them out and add them it. It works great!

  23. Debbie

    Does dill work well with this method? Got two gorgeous bunches from local food co-op, needed a few sprigs for dilly beans, and now wonder what to do. Any experiences?

    I have not tried it with dill, but I see no reason that it wouldn’t work. Give it a try and let us know!-Jon

    Reply
  24. Janet Talarchyk

    Great advice just tried it with lemon thyme worked great only 60 seconds and done 20 seconds @ a time!

    Reply
  25. Lisa

    I tried this with basil and it looks fantastic and crumpled easily, but it doesn’t smell anymore. If it does not smell did I microwave it too long?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      It can be tricky, Lisa – you want to microwave it just until it’s crisp. That said, dried basil will never be as aromatic as fresh. When you crumble it between your fingers, you should smell a basil aroma, albeit not as strong as that of fresh basil. Try that, see what you think – PJH

  26. Beth Sigomota

    Ladies, I have a special paper that I ordered from Amazon, that tells me where’re the hot spots in my microwave. By avoiding them I never burn my herbs when drying inside. I also use it when I want to cook something quicker. I do the opposite-check where are my hot spots, and then place my dish there.

    http://www.amazon.com/Atlanta-Chemical-Engineering-Microwave-Paper/dp/B00RW18RRS/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1420649065&sr=8-8&keywords=microwave+hot+spot+paper

    Reply

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