How to Dry Herbs: 3 Simple Ways

fresh sprig of rosemary tied with twine with spilled dried rosemary on table

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Overview

  • Working Time: 5-10 minutes 
  • Skill Level: Beginner 
  • Total Time: Varies depending on method
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $5 if buying plants 
  • Yield: Up to 1 cup of freshly dried herbs

Drying your own herbs is a quick and easy skill that, once learned, will serve you well for years to come. There are many benefits to this process, which include lowering your food waste (you can dry food, as well) and saving money by making your own herb mixes. Plus, you can achieve better flavors compared to what you can get from the store, especially when you use fresh garden herbs. 

The first step in learning how to dry herbs is choosing your method. There are three main ways: air drying, oven or dehydrator, and microwave. The method you choose should depend on your space and supplies.

What You'll Need

equipment needed to dry herbs includes scissors, rubber bands, and food processor

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Equipment/Tools

  • Rubber bands (for air drying)
  • Microwave or oven (for specific method)
  • Kitchen shears (optional)
  • Food processor (optional)

Materials

  • Fresh herbs of your choosing
  • Glass jar for storage

How to Dry Herbs by Air

various herbs tied with twine and being dried by air by hanging

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

When air drying, you don’t need any appliances. However, it is important to note that this method takes the longest out of the three, and it works best for herbs with smaller leaves. Herbs like basil with larger leaves and a higher water content are better with other methods.

1. Gather your herbs.

Grab the herbs you want to dry, and make sure they’re washed. It’s best to keep the same herbs together so you don’t mix flavors (that step can come later, if you choose). Cut long stems, if available, or even entire plants if they’re at the end of their growing cycle.

2. Bundle together.

various dried herbs tied with white twine on blonde wooden tray

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Combine the stems and tie them tightly together with rubber bands. The herbs will get smaller as they dry out, so it’s important to get this firm. Then, hang the bundle upside down using a string. It’s best to hang the herbs in a dark, dry area.

3. Remove leaves and store.

Wait about a week or two, and test the herbs to see if they are dry. Try a crumble test between two fingers to see if the leaves easily break down. If so, you’re ready to harvest. Remove the leaves and store in a glass jar. As an option, you can also cut the herbs into smaller bits by using kitchen shears or a food processor.

With the air drying method, you can also dry herbs on a tray or cookie sheet without bundling. In fact, herbs with larger leaves do better this way. You will still want to store them in a dry dark area for a couple weeks until they are ready.

How to Dry Herbs in the Oven or Dehydrator

various herbs laid on parchment paper on baking sheet to be dried in oven

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

You can dry herbs in just a few hours with an oven or a dehydrator. The added advantage is your home will smell delicious during this process.

1. Lay out your herbs in a single layer.

Either on a cookie sheet or directly on your dehydrator trays, lay out your herbs after washing them. There is no need to include extra stems; however, you can include some along with the leaves.

2. Heat on low.

Whether oven drying or with a dehydrator, use the lowest setting possible. It will vary a lot by appliance, but in general, oven drying can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour while a dehydrator will probably be 2-4 hours. It could be longer if you have herbs with large leaves.

3. Remove leaves and store.

Do the crumble test to decide when they are done. Once nice and dry, be sure to remove any remaining stems. Then, either store directly in a jar or chop them up using shears or a food processor.

How to Dry Herbs in the Microwave

herbs being dried in a microwave with the door ajar

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

Microwaving herbs follows a similar step-by-step process of oven drying, but it is even faster.

1. Lay herbs in a single layer.

With clean herbs, layer them onto a microwavable plate. You can add a second or third layer as long as you have a paper towel between each grouping. (A single layer provides the fastest results.)

2. Microwave a little at a time.

If you have a microwave where it’s possible to reduce the power, adjust it to about 50%. Then microwave the herbs about 30 seconds at a time. With each round in the microwave, take out the plate and flip the herbs over so they dry nice and evenly. It might take between six to ten rounds, so only 3-5 minutes total.

3. Remove leaves and store.

When you have your dried herbs, do a crumble test to make sure they’re good and dry. Then, store in a glass jar as is, or cut up with shears or a food processor.

Preserving Extra Herbs

dried herbs frozen in butter in white ice cube tray

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

One of the most common ways to use extra herbs is to freeze them. You can freeze herbs whole until you're ready to use them. Another DIY herb tip is to blend your herbs with a little oil and freeze them like ice cubes. This makes them easy to drop into a dish you're cooking.