Have an abundance of fresh garden herbs that you don’t know what to do with? Don’t let them go to waste! Learn how to correctly store and dry your herbs for year round use with this complete guide for how to dry herbs at home.
Best Guide For How To Dry Herbs From Your Garden
Drying herbs at home is really easy, and is one of my favorite things to do throughout the growing season. While seasonal fruit and veggies may get more attention during the summer months, herbs are really the behind the scenes stars that bring depth and flavor to virtually every meal, and can be stored and harvested throughout the entire growing season for year round enjoyment.
I also love that pretty much anyone can learn how to dry herbs from their very own garden, even If that garden is just a few pots on an apartment balcony, and a tiny herb drying rack hanging on the wall. While you can absolutely get pretty fancy when it comes to drying herbs at home, the oldest and most commonly used methods for drying herbs are actually quite simple, and require very little time, money, and space to get started.
Below I will walk you through the most common methods for drying herbs so that you can decide for yourself how to dry herbs in your home. Depending on your space, herb quantity, and humidity levels some herb drying options may be better than others.
Why Dry Herbs At Home?
While most of us may not think of herbs as food they absolutely are, and like all other kinds of food the herbs we use can be either high quality or low quality, which mostly comes down to how the herbs were grown and how they were dried.
So why dry your own herbs at home? By growing and drying herbs at home you have control over what chemicals come in contact with your herbs (ideally none) and you get to control the process by which they are dried to ensure that optimal flavor and nutrition remain.
Herbs are also one of the most common things that goes to waste in households all over the world due to their relatively short shelf life after they have been picked. So if wasting money on fresh herbs that you always seem to be throwing away is driving you crazy, then learning how to dry your own herbs is a great way to reduce that food waste and save money in the process.
Here are just a few things that you can use your garden fresh home dried herbs for:
- Homemade herbal dried tea blends
- Homemade spice blends
- Spice ingredients in cooking
- Infused culinary and body oils
- Homemade skincare products
- Herbal bath salts
- Aromatherapy pillows (lavender is great for this)
What Herbs Dry Well And What Herbs Do Not
While there are MANY herbs that will dry and keep incredibly well, there are some herbs that just don’t maintain their flavor well and I would not recommend drying. Instead you might consider storing herbs that do not dry well using other preservation methods like freezing in oil to preserve flavor (basil and chives for example), or making sauces or pestos to freeze with your fresh herbs for year round preservation.
Herbs That Dry Well
All of the following herbs will dry really well and will maintain their flavor once dried.
- Bolted Cilantro (dry the seeds for coriander)
- Lemon Balm
- Tulsi (Holy Basil)
- Echinacea (Root and Flower)
- Chamomile Flowers
Herbs That Do Not Dry Well
All of the following herbs will be pretty disappointing dried and will loose much of their flavor. Instead I would recommend chopping these herbs and storing them in oil in ice cube trays. Once frozen you can store them in a silicone bag or glass container in the freezer and use a few as needed for recipes throughout the year.
- Fresh Cilantro
How To Dry Fresh Herbs At Home
There are a few different methods for drying herbs and a lot of how you choose to dry herbs at home will depend on the amount of herbs you need to dry, the space you have to dry them, and the budget you have for drying herbs. But no matter whether you are looking to dry a whole field full of lavender or just a small amount from one plant, there is an herb drying method that will work for you!
How To Dry Herbs By Hanging
This is how I prefer to dry herbs because just looking at hanging dried herbs makes me feel like I am living in an old country farmhouse with a simpler, slower way of life. This option is great if you don’t have a lot of space to work with and also want your herbs to double as a pretty hanging display.
To hang dry your herbs simply wrap a piece of string or twine tightly around a small bunch of herbs and hang the herbs upside down. Avoid making your herb bundles too big as the bigger the bundles are, the more difficult it will be for the inner herbs to dry fully.
While it may be tempting to hang your herbs in a sunny window, it is best to hang your herbs in a cool, dry location that is out of direct sunlight which can denature some of the beneficial properties in your herbs.
Most herbs and flowers will be fully dry in 1-2 weeks of air hang drying, but depending on the humidity in the air and the moisture level of your herbs this time could be a little shorter or longer, so always make sure to check that your herbs are completely dry before storing!
Note: If you live in a very humid climate this may not be the best option for you as it can be difficult to get the herbs fully dried. One additional step that can help combat humidity in the air would be to place a brown paper bag over your hanging dried herbs. The paper bag will help soak up some of the moisture in the air and keep your herbs a little drier during those humid summer days.
How To Dry Herbs Using Drying Racks
If you have A LOT of herbs to dried and preserve then you may want to opt for flat laying your herbs in flat drying racks or screens. This way you can stack them and dry more herbs at one time. The only issue with this option is that drying racks can take up a lot of space so you really will need a designated area to store your herb drying racks if you go this route.
To dry herbs using drying racks simply lay your herbs in a single layer on the racks and stack them in a cool dry place. Keep your herb drying racks out of direct sunlight which can denature the beneficial properties of the herbs or flowers you are drying.
Again most herbs that are dried using herb drying racks will take 1-2 weeks to dry, but always check them for moisture before storing.
How To Dry Herbs In A Dehydrator
If you really love growing and drying herbs than investing in a dehydrator may be something to consider. While dehydrators are a bit of an investment, they can also transform how you are able to preserve so many different types of fruits, veggies, and herbs which you may decide is worth the investment.
While most dehydrators cant dry a lot of herbs at one time, using a dehydrator can help dry your herbs fast (usually within 24 hours) and can help ensure that they were dried at low enough temperature and that no moisture remains in your herbs.
Every dehydrator is different so make sure to follow the directions for drying different herbs, fruits, and veggies in your specific dehydrator. I have also listed a few of my favorites that people consistently recommend below if you think a dehydrator may be something worth investing in.
How To Dry Herbs In The Oven
Oven drying herbs is an easy option for those who want to quickly dry their herbs, but I have to say that it would be my last resort. The high heat of ovens (most won’t go lower than 170 degrees F) can impact the flavor, color, and beneficial oils found in the herbs.
If you do choose to oven-dry herbs though just make sure that you use the lowest possible setting and keep the oven door ajar slightly. Lay your herbs out flat on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie tray, and place in the oven. Check on your herbs every 30 minutes and shake them gently to rotate them on the baking tray.
Most herbs will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours to dry fully based on their moisture content so always do a quick google search to see how long it will take to dry your specific herbs, and check on them frequently to avoid burning.
How To Store Dried Herbs
Once you have learned how to dry herbs at home, you need to learn how to store dried herbs appropriately. If you do not know how to store dried herbs the correct way you can run the risk of losing your dried herbs to mold, or having them lose their taste and nutritional value.
Store In A Cool, Dark, Dry Place
If you have a place in your house that is cool, on the darker side (or can be closed in a cabinet), and stays dry year round then this is an excellent place to store your dried herbs.
Store Out Of Direct Sunlight
While you may see lots of pretty pictures with people hanging their herbs in direct sunlight this is a big no-no. Direct sunlight will denature the sensitive properties in your herbs and can make them quickly lose their flavor and their healthy nutritional components, which is why you are drying and storing them in the first place.
Choose Airtight Containers
Airtight containers are essential for how to store dried herbs. They will keep moisture out and help keep your dried herbs fresh for months.
Make Sure Your Herbs Are Completely Dry Before Storing
Before storing your dried herbs you need to make sure that they feel completely dry. They should easily break apart and have no signs of remaining moisture. If you place only partially dried herbs in an airtight container they most likely will end up growing mold as the moisture gets trapped in the container, and your hard work will have been for waste.
Tips For How To Dry Herbs By Hanging In Humid Climates
If you live in a dry climate that you most likely will not have any issues hang drying herbs. However, if you are like me and live in a part of the world where it can be very humid, you may need to do a few extra things to ensure that your herbs are fully dry and don’t spoil or grow mold.
Tip #1: Don’t Overfill Your Herb Bundles
It can be tempting to hang giant bundles of herbs together, but you want to make sure that all the herbs in your bundles can get good air circulation and dry quickly. If your herb bundles are too big is can be difficult for the center herbs to dry fully.
Tip #2: Place A Paper Bag Over Your Herb Bundles
Placing a small paper bag over each bundle of herbs may not be the prettiest option, but it will help to absorb some of the moisture in the air, protecting your herbs from the humidity and allowing their to air dry faster.
Tip #3: Choose The Driest Location In Your House
When choosing where to place your DIY hanging herb drying rack make sure to seek out the driest place in your home or kitchen. You will also want your herbs to be out of direct sunlight to help preserve and protect their beneficial chemical properties.
Tip #4: Run A Dehumidifier
If you are living in an area with a lot of humidity you may want to run a dehumidifier anyway to help improve air quality, and your hanging herbs will thank you. In the summer months we always have a dehumidifier running in my home to help reduce the excessive moisture in the air, which really helps my herbs dry faster.
Tip #5: Use A Dehydrator
If you feel like you are always fighting the humidity and your herbs are never able to fully dry then it may be time to invest in a dehydrator. While they can be an expensive investment, in the long run, you will save so much money by drying your own herbs, as well as other fruits and vegetables that you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
Our Favorite Supplies For How To Dry Herbs At Home
While you don’t need all of these supplies from drying herbs at home, the following are a few of our favorites that we have collected over the years and that I personally love reaching for when going to dry my own garden fresh herbs at home.
- Herb Garden Scissors
- Hemp Twine
- Nesco Dehydrator
- Cosori Dehydrator
- Excalibur Dehydrator
- Hanging Herb Drying Rack
- Stacking Herb Drying Rack
- Ball Mason Jars
- Glass Spice Jars
That’s it! Drying herbs from your garden right at home really can’t get any simpler and you will have the added benefit of creating a really beautiful space in your home. So enjoy the process of drying and storing your own herbs this year and relish in all the possibilities they will bring for the colder months ahead.