How to Dry Herbs at Home (and make Italian Herbs Seasoning)

After making my super greens powder using fresh greens from my garden, I was inspired to go a step further and try my hand at making homemade seasonings using fresh herbs from my garden!

Our herb garden at the moment is just booming with thyme, oregano, and mint at the moment, and rather than trim it all back and throw the herbs in the compost, I thought I’d make them into a dried Italian herb seasoning to use in recipes.

Before and after harvesting herbs from my garden; there was so much thyme that I just cut it right back, along with the oregano, rosemary, and sage. Once I stripped back the thyme, I noticed we had some new parsley sprouts growing through (the parsley we had growing before self-seeded!).

Before we get started in learning how to dry herbs from the garden – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my email newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date on the latest recipes, DIYs, gardening and health tips I share!!

If you dry out some herbs at home or make this Italian herbs mix, please let me know! Leave a comment below, and if you take a picture and share it, please tag me on Instagram @simplynaturalnessa or use the hashtag #simplynaturalnessa so I can see! I’d love to know how it went for you!

How to dry herbs at home

Step 1: First, you want to begin by harvesting the herbs you’ll be using. If you’re collecting organically herbs from your own garden, then it’s not really necessary to wash them. Note: some of the oils on herbs may be washed away when rinsed, so if it’s not completely necessary it’s recommended that you avoid rinsing. Instead, shake them well in case there are any insects on the herbs (if they are really dirty, feel free to give them a little rinse). If you’re using fresh store-bought herbs, it’s recommended to wash and carefully pat dry them to remove any remaining moisture. The flavour of a herb is strongest just before the plant goes to flower, so, to prolong the harvest, snip off the flower buds whenever they start to appear. The best time to harvest herbs is mid morning, as the essential oils are most concentrated in the leaves at this time, before the sun evaporates them into the air, and the dew has generally dried off the leaves by this time.

All the herbs I’d collected to turn into a dried herb seasoning!

To harvest: Cut healthy herbs, removing any sickly, dried or wilted leaves and brushing away any insects you may find on the leaves. When collecting the herbs, snip individual leaves or cut an entire shoot just above a leaf node (this will promote a healthier, bushier plant as it encourages dormant buds to grow at the nodes). Collect the seeds of dill, fennel, and coriander when the flower heads have faded in colour and started to dry. To harvest the seeds, snip off the flower heads and place them into separate paper bags, then shake the heads to dislodge the seeds. Store seeds in an airtight container (make sure they’re completely dry, otherwise mould will grow – if not dry, leave in paper bag in a dry place for a few days or until completely dry). Once you’ve collected the herbs you’ll be using, you’re ready to dry them!

Step 2: Next, you’re ready to dry the herbs. There are a few different methods for drying herbs, so choose the one that’s going to work best for the herbs you’ll be using. Note: Air-drying works best for low-moisture herbs like marjoram, oregano, rosemary and dill, while herbs such as basil, chives and mint have higher moisture levels and work best when dried in a dehydrator or oven.

Air drying

Air-drying herbs can produce a purer flavour compared with other methods, and is one of the easiest ways to dry herbs!

To air dry herbs:

  1. Spread individual leaves or sprigs of herbs on a rack or a baking tray lined with cheesecloth. If you dry herbs regularly, it can be a good idea to make a drying screen using mesh mounted on a wooden frame.
  2. Place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.
  3. Turn the leaves over regularly, about every 12 hours or so, to speed up the drying process.
  4. The herbs will take approx. 2-3 days to fully dry, and you’ll know they’re finished when they have a crunchy texture and crumble when pressed.

Another way to air dry herbs is by drying them in a bundle (however this tends to take longer):

  1. Tie small bunches of herbs together into bundles with twine, twist-ties or rubber bands (note: you may need to re-tie bundles as they dry and start to shrink). Keep bundles small to speed up the drying process, and also to avoid rot or mould growing.
  2. Gently wrap herb bundles in paper bags, and poke a few holes in the bag for ventilation (as well as to keep out dust), then hang upside down in a warm spot out of direct sunlight.
  3. When the bundles are dry, remove the paper bags. The herbs may take around 1-2 weeks (or more) to completely dry, but they do make for easy storage. Once finished, you can hang them in your kitchen and use as needed.
An example of drying herbs in a bundle; I dried my lavender this way to make lavender oil (it just takes longer to dry, but can produce a better result)

This method works best for herbs with larger leaves, like mint, basil, oregano, and marjoram.

Oven drying & using a dehydrator)

Oven-drying is a much faster way of drying herbs, however you must be really careful not to burn them (it may also take a little time and experimentation to figure out what technique works best with your oven).

To oven dry:

  1. Strip the herb’s leaves from their stalks, and lay out on baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  2. Set oven to the lowest possible setting (ideally lower than 37°C, or 100°F), and place tray in the oven. To achieve this really low-heat setting, you may need to preheat the oven, then turn it off and leave just the light on to keep at such a low temperature.
  3. Leave the door ajar, so that the oven doesn’t get too hot inside and excess moisture can escape.
  4. Dry leaves for 30 minutes, then turn them over (do this once) and continue drying for an another 30 minutes.
  5. After 1 hour, turn off the oven and allow the herbs to cool in the oven.

To dehydrate:

  1. Place herb leaves in a single layer on the dehydrator tray so the leaves will dry more evenly. You may need to cover the dehydrator tray with a fine screen to prevent herbs from falling down into the bottom of the appliance.
  2. To allow space for the larger leaves, you may want to remove some of the trays. It is important that all leaves receive plenty of air circulation, so remove any trays that aren’t necessary.
  3. For the best flavour, dry herbs on the lowest setting possible. If your dehydrator does not have a thermostat option, use the shortest period of time possible and check on the herbs often. A suggested temperature is 95 F to 115 F, but in conditions of high humidity, you may need to use 125 F. Typical drying time is one to four hours. Herbs are dry when the leaves crumble and the stems break when you bend them.
Before and after drying my herbs in a dehydrator; it worked wonderfully, and was ready in about 4 hours!

These methods work best for stronger, more robust herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Step 3: Once you’ve finished drying your herbs, they’re ready to use, or you can store them. It’s best to store dried herbs as whole leaves, as this best preserves their flavour and aroma.

To store them: Place the herbs into small, airtight containers or glass jars, and keep in a cool, dark place (like a pantry or cupboard). Any light or warmth will cause the herbs to deteriorate faster, so avoid displaying them in the open. The herbs may keep for around 6-12 months, but the sooner you use them the better, as they’ll have the most flavour right after you’ve dried them.

Italian herbs seasoning recipe

Note: This recipe is based off the classic Italian seasoning blends, which uses just straight dried herbs. Now, some of the more gourmet blends tend to add in things like garlic powder, onion powder, red chilli flakes, and other extras like that, which you can add in if you like. I just prefer to add those ingredients in separately at the end, so I can freely choose how much of each I want added in (depending on my mood I sometimes add more or less of those ingredients, or leave out completely altogether).

My herb seasoning when finished! It turned out SO WELL, and was a fantastic way to use up the extra herbs in my garden rather than composting them.

This recipe was originally from Gimme Some Oven.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage

Optional:

  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

To make:

  1. Using a fork, gently whisk/mix all seasonings together in a bowl until well combined.
  2. Pour into an old seasonings container or sealed container, or use immediately.

Notes:

  • Feel free to adjust the quantity of each ingredient to increase or decrease the batch size (or to mix up the flavour of the seasoning altogether).

How to dry herbs tutorial

Have you dried herbs before? How did it go? What method did you use? Share your experience below! We’d love hear!

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

Sources:

Monaco, Emily. (Updated: November 23, 2020). How to Dry Herbs at Home: The 3 Best Ways to Preserve Color, Freshness, and Aroma. Organic Authority. Retrieved from https://www.organicauthority.com/live-grow/blogorganicorganic-fooddry-your-own-organic-herbs

Francis, Meagan. (April 10, 2020). How to Preserve Your Garden Herbs. HGTV. Retrieved from https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/herbs/how-to-preserve-your-garden-herbs

Jeanroy, Amy. (Updated: 10/09/2020). Drying Herbs With a Food Dehydrator. The Spruce Eats. Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/use-a-food-dehydrator-dry-herbs-1762397

Martin, Ali. (September 13, 2014). Italian Seasoning. Gimme Some Oven. Retrieved from https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/italian-seasoning-recipe/

Nilsson, Holly. (Updated: July 6, 2020). Italian Seasoning. Spend with Pennies. Retrieved from https://www.spendwithpennies.com/homemade-italian-seasoning-recipe/