Find out how to store dried bay leaves properly!
Bay leaves are fragrant leaves gathered from the laurel tree. It is an herb often used in long-cooking dishes such as soups and stews to enhance the flavor. But, it can also be added in short-cooking dishes like risotto.
Both fresh and dried bay leaf can be used in dishes. Some people prefer to use fresh leaves because they have a more clove-like aroma. But fresh bay leaves have a short shelf life. A good option is to dry bay leaves yourself and store dried bay leaves for later use.
READ ALSO: 4 Easy Methods of Drying Bay Leaves
How to Store Dried Bay Leaves
Since dried bay leaves are categorized as an herb, it is only logical to store it in a cabinet together with other herbs. But seasoned chefs and herb enthusiasts have different opinions when it comes to storing dried bay leaves. Here are some of the best suggestions to store dried bay leaves for later use.
Store dried bay leaves in an airtight container
Dried bay leaves can lose its aroma over time. It is important to keep it stored in an airtight container before putting in the spice cabinet. When not stored properly, it is noticeable that the aroma will be gone in just a matter of weeks. Airtight jars or Ziploc type of containers are recommended.
Don’t store it in one big container
If buying in bulk, it is not recommended to store it all in one big container. Every time a few leaves are needed for a dish, the entire container needs to be opened repeatedly. Each time the leaves are exposed to the air and humidity in the kitchen, it causes the freshness and aroma of the leaves to diffuse faster.
For longer shelf life, it is best to store it in SMALL zip lock bags or small airtight containers. When needed for a dish, only a small bunch will be opened for use. The rest will remain safe and fresh in their respective storage. Separate the container that is currently being used and make sure to consume it first before opening another one.
Keep it in the freezer in an airtight container
Here’s a suggestion that turns a lot of people skeptical. But as it turns out, the freezer is the best way to store dried bay leaves. This tip is especially very helpful if you are purchasing it in bulk. Keeping it in the chiller or crisper may help too, but if aiming for a longer storage life, the freezer is the best bet.
Others may think it might lose its aroma when frozen. On the contrary, they retain much of their flavor and aroma when stored in the freezer. Simply store them in airtight containers or in a Ziploc bag and stash them in cold storage.
The leaves don’t need defrosting when taken out of the freezer. Simply get a few leaves from the container and throw them into the dish.
Bay leaves lose their potency twice faster when simply left in the spice cabinets. The cold temperature acts as a preservative to help it retain its potency.
Bay leaves can sit in the freezer for years so don’t be afraid to purchase in bulk. Be aware of the expiration date before purchasing to ensure long storage life.
How long do dried bay leaves last?
Dried bay leaves can last from 1 to 3 years, provided they are stored properly. This means in room temperature, dark cupboard, and away from direct sunlight. Warm temperature and sunlight tend to weaken the aroma of the leaves.
When purchasing bay leaves in bulk, it usually has an expiration date – “Best by” or “Best before”. These dates are the manufacturer’s estimated time on how long the product will still be at its peak quality. Bay leaves can usually have a longer shelf life with proper storage. Technically, the leaves can still be used even after the expiration date, as long as they are still in good condition. Just make sure the leaves are not damp and have still retained the aroma.
To test if the leaves are still potent after long-time storage, rub and crush a few leaves in your hand. The aroma and taste should still be strong. Even without doing this test, if the leaves are already stale, the results will still be obvious in the dish because of the taste. It won’t be as tasty as it used to, even with the same ingredients and cooking methods. Bay leaves help to enhance the flavor of all the other ingredients in the dish, aside from giving it its own distinct flavor.
Fresh Bay Leaves vs. Dried Bay Leaves
Some people prefer to use fresh bay leaves because they offer a different taste compared to the dried version. But letting the leaves stay too long in the dish while cooking can leave an overpowering taste, so it needs to be removed before the dish finishes cooking. Unlike the dried bay leaves that can be left through the entire course of the cooking process and it will only leave a subtle taste.
Fresh bay leaves can be stored in Ziploc bags, kept in the refrigerator and it will last for up to two weeks. It is not recommended to store them in room temperature as fresh leaves are more prone to moisture and can easily wilt.
Fresh bay leaves are much harder to find. In the grocery store, they are usually found grouped together with the fresh herbs produce. The dried bay leaves, however, are always a staple in grocery stores and can be found in the spice aisle.