How to Dry Herbs in the Microwave
Sorry, pesto, unused herbs have a new destiny.
Herbs-gone-drab still have purpose. Instead of chucking or composting those once-fresh bunches, dry them out for pantry usage, by zapping them in your microwave. You'll lock in flavor and (bonus) can say goodbye to those dusty jars filled with khaki-colored and flavorless herbs.
What you need:
- Herbs that have lost their freshness — brown spots here and there are ok, slime is not (anything slimy should be composted instead) — try fresh basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme or really any fresh herb.
- Paper towels
- Microwave-safe plate
- A microwave—any wattage is fine and the cooking plate doesn’t need to rotate.
- Small air-tight containers for room temperature storage (empty dried herb jars are perfect).
- Masking tape and a sharpie — for labeling and dating.
What to do:
Separate the leaves from the stem (discard or compost the stems)— wilted and slightly browned leaves are ok but don’t try to dry any that are really yuck looking. Brush or rinse off any dirt and blot the leaves dry with paper towels.
Fold a paper towel to fit on a microwave-safe plate without too much overhang. Arrange some of the herb leaves in a single layer on the towel and then top with another folded paper towel and pat down. Transfer to the cooking plate in a microwave.
Microwave for 30-second increments, checking between each to make sure the leaves don’t burn, until the herbs are slightly dry and reduced in size. This should take about 2 minutes in total, but times may vary depending on the microwave. Continue cooking in batches. If you have a super strong microwave (like over 1000 watts) try doing a test batch at full power. If the herbs are getting zapped too quickly then reduce to 50-percent power.
Let the herbs cool and transfer to small, air-tight containers. Label and date—try to use them within a month for optimal flavor.
Don’t have a microwave or have a whole mess of fresh herbs that need drying? You can use an oven. Preheat to 250 F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Prepare the fresh herbs as you would for drying them in a microwave. Make sure to blot them dry with paper towels. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the leaves are slightly dry and reduced in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the herbs cool overnight. Pack, label and date.