Dry Your Own Herbs and Spices (It's Better Than the Jarred Stuff)

It's way easier than you think and makes your home smell amazing.

Published Oct. 26, 2021.

There’s an excellent chance some of the jars of herbs and spices in your pantry are old and expired. They lost flavor long ago, and they’re pricey to replace. 

If you’ve got fresh herbs growing outdoors, or have a giant bunch you bought for a recipe that only used a little, you could—and should—make your own dried herbs. It’s easy, almost hands-off, and yields wonderful pungent flavor (not to mention a smidgeon of well-deserved pride). You can bottle each herb separately, or make your own custom blends. 

At my house, we do this every year. Usually we make single-herb jars and our “signature blend” of green herbs such as thyme, sage, oregano, and rosemary that’s perfect for seasoning roast chicken, vegetables, salad dressing, and a bunch of other dishes. You can even mix dried herbs with coarse salt to make your own seasoned salt.

All summer, we can pick from the growing plants as we’re cooking, but as fall comes around, we keep an eye on the weather. Before the first frost, we rush out and harvest so we can dry the herbs, bottle them, and use them all winter. 

Here’s how. 

Everyone Should Have Herb Ice Cubes in Their Freezer

Storing herbs correctly is the key to prolonging their shelf life. But there’s also a way to preserve herbs before they go bad: turning them into ice cubes. We'll show you how.  
  1. Cut any fresh herbs you plan to dry. Be sure to cut branches in as long lengths as possible, usually 8 to 12 inches. (The idea is to have enough length so you can tie them into bunches.) Remove any brown or crushed leaves. Rinse herbs in cool water, and gently shake off excess water. Wrap and tie the bunch near the cut end with kitchen twine.
  2. Hang the herb bundles upside down by the tied end. Choose a location in your home that is dry and well ventilated, but avoid direct heat or sunlight, which can cause flavors and colors to fade. 
  3. Wait until they are dry and crispy, to the point where they’d crumble between your fingers. This can be a week or weeks—just take a test pinch from time to time. In the meantime, enjoy the fragrance and the traditional look of herb bundles drying in your home.
  4. When they’re fully dry, lay out a rimmed baking sheet and crumble herbs over it, using your hands. Make the pieces of herb any size you like. Discard stems. (The room will smell amazing.)
  5. Put your freshly dried herbs in a small glass jar (recycled spice jars work nicely), label and date it.

Note: If you live in a damp climate, or don’t like to wait for natural drying, you can also dry some herbs in the microwave. You can also use a dehydrator if you have one.

Sign up for the Well-Equipped Cook newsletter

Shop smarter with our ATK Reviews team's expert guides and recommendations.

Photo: Patricia Fenn Gallery, Getty Images

These six tastings are some of our most popular reviews. Start a free trial to access all these, plus our other rigorously tested equipment reviews and taste tests.

This is a members' feature.