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How to Dry Thyme: 4 Quick & Easy Methods

Thyme is one of my favorite herbs to grow in my garden. Every growing season without fail, I look forward to seeing those tiny purple thyme flowers and delicate little leaves emerge. I have a dedicated thyme plant in my herb garden that keeps producing year after year since thyme is a hardy perennial herb. When my thyme plant really takes off in the summer, I make sure to harvest some sprigs to dry. I use methods like air drying small bundles or drying tiny sprigs in the oven at a very low temperature. Once dried, I crumble the tiny grayish-green leaves into an airtight glass container to use all winter long in hearty stews and roasted meats. Learning how to dry thyme is easy, let me show you 4 different ways.

Thyme plant in the sun. the plant is sitting with white dishes.

If you’re a fan of cooking with fresh herbs, you know that thyme is a staple in many recipes. This herb is known for its fragrant aroma and earthy flavor, making it a popular choice for everything from roasted meats to soups and stews. But what do you do when you have an abundance of fresh thyme and want to preserve it for later use? Drying out thyme is a simple and effective way to ensure that you always have this versatile herb on hand.

How to Dry Thyme: Fast Facts

  1. Air Drying: Hang fresh thyme sprigs or lay on a rack to dry naturally in a warm, well-ventilated area out of sunlight. Takes 1-2 weeks.
  2. Oven Drying: Arrange thyme sprigs on a baking sheet at the lowest oven temperature setting. Prop door open and dry for 1-3 hours.
  3. Food Dehydrator: Place thyme sprigs in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Dry at 95-100°F for 2-4 hours.
  4. Microwave Drying: Lay fresh thyme leaves in a single layer between paper towels. Microwave in 30 second bursts, checking and stirring until crispy.

The key is to dry the thyme completely until crisp and brittle. Then store the dried leaves in an airtight container away from light and moisture. Enjoy the concentrated flavor!

4 Methods for Drying Thyme

Drying out thyme is a straightforward process that can be done using a variety of methods. One of the most popular ways to dry thyme is by air-drying it. This involves hanging the thyme upside down in a warm, dry place until it becomes brittle and easy to crumble. Another method is to use a dehydrator, which can speed up the drying process and ensure that the thyme is evenly dried. You can also dry thyme in the oven, although this requires a bit more attention to ensure that the herbs don’t burn. Lastly, and this is new to me…according to Bon Appetit you shouldn’t overlook the ease of drying thyme in the microwave!

No matter which method you choose, the key to successfully drying out thyme is to make sure that the herbs are completely dry before storing them. Moisture can cause the thyme to mold and spoil, so it’s important to take the time to ensure that the herbs are fully dehydrated. With a little bit of patience and the right tools, you can easily dry out thyme and enjoy its delicious flavor all year round.

Thyme with a measuring spoon of dried thyme.

Understanding Thyme Drying

Thyme is a popular herb that is used in many dishes to add flavor and aroma. Drying thyme is a great way to preserve its freshness and extend its shelf life. In this section, we will explore the benefits of drying thyme and the best time to harvest thyme for drying.

Benefits of Drying Thyme

Drying thyme has many benefits. Firstly, it allows you to preserve the herb for a longer period of time. This means that you can use it in your dishes even when it is out of season. Secondly, dried thyme has a more concentrated flavor than fresh thyme. This means that you can use less of it in your dishes and still get the same flavor. Lastly, dried thyme is more versatile than fresh thyme. You can use it in a wider range of dishes, including soups, stews, and marinades.

A bundle of fresh thyme tied with twine.

Best Time to Harvest Thyme for Drying

The best time to harvest thyme for drying is just before it flowers. This is when the essential oils that give thyme its flavor and aroma are at their peak. To harvest thyme, simply cut the stems with a sharp pair of scissors or a knife. You can then either dry the whole stem or remove the leaves from the stem and dry them separately.

It is important to note that you should only harvest thyme when it is dry. Harvesting thyme when it is wet can cause it to spoil during the drying process. Additionally, you should avoid harvesting thyme during the hottest part of the day, as this can cause the oils to evaporate and reduce the flavor and aroma of the herb.

In summary, drying thyme is a great way to preserve its freshness and extend its shelf life. The best time to harvest thyme for drying is just before it flowers, and it is important to harvest it when it is dry and avoid harvesting during the hottest part of the day.

A thyme plant in a pot.

Preparation for Drying Thyme

Drying thyme is a simple process that can be done at home with a few basic tools. Before you begin drying thyme, there are a few steps you should take to prepare the herbs for drying.

Washing and Cleaning

First, it’s important to wash and clean the thyme to remove any dirt or debris. You can do this by gently rinsing the thyme under cool running water. Be sure to pat the thyme dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture or let air dry.

Bundling and Tying Stems

Once the thyme is clean, for the air dry method outlined below, you’ll need to bundle and tie the stems. Gather a small bunch of thyme stems together and tie them tightly with a piece of string or twine. Be sure to leave a long tail of string so that you can hang the thyme up to dry.

Note that you should avoid bundling too many stems together, as this can prevent air from circulating around the thyme and cause it to mold or rot. Instead, aim for small bundles of around 6-8 stems each.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your thyme is properly prepared for drying and will be ready to use in your favorite recipes in no time.

A bundle of thyme tied with twine.

Drying Methods

If you have a bunch of fresh thyme and want to preserve it for future use, there are several ways to dry it out. Here are three popular methods:

1. Air Drying Thyme

Air drying is the simplest and most traditional method of drying herbs as no special equipment is needed. To air-dry thyme, follow these steps:

  1. Rinse the thyme sprigs under cool water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  2. Bundle the sprigs together with a rubber band or string.
  3. Hang the herb bundle upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area. A pantry or kitchen is an ideal location.
  4. Wait for the thyme to dry completely. Drying time can take anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on the humidity and temperature.

Once the thyme is dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container.

A bundle of thyme hanging to air dry.

2. Oven Drying Thyme

If you want to dry thyme quickly, you can use your oven. Here’s how:

  1. Preheat your oven to the lowest setting (usually around 150°F/65°C).
  2. Rinse the thyme sprigs and pat them dry.
  3. Spread the sprigs out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a nonstick sheet.
  4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and leave the door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape.
  5. Check the thyme every 20 minutes or so. It should take about an hour to dry completely.

Once the thyme is dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container.

Thyme on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.

3. Using a Food Dehydrator

A food dehydrator is a convenient way to dry herbs without using your oven. Here’s how to use a food dehydrator to dry thyme:

  1. Rinse the thyme sprigs and pat them dry.
  2. Lay the sprigs out in a single layer on the dehydrator tray, leaving some space between them for air circulation.
  3. Set the dehydrator to 95°F/35°C and let the thyme dry for 2-4 hours.
  4. Check the thyme periodically. It should be completely dry and brittle when done.

Once the thyme is dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container.

4. Drying Thyme In The Microwave

If you’re short on time, this method is a great option. Here’s how to dry thyme in a microwave ovens:

  1. Rinse the thyme sprigs and pat them dry.
  2. Spread your herbs (leaves and tender stems only) in an even layer on a paper towel.
  3. Microwave on high for 30 seconds.
  4. Toss the herbs and continue to microwave in 15-30 second increments until the herbs are completely dried.

Once the thyme is dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container.

Before the thyme is bright and full, after drying it’s more curled, less vibrant.

Storing Dried Thyme

Once you have successfully dried thyme, it is important to store it properly to maintain its flavor and aroma. In this section, we will discuss the two main factors to consider when storing dried thyme: choosing containers and ideal storage conditions.

Choosing Containers

When choosing a container for dried thyme, it is important to choose one that is airtight and made of a non-reactive material such as glass or ceramic. This will help to prevent moisture and air from getting in and degrading the quality of the dried thyme. You can also use a sealable plastic bag, but make sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing it.

It is important to note that plastic containers can react with the oils in the dried thyme, altering its flavor and aroma. Therefore, it is best to avoid plastic containers if possible. If you must use plastic, choose a high-quality, food-grade plastic container.

Dried thyme in a glass container.

Ideal Storage Conditions

The ideal storage conditions for maintaining the quality and flavor of dried thyme are in a cool, dark, and dry location. Specifically, store the dried thyme in an airtight container in a dark, dry pantry or cupboard away from heat, light, and moisture. Under these proper storage conditions, dried thyme will retain optimal freshness and flavor for up to 1 year. The thyme will still be usable for up to 2 years in storage, although the flavor and aroma may start to decline a bit over time. Exposure to excess light, heat, or moisture can cause the essential oils in dried thyme to dissipate more quickly, taking away from its signature fragrance and herbal notes. Since improper storage accelerates deterioration, be sure to keep dried thyme in a place that is as cool, dark, and moisture-free as possible for maximum longevity. Tightly sealed glass jars or containers, kept in the pantry or a closed cabinet, are ideal for storage.

In summary, to store dried thyme properly, choose an airtight container made of non-reactive material and store it in a cool, dry, dark place away from direct sunlight. By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that your dried thyme retains its flavor and aroma for months to come.

Using Dried Thyme

Dried thyme is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most common culinary uses and medicinal applications for dried thyme:

Culinary Uses

Dried thyme is a staple herb in many cuisines around the world. It has a warm, earthy flavor that pairs well with a variety of dishes. Here are some ways you can use dried thyme in your cooking:

  • Soups and stews: Add a pinch of dried thyme to your favorite soups and stews for extra flavor.
  • Roasted meats and vegetables: Rub dried thyme on meats and vegetables before roasting for a delicious flavor boost.
  • Sauces and marinades: Use dried thyme to add depth of flavor to your favorite sauces and marinades.
  • Breads and crackers: Add dry thyme leaves to your homemade breads and crackers for a unique flavor.
Sourdough bread with thyme on top.

Frequently Asked Questions About Drying Thyme

Should I save both the thyme leaves and stems or just the leaves when drying?

It’s generally recommended to strip the tiny leaves off the woody stems once fully dried. The leaves are where most of the essential oils and the best flavor are contained, while the stems are fibrous and lack a strong taste. However, you can leave smaller, more tender stems attached to leaves if desired. Crumble the dried leaves off the stems as you use them. Discard any thick, woodier stems that didn’t fully dry.

What’s the difference between using fresh thyme and dried thyme in cooking?

Fresh and dried thyme have slightly different qualities when used in cooking. Fresh thyme has a more vibrant, aromatic flavor and scent because its essential oils are still intact. It also has some subtle grassy and floral notes that can round out dishes. Dried thyme is more intensely concentrated in flavor as the water content has evaporated away. It has earthier notes like hay and lemon.

For long cooking applications, dried thyme is usually recommended as the flavor holds up well over hours. Fresh thyme is best in uncooked things or shorter cooking times. Think fresh for garnishes and sprinkling on finished dishes! For marinades, braises, roasts, and stews, use dried thyme.

How much dried thyme should I use if a recipe calls for fresh thyme?

A general guideline is to use about 1/3 the amount of dried thyme compared to the amount of fresh thyme called for. For example, if a recipe requires 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, use only 1 teaspoon of dried thyme. This substitution ratio of 1:3 (dried:fresh) reduces the chance of the dried thyme being too overpowering and bitter in the dish.

The reason much less dried thyme is needed comes down to concentration and moisture content. Since drying removes water, the flavor and oil compounds become extremely concentrated in dry leaves. Fresh thyme has more subtle grassy and floral notes. Use a light hand and add dried thyme in small increments until the savory flavor balances the other ingredients.

A wooden spoon of dried Thyme.

Well friends, with summer’s first bounty of thyme overflowing in my garden, I just chopped a couple of huge bundles to dry! I know grabbing tempting fresh leaves all season seems easier, but a few days of dehydrating bushels means thyme abundance into winter (and gifts!).

What methods do you all find best as the growing finishes up? We can learn so much from each other’s preserving journeys! However you store your snipped thyme for wintery recipes (maybe oven or air drying works better?), I hope my tips lend confidence to reap hearty harvests.

Thank you for visiting this post, 4 Ways How to Dry Thyme: A Quick Guide. I hope you found it helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions.

My signature. A drawing of me sitting with a cup of coffee and a rosemary topiary next to me.

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