Spice Shelf: Bay Leaves

  • Pin It
  • print
  • email to a friend
By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Bay leaves are sauce, stew, or soup staples! Even though the flavor is subtle, you would know something was missing if it was left out—guaranteed. It doesn’t, itself, have an extremely recognizable taste, but it works in the background, bringing out the best of all the other flavors in the pot.

Bay leaves should be dark green and shiny on top and light green on the bottom. Most of the bay leaves we buy in the store are from Turkey and California. California leaves are darker in color and long and slender compared to the more oval-shaped Turkish bay. California bay leaves are best in dishes that cook for less time because they have a stronger flavor that can overpower other subtle flavors in the dish if cooked for too long. Fresh bay leaves are rare to come by, unless visiting a specialty spice store.

If your bay leaves are fresh, store them in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel inside of a sealed zip top plastic bag. If your bay leaves are dried, they can be stored in an airtight container for up to two years, but to ensure the best flavor and aroma, replacing after one year is recommended.

Bay leaves come from bay tress, which are a member of the laurel family. Laurel leaves were the leaves used to make wreaths for Olympic champions. Aside from their prestige with Olympian gods, they were used medicinally, too; bay leaves cured migraines and stomachaches.

Even though bay is technically considered an herb, it should be treated as a spice when cooking.

One dried bay leaf = two fresh bay leaves
One bay leaf = ¼ teaspoon crushed thyme if you don’t have bay on hand

Eating a dried bay leaf (even after it has simmered in a soup or stew) can be quite unpleasant. Bay leaves are very tough, and hard to chew, which can cause abrasions in the digestive system. It is always recommended to remove the bay leaf before serving any dish. If you’re worried about being able to find the leaf, you can make an herb sachet with cheesecloth.

Bay leaf is a known insecticide. If you’re having problem with bugs in your dried goods, just drop a few bay leaves in to keep the bugs at bay!

Bay leaves should be harvested from a Bay tree that is at least two years old. It is best to pick the leaves during the middle of summer, in the morning after the dew has evaporated (this helps prevent wilting). Be careful not to bruise the leaves while picking. Spread the Bay leaves in a single layer on a paper towel lined baking sheet and leave them in a warm, dry, well-ventilated room for 2 weeks. Flip the leaves one time during the process to ensure even drying. If the leaves seem wet in some spots, or damp at all, leave them to dry for an additional week, or until they are completely dry.

Try some of our favorite recipes and really let the bay shine!

Mom’s Lasagna
Sausage Corn Chowder
Pickled Vegetables
Slow Cooker Boeuf Bourguignonne
Bubba’s Shrimp Gumbo
Crispy Fried Tacos with Salsa Verde
Bobby’s Pickled Shrimp
Basic Italian Tomato Sauce
Beef Stew

Read More From On the Shelf.

You May Also Like These Blogs:

You May Also Like These Recipes:

Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:


Hang in there Paula. I miss your shows but will keep up with you on e-mail. You will come back bigger and better.

By Jean on July 21, 2013


as always, enjoyed your paper and love your family, mae

By mae leatherwood on July 19, 2013

Paula Deen
Paula Deen
The Lady's Blog
The Queen of Southern Cuisine muses about her recipes, life and family. See Posts

Brooke Deen
Brooke Deen
Deen Mother
Advice on raising two boys (three counting Jamie). See Posts

Brandon Branch
Brandon Branch
Southern Style
Decorating Inspiration from Paula's Design Director. See Posts

Julia Sayers
Julia Sayers
Hot off the Press
Step behind the pages and let the Associate Editor of Cooking with Paula Deen fill you in on what goes into creating every issue. See Posts

Lisa Scarbrough
Lisa Scarbrough
Thrift Store Mommy
Mom on a dime advice from Paula's Digital Properties Manager. See Posts

Andrea Goto
Andrea Goto
Mom 2.0
Tips from a real-world mom with comedic tendencies. See Posts

Martha Lee
Martha Lee
Earth Mother
Practical, earth-conscious ways to live and parent in the 21st century. See Posts

Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Susan Greene a.k.a BUBBLES
Bubbles' Corner
Ideas and advice from a 21st Century young at heart Grandmother. See Posts

Cindy Edwards
Cindy Edwards
Southern Proper
Etiquette advice from a true Southern belle. See Posts


Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm