Apart from taste, aroma plays an important role in elevating a regular dish to a gourmet level. One such ingredient that fulfills this responsibility is a bay leaf. Bay leaf is an aromatic ingredient that is commonly used to enhance the flavor of various cuisines, sauces, soups, stews, and even tea.
Bay leaves are one of the most used spices around the globe due to their rich flavors and are often considered to have a longer shelf life. But they go bad after a point, and you will have to discard them. But how long do they last? How should you store them? Can you elongate their shelf life?
If you are looking for the answers to such questions, you have landed in the right place. Read ahead and learn more about bay leaves.
What are Bay Leaves?
Bay leaves come from the bay laurel plant that grows in warm climates. They are dried and used in cooking due to their stronger scent.
These leaves are thick and leather with a pointed end.
Does it Go Bad?
Bay leaves don’t go bad. They just lose their quality of flavor and aroma over time. If your ages-old bay leaves aren’t adding much flavor to your recipe, there are chances it has lost its quality and flavors.
But how long would ever last this way is still a question.
How Long Can Bay Leaves Last?
The shelf life of the bay leaf largely depends upon its storage. If dried bay leaves are stored in the appropriate condition, they are in their best form for 1-3 years.
If you have fresh Bay leaves, they will last up to 2 weeks. However, they should be used within 2-3 days as they are at the peak of their fresh flavors.
To improve the shelf life of bay leaves, it’s ideal to store them in a dark and cool place away from sunlight and warm area as it reduces the flavor of the leaves.
If you’re using fresh bay leaves, it is likely to last for a week or two only if appropriately stored in an airtight container to keep them away from moisture.
Sometimes bay leaves do go bad or just tend to lose their intense flavors. Thus, it is essential to know if bay leaves have gone bad or just started to age.
Signs of Bay Leaves Spoilage | How can you tell if Bay Leaves has gone bad?
Overall, bay leaves won’t go bad before the expiration date if stored correctly. In any case, if liquid finds its way towards the bay leaves, it will expire.
Here are the four best hints which will help you to tell if bay leaves have turned bad.
When you open a bay leaf packet to utilize it, dispose of them immediately if you find moisture in it. Also, moisture causes the fresh leaf to rot, and that is a clear sign that your bay leaves have expired.
Too much dryness:
Dry bay leaves are already dry, but they get extra dry when they keep a room temperature for a long time. The bay leaves start to crumble at this point, and there’s no point in utilizing them.
It is uncommon to find mold on bay leaves unless water or some liquid has found its way into the packaging. If you find the moisture at an early stage, there is quite a possible chance that leaves have gone bad. It’s time to get rid of it as soon as possible.
Bay leaves possess a powerful aromatic scent. If it’s stored in the pantry or kitchen cabinet for a very long time, it will lose its solid smell.
This doesn’t really mean they’ve expired. However, you will not get the same aroma and taste as you would if the bay leaves were fresh.
How to Store Bay Leaves?
When it comes to storage, bay leaves can be stored just like the way you would store other spices. They are very delicate to light and warmth. Overexposure to room temperature will lead to diminishing fragrance and flavor. Subsequently, they should be stored in a cool and dark place.
How to properly store fresh bay leaves?
Fresh bay leaves must be kept stored in the cooler; the ideal approach is to follow these easy steps.
Keep the leaves in the bowl filled with cold water. By using your hands, gently swirl the leaves around in the water so that any dirt will be ridden off. To drain the water using a colander. Spread the wet bay leaves over a towel layer down on the kitchen counter and let them dry.
How to properly store dried bay leaves?
Once the bay leaves have completely dried, transfer them to the resealable. Label it with the purchase date on the front and put them in the refrigerator.
Try not to expose bay leaves to the light.
Bay leaves, when exposed to light, can become yellow. The reason behind its damage to chlorophyll is particularly true for delicate herbs such as bay leaves.
Exposure to oxygen
The reason behind putting your fresh bay leaves into a Ziploc bag is if they are exposed to oxygen, they start becoming brown.
Exposure to moisture
It is fundamentally true that you wash bay leaves to get rid of the dirt. However, the drying cycle is important. One must take care that there’s no single drop of water left while packing because water speeds up the process of rotting bay leaves and make them smell foul.
It is significantly important that you store fresh herbs in the refrigerator immediately, or they will lose their aroma and flavor and can even begin to rot.
Also, don’t store them at the back or top shelf of the cooler since it will make them begin freezing. The ice will harm the bay leaves and turn them soft.
Can you freeze Bay Leaves?
Yes, you can freeze bay leaves. By freezing bay leaves, you can keep them safe from getting spoiled. Whenever you want to use the frozen bay leaves, you won’t need to defrost them. You can just add them to the utensil once it’s hot.
Once frozen, the bay leaves have their flavors and fragrance as it is. So to directly freeze the bay leaves, move the leaves into Ziploc Bag and store them in the freezer.
To freeze fresh bay leaves, use the following methods:
Ice Cube Plate
Get a clean ice cube plate and keep the bay leaves in each tray cube. Over the top, shower it with a thin layer of oil. Freeze it in the cooler for a few hours. Whenever they are frozen, pop them out in the Ziploc bag, and label the bag with a purchase date on the front. It will help shortly to identify the duration of storage; once done, store it in the freezer.
Transfer the bay leaves to a freezer bag, add 2 tablespoons of oil and seal the pack tightly. Also, label the bag with an expiry date or date of the purchase date on the front for future reference.
Like other dried products, dried bay leaves attract moisture from their surroundings.
Bay leaves should be kept in an air-tight container in a cool and dark place. Of course, it will lose its aroma once the seal is open, but you can always add up new leaves to keep the aroma stable.
But you can store it in the freezer for better storage. Bay leaves lose their potential much at a slower rate when frozen.
Is it okay to use expired bay leaves?
It isn’t advisable to consume any food product past its sell date. However, it can make you unconscious or lead to nausea, food poisoning and even give you an upset stomach.
But the issues related to health are pretty low. But you may catch minor food poisoning. Therefore you should make sure that bay leaves haven’t turned bad before using.
What are the Alternatives to Bay Leaves if it has gone bad?
If your bay leaves have started showing any signs of spoilage, you can use the following alternatives:
- Dried thyme
- Dried basil
- Dried oregano
- Dried rosemary
- Boldo leaves
How long do bay leaves need to cook?
You can cook the bay leaves as per the recipe. For example, if you are using it to prepare soup, you will have to let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. But if you are just cooking bay leaves, they should be done within 2-3 minutes.
When should you throw away bay leaves?
You should throw your bay leaves as soon as you see mold growing over them. Moreover, if you see your bay leaves losing their vibrant color, it is time to throw them out.
Are brown bay leaves OK to use?
Brown bay leaves should be discarded at once as they have lost their quality, taste, and aroma.
What are the black spots on my bay leaves?
The presence of black spots on bay leaves denotes the bay leaves have succumbed to mold. It is best to throw such bay leaves away.
Bay leaves enhance the rich flavor while cooking the meal. Also, bay leaves possess many health benefits and also provide a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron, and calcium. They also help treat migraines.
Bay leaves lose their quality and flavor over a period of time. Hence they should be stored properly. Fresh bay leaves don’t last much longer since they should be refrigerated and utilized within 2-3 days.
So with all the information you have had, make sure you get bay leaves in proper quantity. If you have got them in abundance, make sure to use the above-mentioned tips to store them.
These methods will not only increase its shelf life but will also help you to keep the flavors intact for a longer duration. Hope this helped.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Michael A. Antoine is a Sr. Chef at one of the leading chains of restaurants in the USA. He might raise hell in his kitchen, but his deep and practical knowledge about food and recipes helps us give you the best and tastiest recipes.