Oven-dried oregano
Canning, Freezing & More Preserving, Recipes

Quick-Drying Oregano (and Other Herbs) in the Oven

Living in such a mild climate means I’m lucky to have fresh herbs year-round, growing in the ground and staying as fragrant in winter as they do in summer.

I almost always use fresh herbs in all my cooking, but there are times when I’ll reach for my dried herbs — oregano being one of them. Dried oregano is probably the most-used dried herb in my kitchen. I like to fold a spoonful of crumbs into my artisan bread dough, or sprinkle it onto homemade garlic bread. It also goes into salad dressings, marinades, and dry rubs for meat. I use a lot of it. And since I have an abundance of Greek oregano that loves to take over my herb bed, I also dry a lot of it after I’ve pruned the plant.

Many people swear by hanging herbs up to dry, but I’ve never found this practical in my kitchen. It’s too small, too sunny, and merely a matter of when, not if, someone bumps into the hanging herbs and causes crumbs to scatter across the floor.

I wish I had the space to hang a line of long-stemmed herbs, bundled up and tied together with rustic twine (and even leave them up for decoration, the way I always see them in the magazines), but alas, that notion is more storybook than it is suitable for Casa Garden Betty.

What I do is plain and simple, and takes under an hour as opposed to a week (a plus if I need my dried herbs for dinner that day). I use my oven!

The oven-drying method works for oregano as well as parsley, sage, thyme, mint, and basil (that I’ve tried).

Start with very fresh herbs from your garden; if you grow organically, there’s no need to wash them. Choose sprigs that have uniformly sized leaves so they all dry at the same time.

Greek oregano

Remove any ratty leaves and spread the herbs out, stems and all, in a single layer across a baking sheet. Try not to overlap them too much as you want air to circulate between the leaves.

Spread oregano in a single layer on a baking sheet

Fresh oregano from the garden

Set your oven to its lowest temperature setting; mine hovers around 200°F. Once it’s preheated, place your tray of herbs on the middle rack and prop the door open slightly with a wooden utensil to allow some air movement.

Then (important step!) turn the oven off and let the herbs dry inside while the heat slowly dissipates. This method ensures the delicate leaves won’t burn. They dry within 10 or 15 minutes, but I leave them in the oven until the temperature is completely cool before removing the tray. I simply set it and forget it, then come back to the kitchen in an hour to destem the oregano and pack the leaves into a jar.

If your oven goes lower (170°F or so), you can likely leave the oven on for the whole duration of the drying process, but you’ll have to be vigilant to ensure you’re not “cooking” the herbs or leaving them in for too long.

Make sure the oregano is completely dry before you seal it in a jar, as any moisture left in the leaves can cause mold. They should crumble easily when you slide your fingers down the stem.

Dried oregano

Quick-drying oregano in the oven

I know it seems slightly oxymoronic to call dried herbs “fresh,” but I really do love having fresh dried herbs on hand — from my garden — rather than the dried herbs that have been sitting on a store shelf for who knows how long!

Dried oregano leaves

Fresh dried herbs from the garden

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  • Tony Anthony

    I was reading the comment sections, and I think something has to be mentioned. All my herbs are organic, but they still need to be washed. I learned this this year when i made fresh pesto. If you don’t wash them, you letting spores and bacteria come into your food. It’s called bird droppings, ants and pest eggs, that are so small you don’t notice it, also, you have no idea if pesticides used by your neighbors have blown over to your side. Always wash them, it’s so easy to use a paper towel to dry them. After making 8 jars of pesto, I keep them in the freezer, and pull out what I need. I pulled out two jars to slow defrost in the fridge, because I was going to need it the following week, when I pulled both jars out of the fridge the following week, one was bulging at the top, a sure sign of possible botulism. Lesson learned.. wash all veggies.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “bulging,” but botulism is quite rare and cannot grow in the cold temperatures of a freezer or refrigerator.

  • Jenn Susner

    I honestly wouldn’t really recommend doing this with basil, but if you’ve had a much better outcome than me, I’d love to hear how you handle this particular herb.
    My fallout involves the plant ending up really losing much flavor then turning to a plain wet leave smell when barely dry enough. I have best luck drying this herb leaves far spread out on screen for a couple weeks to dry in my attic in hot summers, I’d love to speedup the process though. would you personally have the heat the same, or even find lower temp? Thank you. Have a great weekend!

    • A few tips that may help: start with dry basil (I never wash mine after harvesting), and use the lowest oven temp (sometimes just called “warm”). Since ovens vary so much with the amount of heat they actually put out, you can try propping the door open wider to get more airflow in there, or use the convection setting to ensure adequate circulation.

      Perhaps try preheating the oven WITH the herbs already inside, and remove them as soon as the oven reaches the final temp. You’ll have to experiment with your particular oven… good luck!

      • Jenn Susner

        That does make sense. Thank you!

    • metronomic1

      What many people don’t realize is that herbs don’t just need to dry, they need to CURE. The enzymes in the plant need to use up the sugars or you get that nasty GREEN taste. Air drying is best.

  • Joan

    I am taking my dried leaves off the stems, but am not sure what to do with th flower buds. Are they good to include with the dried leaves, or should I discard them?

    • Yes, you can absolutely use the flowers! They’re just as edible and have the same flavor as the leaves.

  • Catdog25

    Hello, I have tried the method described herein with lower temp that 200F and have found that leaves do indeed burn (no air movement and too high a starting temp are the reasons). Oven door was ajar with wooden spoon large enough for heat flow. My leaves appear exactly as yours do in your photos above, burned. Oregano should be a panzer gray when dried. This color indicates proper duration to remove water without reaction The burned oregano does not have the desired flavor or smell.

    • Dried oregano has more of a dull khaki/green color; mine only turns gray as it ages. It comes out of the oven very fragrant. Since all ovens vary, you may need to experiment with the right time and temp to ensure yours is properly dried.

    • Frank

      Turn off oven as soon as you put herbs in. Check every half hour or so. May need to turn oven on again for a few minutes.

  • anneleia

    nice tips. I will try to grow more oregano so I could harvest a lot. I’m dying to have a dried oregano to put on a chicken dish

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  • I am glad to catch idea from your article. It has information I have been searching for a long time. Thanks so much.

  • Really thank you with the information you have provided, it rather interesting. I tried that and found very good results. Continue to share the same information offline, I’m looking forward to.

  • susanrubinsky

    Thanks for the tip. I’ve done microwave drying before but not oven. I’m going to try this out since I’m in the northeast and frost is coming soon.

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