Between my greenhouse and my garden, I have access to fresh herbs year-round and it really feels like a luxury (especially when they’re herbs I can’t easily find in just any market, like lemongrass or mitsuba).
And while I usually use fresh herbs in my cooking, dried herbs are a convenience I can’t be without in the kitchen.
If an herb can be dried, I probably have it stashed somewhere. I’ve even picked fresh bay leaves from my mother-in-law’s backyard to dry at home, and foraged pink peppercorns on visits to California.
But of all the dried herbs I use on the daily, dried oregano is right up there in my top three. 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 (it’s a fabulous edible ground cover), 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 scatters crumbs 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 that’s not the reality in my busy kitchen that sees way too many bodies and sticky fingers.
What I do is plain and simple, and takes under an hour as opposed to a week: I use my oven!
How long does it take to dry fresh oregano?
In the oven, fresh oregano dries within 15 minutes, so you can harvest a large handful of sprigs in the afternoon and use them for dinner that evening.
If you count the time it takes to cool, however, it’s closer to 40 minutes by the time you can handle it and store it.
What temperature should you dry oregano?
Most ovens at home have a low temperature of 200°F which is what I go with in this guide. I’m not using anything fancy — just a conventional gas oven. But, keep in mind that many ovens are off by 5° to 10°, and convection ovens will dry more quickly and evenly than conventional ovens.
If your oven goes down to 170°F, try that first as you’ll significantly reduce the chances of burning the leaves.
Make sure you place the baking sheet on the center rack and position it away from any known hot spots.
What other fresh herbs can you dry in the oven?
The oven-drying method works for oregano as well as for parsley, sage, thyme, mint, and basil (that I’ve tried).
You may have to play around with the time it takes to dry, since it depends on how thick or large the leaves are. Be sure to take notes as the timing for each herb will be specific to your oven.
How to dry oregano in under 1 hour
Step 1: Start with very fresh herbs from your garden.
If you grow organically, there’s no need to wash them but if you do, make sure the leaves are very dry (either spun dry in a salad spinner, or thoroughly pressed between towels to remove all the moisture). This ensures the herbs are dried — not steamed — in the oven.
Choose sprigs that have uniformly sized leaves so they all dry at the same time.
Step 2: Arrange the sprigs of oregano on a baking sheet.
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.
If you have a lot of oregano to dry, you might need to do this in two or more batches.
Step 3: Preheat the oven and place the oregano on the center rack to dry.
Set your oven to its lowest temperature setting; mine hovers around 200°F.
Once it’s preheated, place your tray of herbs on the center 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 finish up.
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.
Step 4: Pull the leaves off the stems and store in an airtight container.
Once the oregano is cool enough to touch, pull the leaves off the stems.
Make sure the oregano is completely dry, as any moisture left in the leaves can cause mold. They should crumble easily when you slide your fingers down the stem.
Store the dried oregano in an airtight container for maximum freshness. Under optimal conditions, it should keep for about six months (after that, the flavor will start to deteriorate and you’ll need to use more of it in your recipes).
Related: Make Your Own Magnetic Spice Rack
I know it sounds like an oxymoron 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!
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on October 30, 2013.