Spice Guide – How to Use Bay Leaves

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Spice Guide – How to Use Bay Leaves

I don’t know if you are like me, but I have all these spices in my spice cabinet and I tend to just use them for one or two recipes. Wendy and I thought this would be a great place to start for tips on how to use the most common spices. This Spice guide how to use bay leaves is the first in a series of articles.

What are Bay Leaves?

A bay leaf is a fragrant leaf from the laurel tree. This leaf is grown in Asia and the Mediterranean and is rarely used fresh. Dried bay leaves tend to have a slightly stronger, pleasant flavor and that flavor becomes more intense the longer it cooks. I’m not sure if it should be considered an herb or spice, but we are considering it a spice and added it to our spice guide!

Cooking With Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are used in a variety of cuisines and are usually the dried version is usually used. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, casseroles, pasta sauces and cream sauces. They are typically added to slow-cooking dishes and tend to enhance the flavor of whatever they are being used in, rather than adding its own distinct flavor.

There is a misunderstanding about bay leaves being poisonous because they are related to mountain laurel and cherry laurel. However, you still probably don’t want to eat one because these brittle leaves won’t soften up even after simmering for hours in a sauce. So just keep watch on the bay leaves as they cook and remove them before serving. I have also read that some cooks wrap the leaves in cheesecloth sack wrapped in twine. This is called a used by the French and is known as a bouquet garni. This little packet is easy to find and dip out after cooking. Of course you also can simply use a mortar and pestle and grind them into powder that doesn’t need to be removed from a dish.

Bay Leaves are good with beef, chicken, citrus fruits, fish, game, lamb, lentils, rice, tomatoes, white beans, soups and stews.

Bay Leaves work well in combination with allspice, garlic, juniper, marjoram, oregano, parsley, sage, savory and thyme.

bay leaves in a bowl

Other Uses

When researching the bay leaf, I found a description over on WebMD!  That surprised me!! They consider the bay leaf to be an herb. What surprised me the most on WebMD was that the leaves and oil are used to make medicine!! Who knew?

Sweet bay is used to treat cancer and gas; stimulate bile flow; and cause sweating. Some people apply sweet bay to the scalp for dandruff. It is also put on the skin for pain, especially muscle and joint pain (rheumatism). The fruit and fatty oils of sweet bay are used on the skin to treat boils (furuncles) caused by infected hair follicles. Veterinarians use sweet bay as an udder ointment. In food, sweet bay is used as a seasoning in cooking and in processed foods. In manufacturing, the oil is used in cosmetics, soaps, and detergents.


How Much to Use

One to two bay leaves will typically be enough flavoring for most dishes (of around six servings.)

When to Toss and Buy New

If your stored bay leaves have turned grey, they have lost their chlorophyll (what makes them green) and it’s time to replace them. As many of you know, we live very rural, so my go-to is always Amazon and usually it is cheaper than the grocery store! But there are several places you can purchase bay leaves, but you might want to check out Spices for Less and see if their prices are good.

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  1. Thank you for all of the wonderful information. Didn’t know there were so many uses for bay leaves. Fantastic site. Thank you.

  2. I never knew bay leaves were used in medicine. I use these often in my cooking. I really enjoyed this article. Thank you so much for sharing this

  3. I have never bought or used bay leaves. I think my mother did years and years ago in sauces but not sure. So I guess that is why I never buy. Have to look into this more

  4. Thanks for posting because it reminded me that I need some bay leaves. I love bay leaves in my cooking adds an extra oomph.

  5. I use bay leaves in some of my recipes but I had no idea about the healthy benefits, etc nor really how to use it. I really enjoyed this article. Thank you so much for sharing

  6. I have not had any recipes that call for bay leaves but it is awesome that they have many other uses as well.

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