HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Bay leaves--anything interesting you use them for, besides meat dishes and...

some savory sauces?

I ran out of them a few weeks ago, and for some reason I kept forgetting to replace them for a little while. Made me appreciate the subtle depth of flavor Bay adds to things and its lovely fragrance. So that made me ask myself if there are more things I can use them in besides the usual.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Beans and lentils are nice when cooked with a bay leaf or two.
    And many people use them to keep critters at bay (pun intended) by placing them in the flour. I don't do this, because I don't want bay-scented flour.

    3 Replies
    1. re: nofunlatte

      :-) Just noticed that, you punster.

      I do make lentils quite a bit during the winter. I put bay in lentil soup when I make it, but haven't done it in lentils when used as a side. I'll remember that.

      1. re: nofunlatte

        Bay-scented flour - true, especially if you forget they're in there and dump flour into the food processor, and make bread. Beyond nasty.

        1. re: nofunlatte

          I keep a couple of dried bay leaves in the AP flour canister, because I use mostly white whole wheat (refrigerated) so a bag of AP lasts a long time. I don't think they flavor the flour. I leave the stems sticking out on top so I don't forget to remove them before scooping.

        2. Bay leaf is an essential in Italian tomato sauce -- and I don't use oregano.

          Simple boiled potatoes with sauteed leeks are elevated to something higher when a bay leaf's added to the boiling water.

          1 Reply
          1. re: shaogo

            I do use oregano--I *love* oregano, but sometimes I get tired of doing the same thing. Next time I'll skip the oregano for once and try to emphasize the bay.

          2. i put it in my chai (and the usual places; tomato sauce, etc.)

            1. Soups --- Gumbos --- Creole Sauce --- Sauce Piquant --- Red Beans & Rice --- Fricassee --- Etouffee ... Stewfay --- Court Bouillon --- Pot Roast --- Venison Roast ---etc.

              1. Boiled crabs, crawfish and shrimp (along with lots of other seasonings) red beans

                1. Everything above and how about bay simple syrup. You can use in cocktails, yogurt or to sweeten homemade lemonade.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lucygoosey

                    So...equal parts water and sugar and how many bay leaves would you add per cup, lucy? Sounds interesting, especially with Greek yogut.

                    1. re: Normandie

                      If fresh, maybe 5-small handful. Dried maybe 2-3. They get strong fast, but you can definiteley go light or supplement w/ a little honey. Also a little orange zest in there is nice, esp if you're going to be using it in Greek yogurt. mmm

                      I think you could steep bay leaves into your liquid for yeast. I'd probably use at least part whey or something not straight water and break the bay leaves in half to expose the oils and still be able to get them out easily.
                      If you do this let us know how it goes.

                  2. Thanks for all the good ideas, everyone. Hope to see some more, too.

                    I'm wondering if there's anyway to use them to "scent" (what I really mean is, "flavor lightly", I think) a simple white Italian or French bread, without baking the leaves into the bread. Could you steep them in the liquid you add the yeast to, do you think?

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                        It might, Bob; I don't know. Some items I find don't have much flavor or fragrance when either dried or powdered. The classic example to me is basil, a poor shadow of itself when not fresh. But I order from The Spice House and don't remember every being disappointed in any of their herb and spice products. I'll look into that, next time I order. TY for mentioning it.

                      2. re: Normandie

                        I saw a recipe once for bay leaf tea. I believe it was a component for pickled onions, but sorry I don't remember. Basically, it was bay leaves steeped in hot water and the tea used as an ingredient. You might try that for your bread.

                      3. We have two small trees that we keep all year so have an abundance of fresh bay - one of our favourite recipes is shrimp smoked over bay leaves - it's simple and delicious (also works for scallops).

                        In a large pot (that you don't mind having a smoky scent afterwards) place a large handful of bay leaves. Cover with a standard steamer and place shrimp on the steamer. Place on a burner and turn the heat to high - the leaves will begin smoking quite quickly and the heat and smoke will cook the shrimp in a few minutes............serve hot or cold in whatever way you like to serve shrimp. We usually serve this as an appetizer over arugula or watercress lightly dressed with a lemon vinegarette.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ElizabethS

                          Love that idea with the shrimp, Elizabeth. I'm not sure I'd mind the scent, but in any case, would a good hood fan take care of it? That technique sounds like a must try.

                          I noticed on recent episode of Barefoot Contessa that Ina went out back to cut a few fresh bay leaves. I honestly don't know if I've ever had anything prepared with fresh, versus dried, bay.

                          1. re: Normandie

                            The smell in the house is quite pleasant (but use a fan!) - I meant that the pot can retain the smoky bay flavour for a few washings. We usually use our cast iron pot that is well seasoned anway.

                            Fresh leaves bear little resemblence to dry - they have an amazing fragrance and taste - and unlike the usual rule with fresh herbs versus dry (use more) - fresh bay leaves pack a wallop!

                            You might find a plant at a good garden centre herb section - even a small tree (which is quite decorative) will keep you in bay leaves! (also called Laurel trees) We put ours outside in the summer (in Toronto) and bring it in for the winter - friends in Newport can leave theirs out all year.

                            Oh - the recipe would probably work well with good dried leaves as well....

                        2. Always use bay leaf in my homemade chicken stock...along with the celery & celery tops, onion, black peppercorns and chicken parts of course.

                          1. I also use bay leaf when I make chicken stock. And when I roast a chicken, I pull skin away from the flesh, and push bay leaves between. I often put a dried bay leaf into the cavity as well. When I make a pot roast this week, I put a bay leaf under the roast. I also sitck one in chili. I buy my dried bay leaves at Penzey's.

                            1. I once found myself with an overabundance of bay leaves and discovered this recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... at Epicurious. It's lovely!