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Dried Basil--Are you a fan or not? If yes, how do you use it?

I'm asking because over time I've seen diverse views about it on CH. I've seen comments that it has no taste, but OTOH I've seen it included in people's ten essential seasonings lists in the board's current thread on the topic.

It doesn't seem to have much fragrance or flavor, to me. But I know some really good cooks out there and some accomplished chefs use it. So what am I missing?

Btw, I'm not anti-dried-herbs, at all. I actually prefer dried thyme and dried oregano to fresh for *most* applications, though I do use fresh for some recipes.

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  1. Heck, yes, I use it, much more than fresh, I'll admit. Anytime I make marinara, it goes in there, but not dried oregano...I use that for pizza sauce...ha! Go figure but it works for me. I only buy a small jar of it each time I need it and it's inexpensive. My years-old Chicken and dumplings recipe calls for it, too, in the sauce as well as added to the dumpling dough...various soups are flavored with it, too, and roasted vegetables, various marinades; I rub it between my fingers as I add it in to the pot--read somewhere that helps bring out the flavors in dried herbs.

    1. I use it, too. For various reasons, I use quite a few dried herbs. Most often I try to buy the smaller containers, so I use them up more quickly. I also crush or rub them before adding.

      In fact, last night's last-minute dinner had chicken seasoned with s& p and dried basil, cooked in a little chicken stock, butter, & lemon. Quick and easy, with a nice taste.

      1. Dried basil is an abomination :) I won't have it in my kitchen and I won't buy products that contain it. It's the single reason why I can't purchase commercial tomato sauces.

        3 Replies
        1. re: scott123

          Wow! scott123 feels the same way about dried basil that I feel about dried oregano!

          1. re: shaogo

            :D

            For what it's worth, I find dried oregano almost equally as offensive as used in commercial sauces.

            But in chili, though- I wouldn't dream of making chili without oregano. I even enjoy how my hand smells after crushing the leaves in my palm :)

          2. re: scott123

            I find basil to be a very delicate herb, and often times, fresh basil loses its identity in a dish with other assertive ingredients. In tomato sauce, for instance, I find that simply tossing in fresh basil at the end of cooking doesn't give it enough basil flavor. The basil flavor seems to diminish from the acidity of the tomatoes. I use dried basil to accentuate the basil flavor. Dried basil has a penetrating, camphor-like aroma (quite different from fresh basil, I think) that persists in cooking. I use it at the beginning of cooking and then add fresh basil to the end. The result is a more pronounced basil flavor.

          3. I use about 1/4 cup in my big pot of tomato sauce. Everyone loves it. If I happen to have fresh in the house I throw that in too.

            1. Of all the dried herbs, dried basil is my least favorite. Even the most reliable sources leave me flat. Saw dusty-in two words.

              Now that fresh basil isn't difficult to find, a relatively inexpensive that's all I buy, grow and use in recipes. One large starter basil plant cost me 3.00 at the garden center several years ago and I'm still using frozen basil from that plant. Fresh basil bunches run 2-2.50 each and make delicious pesto in a few mins. I keep fresh plants sold with the roots on my kitchen counter in refreshed water (in a small glass vase) and use throughout the week.

              Bye bye to dry!

              1. I bought a jar when I got my first apartment, and I only used it once or twice. The taste of fresh is so bright and delicious--I go with fresh every time.

                1. There are a goodly number of herbs which have a point when dried. Basil isn't one of them. IMO, of course.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Harters

                    That was always my opinion as well, but I made an Elizabeth David recipe last Christmas in which she calls for dried basil, toasted first in the oven), and I used it and liked it in that dish. I'll try to remember what it was - I don't think that it was the kind of thing that I think fresh basil would have been an ingredient in.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I think there's a case for using dried herbs and fresh herbs...I don't ONLY use dried basil but I know that when I buy it fresh to use for, say, a mozz salad, the remaining doesn't always get used up. It has its place, for me, anyway!

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I love fresh basil. No...I don't think that's clear enough. I LOVE fresh basil. Because of fresh basil, I think I know how a cat feels about catnip.

                        However, it's so intense that I don't think it would work well in *every* dish. This, plus the fact that fresh, if loose, always goes bad on me, no matter whose instructions for keeping it I follow, and potted, no matter the source, always seems to bring tiny bugs into my house, has me asking CHers about dried.

                        Dried has always disappointed me, but I'm intrigued by ED's suggestion that it be roasted. I'm going to try that; I don't have anything to lose. I still will buy bunches of fresh in the summer, simply because I cannot resist it, but I try to use it up quickly by making batches of sauce or whatever for freezing. If I can't do that, I end up wasting most of my purchase. There's got to be a reason that ED and so many of our accomplished CHers and so many notable chefs or cookbook authors haven't given up on the dried format.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          At the time David was writing her recipes, fresh basil was probably very rare in the UK. Now it's available in the supermarket all year - bagged or pot grown. We usually have a pot on the kitchen windowsill so a few leaves can be chucked into pasta at the end and, of course, no waste as it just keeps on growing (at least for a few weeks)

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Toasting dried basil?!

                            Isn't that against the Geneva convention? :)

                            1. re: scott123

                              LOL, scott.

                              According to some of us CHers, at least, it sounds like it should be. :-D

                        2. It's about as flavorless as something can be. Dried cilantro/coriander comes in a close second.

                          1. I use it once a week in our breakfast strata. I buy mine from Penzey's, wouldn't call it flavorless at all.

                            1. I loathe it. I like dried thyme and oregano just fine, but dried basil just screams dried basil at me, even used with a light hand.I think it's just one of those palate things. I just don't use basil when I don't have fresh.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Vetter

                                i agree...it totally ruins the flavor of any dish it's in. I've banned it from my kitchen.

                              2. It might be helpful to consider dried basil as a different herb than fresh. You could no more substitute dried basil for fresh basil than you could use dried ginger for fresh ginger, yet each has its place in a cook's repertoire.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: DebL

                                  Deb, I was wondering if you or other CHers here who DO use dried basil could give me some examples of how the dried and fresh could be considered differently--i.e., what dishes the dried might work in? I know some recipes will specify, but except for baking, I don't cook from recipes that often. It sounds like I need to experiment more with the dried, but I don't know what dishes to start with.

                                  1. re: Normandie

                                    I like dried basil in salad dressings. Not the same flavour as fresh at all; but I do like it. Other than that, I always use fresh.

                                2. Oh, dear.

                                  I've got to admit I keep dried basil in the house and use it a couple of times a month.

                                  The revulsion about "dry" and "bitter" and "saw dust" that some posters here feel about dried basil is, however, just the way I feel about dried oregano.

                                  Just goes to show you, one man's meat is another man's ... dried basil!

                                  1. When I open the jar and sniff, it smells like basil. The dried oregano smells like oregano. I use them when the recipe calls for them and they each add a good flavor of basil or oregano--not the same as fresh, but good and worth using and welcome to the dish! (Don't use 6 year old dried herbs, replace them once in a while!)

                                    1. I can't say I'm a "fan" necessarily, but I use it quite frequently. From my experience it is easy to overuse the stuff, so I err to the conservative side when spicing with dried basil.