Do Bay Leaves Go Bad? Here’s What You Need to Know

image of Bay Leaves

When cooking a dish that calls for bay leaves, you’d only need a few pieces of it. If you’re someone who only uses bay leaves once in a while, you’ll feel a bit sad thinking that you won’t be using the leftover leaves any time soon.

And then, they’ll all end up in the storage for who knows when you are going to use it again. Do bay leaves go bad?

Fresh or dried bay leaves will all go bad if you don’t store them correctly. If kept in their ideal storage condition, fresh bay leaves can stay in the refrigerator for two to three weeks, while dry bay leaves can stay in the pantry for two to three years.

For more information about bay leaves, let’s discuss the answers to these important questions that you probably have in mind right now:

So, keep reading!

image of Bay Leaves

What are Bay Leaves?

Bay leaves are one of the famous ancient spices that originated in the Mediterranean region. The leaves are harvested from the tree called bay laurel.

These days, bay laurel is grown in many parts of the world! Different varieties of bay laurel leaves include California bay leaf, West Indian, Indonesian laurel, and Mexican bay leaf.

Bay leaves come either dried or fresh. The leaves hold a distinct herby and floral fragrance, with a sharp, bitter, and pungent flavor.

Bay laurel leaves are used on dishes that require long hours of cooking, such as soups, pasta sauces, stews, broths, and bay leaf tea.

What Is the Shelf Life Of Bay Leaves?

As mentioned earlier, bay leaves come either dried or fresh. The length of its shelf life will depend on the storage conditions.

Fresh Bay Leaves

Fresh bay leaves last in the fridge for two to three weeks. If you put it in the freezer, its shelf life can last up to 1 year.

Dry Bay Leaves

Dry bay leaves have low moisture content. Hence it will last longer than fresh bay leaves. It can stay in your pantry for two to three years; it can last over a year when placed in the freezer.

As time passes, the flavor of the leaves slowly declines as well. If you are after the optimal flavor of bay leaves, we recommend that you should use it within two to three months.

When you have kept it for a more extended period, we advise that you add more leaves until the desired taste and effect on the dish is achieved.

How To Tell if Bay Leaves Have Gone Bad?

Do bay leaves go bad? As long as they are correctly stored, the less likely your bay leaves will go bad before they expire. Here’s what you need to do to find out if your bay leaves have gone bad:

1. Check the appearance.

Are your bay leaves wet? Do you see any moisture inside the package?

Moisture accelerates decay, leaving your bay leaves slimy. Don’t think of saving it. It is best just to throw these leaves away. (*)

Are the leaves too dry and brittles easily?

If yes, that’s an indication that your bay leaves were stored at room temperature for an extended time. You may consider not using them as it indicates that it’s no longer in its prime quality.

Do you see molds growing on the leaves?

It’s not usual to see molds on dry bay leaves unless water has infiltrated the package. A moist environment is an ideal condition for molds to grow and spread. If you see molds in a pack of bay leaves, we urge you to discard them immediately.

2. Smell the bay leaf

To properly check the smell of your bay leaves, you need to rub one with your fingers before smelling it.

Bay leaves are known for their intense aroma. As mentioned, the longer it stays in the storage, the strength of its smell will also decline.

It does not always mean that they are not usable. It is usually safe to use as long as you see no moisture or mold in the pack. Just expect it not to possess the same potent flavor and aroma anymore.

If you think the smell is no good to you anymore, just discard them.

How To Store Bay Leaves Properly?

Follow these tips to help keep your bay leaves from going bad before it expires:

Fresh bay leaves must be refrigerated all the time. Before you toss it in the refrigerator, here’s what you need to do first:

  1. Wash the leaves with cold water. After washing, use a colander to strain out the water.
  2. Dry each leaves using a paper towel. You may pat dry each leaf or lay the leaves on top of the paper towels and place another sheet of paper towel on top of the leaves.
  3. Place the paper towel-dried leaves inside a Ziploc bag.
  4. Put a purchased date label on the Ziploc bag before storing them in your refrigerator.

For dried bay leaves, you can keep them in the spice drawer or in a cool, dry, and dark place like your kitchen cabinet or pantry.

Dried or fresh, these are the essential points that you should remember when storing your bay leaves:

1. Keep away from light and heat.

Exposing your fresh leaves to light can result in discoloration and loss of flavor.

2. Never expose to oxygen.

Oxygen exposure can result in discoloration of the leaves.

3. Make sure no moisture gets into packaging.

Bay leaves have the tendency to absorb moisture around their environment. Moisture accelerates the deterioration of the leaves, causing slime and mold growth.

That’s the reason why you should ensure to zip the pack properly and put them in a dry area so no moisture can infiltrate the content.

Transfer the leaves in a Ziploc bag, glass jar, or in an airtight container if they come in paper packaging.

Why? Paper-material packaging is naturally hygroscopic. It means that the paper material can absorb moisture from its environment. If that happens, it can ruin your bay leaves.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I use expired dried bay leaves?

Yes, you can. Use it as long as the packaging is still in good condition and the bay leaves don’t look and smell bad.

Note that “Best By, “Best Before,” “Best if Used By,” or “Best When Used By” dates are the manufacturer’s estimate on how long your dried leaves will hold their best quality. They are not safety dates.

2. Can you freeze bay leaves?

Yes, you can freeze bay leaves! People claim that freezing bay leaves retains the flavor or potency longer than keeping them in the pantry or refrigerator.

All you need to do is place your bay leaves in a freezer bag or in a container with tight-fitting lids, seal them tightly before tossing them in the freezer.

For some, they freeze their bay leaves using the ice cube method. You’ll also need to use olive oil for this. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place the bay leaves in each section of the ice cube trays.
  2. Drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on each section.
  3. Freeze them until it hardens.
  4. Take it out of the freezer, then remove the frozen bay leaves from the ice cube tray.
  5. Put your frozen bay leaf cubes into a Ziploc bag. Make sure to label the date when you purchased the bay leaves before putting them in the freezer.

Should I defrost frozen bay leaves before cooking?

There’s no need to defrost frozen bay leaves. You can toss them frozen into the dish you’re cooking.


Bay leaves give a strong herby fragrance and a sharp, bitter, and pungent flavor for many dishes around the world.

When it comes to the shelf life of bay leaves, the fresh ones can only last for up to three weeks while the dried ones last up to 3 years in the pantry, and you can also keep them in the freezer for up to one year.

Remember to store dried bay leaves in the pantry or in the freezer and the fresh bay leaves in the refrigerator.

Make sure to keep your bay leaves from light, heat, oxygen, and moisture exposure to help extend the shelf life.

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