Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

Bay Leaves

California bay leaves

Save to Recipe Box
Add Private Note
Saved Add to List

    Add to List

Add Recipe Note


Sweet laurel; sweet bay

What is it?

Fresh bay leaves, which come from the laurel tree, were once woven into garlands and worn by Roman and Greek Emperors, poets, heroes, Olympians, and scholars. Today they’re most often used in bouquets garnis, stocks, and braises. A leaf or two gets added to to soups and stews almost as a matter of course and then removed after its flowery and spicy bouquet has been lent to the dish. Bay leaves are used more often than any other herb.

There are two main varieties: California bay leaves, which tend to be longer and thinner with a more potent and slightly minty flavor and Turkish bay leaves (also called Mediterranean), which have shorter, fatter leaves and a more subtle flavor. Turkish bay leaves, the most commonly used type, are from the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), an ancient tree originating in Asia Minor (modern Turkey).

California bay leaves are harvested from a related tree called Umbellularia californica. The flat leaves are a little longer and deeper green than bay laurel leaves and have a similar but much stronger flavor.

Bay leaves come both fresh and dried, with dried being the most common form. Fresh bay leaves are shiny and dark green on the top, and pale green underneath. They’re very aromatic, with a slight bitter flavor. As they dry, their color becomes a matte olive green and their fl avor intensifies. While dried bay leaves are more widely available, if you can find fresh ones, use them; they’re often in the herb section of grocery stores.

How to choose:

Dried bay leaves should be free of blemishes, cracks, and tears. Fresh bay leaves are bright green and waxy, and they bend and twist without tearing.

How to prep:

There’s no need to pound or crush bay leaf before adding it to a dish; but do remove whole bay leaves from a dish before serving. Most recipes calling for bay leaves refer to the Turkish bay laurel. To substitute California bay leaves, we recommend using only half the amount that a recipe calls for, which may mean using half a leaf.

How to store:

Well sealed, dried bay leaves will last about two years before losing their perfume.


  • Make-Ahead Gravy

    Make-Ahead Gravy

    I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I say that gravy is the very best part of the Thanksgiving meal. But how do you make deeply…

  • chicken adobo

    Barbecued Chicken Adobo

    This chicken gets a double dose of potent pantry ingredients. First, the meat absorbs a vinegar-soy mixture seasoned with garlic, ginger, and peppercorns. Then, after the mixture has been boiled…

  • vegan moussaka

    Moussaka Nistisimo (Vegan Moussaka)

    This meatless, dairy-free version of the Greek mainstay tastes as rich as the classic version, and it holds together well when sliced and served.

  • white bean stew

    White Bean Stew with Mustard-Green Pesto

    Jazz up a white bean stew with a swirl of peppery pesto made with mustard greens. If you can’t find them, substitute turnip greens or even Swiss chard, which will…

  • Strawberry BBQ sauce

    Strawberry BBQ Sauce

    Strawberries bring a fresh, fruity sweetness to this sauce, making it the perfect complement to pork and poultry.

  • Braised Brisket

    Red-Wine Braised Brisket with Pearl Onions and Star Anise

    The sweet, subtle flavor of star anise gives this comforting braise an exotic twist. I like to season the brisket with a fragrant spice rub a day before braising so…

  • Recipe

    Warm Kamut, Chicken, and Plum Salad

    The sweetness of plum counters the nuttiness of kamut and peppery arugula in this main dish salad. Substitute whatever stone fruit is in season if you prefer—apricots, peaches, or cherries…

  • Recipe

    Chicken Soup with Crucifers and Caraway

    Chicken thighs create a very chickeny broth, but during cooking, they’re not sapped of all their flavor. Croutons take the place of noodles in this hearty soup; be sure the…

  • Recipe

    Poached Fluke in Lemon Brodo

    Fragrant with lemon, this light, utterly simple fish dish is a joy to cook and eat. Serve it with some good crusty bread to dunk in the broth.

  • Recipe

    Parchment-Wrapped Beef Tenderloin with Leek, Bacon, and Parmesan Stuffing

    Beef tenderloin is popular at Christmas, but few guests will have had it served this way, with a savory, smoky bread stuffing, baked to just the right amount of crisp…


Leave a Comment


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.


View All


Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks

We hope you’ve enjoyed your free articles. To keep reading, subscribe today.

Get the print magazine, 25 years of back issues online, over 7,000 recipes, and more.