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How to Use Bay Leaves

Updated on April 9, 2014
A Bay Leaf rides gently on a bowl fo Goualash
A Bay Leaf rides gently on a bowl fo Goualash | Source
Bay Leaves out of your spice jar.
Bay Leaves out of your spice jar.

Bay leaves do not have a reputation for curing diseases or adding to your sex life, but they do a fantastic job of spicing up soups, stews, meat, seafood and a variety of vegetable dishes.

Oh yes, back about 500 years ago, in what we now call the Elizabethan era, some folks believed that if you pinned a Bay leaf to your pillow the night before Valentine’s Day, your spouse-to-be would appear in your dream.

Today Bay leaves are used whole in many classic Italian and French dishes. Generally the leaves are removed before serving the dish since the leaves can be a bit abrasive in the digestive tract. Bay Leaves are very robust and aromatic with a woody, astringent flavor and a pleasant, slightly minty aroma. Indispensable to most cuisines to flavor all kinds of meat and vegetable dishes, soups and sauces.

You can also crush Bay leaves or grind them into a powder form prior to cooking with them. Since the crushed bay leaves give the dish more flavor than whole leaves be careful about how much you use.

Medicinal Use

Bay Leaves have always been used medicinally and they are still used by herbalists for a multitude of complaints. As an example, placing a cloth on your chest which has been soaked in boiled bay leaves and water supposedly relieves chest infections, flu, coughs and bronchitis. If your chest is OK, Bay leaves are purportedly good for helping proper digestion and can reducing flatulence.

My Favorite Recipe

But, if you are only interested in Bay leaves for your kitchen, one of my favorite uses is in a marinated shrimp appetizer;

Take 1-½ cups of Olive oil and add 1 medium size red onion sliced very thin. Add 2 teaspoons of capers (including the brine). Add ¾ cup of white vinegar and a pinch of salt and 4 unbroken Bay leaves. Now take a pound of de-veined and cooked shrimp and put them in to marinate. This creates a savory taste that is a great appetizer and pairs great with a nice Chardonnay.

There is an old wives tale about Bay leaves being poisonous, but I have not been able to substantiate any such claim. I suspect it is the fact that most chefs remove the leaves before serving the food since it is hard and brittle. Personally, I like the looks of a couple of Bay leaves cavorting around in my soup.


Remember to take the Bay Leaves out after cooking and prior to serving. Bay leaves add an exquisite flavor to the food they are cooked with but, they are not that appealing by themselves. If you have ever bitten into that last Bay Leaf you understand, so extract all the Bay Leaves before serving..

Fresh Whole Bay Leaves

Whole Spice Whole Bay Leaves, 1 Pound
Whole Spice Whole Bay Leaves, 1 Pound
Fresh Bay Leaves . Loose spice packed in a re-sealable plastic bag. They are Delicious, Flavorful and Fresh


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