Bay Leaves Article -
Add a Comment

Bay Leaves


Bay leaves, or laurel, are the dried leaves of the evergreen tree Laurus nobilis. The elliptically shaped leaves are light green in color and brittle when dried. They have a distinctively strong, aromatic, spicy flavor. Bay leaf is the standard term for this spice, but the name "laurel" is still seen frequently.


Used in soups, stews, stocks, pickles, marinades, tomato dishes and meats. Mediterranean, French, Moroccan and Turkish cuisines use bay leaves in spice blends such as bouquet garni and curry blends.


Bay leaves are native to the Mediterranean area. Turkey produces fine bay leaves. California bay leaves are far more pungent and should be used sparingly.


In Ancient Greece and Rome, bay leaves and branchlets were used as wreaths to crown their victors. Champions of the Olympic games wore garlands of bay leaves. Our word baccalaureate means "laurel berries" and signifies the successful completion of one's studies. It alludes to the bay wreaths worn by poets and scholars when they received academic honors in ancient Greece.

bay, laurel, botanical drawing


    Dull green

    Flavor & Aroma

    Aromatic, pungent

    Sensory Profile

    Bay leaves, often described as tea-like, are characterized by a green, woody and astringent flavor. They have a pleasant, slightly minty menthol aroma.

    bay, laurel, herb
      Nov. 1, 2011 4:06 am
      I have never been able to taste bay leaves. I can use 2-5 in a recipe but still nothing. Am I doing something wrong?
      Nov. 1, 2011 4:58 am
      That's funny you should say that Seamus - I have often thought the same thing. There are many recipes I wouldn't dream of making without bay leaves. But as you say, there is never that recognizable flavor, and most definitely do I ever think, "boy I used to much bay leaf." Could it be that it enhances flavors rather than having a distinct taste of it's own?
      Nov. 1, 2011 8:43 am
      It seems whenever I find a recipe with bay leaf, if I don't have any, I can omit it without hurting the recipe, but you can't substitute it with another spice to get the same flavor result. I feel the same about parsley. Ok to leave out, but somehow irreplaceable by any other herbs or spices.
      Nov. 1, 2011 11:50 am
      Every home I have lived in as an adult I always plant a Bay tree. Actually though you can buy them trained into a tree form, typically are large shrubs. They are beautiful, versatile in the landscape and you can cook with them! I have two now planted on the ends of my house. I can just walk out the door a grab a couple leaves when I need them. Strong flavor in you use too much. Fresh leaves have much more flavor than the dried ones from the grocery store. My "must have" for holiday turkey gravy.
      Nov. 1, 2011 8:42 pm
      Yes, I would have to say that lack of aroma or flavor from bay or any other spice for that matter probably has a lot to do with the freshness of it.
      Nov. 2, 2011 5:25 am
      Seamus, I use fresh picked leaves (I've a plant I bring indoors in the winter). Half a leaf is enough to flavour a stew.
      Nov. 2, 2011 9:50 am
      I agree with Peggy that fresh does make a difference, I too complained for years I could not taste any difference until I planted a bush, what a difference a day makes.
      Nov. 2, 2011 10:05 am
      In Brazil beans are seasoned with bay leaves and they give some a wonderful taste to our traditional Feijoada. I don't quite understand how people can not taste bay leaves in their food. Maybe you are using too little or just leaves that are too old and have lost their flavor... Thanks Peggy and topfuel for the idea... I will be looking into acquiring a bay tree for my house.
      Nov. 3, 2011 10:20 am
      I also have a bay laurel tree that I grow indoors in the winter. I haven't tried harvesting any leaves yet. Am I to understand I don't need to dry them and can just pick one off the tree when I need one for cooking? Sweet!
      Nov. 3, 2011 4:22 pm
      I do use bay leaves in my food prep, but I to find no real flavor enhancement. What would happen if I was to grind it in my coffee/spiice grinder (that I strictly use for spices). Thanks to anyone(s) that can help.
      Nov. 3, 2011 7:29 pm
      @ilenfaith1 I did that once by accident (forgot to pull the leaves out) from asweet pepper relish and I would not recommend it. The texture was like eating, well, crumpled leaves. I don't think they break down the same way as other dried herbs. Also, I recall the flavor was very overpowering, even over peppers and apple cider vinegar. Had to throw the whole batch out.
      Nov. 6, 2011 10:39 am
      i love to make bay leaf tea! great for stomach aches. just pour boiling water into mug with 3 bay leaves add sugar to taste and enjoy!
      Dec. 1, 2013 12:38 pm
      BUT, when you eat a dish and think "something's missing," you guessed it - Bay Leaf
      Go Pro!

      In Season

      Easter Ham, Lamb, and More
      Easter Ham, Lamb, and More

      Choose your Easter dinner main dish from hams, savory lamb, and over 150 more recipes.

      Easter Desserts
      Easter Desserts

      Bunny cakes, lamb cakes, chocolate eggs, and carrot cakes to nibble on.

      Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
      Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

      Delicious recipes, party ideas, and cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for $7.99!

      Related Videos

      All about Bay Leaves

      Learn about the leaves that add savory flavor to all kinds of dishes.

      All about Dill

      Whether you use leaves or seeds, dill delivers fresh, tart flavor.

      All about Parsley

      See how to use this grassy-flavored, all-purpose herb.

      Most Popular Blogs

      Read our blog

      Recently Viewed Recipes

      You haven't looked at any recipes lately. Get clicking!
      Quick Links: Recipe Box | Shopping List | More »
      Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

      Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States