What do Bay Leaves Do?

Amber Bracegirdle | Bluebonnet Baker

Just what do bay leaves do to the flavor of a dish once added? Learn how to use this fragrant herb in your recipes.

Commonly added to broths, stews, curries and casseroles, bay leaves help to deepen the flavor of the dish you are making. You may wonder though, just what do bay leaves do?

Don’t worry, you are not alone! Many people wonder whether they really make a difference to dishes, so today we will look at exactly what this herb is and what part it plays in flavoring your food. 

Instant Pot Jambalaya Photo

Bay leaves can be found in several forms - fresh or dried, as well as whole leaves or ground. This herb comes from the laurel plant and there are two varieties - Turkish and Californian. The Turkish variety is used more often and tends to have a milder flavor; it also is easily identifiable with its short, fat leaf. The California bay leaf is narrow and longer and has a stronger mint flavor than the Turkish kind. 

Bay leaves are not intended to be consumed and their sharp edges can even perforate your digestive tract!

Pease Pudding Picture

Instead, they should be added to whatever you are cooking while it simmers to enhance its flavor. They should then removed prior to serving.

Bay leaves are not intended to be the main flavor and instead support other flavors in your dish. It can be hard to describe how they taste, but they can help to lighten heavier dishes with mild flavors of mint, black pepper, eucalyptus and pine. If you are finding it hard to imagine the flavor, pop a few leaves into a pot of boiling water, waft the steam towards you and smell. 

Rice Pudding Picture

One thing many of us agree on is that the flavor profile of a dish cooked with bay leaves does stand out more than a dish that has not. Why not try out this recipe, which you may have tried before but without bay leaves, just so you can see the difference in flavor.

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Creamed Chipotle Turkey Photo

Roasted Potatoes 

8 red skinned potatoes

1/2 cup olive oil 

40 bay leaves 

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 teaspoons Italian herbs 

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. Create hasselback potatoes by placing the potatoes onto a large spoon and using a sharp knife to create slices across the potatoes, but not slicing all the way through. 

3. Place the hasselback potatoes into a baking dish and drizzle with half of the olive oil, shaking a little to coat well. 

4. In a small bowl, mix the salt, pepper and herbs and sprinkle over the potatoes. Place a bay leaf into each slice of the potato. 

5. Roast the potatoes for about 55 minutes until they are tender.

6. Preheat your boiler. Drizzle the remaining oil on top of the potatoes and broil for about 4 minutes.  

Try more recipes with bay leaves...

Pease Pudding

Healthy Jambalaya

Rice Pudding

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Amber Bracegirdle

About Amber

Amber is a native Texan, born to a family of fabulous cooks. She shares her love of all things Tex-Mex and Southern both on her blog, Bluebonnet Baker, and here on Food Fanatic. She heavily endorses the use of the contraction "y'all".