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. 

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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!

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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. 

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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.

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Roasted Potatoes with Bay Leaves

    4 Servings


  • 8 large Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 20 Bay Leafs
  • 1 tablespoon Sea Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Dried Italian Herbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Black Pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Clean potatoes and rinse them well, then pat them to dry. For slightly crispy potatoes, do not peel them.
  3. Chop and quarter potates into roughly 1 to 1-1/2" chunks.
  4. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and toss to coat well.
  5. Finely chop fresh bay leaves. Add to the mixing bowl with the potatoes, then add the dried Italian herbs.
  6. Season with the sea salt and black pepper, then toss again to coat.
  7. Spread potatoes in a single layer out over a baking sheet.
  8. Roast the potatoes for 45 to 55 minutes until they are tender.
  9. Preheat boiler. Broil for an additional 3 to 4 minutes until edges are slightly crispy, watching to make sure they don't burn.


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".