What goes with Bay leaves
Category Ingredients that Pair with Bay Leaves
Fruits Tomatoes
Vegetables Onions, Garlic, Carrots, Celery, Potatoes
Proteins Beef, Chicken, Pork, Lamb, Game meats, Fish, Lentils
Dairy Butter, Cream
Spices/Herbs Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley, Oregano, Peppercorns, Cloves, Juniper berries
Grains Rice, Barley, Quinoa
Beverages Red Wines (used in stews and braises)
Sauces & Condiments Stocks, Broths, Stews, Marinades, Tomato sauces, Bolognese

Bay leaves are versatile herbs that can elevate the flavour of your dishes when paired correctly. These commonly used herbs add a unique depth and aroma to a variety of recipes. Whether you’re preparing a slow-cooked stew, a flavourful meat-centric dish, or a hearty plant-based stew, bay leaves can enhance the overall taste and fragrance. Let’s explore the culinary possibilities of bay leaves, learn about their flavour profile, and discover the best ingredients to pair them with.

  • Bay leaves are commonly used whole in dishes to impart flavour.
  • There are two main types of bay leaves – Turkish bay leaves and California bay leaves, each with its own distinct flavour profile.
  • Bay leaves are typically used in slow-cooked dishes, meat-centric dishes, and plant-based stews.
  • One to two bay leaves per dish is recommended, and they should be removed before serving.
  • If bay leaves are unavailable, oregano and thyme can be used as substitutes.

Understanding Bay Leaves

Before we explore the perfect pairings, let’s understand the distinctive taste of bay leaves and how they can enhance your meals. Bay leaves are a commonly used herb in cooking and are often added whole to dishes to impart flavor. These leaves come in two main varieties – Turkish bay leaves and California bay leaves.

Turkish bay leaves have a subtle flavor that can be likened to a blend of oregano, thyme, and clove. They add a delicate and aromatic note to dishes, making them ideal for lighter flavors like soups and sauces. On the other hand, California bay leaves pack a more intense punch with medicinal undertones. They work well with heartier dishes, such as stews, braises, and meat-centric recipes, where their robust flavor can shine through.

To create the perfect balance in your dishes, it’s important to choose the right spices to pair with bay leaves. Some of the best spices to use alongside bay leaves include black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. These spices complement the flavor profile of bay leaves, enhancing their aromatic qualities and adding depth to your culinary creations.

So, the next time you’re cooking up a storm, don’t forget to reach for the bay leaves and create a symphony of flavors in your kitchen. Their unique taste and ability to elevate a wide range of dishes make them a must-have herb for every cook.

Bay Leaves Flavor Combinations

When it comes to flavor combinations, bay leaves play well with a variety of ingredients. Their earthy and herbal notes can enhance the taste of meats, vegetables, and legumes alike. Here are some flavor combinations to inspire your culinary adventures:

  • Bay leaves + beef + red wine = a hearty beef stew with rich flavors
  • Bay leaves + tomato + basil = a classic marinara sauce with a hint of herbal goodness
  • Bay leaves + lentils + garlic = a comforting lentil soup with a fragrant twist
  • Bay leaves + chicken + lemon = a zesty and aromatic roast chicken dish
  • Bay leaves + potatoes + rosemary = a side dish that is both comforting and flavorful

Experimenting with different combinations of flavors is the key to discovering your favorite way to incorporate bay leaves into your cooking. Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving your dishes to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Bay Leaves Pairings Best Spices to Use
Beef Black pepper, cloves
Pork Allspice, sage
Chicken Thyme, lemon zest
Fish Basil, fennel
Vegetables Garlic, thyme

With their versatile flavor profile and ability to enhance a wide range of dishes, bay leaves are a valuable addition to any kitchen. Don’t be afraid to get creative and explore the endless possibilities that bay leaves offer in your cooking.

Bay leaves flavor combinations

Bay leaves are a staple in slow-cooked dishes, imparting their unique aroma and taste to recipes like stews, soups, and braises. These versatile leaves add depth and complexity to the flavors, making them a must-have ingredient for any culinary enthusiast. When simmered slowly, bay leaves release their essence, infusing the dish with a subtle herbal note that enhances the overall taste.

To make the most of bay leaves in slow-cooked dishes, it is essential to pair them with complementary ingredients. Common ingredients that pair well with bay leaves include onions, garlic, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and various herbs and spices. These ingredients work harmoniously together, creating a well-rounded flavor profile that appeals to the taste buds.

One popular example is a classic beef stew. By combining tender beef chunks, root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, and a rich tomato-based broth, the bay leaves add a layer of complexity to the dish. As the stew simmers on low heat, the flavors meld together, resulting in a comforting and hearty meal.

Bay Leaves in Slow-Cooked Dishes

When using bay leaves in slow-cooked dishes, it is important to remember that a little goes a long way. One or two bay leaves are typically enough to impart the desired flavor, and they should be removed before serving to avoid any unpleasant textures. If you don’t have bay leaves on hand, oregano and thyme can be used as suitable substitutes, though they may provide a slightly different flavor profile.

Bay leaves in slow-cooked dishes

Common Ingredients to Pair with Bay Leaves
Herbs and spices

Bay leaves are not only limited to slow-cooked dishes; they can also be used in a variety of other culinary creations. From meat-centric dishes to plant-based stews, these leaves enhance the flavors and provide a unique touch to every recipe. So, the next time you embark on a cooking adventure, don’t forget to reach for the bay leaves and elevate your dish to new heights!

Bay Leaves in Meat-Centric Dishes

Bay leaves work wonders in meat-centric dishes, infusing them with a delightful fragrance and taste. Whether you’re cooking a hearty beef stew, a succulent pot roast, or a comforting chicken curry, bay leaves add a layer of complexity to the flavors that is truly unmatched.

When simmered slowly with tender cuts of meat, bay leaves release their aromatic oils, imparting a subtle earthiness and a hint of floral sweetness. They blend harmoniously with the rich flavors of meats, enhancing their taste without overpowering them. The result is a deeply flavorful dish that will have your family and friends coming back for seconds.

To make the most of bay leaves in meat-centric dishes, gently crush them before adding them to the pot. This helps to release their essential oils and intensify their flavor. Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving as they can be quite tough and fibrous.


  • Classic Beef Stew: In a large pot, brown cubes of beef in olive oil. Add onions, carrots, potatoes, and beef broth. Season with salt, pepper, and two bay leaves. Simmer on low heat for a few hours until the meat is tender and the flavors have melded together.
  • Roast Chicken with Bay Leaves: Rub a whole chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place a few bay leaves inside the cavity and tuck a couple more under the skin. Roast in the oven until golden brown and cooked through.
  • Lamb Curry: In a large skillet, sauté onions, garlic, ginger, and spices until fragrant. Add cubed lamb and brown on all sides. Stir in coconut milk, tomatoes, and a couple of bay leaves. Simmer gently until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened.

Meat-Centric Dishes

Bay leaves are a versatile herb that adds depth and aroma to meat-centric dishes. Experiment with different recipes and explore the magic that bay leaves can bring to your culinary creations.

Bay Leaves in Plant-Based Stews

Bay leaves can add depth and complexity to plant-based stews, making them even more satisfying and flavorful. These aromatic leaves release a subtle aroma and contribute a unique earthiness to dishes, enhancing the overall taste sensation. Whether you’re cooking a hearty vegetable stew, a fragrant lentil curry, or a comforting bean casserole, bay leaves can take your plant-based creations to the next level.

When using bay leaves in plant-based stews, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. They should be added whole to the dish during cooking and then removed before serving. This ensures that their flavor infuses the stew without overpowering it. As bay leaves are quite hard and can be difficult to chew, removing them before serving prevents any unpleasant texture while still allowing the aroma and taste to shine through.

To make the most of the bay leaves’ flavor, they can be lightly crushed or torn before adding them to the stew. This releases their essential oils and intensifies their taste. The subtle herbal notes of bay leaves complement a wide range of plant-based ingredients, including vegetables, legumes, grains, and herbs. The result is a stew that is rich, robust, and brimming with delicious flavors.

So, the next time you’re preparing a plant-based stew, don’t forget to reach for the bay leaves. Let their aromatic presence infuse your dish, taking it from ordinary to extraordinary. Their versatility and ability to enhance flavors make them an indispensable addition to any plant-based cook’s pantry.

Enhancing flavors with Bay leaves

If you don’t have bay leaves on hand, we’ll share some suitable substitutes and alternative uses for these versatile herbs. When it comes to replacing bay leaves in recipes, a combination of oregano and thyme can provide a similar flavor profile. Simply use half a teaspoon of dried oregano and half a teaspoon of dried thyme to replace one bay leaf. This substitute works well in slow-cooked dishes, soups, and stews.

Alternatively, if you prefer a different flavor profile, you can use rosemary or marjoram as substitutes for bay leaves. Both herbs have distinctive flavors that can complement a variety of dishes. For a lighter, more floral taste, try using rosemary, while marjoram adds a slightly sweeter and milder flavor.

Aside from cooking, bay leaves have other alternative uses. They can be used to make a fragrant herbal tea by steeping a few dried bay leaves in hot water for a few minutes. This tea is believed to have various health benefits, including aiding digestion and relieving stress. Additionally, bay leaves can be used to repel pests, such as ants and flies. Simply place a few dried bay leaves in areas where these pests tend to frequent, such as windowsills or pantry shelves.

Bay leaves seasonings

Bay Leaf Substitute Recommended Dishes
Oregano and Thyme Blend Slow-cooked dishes, soups, stews
Rosemary Roasted meats, grilled vegetables
Marjoram Pasta sauces, tomato-based dishes

As with all herbs, it’s important to store bay leaves properly to maintain their freshness. Dried bay leaves can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. For long-term storage, consider placing them in the freezer, where they can stay fresh for up to a year. If you have access to fresh bay leaves, you can dry them by hanging them upside down in a well-ventilated area until they become brittle. Once dried, store them in the same manner as dried bay leaves.

Storing and Preserving Bay Leaves

Learn the best practices for storing and preserving bay leaves to ensure their optimal flavor and aroma. Proper storage is essential to maintain the quality of bay leaves and to ensure they retain their distinct taste when used in culinary preparations. Follow these guidelines to keep your bay leaves fresh and ready for use.

Storing Fresh Bay Leaves

If you have access to fresh bay leaves, you can preserve them for future use. Begin by gently washing the leaves under cool, running water to remove any dirt or debris. Pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Next, place the leaves in an airtight container or wrap them in a kitchen towel, then store them in the refrigerator. This will help maintain their freshness for a few days.

Bay leaves in a jar

Drying Bay Leaves

To extend the shelf life of bay leaves, drying them is a common practice. Start by harvesting fresh leaves from your bay tree or use store-bought ones. Lay the leaves in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure they do not overlap. Place the baking sheet in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight, such as a pantry or cupboard. Allow the leaves to air dry naturally for about one week, or until they become brittle. Once dried, transfer the leaves to an airtight container or a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store the dried bay leaves in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or spice cabinet, to maintain their flavor.

Freezing Bay Leaves

If you require a longer shelf life for your bay leaves, consider freezing them. Place clean and dry leaves in a resealable freezer bag or an airtight container. Make sure to remove as much air as possible from the bag or container to prevent freezer burn. Label the bag or container with the date and store it in the freezer. Frozen bay leaves can last for up to a year without losing their flavor. When needed, simply remove the desired amount of leaves from the freezer and return the rest for ongoing preservation.

By following these storage and preservation techniques, you can enjoy the delightful taste and aroma of bay leaves in your culinary creations for an extended period. Whether using fresh, dried, or frozen leaves, they will continue to enhance the flavors of your dishes, adding a touch of elegance to your cooking.

Additional Uses of Bay Leaves

Discover the surprising additional uses of bay leaves beyond the kitchen, from keeping pests away to brewing a soothing herbal tea. Bay leaves not only add depth and flavor to your culinary creations but also offer various benefits outside of cooking.

Bay leaves in a jar

One interesting use of bay leaves is their ability to repel pests. Place bay leaves in pantry shelves or storage areas to keep insects like moths, ants, and cockroaches at bay. The strong fragrance of bay leaves acts as a natural deterrent, making it an eco-friendly alternative to chemical repellents.

Another lesser-known use of bay leaves is their potential to brew a soothing herbal tea. The leaves contain essential oils that release a delicate aroma when steeped in hot water. Simply add a few dried bay leaves to a cup of boiling water, let it steep for a few minutes, and enjoy a warm and aromatic beverage that can aid digestion and promote relaxation.

In addition to these practical uses, bay leaves can also be used as natural air fresheners. Make a fragrant potpourri by combining dried bay leaves with other aromatic herbs and spices, such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, or dried citrus peels. Place this mix in a decorative dish or pouch and enjoy the subtle and refreshing scent that permeates your living space.


  • Bay leaves can be used to repel pests, making them a natural alternative to chemical repellents.
  • Steeping dried bay leaves in hot water creates a soothing herbal tea that aids digestion and promotes relaxation.
  • Combine dried bay leaves with other aromatic ingredients to create a fragrant potpourri for freshening the air in your home.
Uses of Bay Leaves Benefits
Repel pests Eco-friendly alternative to chemical repellents
Brew herbal tea Aids digestion and promotes relaxation
Create potpourri Natural air freshener for your home


Bay leaves are a true culinary powerhouse, adding depth and aroma to a wide range of dishes, both meat-based and plant-based. These commonly used herbs are often added whole to dishes, infusing them with their unique flavour profile. With two main types to choose from, Turkish bay leaves offer a subtle blend of oregano, thyme, and clove, while California bay leaves possess a more intense flavour with medicinal undertones.

One of the most popular uses of bay leaves is in slow-cooked dishes such as stews, soups, braises, pasta sauces, and dried beans. Their aromatic qualities infuse the dish while it simmers, creating a rich and satisfying taste. Meat-centric dishes also benefit greatly from the addition of bay leaves, enhancing the flavours of roasts, grilled meats, and hearty casseroles.

For those following a plant-based diet, bay leaves can elevate the flavours of plant-based stews, adding a new dimension to vegetable-based dishes. Whether you’re making a comforting lentil stew or a hearty vegetable curry, bay leaves can take your plant-based creations to the next level.

Aside from their culinary uses, bay leaves have additional benefits. They can be used to repel pests, such as moths and ants, making them a natural alternative to chemical repellents. Bay leaves can also be used to make herbal tea, providing a soothing and aromatic beverage.

When using bay leaves in cooking, it is recommended to use one or two leaves per dish and remove them before serving to avoid any unpleasant texture. If you don’t have bay leaves on hand, oregano and thyme can be used as substitutes to achieve a similar flavour profile.

To keep bay leaves fresh, fresh leaves can be dried or stored in the refrigerator, while dried leaves can be stored in the freezer for extended shelf life. This ensures that you always have this versatile herb on hand to enhance your culinary creations.

By Mat Stuckey

Ex professional chef with a passion for cooking and unique flavours.

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