Dried Thyme Vs Fresh Thyme: Best Choice And Substitutions

When it comes to using thyme in our cooking, some people prefer dried thyme to fresh thyme. Some prefer fresh thyme to dried. Both have their pros and cons. For example, fresh is heathier, but dried lasts longer.

Whichever you choose, you’re going to wind up with a similar result. Both dried and fresh thyme will provide you with yummy food.

Below, I cover how to dry thyme before a complete dried thyme vs fresh thyme comparison. I then discuss whether you can substitute fresh thyme for dried thyme and vice versa and how much to use.

How To Dry Fresh Thyme

How do you convert leaves from fresh to dried thyme? There are five different ways that you can dry fresh thyme, so there is an option for everyone.

Air-Dry: Hanging

This is the easiest method: all you need to do is tie the sprigs up and hang them somewhere warm. The downside to this method is that it may take 1-2 weeks for the leaves to completely dry.

It’s also not recommended to use this method in a cold or humid climate because the thyme may grow mold.

Air-Dry: Using A Tray

This method is similar to the one above, but it’s quicker. You’ll line a baking tray with some parchment paper and lay the leaves on the paper. The leaves will dry in a couple of days.

Like the hanging method, you shouldn’t use this method in a cold or humid climate.

Dehydrator

This is probably the best method, but it’s also the most expensive because you’ll have to buy a dehydrator if you don’t already have one. Dehydrators are good because they operate on low heat so that you don’t have to worry about overcooking your leaves.

You’re going to dehydrate the leaves at 95 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-4 hours.

Oven

The only problem with the oven is that you need to be cautious of the heat. Most ovens won’t go below 150 degrees Fahrenheit, so you need to be careful not to overcook the leaves.

Ideally, you’ll dry the leaves at 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 hours.

Microwave

This is the least preferred method because the thyme will lose a significant amount of flavor. However, it’s also the quickest method. You’ll microwave the leaves on high for about 30 seconds.

To learn more about these drying methods, check out our full article here.

Thyme in white pot
Thyme

Dried Thyme Vs Fresh Thyme

Fresh thyme is the herb that you purchase in the produce isle at the supermarket, leafy, green, and moist. Or it’s the plant that you keep in your backyard that you just pick leaves from when you want some.

Dried thyme, on the other hand, is fresh thyme that’s been dried. It’s going to be crumbly, and you can purchase it in the spice aisle of your grocery store.

Fresh Thyme Vs Dried Thyme: Taste Differences

As far as flavor is concerned, dry and fresh thyme both taste the same.

Some people don’t like dried herbs because they may taste dry, more like straw. It doesn’t appear that thyme takes on this same flavor, though. Although dried thyme is dry, it doesn’t taste dry.

Dried Vs Fresh Thyme: Appearance

When fresh, thyme looks just like most plants: leafy, and deep green in color. The underside of the leaves are a slightly lighter green, and the stems are a light brown or yellow color.

When dried, thyme actually becomes a darker green, but it also takes on a grayish hue.

thyme
Dried thyme

Fresh Vs Dried Thyme: Price And Availability

Of course, whether you use fresh or dried thyme may depend on what time of year it is. If you grow your own thyme, you might not be able to use the plant over winter unless you keep the plant inside.

Likewise, grocery stores might not carry fresh thyme over winter. If they do, it’s probably shipped from another state, or even country, where the quality might not be as good after shipping.

Fresh thyme generally costs less than dried thyme per ounce. However, when you’re cooking, you use less dried thyme than fresh. It’s likely that the price equals out to about the same.

Conversely, dried thyme can be used and purchased at any time of the year.

Dry Thyme Vs Fresh Thyme: Health Benefits

As with most herbs, fresh thyme is going to be more healthy than the dried counterpart. When thyme is dried, it loses some of its vitamins and essential oils.

However, dried thyme also contains lots of vitamins and nutrients. The herbs don’t lose all their nutrients during the drying and heating process.

Fresh Vs Dried Thyme: Storage

When storing any herbs, you want to store them properly or else they will go bad sooner than you’d like. Storage is particularly important for fresh thyme because it doesn’t last very long to begin with.

If you leave fresh thyme on the counter at room temperature, it’s only going to be good for about 2-3 days.

However, if you store fresh thyme in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, you can extend the life up to two weeks. Inside the bag, you’ll also want to place a moist paper towel. This will help prevent your thyme from drying out.

If you’re drying your own thyme, you’ll also want to ensure that it’s kept in proper storage. Make sure to choose a glass container and stay away from plastics. Most plastics are porous and will absorb the essential oils from your thyme, making it lose its scent and flavor sooner.

You’ll also want to make sure you choose an airtight container. This will prevent any moisture or pests from getting into the container to spoil your herbs. Moisture will make your thyme get moldy. Pests, of course, will eat and spoil your herb.

Besides this, you’ll also want to keep your dried herb somewhere cool and dark. Light and excessive heat can cause your thyme to go bad faster. Most people keep it in the cupboard, and it does just fine there.

Fresh Thyme Versus Dried Thyme: How It Is Used In Cooking

Dried and fresh thyme taste the same, so they can both be used. However, you cannot cook with them both in the same way. If you try to cook with dried thyme the same way you would with fresh thyme, or vice versa, you’ll end up with a flavor that is not as strong.

Dried thyme should be added to a dish early on in the cooking process. Because the herb is dried, it needs time for moisture to be reintroduced into the herb. That moisture, combined with heat, will allow the the flavor to come out of the herb.

Heat helps bring out the flavor in dried thyme, but it actually hurts fresh thyme. If you’re cooking with fresh thyme, you should wait to add the herb until near the end of your cooking. Too much heat can eliminate both the flavor and scent of the herb.

What Is The Winner?

Whether fresh or dried thyme is better really depends on your preferences. Fresh thyme is healthier, looks nicer, and is easier to cook with. But, dried thyme lasts longer, is readily available, is cheaper, and has the same flavor as fresh thyme.

Personally, I believe that dried thyme is superior to fresh thyme. I believe that the benefits outweigh the problems with dried thyme.

Still, if you prefer fresh thyme, there’s nothing wrong with that! You might just want to grow some in your kitchen so that you always have it available.

TasteAppearancePriceAvailabilityHealth BenefitsStorage TimeWhen To Use In Cooking
FreshSameGreen$2-3 for 1ozSpring-FallVitamins & Nutrients1-2 WeeksLate
DriedSameDark Green & Gray$3-5 for 1ozAlwaysSame, but Loses Some6 monthsEarly
Fresh VS Dried Thyme

Substituting Dried Thyme For Fresh: Can You Do It?

What if you don’t have fresh thyme? Can you substitute dried thyme for fresh thyme?

You can absolutely substitute dried thyme for fresh thyme. However, the amount of dried thyme that you’re going to use will be different than the amount you would use with fresh thyme.

Dried thyme is basically the same as fresh thyme, which is why you can substitute one for the other. Drying is simply a way to preserve thyme to keep it and use it for longer.

Still, dried thyme is stronger than fresh thyme. So, you can’t substitute dried for fresh thyme on a 1:1 basis or else your dish will taste too strongly of thyme.

How Much Dried Thyme Equals Fresh?

So, how do you convert fresh thyme to dried?

Dried thyme is more potent than fresh thyme, so you’re going to need less when you use it. Fortunately, it’s easy to convert fresh thyme to dried thyme. Conversion of the amounts needed is also easy.

As a general rule, you’ll use one teaspoon of dried thyme for every tablespoon of fresh thyme.

For example, if the recipe calls for three tablespoons of fresh thyme, then you would use three teaspoons of dried thyme instead.

However, this guideline is dependent on how fresh your dried thyme is. The longer you have had the dried thyme, the less flavor it will have. It’s not recommended to keep dried thyme for more than six months. It won’t technically “go bad” after this time, but it will start to lose its smell and flavor.

If you’ve had your dried thyme for a few months, you’ll likely need to add more to your dish to get the same flavor. The formula I gave you above may not be entirely accurate. If you use thyme that is older than six months, you’ll need to use a significantly larger amount than you normally would.

Final Words

Personally, I prefer dried thyme over fresh. It’s easier to use and store, it’s cheaper, and it tastes just the same as the fresh stuff. But fresh is great too because it’s healthier and looks nicer.

Whichever you decide to use is up to your preference. Just get cooking!

Want to learn more? Click here for how to make your own dried thyme and here for how to store it. You can also find all my guides to growing thyme here.