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What do Bay Leaves Do?

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
Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Creamed Chipotle Turkey Photo