Bay Leaf: All You Need To Know-Types, Use, Substitutes And More

Although they are frequently utilised, bay leaves are probably the most underrated component. There are a great number of recipes that call for this versatile herb; nonetheless, home chefs may overlook it or misunderstand its significance. Bay leaves are a powerful ingredient that should be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, braises, curries, and even desserts. If you have a jar of bay leaves on your spice rack that you use rarely, it is time to unload it. Learn out more about bay leaves and how to use them in your cuisine by reading here.

What Are Bay Leaves? 

Bay leaves are derived from the bay laurel tree, also known as Laurus nobilis, which is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. In most cases, the leaves are dried and used to enhance the flavour of food. They are fragrant leaves that have been used for thousands of years in a variety of culinary applications. The fresh ones have a dark green colour, whereas the dried ones have an olive green colour. The leaves of laurel trees have an elliptical form and at the very end, they are pointed and sharp. 


A herbaceous perfume that is reminiscent of oregano and thyme is produced by the thick leaves, which are also aromatic, sweet, and woody like balsam, with warmer tones of clove and pepper. 

Bay Leaves In Cooking 

Bay leaves are an ingredient in many different cuisines throughout the globe. You may find them in dishes from the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, Asian and the Middle East. In addition to their fragrant qualities, bay leaves are used to elevate the taste and richness of several cuisines. As the oil is heated, the flavour components attached to it rise to the surface, giving off a pleasant fragrance. Adding a hint of acidity and bitterness, bay leaves assist foods achieve a better flavour balance by smoothing out richness and enhancing other flavours. Plus, the aromatic chemicals in them can mask unpleasant flavours, making for a more balanced and satisfying meal overall. 

Types of Bay Leaves 

Turkish bay leaves 

These shorter and spherical bay leaves are true bay leaves, and they go by a variety of names, including sweet bay, Mediterranean bay leaves, and Laurus nobilis. The green leaves have a subtle grassy and menthol taste. Soups, stews, rice dishes, roasts, marinades, sauces, and pickling brines all benefit from their addition. 

Indian bay leaves 

The Malabar leaf, Cinnamomum tamala, tejpat, tejpatta, Indian bark, Indian cassia, and malabathrum are some of the other names for this bay leaf variety. The leaves of this variety are elongated and broader than the average, with an olive green shade, three veins along the length of each leaf, and a subtle, cinnamon-like aroma and flavour. Traditional Indian cuisine includes lentils, potatoes, biryani, curries, and meat stews made with Indian bay leaves, which are endemic to Bhutan, India, and Nepal. Along with nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, mace, cumin, coriander, and more, these bay leaves are the major component of garam masala, a famous Indian spice mix.   

Indonesian bay leaves 

These bay leaves originally hail from Southeast Asia and go by a few other names, including daun salam and Indonesian laurel. Flavours of citrus, earth, and a hint of fragrance permeate them. The leaves are longer, rather stiff all throughout, and coloured brown and green. The smell of the flavour components isn't particularly strong, but they come to life when cooked. Sauces, curries, soups, stews, fried rice, seafood, and coconut milk all incorporate them.    

Mexican bay leaves 

Mexican bay, false laurel, laurel de la sierra, and mountain laurel are some of the names given to the bay leaves that originate in southern North America, mostly Mexico. Compared to other bay leaves, its flavour is softer and more delicate; the leaves are long and thin, covered in a leathery green colour. Soups, stews, braises, adobo sauces, birria, and pozole are just a few of the meat meals that incorporate them. 

California bay leaves 

These are frequently referred to as Oregon myrtle or California laurel, and they originate from a tree that is endemic to the western United States. The blade-like leaves of the California bay are long and narrow. As they ripen, the leaves release a strong aroma and taste that combines nutmeg, camphor, and eucalyptus. You may eat the young leaves uncooked since they are so delicious and delicate. In addition to dressings, pickling brines, soups, and stews, young leaves are great in salads. 


It is difficult to discover a suitable alternative for bay leaves due to their distinctive flavour. Substitute thyme or oregano for the bay leaves if you're short on time.Feel free to substitute the kind of bay leaves you have on hand for the one called for in a recipe if you happen to only have one type available. 

How to Buy 

Look for whole bay leaves that aren't torn, stained, or damaged when you buy them. There should be strong scents of eucalyptus, mint, and spice when you smell the bay leaf. Remember that leaves that bigger tend to smell and taste better. 

When you buy bay leaves, make sure they are smooth and rubbery. Stay away from any leaves that are dry, soft, or rigid.   

Storage Tips

You can keep them fresh and effective for up to six months by storing them in a dark and cold area. The leaves may become less flavorful with prolonged exposure to heat, humidity, or sunshine. 

Freezing bay leaves for up to three years will prolong their shelf life and maintain their flavour. Freezing bay leaves keeps their perfume and flavour nearly as well as when they are just opened.