These distinctive leaves come from a tree or shrub and there are quite a few varieties to choose from. As an aside, these plants also make your garden smell absolutely beautiful! They can also be kept as a lovely house plant which means you have access to fresh bay leaves whenever you need.
So, to get to the heart of the matter about whether or not bay leaves can be eaten. Technically yes you can eat these leaves. They are edible and they can even be tasty! However, the leaves are very hard and strong and they have pretty sharp edges so they are not safe to eat from a choking point of view.
Let’s explain a little further. These leaves don’t break down in the cooking process. They stay hard and strong. If anything, they might become a little brittle when cooked, but this can make the problem worse. Then if you manage to get a whole bay leaf on your plate you might find that you can’t chew it and swallowing it is difficult. This is why they aren’t eaten, they are a choking hazard! There have even been problems where the leaves get stuck in people’s throats!
So, you can cook with bay leaves and make the most of all of that amazing flavour and scent but you should remove them before serving the meal.
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What Do Bay Leaves Taste Like?
Bay leaves have a strong and distinctive floral flavour that is reminiscent of oregano and thyme. It is actually the aroma of the leaves that adds the most to the recipe as it makes your food smell delicious. The best way to get just the right amount of flavour is to pop a leaf into your recipe as it cooks and then remove it because eating a whole bay leaf isn’t always a pleasant experience. A whole bay leaf is difficult to chew and swallow and it is quite bitter in taste.
How to Eat Bay Leaves
Bay leaves are traditionally used in cooking to add aroma to the recipe and this is why one of the most common uses is in a bouquet garni. This is a selection of herbs, bundled together, tied with string and popped into your stock or soup to flavour it. You remove the bouquet garni before serving and you should do the same with any bay leaves you add to a recipe.
But there are a few other ways you can impart that aromatic bay scent into your cooking:
Add Bay to Rice
You can also add a leaf to rice as it’s cooking. All you need to do is add a leaf or two into the water as the rice is cooking away and it’ll take your bland rice to a whole new level with very little effort or expense. This is a common way to use bay leaves in Indian dishes.
Crush into Dishes
Another way to use bay leaves is to crush them before you add them to your cooking. This helps to add even more flavour to the dish but it does come with some problems. Even in a crushed state, the leaves won’t break down while being cooked. If you don’t remove them it can leave you with a gritty texture to the food. If you do want to use this method then you can pop the crushed leaves into a piece of muslin and tie it so you end up with a little bag you can easily remove from the meal before serving.
Make Leaf Tea
If you love the taste of bay leaves then you can also add them to hot water and make yourself a delicious bay leaf tea!
Benefits of Eating Bay Leaves
Bay leaves do contain vitamins and minerals that are good for you. These include vitamins such as A and C. They also contain potassium, iron and calcium. However, there is one problem with this in that you are unlikely to be consuming enough to get close to your daily recommended amount of these vitamins and minerals. Every little helps though!
Bay leaves have also been used in traditional medicines to make a tea which may help to treat headaches and migraines. A bay leaf tea after a meal may also help your digestion afterwards.
What Countries Eat Bay Leaves?
Bay leaves are used the world over in cooking but they generally aren’t eaten as a whole leaf because of the safety issues that can occur such as choking. Having said this, bay leaves are still used in cooking in many countries.
These leaves are commonly used in France, India and were heavily used in ancient Greece which is possibly why they are used so widely all over Europe still.
Should You Eat Bay Leaves?
So, as discussed bay leaves are edible and they won’t poison you but this doesn’t mean you should eat them whole. There are several safety concerns regarding these leaves because they are hard and sharp and they don’t break down when being cooking. So, they remain whole and difficult to eat. This makes them a choking hazard and they could even get stuck in your throat!
This doesn’t mean you can’t use bay leaves in cooking. You absolutely can. You do just need to take care to remove them from the meal before serving so that no one gets a nasty surprise.
Other Questions about Eating Bay Leaves
Below are some other questions people often ask when it comes to eating bay leaves. If you do find yourself with further questions, however, then please do ask in the comments area at the bottom of this page:
Are Bay Leaves Poisonous to Eat?
Bay leaves aren’t poisonous to eat. They are just unpleasant to eat due to their texture. This is the case for both dry and fresh bay leaves.
Can Eating Bay Leaves Hurt You?
It’s highly unlikely they will hurt you but there is a chance. The main issue is that you can choke on the shard of bay leaf. When you eat bay leaf unexpectedly it can shock you which can lead to choking which, of course, can hurt you.