Are Bay Leaves Really Worth the Trouble?

Pin it button big
I have a confession to make: I'm not sold on bay leaves. I'm not convinced they actually do much to change the flavor of a dish. We make a lot of lentils around here — and soups in the winter — and whenever I break out the bay leaves as instructed, I never notice a major change one way or another. 

I know that many people love using bay leaves in Mediterranean and French cooking, and I always remember my mom plunking them in everything from roasted potatoes to chicken dishes, but we did a test at home with a lentil stew the other night — one pot with bay leaves and one without, and I couldn't tell the difference. I made my favorite carrot soup the following day with the same test: no difference. 

I know there are some bay leaf defenders out there, and I'm sure I might hear from you here. I believe you might ask me how old my bay leaves are, and it's a really good question. I recently threw out a little bottle that I moved with me from San Francisco, but this most recent batch was purchased about a month ago from the bulk bins at our local co-op. 

Am I alone here? Does anyone else doubt that bay leaves really do much to enhance flavor in a dish? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

(Images: Emily Ho)

52 Comments