Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavour and fragrance. The leaves should be removed from the cooked food before eating. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavour until several weeks after picking and drying.
Indian bay leaf or malabathrum (Cinnamomum tamala, Lauraceae) differs in that bay laurel leaves are shorter and light to medium green in colour, with one large vein down the length of the leaf, while tejpat (Cinnamonum tamala) leaves are about twice as long and wider, usually olive green in colour, and with three veins down the length of the leaf and is culinarily quite different, having a fragrance and taste similar to cinnamon (cassia) bark, but milder.
If eaten whole, bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste. As with many spices and flavourings, the fragrance of the bay leaf is more noticeable than its taste.