Throughout the summer I pluck fresh herbs from my herb garden to add flavor to just about everything I cook. I also love to make easy flavored herb butter recipes.
After learning how to store fresh herbs the right way, I always keep some handy in the kitchen during the season. For years, though, as I forlornly watched the herb garden shrivel up under the cold fall nights, I would dig up my rosemary bush with the hope of getting it to overwinter inside. Alas, I could only make it to February before throwing a brown, shedding stick out the back door into the snow. Now that I know how to freeze herbs, I look forward to having that fresh-picked taste anytime.
What’s the Best Way to Freeze Herbs?
Fortunately, there isn’t just one right way to freeze herbs. Any of the easy methods below will work. But one process is always standard: Before freezing, rinse herbs in clean water to remove any dirt and pat them dry or dry them in a salad spinner.
Freezing Herbs in Air-Tight Containers
Hardier herbs like rosemary, dill, thyme, bay or sage can be frozen right on the stem. Spread the herbs in a single layer on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer. Once the herbs are frozen, loosely place them in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag. Then remove the sprigs one at a time as needed.
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Pro Tip: If you must use a plastic bag, choose a designated freezer bag. The plastic is thicker and resists moisture better than a regular plastic bag. Press out as much excess air as possible or use a straw to suck the air out of the bag before sealing. You can do this by rolling the bag and securing it with butcher’s twine or a rubber band. A vacuum sealer works, too. And don’t forget to label the bag or container with the type of herb and the date. Once frozen, many herbs look alike. You wouldn’t want to accidentally put basil in your rosemary sweet potato fries recipe.
Freezing Herbs in Water
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For tender herbs like parsley and cilantro, remove the leaves from the stems. Pack them by tablespoonfuls into ice cube trays (a handy way to know how much you’re adding when cooking). Cover the herbs with water and place in the freezer. Once the herbs are frozen, transfer them to an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag and label them.
Pro Tip: For an easy way to strip leaves from stems, bunch several stems together and run the tines of a fork through from end to top several times.
Freezing Herbs in Oil
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For recipes like soups, sauces, pastas and others that can handle a touch of oil, freezing herbs like basil, mint, oregano and tarragon in a bit of olive oil works beautifully. First, remove the leaves from the stems. Chopping the leaves results in a rough, paste-like texture. If desired, pulse 2 cups of herb leaves with 1/3 cup olive oil in a food processor. Add the chopped herbs to a freezer bag and lay flat to freeze. (This saves a ton of freezer space!) Once frozen, you can break off sections to use as needed. If you don’t have a food processor, here’s a helpful guide on how to chop herbs.
How long can you keep fresh herbs in the freezer?
Using the methods above, frozen fresh herbs can last in the freezer up to 12 months. Frozen herbs taste much closer to fresh than dried herbs and retain more of their nutrients. (But if you want to dry your herbs, here’s a handy how-to.)
Pro Tip: While frozen herbs taste delicious, their texture and appearance will be mushy and soft, so they aren’t pretty. Plan to use them to flavor soups, stews, gravies and cooked dishes rather than using them in salads or as a garnish.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the middle of fresh herb season, here are some delicious ways to use them up. If not, look for those recipes where frozen herbs can work just as well.