Freezing Herbs – How To Keep Cut Herbs In The Freezer

By: Heather Rhoades

Storing fresh herbs is an excellent way to make the herb harvest from your garden last all year round. Freezing herbs is a great way to store your herbs, as it keeps the fresh herb flavor that can sometimes be lost when using other herb preserving methods. Keep reading to learn how to freeze fresh herbs.

How to Freeze Herbs

Many people are looking for how to keep cut herbs so that they can use them year round. Freezing herbs is fast and easy to do.

When storing fresh herbs in your freezer, it ‘s best to first chop the herbs as you would if you were going to cook with them today. This will make it easier to use them later. Keep in mind when freezing herbs that while they keep their flavor, they will not retain their color or looks and so will not be suitable for dishes where the herb’s appearance is important.

The next step in how to freeze fresh herbs is to spread the chopped herbs on a metal cookie tray and place the tray in the freezer. This will ensure that the herbs freeze quickly and will not freeze together in a large clump.

Alternatively, when preparing for storing fresh herbs in the freezer, you can measure out typical measurements, like a tablespoon, of the chopped herbs into ice cube trays and then fill the trays the remaining way with water. This is a good way for how to keep cut herbs if you plan on using them frequently in soups, stews, and marinades where the water will not affect the outcome of the dish.

Once the herbs are frozen, you can transfer them into a plastic freezer bag. When storing fresh herbs like this, they can stay in your freezer for up to 12 months.

Freezing herbs is an excellent way for how to keep cut herbs. Now that you know how to freeze herbs, you can enjoy the bounty of your herb garden year round.

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Read more about General Herb Care

Air drying works best with herbs that do not have a high moisture content, like bay, dill, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, summer savory, and thyme.   To retain the best flavor of these herbs, you'll either need to allow them to dry naturally or use a food dehydrator. A microwave or an oven set on low may seem like a convenient shortcut, but they actually cook the herbs to a degree, diminishing the oil content and flavor. Use these appliances only as a last resort.  

If you want to preserve herbs with succulent leaves or a high moisture content, such as basil, chives, mint, and tarragon, you can try drying them with a dehydrator, but for the best flavor retention, consider freezing them. It's easy to do and even quicker than drying.  

5 Simple Steps to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Fresh Herbs

Say goodbye to soggy herbs with these smart storage tricks.

Sick of food waste? So are we. Fresh herbs are one of the biggest preservation pain points—it can feel near impossible to use them up (or even get close to it) before their delicate little leave start to wilt.

Factors such as the amount of moisture, sunlight, temperature, and oxygen can cause fresh herbs to go bad faster than you would like. The key is to find the appropriate balance between these elements, which is dependent upon the type of herb you're storing. Excessive moisture can cause your soft herb leaves to wilt and become slimy, while too little moisture can dry out your woody, hard herbs like rosemary and thyme. Excessive light can cause your herbs to turn yellow, too much oxygen will turn your leaves an unappetizing brown, and deciphering the appropriate temperature for your herbs’ storing environment plays an important factor in determining whether your herb should be kept on the counter or stored in your fridge to prolong shelf life.

We're here to help. Here are 5 easy ways to avoid having to throw away soggy herbs before you’re actually able to use them. Next time you’re putting away your fresh herbs, consider these simple storage methods to ensure you get the most out of your delicate greens.

Where should you store herbs — on the counter or in the fridge?

  • Tender herbs benefit from being treated like live flowers and stored in water at room temperature – the fridge’s temperature and air can bruise bare, delicate leaves (two exceptions: Parsley and cilantro can stand up to the cold just loosely cover dry leaves with plastic before stashing in the fridge). To help them last longer, change the water every couple of days and discard wilted stems.
  • Keep hardy herbs dry in the clamshells they’re sold in, or wrap in a damp paper towel and store in an open baggie in the fridge. If stored in water, hardy herbs can become waterlogged. Check on them every couple of days: They'll last longer if you occasionally change their wrapping and throw away wilted pieces.

How to freeze parsley, chives and other herbs

I HATE PAYING a couple of dollars for a bunch of organic parsley in winter (or chives, or cilantro, or sage, or…). As summer starts to heat up and wind down each year, I start freezing them—not a perfect substitute for fresh, perhaps, but very good, and economical. How to freeze herbs for winter use (or anytime).

3 ways to freeze herbs:

  • as pesto (using oil as the base, sometimes with extra ingredients)
  • as ice cubes (whole or chopped, pressed into trays and covered in a tiny bit of water, or blended with just enough water to then make a cube)
  • or stuffed tightly into freezer bags (or into small freezer jars like 4-ounce Ball jars ).

Freeze herbs as pesto, flavored or plain

G ET OUT YOUR FOOD PROCESSOR and get creative. You can simply puree virtually any green herb (from chives to parsley, basil, oregano, cilantro, arugula, sage, and even garlic scapes when in season) in an olive-oil base. Some cooks add garlic and/or nuts and grated cheese now some think the mixture doesn’t store as well with the extra ingredients. Freeze the thick mixture as cubes, knocked out into doubled freezer bags with all the air expressed. More on making herb pestos.

Freeze herbs as ice cubes

T HIS METHOD MIGHT BE preferable when an oil base doesn’t suit, such as for lemon balm or other mints (or with other green herbs that might be used in a non-olive oil recipe later). Easy: wash herbs, pat dry and remove from stems. Chop if needed, or simply press into ice cube trays and drizzle a little water over to fill, so a cube will form when frozen. You can also process the herbs with a little water as the base, as in the oil version above, and then make cubes. When ready, pop cubes out into freezer bags.

Freezing rosemary, thyme or bay

S OME HERBS ARE EASIEST to freeze right on the stems, including rosemary, thyme and bay (if you are so lucky as to have a bay tree, I am jealous). Simply cut the twigs, spread on a cookie sheet, and put into the freezer. Once frozen, pack twigs into freezer bags by variety, with the air expressed. After they are thoroughly frozen (a week or more), you can un-bag the twigs briefly and detach the foliage by hand or with a rolling pin, then pack the frozen leaves quickly back into freezer jars or bags. Or simply pick off leaves from a twig at a time as needed, and return unused twigs to the freezer bag.

Freeze herbs in ‘logs’ of leaves

I USE A LOT OF PARSLEY, so it’s the herb I freeze the most of. I make “logs” like the one in the photo above of leaflets pressure-rolled tightly inside freezer bags. The log technique (so easy, and probably the only cooking Good Thing I contributed to “Martha Stewart Living,” though my record with gardening ideas was better) is illustrated in this slideshow chives also freeze well this way, and when you need some, you just slice a disc from one end of the log and return the rest to the bag, and freezer.

Chives also freeze well simply chopped and packed into tiny canning jars, as below, and I do dill (on the stem) in freezer bags.

What You’ll Learn

Freezing herbs is easy, economical, and it retains high levels of aroma and flavor.

Drying, or dehydrating, is another popular preservation method.

Unfortunately, drying doesn’t always hold the flavors as we’d like, since a large amount of the essential oils responsible for that flavor are lost via this method.

As plant cells and fibers dry out, most of the oils are expelled and evaporate. But freezing preserves the essential oils that give these kitchen favorites their deep flavors, intense fragrances, and exceptional nutritional value.

When they are frozen, herbs don’t look as pretty as they do when they are fresh – the leaves darken, and can be limp when thawed. So you won’t want to use them as a garnish or in a fresh salad.

But with their lively aroma and taste, they make a delicious addition to baked goods, pasta, rice, sauces, smoothies, soups, stews, and more.

With soft herbs like basil where they are pretty much dissolved in the final dish, wash and strip the leaves from stalks where appropriate. Put the leaves into a blender and add about a quarter by volume of water. Whiz into a paste before transferring into an ice cube tray to freeze. To use, just drop an ‘ice cube’ or two into the dish as you cook.

Herbs frozen like this will store well for at least a year.

This isn’t the best method for long term freezing but could hardly be easier. We’ve used it for parsley. The flavour was retained but the texture wasn’t so only useful when adding into a soup or stew. No good for using the herb as a garnish

Just put the herb into a plastic bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal prior placing in the freezer. Should store for at least a couple of months.

Watch the video: How to Freeze Fresh Herbs

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