How to Freeze Fresh Herbs for Storage

The bright flavor of fresh herbs is a delight that is enjoyed by both cooks and gardeners alike. There’s nothing like their intoxicating aroma and zesty flavor to add flavor to recipes!

Sadly, at the end of summer, most of our fresh but frost-tender seasonings go dormant.

But those scrumptious flavors don’t have to disappear from our plates until next year. You can still enjoy the rich flavor of garden fresh herbs – straight from the freezer!

Whether you have a bountiful garden harvest or just can’t meet a big batch bought from the market, freezing is easy and efficient—and it’s a great way to reduce food waste.

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In fact, it often does a better job of preserving flavor than drying.

If you have a bountiful harvest, try one or all of the five best ways to freeze herbs, and continue to enjoy those fiery flavors all year long!

Here’s what I’ll cover:

advantages of freezing

Freezing herbs is easy, economical, and retains a high level of aroma and flavor.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Drying, or dehydration, is another popular preservation method.

Unfortunately, drying doesn’t always result in the flavor we’d like, as a large amount of the essential oils responsible for that flavor are lost through this method.

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

When they’re frozen, herbs don’t look as pretty as they do when they’re fresh—the leaves turn black, and they can go limp when thawed. So you wouldn’t want to use them as a garnish or in a fresh salad.

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

5 Easy Ways to Freeze Herbs

Most herbs can be picked any time they are in season. But for maximum essential oil content and peak flavor, you should harvest as the flower buds form, but before they open.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Choose late morning, after the dew has evaporated and before the intense afternoon heat begins.

Whichever method you use, after freezing into cubes, pans, or trays, you’ll need to transfer the individual pieces to airtight containers for storage. This helps prevent freezer burn.

The frozen leaves are good to use in your cooking for up to 12 months – just in time to store another big batch for the end of next year’s harvest season!

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Plus, they’re easy to incorporate into your cooking. Simply drop a cube or frozen leaf into a pan of hot ingredients and stir—they melt and mix quickly.

And unlike vegetables, there’s no need to blanch first. Just wash, dry and they are ready for the freezer.

Time-Saving Tip: A salad spinner does a great job of cleaning and drying herbs. You can wash, clean and dry the leaves all at once – and reduce paper towel waste!

If you’re new to this time-saving gadget, check out this guide to salad spinners on our sister site, Foodle.

1. Bare leaves

Freezing bare leaves is an easy way to preserve large-leaf varieties like basil, bay leaves, and oregano.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

After washing and drying, take the leaves off the stems and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Lace leaves like oregano and dill are an exception — leave them attached to their soft stems.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Place the pan in the freezer, and freeze for a few hours until solid, then transfer to a sealable bag or airtight container for storage. Be sure to label and date your bags and containers.

This method is good for keeping the leaves separate, so you can remove individual leaves as needed.

You can simply pack bunches of individual leaves together in a resealable bag, squeeze out all the air, and freeze.

If you do it this way, you’ll have a solid bunch of leaves that can be plucked or cut as needed.

in the water

Freezing chopped herbs in water in ice cube trays is an ideal way to preserve tender leaves like basil, chives, cilantro, mint and parsley.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

First, wash them thoroughly, and then chop or mince their tender leaves. You can choose to work with a single herb or use a mixture to create your own favorite flavor combo.

For example, basil, parsley and oregano are a versatile blend to add to any type of Mediterranean dish. Or indulge in a cool treat like a mint and tarragon combo homemade ice cream!

You can use a chef’s knife for chopping smaller quantities, but for a larger crop, a food processor is much faster.

Pour portions of your minced herbs into ice cube trays, and fill up to a quarter inch from the top. Press lightly with your fingers to flatten.

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Photo by Lorna Kring.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use ice cube trays, you can spread the minced herbs in a shallow pan, to make a “sheet” about one-quarter to one-half inch deep. Press lightly.

Add water until the mixture is just covered.

Place in freezer until solid, then lift cubes out of tray and transfer to long-term storage bags or containers.

Carefully cut the sheet into quarters or other manageable sizes for storage. Label and date your storage containers.

If your spread doesn’t come off easily, you can run the bottom of the tray or pan under warm water for a couple of minutes to loosen it.

When needed, take individual cubes out of the freezer or tear off pieces from the sheet.

in oil or butter

Oil is an excellent medium for preserving a variety of herbs used for baking and cooking, including sage, thyme and rosemary. And it’s also the perfect way to preserve individual herbs or your favorite blends.

Photo by Alison Sidhu.

While herbs stored in water can eventually develop ice crystals (and off-flavors if your freezer cycles through deep-freeze and warm temperatures), oils help seal in those essential oils and reduce the risk of freezer burn. Helps maintain without.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Wash thoroughly, then chop or mince the leaves. Take them out in an ice cube tray and press them lightly with your fingers.

You can also make a layer of sheets about a quarter to one-half inch thick in a shallow pan by flattening them with a spatula.

Add enough high-quality vegetable oil, such as olive oil, to barely cover the chopped herbs.

Alternatively, if you’re using a food processor to chop your herbs, you can add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to make a smooth paste.

Cube the paste or spread it in a pan and drizzle a little oil on top before freezing – just enough to hold the mixture together when frozen.

Making homemade pesto and then freezing it also works well. Find recipes on our sister site, Foodal.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Place in freezer until solid, then remove individual cubes and transfer to re-sealable storage bag or container.

You can cut the sheets into quarters or other manageable sizes before storing. Label and date container.

Photo by Alison Sidhu.

Remove individual cubes from the freezer or break off pieces of sheets as needed.

You can make a compound buttercream and freeze it in portions in ice cube trays, or other convenient containers.

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To make the butter, you’ll need soft unsalted butter and herbs of your choice.

For every eight tablespoons of butter, you can include four tablespoons of your favorite herbs.

Wash, dry and finely chop the herbs. Then incorporate the herbs with a fork through the butter. You can also place portions of compound butter on wax paper and freeze in an airtight container.

And then take it out of the freezer and use it in this grilled lobster tail recipe on our sister site, Foodle.

Or step up your steak frites game with deliciousness. See the recipe on Foodle.

on stem

Some herbs have small or very fine leaves, such as dill, rosemary, tarragon and thyme, and are easier to handle when left on the stem.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Cut clean, dry stems about six inches long and then place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Lighter, netted leaves like tarragon can be allowed to overlap slightly.

Place in the freezer for a few hours, then transfer to an airtight storage bag or container. Label with contents and date.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Remove individual sprigs as needed, and remove leaves from stems before using.

rolled logs

Soft, flat-leaf species such as basil, Italian parsley, or sage can be pressed and rolled into a log for more efficient bulk storage.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Remove clean and dry leaves from stems and pack in a sealed bag.

Squeeze the leaves into a bundle at the bottom of the bag and press tightly. Roll the bag around the bundled leaves, squeezing out the air as you roll.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Seal the bag, label and date, then secure tightly with a rubber band before placing in the freezer.

When needed, slice quarter- or half-inch discs from the log.

frozen for the future

Start preserving your harvest whenever you have a surplus, and you’ll be well-stocked with your favorite herbs when summer ends—perfectly frozen for future use.

Ideal for adding flavor and aroma to salad dressings, pasta dishes, sauces, soups and stews, you’ll love their fresh taste when winter sets in!

Do you guys have a favorite freezing technique? Drop us a line in the comments below.

And if you like the idea of ​​growing your own stockpile of herbs, be sure to read some of our growing guides ahead:

Photos by Allison Sidhu and Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. All rights reserved. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.