Keep Your Herbs Fresher Longer Using These Test-Kitchen Tricks

Fresh herbs add bright flavor to almost any recipe, but they can be difficult to keep on hand for very long. We'll show you how to store herbs using four simple methods so you can keep these kitchen staples on reserve.

Nothing beats produce and herbs to bring freshness to your home cooking. But because of their perishable nature, it's hard to use up all your fruits, veggies, and herbs before they go bad. Knowing how to store your produce is the first step in getting the most from your grocery run, but there are several other ways you can preserve herbs to get the most life out of them. Our Test Kitchen approves of these methods for storing fresh herbs when you need to extend their shelf life by just a couple of days with proper refrigerated storage or for many weeks by drying the herbs.

assorted herbs on white wood block
Carson Downing

Method 1: Hang in Bunches

Knowing how to dry herbs will keep you stocked on herbs year-round. Using 100%-cotton kitchen string like this cotton cooking twine ($5, Walmart), tie a few stems together. Hang the bundles upside down in a warm, dry place with good circulation until dry (about 5 to 14 days). The length of drying time will vary depending on humidity and herb type.

Place dried herbs in an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place up to 1 year. Before using, crush dried herbs with your fingers to release their oils and bring out their flavor.

Method 2: Wrap

Wrap small bunches of fresh herbs in a damp paper towel and keep in an airtight resealable bag in the refrigerator. Storing herbs this way may extend the shelf life up to a week versus storing in those produce bags from the grocery store. This method does not work for preserving basil, which should be stored at room temperature.

Storing Herbs in an Herb Keeper

If your garden is overflowing and you are constantly trying to figure out how to keep herbs fresh longer, you can invest in an herb keeper ($15, OXO). This is a small container that helps maintain the proper humidity and hydration your fresh herbs need to thrive.

Storing fresh basil in water covered with plastic

Method 3: Cover in Water

Trim ½ inch from the herb stems and place in a jar or cup with water. Loosely cover the leaves with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator (except basil, which should be stored at room temperature). This will extend the life of your fresh herbs a couple days longer, potentially up to a week, than just tossing them into your produce drawer.

Method 4: Microwave

Place herbs in a single layer between two paper towels on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave for one minute on high, testing for dryness every 20 seconds. Timings will vary depending on herb type. Remove the dried leaves from the stems. Place dried herbs in an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place up to 1 year.

Test Kitchen Tip: This method of drying herbs works best for woody-stemmed herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Delicate herbs such as mint, basil, and parsley can wither and turn brown. If you're at the last resort or need delicate herbs in dried form, place them between damp paper towels using the microwave method above.

Add fresh (or freshly-dried) herbs to all kinds of dishes whether savory or sweet. See our tips on cooking with fresh herbs or dried herbs for inspiration. And take your herb preserving skills further when you learn how to freeze herbs.

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