How to Freeze Herbs So You Can Cook with Fresh Flavors All Year
Learning how to freeze fresh herbs is a great way to ensure your extra summer herbs can be used to brighten up dishes in the middle of winter. If you have an herb garden planted (or planned) in your yard, chances are there's an abundance of fragrant rosemary, thyme, dill, and other edible greens ready to be added to all kinds of recipes. When there's too much of that quick-growing basil sprouting and you're tired of making pesto, preserving it is the way to go. Follow our easy tips for freezing fresh herbs so you don't have to waste any of those bold flavor boosters.
How to Freeze Herbs
To start, make sure your herbs are clean. Give herbs a good wash under cool water, then pat them dry.
- Spread clean, dry herbs (leaves and stems) in a single layer on a cooking tray, and put the pan in the freezer for about 1 hour, or until frozen. (This is known as flash freezing and works well on other fruits and veggies, too.)
- Put the frozen herbs into labeled, sealed containers. Be sure to push all the air out of the containers before sealing them, and store them in the freezer 1 to 2 months.
Test Kitchen Tip: Chop chives and lemongrass before freezing them. These herbs are thin and will freeze in minutes.
In most cases, you don't need to thaw herbs before use. When frozen herbs thaw, they will get darker and limp, so we recommend adding them to recipes while still frozen. They'll do best in dishes like soups, casseroles, or breakfast skillets rather than fresh uses like pesto (we'll get to that below) or to garnish a recipe.
Herbs That Freeze Well
If you have a garden full of herbs but don't know which will freeze best, here are some that do particularly well in the freezer.
- Dill (better frozen than dried)
- Savory (both winter and summer)
- Sorrel (better frozen than dried)
- Sweet woodruff
Tips for Freezing Herbs
Now that you know how to freeze herbs, here are some tips to ensure your herbs will be at their best when stored.
Check Your Freezer Temperature
Check the temperature of your freezer to ensure it maintains the proper temperature for food storage. Freezers should be 0°F.
These containers are the best for freezer-bound foods:
- Freezer-safe containers ($40, Amazon): Look for a phrase or icon on the label or container indicating they are designed for freezer use.
- Glass jars with tight-fitting lids: All major brands of canning jars ($25, Amazon) are acceptable for use in the refrigerator and freezer.
- Plastic freezer bags: Use bags designated for freezing, such as reusable storage bags ($12, Target) and vacuum freezer storage bags. These are made of thicker material than regular plastic bags and are more resistant to moisture and oxygen. In lieu of a vacuum sealer, you can use a straw to suck the air out of bags.
Take a moment to label foods before storing them. Use a permanent marker to note the name of the herb, the quantity, and the date it was frozen.
Alternate Herb Freezing Methods
Wash, dry, and freeze may be the most basic way you can freeze herbs, but it's not the only way.
Make an Herb Paste or Pesto
One of our Test Kitchen's favorite ways to freeze herbs is to mix them with oil and freeze in ice cube trays. Make a paste by mixing ⅓ cup oil with 2 cups fresh herbs in a blender ($40, Amazon) until smooth. Alternatively, you could make a batch of your favorite pesto to freeze. The paste freezes beautifully in sealed jars or in ice cube trays that are thoroughly wrapped to make them airtight. You can also remove the cubes once frozen and store them in a plastic freezer bag. The herb paste will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. In winter, toss in a frozen herb paste cube to your dishes for a garden-fresh taste. Herbs that are good candidates for grinding into paste include basil, chervil, cilantro, coriander, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, and tarragon.
Make Herb-Infused Ice Cubes
Herbs can be frozen in water to make decorative ice cubes for party drinks. Freeze strawberries and their leaves, mint sprigs, and woodruff sprigs in a silicone ice mold with a lid ($10, Bed Bath & Beyond) for easy release. Or if you have a big punch bowl, try freezing your herbs into an ice ring or block. Boil the water first to make it clear. Once it has cooled, fill the bottom of the mold with the boiled water and freeze. Arrange the herbs you plan to freeze, then continue adding water until the mold is filled, and then freeze again.
How to Dry Herbs
Freezing isn't your only option for preserving your herbs long-term, you can also dry your herbs at home. There are a few different methods for drying herbs, including air-drying and microwave-oven drying. To air-dry your herbs, gather three to six stems together and secure with string, yarn, or a rubber band. Hang the bundles upside down in a dry, dark place (sunlight robs color, fragrance, and flavor). A well-ventilated attic or basement are both good options. Your herbs will be fully dry within a few weeks (maybe even quicker). Before cooking with your herbs, make sure the plants are brittle, then remove the leaves and store them in airtight jars or bags.