How to Freeze Herbs

Five Methods:Whole Sprigs, Stems or Large LeavesGrated or Chopped HerbsFreezing in Ice CubesFreezing in ButterFreezing in Oil (Herb and Oil Paste)

It is possible to freeze herbs. In many cases, this is done to quickly preserve a glut of herbs when there isn't time to do anything more time consuming because few herbs survive the freezing process in a presentable form, although most will retain their flavor profile. Here are some methods to help you keep the herbs longer through freezing.

Steps

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    Be aware that most herbs will not freeze in a way that retains their former glory. Many will turn mushy but should retain the flavor provided you are prepared to use them for food such as soups, stews, baked goods and the like, rather than for salads or garnishes.
    • Note that not everyone agrees that herbs can be frozen at all. Some chefs believe it ruins the herbs and should be avoided.[1] On the other hand, others believe it is just fine to freeze herbs.[2] It is recommended that you try it for yourself as an experiment to see whether or not the results work for you.
    • Herbs thought to be amenable to freezing include: chives, chervil, dill, fennel leaves, parsley and tarragon.[2] Herbs that don't dry well are better frozen (for example, chives, basil, chervil, cilantro and dill.
    • Keep in mind that some herbs may be better dried than frozen. For example, rosemary will dry really simply without much ado and retains its flavor for a long time.
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    Collect herbs after the dew has dried from them. The idea is to get them before too many of the oils have evaporated in the heat of the sun but after they're free of the morning dew. However, the need to pick them before the sun has heated them may depend on where you live; if your sunshine isn't too fierce, any time of the day may be appropriate.
    • The reason to avoid picking herbs that are damp is that they can mildew easily. For the purposes of freezing, it's just more water you need to get rid of.
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    Prepare the herbs before freezing. Herbs should be free of dirt, insects and any other plant matter. If needed, wash dirty herbs gently but thoroughly and allow to dry completely before freezing. If you know the herbs are from a clean source and can get away with just brushing them or wiping them, this is preferable to washing them too much.
    • If you have washed the herbs, leave on absorbent paper to soak up moisture, then pat dry.
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    Select a method for freezing based on one of the following. Aim to use frozen herbs within two months, to avoid loss of flavor. Herbs kept frozen any longer than this may taste bland or even unpleasant, depending on the type of herb.

Method 1
Whole Sprigs, Stems or Large Leaves

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    Select herbs that can be turned into sprigs. Some herbs will stay in sprigs, such as rosemary, parsley or thyme.[2] Bay leaves can be frozen this way.
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    Line a baking sheet or tray with parchment paper or kitchen foil.
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    Lay the sprigs across the baking sheet or tray. Place in the freezer and allow to freeze.
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    Remove from the freezer. Place into bags or suitable freezer containers. Note the date and contents before returning to the freezer. Use within two months.

Method 2
Grated or Chopped Herbs

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    Grate or finely chop the herbs before freezing. This will take care of the mush many softer leaf herbs are going to turn into anyway.
    • You can grate or finely chop single herbs this way or do a mixture of complementary herbs.
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    Place into small freezer bags. Date and label the bags.
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    Freeze. Use within two months.

Method 3
Freezing in Ice Cubes

This method works around the mushiness by giving the herbs something solid to hang onto. These are great for removing whole and tossing direct into soups, stews and other hot items while cooking, to release both flavor and a little liquid.

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    Wash and completely dry an ice cube tray. If freezing lots, use more trays.
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    Chop or dice the herbs up finely. Sprinkle to about 1/4 of the way in each ice cube hole in the tray.
    • This can work for mixed herb combinations as well as single herb varieties.
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    Cover each herb lot with a little water. Don't overfill the cubes or herbs will float away.
    • Note: Some people find it easier to pour in a little water, then add the herbs, then pour in the remaining bit of water. Experiment to see what you prefer.
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    Freeze the cubes. Once frozen, transfer to resealable freezer bags or freezer containers and label and date as appropriate.
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    Place back in the freezer. Leave until needed.
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    Use within two months. To use, simply add one or two cubes to a dish you're cooking at any one time.
    • To help you measure, one ice cube of herbs is worth approximately 15ml/1 tablespoon of chopped herbs.

Method 4
Freezing in Butter

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    Make an herb butter. There are plenty of possibilities, including thyme butter, basil butter, rosemary butter and herb butter.
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    Wrap the butter in kitchen foil. Place this inside a freezer-proof container with a lid. Label and date the container.
    • You can freeze little portions (easiest to thaw), a butter roll or a whole block of herb butter. Do whichever works best for your cooking and storage needs.
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    Use. Herb butter will keep for up to 12 months.[1] You can either slice off a piece of the frozen butter and allow just that piece to thaw, or thaw the whole portion, depending on your needs. Thaw in the refrigerator and once it has thawed, keep it covered in the refrigerator and use within 2 to 3 days.

Method 5
Freezing in Oil (Herb and Oil Paste)

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    Use the ice cube method above. However, this time, use a food processor to puree soft leaved herbs (such as basil, parsley or cilantro) with a little olive oil or a more mildly flavored vegetable oil of choice. The herbs must be completely dry before processing.
    • The ratio is about 1 cup fresh herbs to 1/4 cup oil.
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    Process until a smooth paste is formed.
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    Add the olive oil pureed herb to the ice cubes. Fill about 3/4 of the way. Do not add water.
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    Place in the freezer to freeze. Remove when frozen and add to freezer bags. Label and date.
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    Use a cube or two when needed. Use within 3 months.

Tips

  • Blanched herbs can be frozen for up to 6 months. That said, the sooner you use frozen herbs, the better, as the flavors fade quickly, even when frozen.
  • Drying tends to preserve the flavor of most herbs just as well as freezing.
  • If you need to dry herbs after washing, dish drying racks are most useful; use a clean rack, then simply lay out the herbs on it and let the washed herbs dry. If a little sun comes through the window to warm things up faster, so much the better.

Sources and Citations

  1. 1.01.1Browne, et. al., (2001) p. 17
  2. 2.02.12.2The Good Cook's Collection. (1993). p. 62
  • Browne, Mary; Leach, Helen; Tichborne, Nancy. The Cook's Herb Garden. (2001). ISBN 1-86962-041-0 – research source
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Article Info

Categories: Herbs and Spices | Freezing Food