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 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 Weck).

freeze herbs as pesto, flavored or plain

GET 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

THIS 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

SOME 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.

ways to use frozen herbs

  • As an ingredient in a soup or stew or sauce;
  • With pesto cubes in particular, as a garnish to soups and stews;
  • Again, with pestos, spread on crackers or bread, served as appetizers or to otherwise accompany a meal;
  • To enliven a sandwich or egg dish (I love them in frittatas and omelets, for example).
  • Plain frozen herb leaves are not great as a garnish on, say, a salad, as they can be limp compared to fresh, but I often mix them into the dressing to spice it up.

more herb stories to savor

30 comments
August 30, 2012

comments

  1. says

    Wow. these are really great ideas. I have lots of basil and I cant seem to use them up in time. I’m going to take some of you freezing ideas. =)

  2. diana dannenberg says

    Hey!! Love this website!
    I figured out a cool thing to do with excess garlic (is there such a thing?) … I use my mini-processor and grind up peeled cloves into medium sized “chunks”, then put in a freezer bag and flatten out to freeze. Once frozen, you can just break off a chunk to add to what you’re cooking!. No muss/No fuss. Great time saver.

  3. says

    I didn’t know about freezing chives. Time for me to get chopping! I made your parsley logs for the first time last summer. Perfect. I also do basil in cubes. You are such a great gardening friend sharing all these tips. Thank you!

  4. Mary Jane says

    I am SO appreciative of the “ways to use” advice. I’m up on the freezing part, but then stare into my frige in winter thinking “now what?”
    Thanks for sharing so much this summer, Margaret, including frogs & Jack.
    MJ

  5. Karen says

    I found that mincing rosemary in a food processor and freezing it in a small container is pefect for storing the summer’s harvest. Smaller amounts can be kept in the refrigerator.

    • says

      Thank you, Karen. This is very funny — that you should post this advice today — because after doing a workshop this weekend I am in possession of a bounty of rosemary!Thank you so much for the solution (I was going to dry it but don’t like it dried, really).

  6. Karen says

    Great. That’s what neighbors are for! Haven’t made a visit to your garden yet, but next season I’m going to try. I’ll say hi and see how this worked out.

  7. Nancy says

    I have been freezing my basil crop in oil for years now. Never thought of other herbs. I process the leaves with olive oil and then freeze in a zip bag which has been flattened and the air removed. I can then just break off as much as I need. All winter I have “fresh” basil for pasta sauce or soup.

  8. Jenn says

    I was about to chime in when I saw Nancy’s comment- we also freeze basil pesto flat in gallon sized ziplocks with all the air squeezed out. This way we can stack the skinny squares of pesto easily in our small freezer or slide them in around the edges.

    Last fall I cut back all my Texas/Mexican Tarragon and used the You Grow Girl method of mixing it with softened butter and freezing them in small logs- just enough for one dinner. They were such a treat whenever we had fresh bread! (Southern gardeners- I highly recommend the Texas tarragon (also known as Mexican Mint Marigold)- great tarragon-ish flavor and grows well in hot and humid southern sun.

  9. Delton says

    Thank you for th great ideas! I am usually remiss come winter with regard to my herbs. Would garlic chive flowers be suitable for freezing? I eat them in salads now, but have made the mistake of not deadheading in the past. The seedlings are everywhere!

    • says

      Hi, Delton. I have seen various chive flowers pickled (simply infused in vinegar) but don’t know how they’d freeze. Very easy to test a few — try them in different ways, e.g. place some on dish or baking sheet to freeze first as individual flowers before putting them into a jar in the freezer together. Try another few of them chopped perhaps and frozen, and so on till you figure out if it works. If not, you could make a flavored vinegar like this.

  10. Gen says

    Hi Margaret! Could you re-post your music playlist from a couple years ago? “We now have snake for dinner”, and other great tunes? I really enjoyed them and lost track of them. By the way, I’m rereading your first book. It’s a great read! Do you still have Jack? Thanks!
    Gen

    • margaret says

      Hi, Gen. Not sure I can resurrect it but I will look. After the site revamp recently, certain things are MIA at the moment.

  11. Tina says

    Last year i started to grow herbs and I was wondering how to save chives and had tried to dry like other herbs but that didn’t work out. So thank you for the tips to freeze.

  12. says

    I don’t like freezing most foods, but I really like the ideas that you present for freezing fresh herbs. I knew about the freezing in ice cube trick, but I especially like the pesto. I am definitely going to use these tips this year!

  13. Aggie Reed says

    I am container gardening all sorts of things from seed which are sprouting right up. I also started with a few tomato plants and a variety of herbs. I have such a full harvest of herbs, I have to start picking and freezing this weekend. I’m going to try all of your methods. Thank you!

  14. says

    I personally don’t prefer oil base and I think freeze herbs as ice cubes is a much better option and yes there is no point wasting extra dollars in winters. Preservation is always the best way out :) Thanks for sharing these details, loved it!

  15. says

    Thanks for these ideas. I’ve tried freezing herbs in ice trays filled with olive oil. No likey. I’ll have to try the pesto idea.

  16. says

    another option in lieu of making ice cubes is to spoon mixture into a freezer bag and press out the air so package lays flat in freezer. Once frozen, chunks can be broken off easily according to quantity needed. Also works well with left over tomato paste.

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