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

52 comments
August 30, 2012

comments

  1. Sharon says

    I’m curious how you use frozen spearmint in winter?

    And love to pass on how good pesto is on boiled or steamed new potatoes, or steamed yellow squash.

  2. says

    We are making pesto now to save the last of the herbs before another frost (we covered to parsley and saved it from the first frost). I’ve never tried freezing all these herbs in logs, or in jars, though–I’m intrigued!

  3. Robin Lovelady says

    I am so glad to bookmark your site! What a treasure trove of information. I am about to freeze the $2.98, yes I said $2.98 bunches of sage, rosemary and thyme I bought before doing my usual throwing the 2/3 remainder that has gone bad in the compost bin. Somehow I feel better putting it there, rather than the trashcan, but I never feel right discarding them. Heck, andwhy.not just roll up a dollar bill and smoke it every time I do that? I shudder to think of how much money i have spent on fresh herbs that I didn’t use! But today, as I have declared this the YEAR OF THE ROBIN (after 43 years I think, no, I KNOW, it is time to take care of ME), no more excuses. I am no longer going to waste money and then wonder why I am always robbing Peter to pay Paul!!!!! Sorry, I digress….honestly, I just wanted to say thank you for an awesome website that I have added to the top of my “Favorites” list! I can’t wait to start my pallet garden in a few months (pallets , soil and supplies are still there from last year’s unfinished project #1,072) and I suspect I will frequently reference your site for guidance! WooHoo! Now, I am off to the kitchen to freeze me some herbs! Happy Sunday to you!

    • margaret says

      Thanks for your very funny and positive comment, Robin. I grow more waste not, want not every year and kind of love it when I figure out one more way to use every last drop of things rather than toss. Nice to see you.

  4. Kate says

    I froze chives loose and made a parsley log this past fall. Those logs are one of the best things ever!! I’ll be doing that from now on.

  5. Bonny says

    I like to freeze my pestos in any size zip plastic bags. Put in just enough pesto to flatten the bag and contents to 1/4 inch, freeze it flat, and then break off frozen chunks as needed.

    • margaret says

      No, Diane, as mentioned basil has to be frozen in a slurry/paste of a little water or oil (I prefer oil) or as pesto. It’s not like parsley that way. Cold blackens it otherwise, so you cannot freeze leaves unprotected by the oil (or at least a little water in basil cubes).

  6. Donna says

    Thanks for the info. It confirms that I have saved my herbs correctly. I have an abundance of basil but my parsley and cilantro not so well but when I buy them from the market I freeze the access into ice cubes. I encourage Ice maker or not have a couple of ice trays for all kinds of freezing. I was given a box (48) avocados that I pulse down and froze into ice cubes. One avocado =4 cubes. So lots of food ideas for ice trays.

    • margaret says

      Hi, Melody, and that’s up to you. (I confess I eat things while standing out in the garden all the time, probably not the ideal thing to do officially…but I do.) But here is the thing you must do: If you wash herbs, put them in a salad spinner the set the out to fully dry them before freezing. Freezing wet leaves, or even damp leaves, will make them deteriorate.

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