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how to freeze parsley, chives and other herbs

chop herbs for freezingI 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 and wind down 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 4-ounce Ball jars).

freeze herbs as pesto cubes

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

how to freeze herbsI 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.

freezing chives

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

  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. Katie Spring 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!

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. Mary Sue says:

    In the Colorado mountains where I live my rosemary freezes middle to late Sept. The leaves dry and stay intact. I leave it outside and just pick when needed. It stays fragrant and flavorful all winter.

      1. margaret says:

        Hi, Dusty. With parsley, which is pretty cold-tolerant (but a biennial so inclined to bolt sometimes), friends here in Zone 5 eke out a longer harvest by covering it with an upside-down bushed basket, or under insulating Reemay or some such. It doesn’t stay perfect all winter even here but definitely can be stretched with the bit of cover.

        Which ones were you thinking of? (Cilantro or basil won’t stand up to the cold, for example.)

  8. Linda L says:

    I also use a lot of flat leaf parsley. I buy 2 bunches of organic parsley at a time. I soak a handful of stems in the bowl of the salad spinner and change the water 2 -3 times to make sure all the dirt is gone before I spin to remove as much water as possible. I then pull off the leaves and place them in the food processor. I pulse to chop, being careful not to overdo. When I have one bunch done, I pack it lightly in a plastic container with a screw top. I continue likewise with the second bunch. It is important not to over-process the parsley or pack too tightly; a tall 4 cup container will usually hold both bunches. This keeps well in the freezer. Whenever I need parsley, I just take a fork and flick out what I want. Great for sauces, stews, stuffing and boiled potatoes.

  9. BIANCA says:

    i HAVE BEEN FREEZING PARSLEY,MINT,AND OTHER HERBS FOR YEARS. IF GET THEM FROM THE GROCERY STORY,I GIVE THEM A QUICK RINSE ,DRY AND THROW THEM IN A PLASTIC STORAGE BAG. IN THE FREEZER IT GOES-THERE IS NO NEED TO DO ANYTHING ELSE.STEM AND ALL! IF YOU WANT THEM CRUMPLED. WHEN COOKING AND TAKE BAG OUT OF FREEZER TAKE BACK OF KNIFE AND CHOP. THE HERB CRUMBLES,PERFECTLY WITHOUT LEAVING BAG. THE STRENGTH OF THE HERB REMAINS THE SAME INSTEAD OF MANGLING IT IN A FOOD PROCESSOR.

  10. angie says:

    I am so glad I found your site. I never found anything on how to freeze

    Bay leaves. I have had the bay leaves tree for around ten years and never

    knew how to freeze it.

    Thank you so much.

  11. Winifred says:

    I enjoy my indoor kitchen planter with fresh parsley and chive year round, so an alternative to freezing. Guess I’m fortunate to live in S Cal where the rosemary and the mint is always available outdoors – don’t forget your followers in the Southwest :)

  12. Bonnie says:

    Any ideas of what to do with shiso leaves ?
    I’ve also made herb butter and freeze in logs. You can slice off a piece to mix with veges

  13. Natasha says:

    Thanks! Margaret, I really appreciate your info on how to freeze herbs as pesto in doubled freezer bags with the air expressed out (my single bag would always tear in the freezer and then freezer burn =tasteless),& herbs in ice cubes in water, freezing herbs on the stem and herb ‘logs’. And the tip that basil needs to be frozen in a little water or oil. And to never freeze wet leaves. Thanks also to Robin for letting me know I can grow a herb garden in a pallet: Bonny for how to freeze pesto flat in zip plastic bags (I thought I had to stick only with expensive freezer bags); Donna for her info on how to freeze avocados (who knew!?); Linda L for her tip on how to pulse parsley and freeze in plastic container with a screw top-once again freeing me from the clutches of expensive freezer bags; Bianca for letting me know that I can use plastic storage bags (no freezer bag) and Winifred for what I can grow indoors all year round. Thanks everyone!

    1. margaret says:

      With rosemary and thyme, I leave the leaves on the twigs, and put them in freezer bags, pressing all the air out. When they are frozen it’s easy to snap off the useful bits into a dish you’re cooking, and discard the stems then. Alternatively, you could take a million leaves off the stems now, and make a thick pesto of them (to freeze in ice cube form) with either a little oil or a little water. But I think the the other way is easier.

  14. Carol says:

    I dry bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, dill, lemon verbena, and mints in my dehydrator with fine results. It is also possible to dry them in the oven. Tarragon doesn’t dry well, so I’ve just used it for vinegar. Will try freezing that and chives. Thanks for those ideas. We freeze basil in pesto, minus the cheese, which is added when serving. One 1-quart bag is perfect for 1 lb. of pasta. I also store parsley in 1-qt. bags. I break off a piece of parsley or pesto when needed. Frozen roasted tomatoes and dehydrated tomatoes are equally good.
    Thanks for all you share, Margaret.

  15. JANET OCONNOR says:

    When freezing in “Wreck freezer jars” please explain. I do not see specific freezer jar on their web site. Do you use a canning jar for freezing? If so, which one do you use? I live in SE Michigan. And although my herb garden did “ok” this summer it is BEAUTIFUL this fall. I want to use many of the suggestions on your site to save a harvest of them during the winter. I have gorgeous sage, rosemary, parsley, chives, thyme, coriander. I loves, tell me about the jars….. <3

    1. margaret says:

      Whether Weck brand or Mason (aka Ball) jars, use straight-sided wide-mouth canning jars for freezing anything liquid — whether soup, or tomato sauce or applesauce. The jars with narrower mouths and wider “shoulders” below can burst when the liquid swells as it freezes. So any jar that’s more cylinder-shaped, and i prefer wide (unless I am freezing just small amounts when I use straight-sided half-pint jars). But yes, all are “canning” jars, which are great for freezing.

  16. Nadelane Joseph says:

    I’ve used your log idea with parsley but have a lot of cilantro that will go to seed if I don’t use it up soon. Have you ever frozen cilantro into logs?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Nadelane. I have not — have done it in ice cubes (using a tiny bit of water) … but I think it will work fine.

  17. Joan Kutcher says:

    Any thoughts on using a vacuum sealer for herb, fruit and veg storage? I’m reluctant to get another kitchen machine, but wonder if that’s the best method for freezing the garden harvest. Things always end up with some freezer burn a few months into the winter.
    Thanks,
    Joan

    1. Susan says:

      Here’s a quick trick for removing air from freezer bags without buying another kitchen gadget: I seal all but the top corner of the bag, and slowly submerge it in a deep pot or bowl of water, being careful not to allow water into the bag.. Once the water pressure has forced out the air in the bag, just seal the final corner. It’s not a vacuum sealer, but it works very well. I do that when I sous vide too….it keeps the food submerged.

  18. Geraldine says:

    Is it because of your zone that you aren’t able to harvest thyme all winter.? We’re on Long Island (zone 7b) and am able to snip what thyme I need from the herb garden all winter.
    Your parsley logs are the best. Tried them last winter for the first time and didn’t make enough. Have done several late plantings for the sole purpose of winter storage. Thanks!

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