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 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, 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.