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.

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.

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. Carol Higgins says:

    You didn’t say anything about dill. I LOVE dill but it never lasts long in the fridge and in the winter is very expensive and sometimes not available. I wish dried dill had some flavor but it doesn’t. How should I freeze dill?

    1. margaret says:

      It’s buried in there as half a sentence I think, but here’s the idea: I leave it on the stems (not the main thickest one with roots or anything, but the tender secondary branches from which the ferny foliage extends) and I kind of flatten a mass of it in a freezer bag. When I need some I push it partway out of the bag on the cutting board and cut off what i need. So yes, freeze it.

      1. Carol K. says:

        I froze dill in logs for the last couple of years. I remove the main stems as you described, but then I gather enough fine leaves tightly together into a log about about an inch in diameter. Then I roll the logs into several half-sheets of paper towels. It thaws REALLY quickly once removed from the freezer, so I peel open the paper from an end of one of the logs and chop off as much as I want, then quickly tuck the rest of the log back into the zip bag and back into the freezer. Works a charm! Dill is a must for me in potato salad, salmon patties, tzatziki sauce…

  2. Emma says:

    My mom does this and she LOVES it! How do you store all the ziplock logs? I’m trying to think of a creative Christmas gift for her, and I know she has mentioned she doesn’t know how to store all of her herbs in the freezer

  3. ruth says:

    I have a small, below refrigerator, freezer.

    What size freezer does this group recommend, or use?
    And will the herbs keep the same amt of time in normal freezer tempts, or longer in a deeper temp freezer?

    Thanks for your responses

    1. margaret says:

      Besides my regular freezer above my fridge, I have two small ones that are 3 or 3.5 cubic feet. I unplug them one after another as I use up the contents, so by the next summer I probably only have the one running (above the fridge). Normal freezer temps are what I am using, but one good thing probably is that I don’t open these 10 times a day like you do the one connected to your refrigerator, so things in there are pretty constant in temperature.

  4. Elizabeth Paling says:

    Helpful thanks. I have had good success freezing many herbs but will try some more, like chives, as you’ve suggested.

  5. Vogon says:

    The link to the “herb logs” slideshow goes to a black rectangle. No matter where I click, I can’t get any response. I don’t think it should be a factor, but I’m in the U.S. Would really like to know how to do this, so any help/suggestions would be appreciated.

    1. margaret says:

      Sorry it’s broken; repair under way. There is a photo of the log (parsley leaflets stuffed into the bottom of a sandwich bag to the diameter of about a half-dollar) here.

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