Herbs make a terrific seasoning and are often used in a variety of cooking. Usually, herbs can be bought fresh and dried. Since dried herbs have been processed to remove as much moisture as possible, they have a longer shelf life than fresh herbs. However, the intensity of the aroma and flavor of dried herbs could degrade the longer you keep them in storage.
Fresh herbs have a shorter shelf life because they are quite delicate. They bruise easily and they are prone to rot. Fresh herbs are sensitive to temperature changes too. But can you freeze fresh herbs? If say, you prefer working with fresh herbs but you need to store the rest for later, is freezing the best way to preserve herbs? Yes it is!
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Fresh herbs can be frozen and when done right, there will be little to no flavor changes! In fact, fresh herbs that are frozen properly retain the same aroma, flavor, and nutrients as freshly harvested herbs. In addition, there are several techniques to freeze fresh herbs!
Frozen fresh herbs may not look as pretty as freshly harvested herbs but they are definitely safe to use in cooking.
One thing to keep in mind when prepping the herbs for freezing is the moisture level. You need to remove as much water as possible during prepping so ice crystals won’t form within the herbs. If you don’t, the ice crystals will melt when the herbs are thawed, diluting the flavor of the herb.
Freezing is not only a fantastic method to maximize fresh herbs; it’s a terrific way to stock up on seasonal herbs! Imagine having summer season herbs all winter long. Now let’s take a look at how can you freeze herbs:
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The Best Herbs for Freezing
There are different varieties of herbs, which ones are best for freezing? Hard or tough herbs are best for freezing because they contain less moisture so they do not degrade as easily once frozen. They are also more likely to retain their aroma and flavor once frozen and defrosted. Examples of tough herbs are oregano, bay leaf, marjoram, and thyme.
Soft herbs are herbs with a high moisture content. This makes them a little tricky to freeze. Since they contain more moisture, the ice crystals will develop within the herbs. This will dilute the flavor and aroma of the herbs. Parsley basil, cilantro, tarragon, basil, mint, and chives are some of the most common soft herbs. They can be frozen but expect slight flavor changes.
Prepping the Herbs
No matter what type of herbs you freeze, it’s important to prep the herbs prior to freezing. Start by rinsing the herbs in cool water, removing dirt and other debris. Once the herbs are clean, pat dry with paper towel. Finally, you can either chop the herbs or leave them uncut. Now you’re ready to freeze.
Freezing Fresh Herbs Individually
Hardy herbs such as rosemary, Italian parsley, sage dill, chives, thyme, and bay leaf, can be frozen with minimal steps. Since these herbs have low moisture content, they are able to retain their enzymes and natural flavors.
Just spread the fresh herbs in a single layer-baking sheet, making sure the herbs do not touch each other so they don’t clump together. Stick the baking sheet in the freezer and leave to freeze for an hour or so.
Once the fresh herbs are frozen, prepare several resealable plastic bags. Take the baking sheet out, place the frozen herbs inside and then squeeze out as much air as you can. Seal the plastic bag and flatten the bag. Write the storage date then stick in the freezer.
Freezing Fresh Herbs in Water
This technique is best for tender herbs such as cilantro, mint, and parsley. You’ll need several ice cube trays and filtered water. You can either chop the herbs or leave them uncut. Place the herbs in every ice cube slot then fill with filtered water. Make sure the herbs are covered completely with water before popping the tray in the freezer. Leave the herbs to freeze for two hours or so.
Once the herbs are frozen solid, prepare quart-sized resealable plastic bags. Take the ice cube trays out, pop each cubed herb and place it gently into the plastic bag. Squeeze as much air as you can prior to sealing. Write the storage date then stick in the freezer.
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Freezing Fresh Herbs in Oil
Freezing in oil is perhaps the best technique when it comes to retaining the flavor of aromatic herbs. This is a great way to preserve hardier herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. It is a great technique for freezing basil to make pesto as well!
The great thing about freezing herbs in oil is that you can customize the herbs to create your own flavor concoction. For instance, you can combine sage, thyme, and rosemary and freeze them in oil so you have instant flavoring for roast chicken!
One thing to consider when choosing this technique is the quality of the oil. For starters, you need to use oil that has a neutral taste. You don’t want the natural flavor of the oil to overpower the flavor of the herbs. Good quality olive oil is one of the best oils to use for this technique. The delicate flavor of the oil will enhance the flavor of the aromatics. If olive oil is not available, you can use coconut oil or melted butter.
After prepping the herbs for freezing, prepare several ice cube trays. Place the herbs into each ice cube slot and pour the oil. Make sure the oil is covering the herbs well. Stick in the freezer and leave to freeze for an hour or so.
When the cubed herbs are frozen stiff, prepare several fun-sized resealable plastic bags. Take the ice cube tray out of the freezer and pop each cubed herb. Place everything in the resealable plastic and squeeze out the air before sealing. Write the storage date then stick in the freezer.
Freezing Fresh Herbs in Broth
Yes, you can freeze fresh herbs using your choice of broth. You can use beef, chicken, or a mix of both, depending on the recipe. The steps are similar to freezing fresh herbs in oil, just prep the herbs then place them in ice cube trays. Pour the broth, just enough to fill each cube slot. Make sure the broth is covering the fresh herbs well.
Stick the ice trays in the freezer and leave to freeze for 2 hours or so. Once the herbs are frozen solid, take the ice cube trays out of the freezer and pop the cubed herbs. Place everything in small resealable plastic bags, squeezing out the air before sealing. With a marker, write the storage date then stick in the freezer.
Freezing Specific Types of Herbs
If you’re freezing a specific type of herbs, check out our step by step guide below:
Dill is a soft herb that requires care when being prepped for freezing. Check out this guide to learn how to freeze dill right.
The tangy, zippy flavor of cilantro adds live to fresh salads and stir-frys. It’s also a common herb used in Mexican and Asian cooking. Here’s our guide on how to freeze cilantro.
From pizza to salads, the distinct aroma of basil adds a lovely dimension to any dish. But how to freeze basil? Check out this guide.
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Slow defrosting is best if you’re using the herbs to make salads, marinades, and seasonings. Defrosting frozen fresh herbs slowly is so easy; just transfer the container from the freezer to the fridge. Leave the herbs to thaw for several hours.
If you are using the herbs for cooking soups, stews, etc., there is no need to thaw the herbs at all. Just pop a portion of the frozen herbs in the pot and the herbs will thaw as the dish cooks.
Fresh herbs leave more room for experimentation. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it pays to store fresh herbs properly for your next culinary adventure.
Freezing fresh herbs does require several steps but the time it takes to preserve these aromatics are certainly worth the effort. Now that you know how can you freeze fresh herbs, there is no need to worry about what to do with your leftover aromatics!