Freezing Methods for Herbs & Spices

Part 2 of the Series Methods to Preserve Your Herbal Harvest

Series HeaderIt is possible to freeze herbs. In many cases, this is done to quickly keep a glut of herbs when there isn’t time to do anything more time-consuming because few herbs survive the freezing process in a presentable form, although most will keep their flavor profile.

The freezing method is nice for culinary herbs since it is easy and quick. This works for just about all leafy herbs, but especially well for lighter tasting herbs that you might use at the end of a dish to perk it up such as: basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, and mint.

Other good candidates for freezing include fennel and dill tips, tarragon, and chervil.

Opinions on Freezing Herbs

Be aware that most herbs will not freeze in a way that retains their former glory. Many will turn mushy but should keep the flavor provided you are prepared to use them for food such as soups, stews, baked goods and the like, and not for salads or garnishes.

  • Not everyone agrees that herbs can be frozen at all. Some chefs believe it ruins the herbs and  should  be  avoided. On  the  other  hand,  others  believe  it  is  just  fine  to  freeze  herbs. It  is recommended that you try it for yourself as an experiment to see whether the results work for you.
  • Herbs thought to be amenable to freezing include: chives, chervil, dill, fennel leaves, parsley and tarragon. Herbs that don’t dry well are better frozen (such as, chives, basil, chervil, cilantro and dill).
  • Keep in mind that some herbs may be better dried than frozen. For example, rosemary will dry really well without much ado and retains its flavor for a long time.

Freezing Method #1

  1. Harvest your herbs, wash them thoroughly, drain and pat dry with paper towels making sure they are thoroughly dry, (Gently pat them dry so as not to release too much of their oils.)
  2. Place them in a labeled container or wrap a few sprigs or leaves in freezer wrap and place in a freezer bag. Seal and freeze.
  3. For longer retention of flavor, vacuüm seal in a FoodSaver-type bag, label, and freeze.
  4. To save time during the busy harvest season, you can leave the stems on. Pull them off as you use them in cooking.

For cooking, the herbs can be chopped and used in your cooked dishes. Herbs that have been frozen usually are not suitable for garnish, as the frozen product becomes limp when thawed.

Freezing Method #2

Preserving herbs in oil reduces some of the browning and freezer burn that herbs can get in the freezer. Although this entails a little more work preparation, it’s a great way to have herbs ready immediately for winter  stews,  roasts,  soups,  and  potato  dishes.  These  dishes usually call for oil to start with, so you can take a cube of frozen oil, herbs inside, out of the freezer and use this as the base of your dish. Sauté the onions and garlic in this herb-infused oil and let the taste of herbs spread through your whole dish.

  1. Chop the herbs finely and insert into the compartments of an ice cube try, filling the compartments.
  2. Add   oil   to   fill   the   compartments,   covering   the   herbs completely.
  3. Once frozen, pop them into a labeled bag or container. It saves time when pulling them out as you just need to add them to the pot while cooking.

Herbs used for savory dishes are good candidates for oil. (Herbs used for sweet dishes are best frozen with water.) Given this use, the oil-and-freezer method of preservation works best with  the tougher hard herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. These are all herbs that would probably be cooked when added to a dish.

Freezing Method #3

Preserving herbs in water also reduces some of the browning and freezer burn that herbs can get in the freezer. Here, the choice of water is best.

Why Use Water Instead of Oil?

  • This method can be more easily combined with a wider variety of dishes, sweet or savory.
  • People on special diets can have frozen herbs prepared.
  • When preserving foods with canning methods, such as water bath or pressure canning, you can add your frozen cubes without adulterating the food with oils which are not recommended for safe canning practices.
  1. Chop the herbs finely and insert into the compartments of an ice cube try, filling the compartments.
  2. Add water to fill the compartments, covering the herbs completely.
  3. Once frozen, pop them into a labeled bag or container. It saves time when pulling them out as you just need to add them to the pot while cooking.

Freezing Method #4

A variation of the Oil Method, take it one step further and use your Vitamix, power blender, or food processor to create a paste for freezing. This will make sure you have stores of fresh-frozen herbs on hand for fancy dishes or quick and easy meals like pastas, sauces, or soups that will benefit from their boost. Homemade marinades and dressings are also good uses for this method as is compound butter.

  1. Wash herbs and gently pat them dry so as not to release too much of their oils. Trim off stems and discard bruised leaves.
  2. Blend herbs and olive oil in your blender, scraping the sides as necessary to form a thick paste. Use about 2 cups of herbs to every 1/3 cup of oil, or 2 to 4 tablespoons of herbs to about 1/2 cup of unsalted butter.
  3. For variety, try adding garlic or even the zest of citrus fruits, being sure to thoroughly mince them into your herbal mixture.
  4. To package for freezing, put 1 cup herb oil (or 1/2 cup herb butter) in a 1-quart Ziploc bag, then flatten and spread mixture to make a thin layer. Freeze flat.
  5. Best used within 6 months.
  6. As an alternative, you can use a little more oil and freeze the herb concoction in ice cube trays until frozen, then pop the individual cubes into a freezer bag for later use.

My preference of the four methods.

Each herb’s distinctive taste and aroma come from aromatic oils in the leaves, so preserving them as a paste protects their authentic flavors. Packed in flat, thin layers in heavy-duty Ziploc bags, frozen herb oils (and butters) are easy to store. In addition, I have found this method (#4) to work for most anything I care to make into a paste, such as garlic, onion, tomato paste flavored with herbs, basil pesto, and so on.

Part 3 Setion Footer

Methods to Preserve Your Herbal Harvest, an 8 Part Series
To see the other articles in the series, click on the links:

Part 1, Harvesting, Preparing, and Seeding Herbs & Spices
Part 3, Drying Methods for Herbs & Spices
Part 4, Extracts/Tinctures from Herbs & Spices
Part 5, Preserving Herbs & Spices with Infused Vinegars
Part 6, Making Teas from Herbs and Spices
Part 7, Herbal Infused Honey
Part 8, Making SAFE Herbal Infused Oils