Question: How do I freeze fresh herbs?

You used a few leaves of basil in a recipe but have bunches left. Now what? There’s only so much pesto a person can eat. If you have an excess of fresh herbs -- lucky you -- you might want to try freezing them whole or as flavoring blends for later use.

Although most herbs will turn dark green when frozen, they'll keep their fresh flavor. Most of the time the herbs will be used in cooked dishes, so color isn't a big issue.

How to freeze whole herbs

Freezing summer's bounty of fresh herbs is very simple. Here's how:

Wash the herbs (still on their branches), dry them thoroughly, strip the leaves from the branches, and put them in labeled plastic zipper-type freezer bags. With herbs such as rosemary and thyme, you don't even need to strip the leaves from the branches. Press out all the air, seal and freeze.

To use the herbs, just break off what you need straight from the freezer -- you don’t even have to defrost them.

How to make frozen herb flavoring blends

Take a couple of bunches of fresh herbs, wash and dry them, and throw them in the food processor. Add complimentary spices, seasonings and sauces, and freeze the mixture flat in Ziploc bags. (You can also add olive oil or water to chopped herbs, and freeze the mixture in ice cube trays.)

To use the blend, break off pieces as needed. The blends can serve as the foundation for sautés, cooked vegetables and broths.

Get creative -- the idea is not to let the herbs go to waste.

Here’s some inspiration:

  • I take bunches of coriander (also known as cilantro and Chinese parsley), stems and all, wash and dry them, and throw them in the food processor. I will add my classic trio of ginger, garlic and chile, and a little bit of sugar or fish sauce or both. That blend could serve as the base of a dish.
  • When I grill corn in the summer, I let an herb flavoring blend defrost, put it in a dish with a little bit of oil and roll my corn in it.
  • If I have a couple of bunches of parsley, I turn those into something that feels very French by adding lots of grated lemon zest, shallots and fresh tarragon. That combination in rice tossed with cheese, even a feta cheese, is fabulous. 

-Lynne

Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.