How to Store Fresh Herbs to Make Them Last: 6 Methods

Frozen Herbs
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There are few things so rewarding as growing herbs from tiny seeds to large, lustrous plants that produce fresh leaves to use in cooking, baking, drinks, or even DIY beauty recipes.

Reaping the rewards of fresh herbs requires proper storage methods so that when it does come time to add that sprig of mint into your tea or those basil leaves into your pesto, they are still fresh enough to avoid the compost pile. Proper storage of herbs can extend their shelf life to weeks instead of just a couple of days and cut down on food waste.

There are several methods to store fresh herbs and ultimately personal preference will dictate which one you opt for.

Tender vs. Hard Herbs

There are two types of herbs: tender and hard.

Tender herbs have soft stems and leaves, like cilantro, parsley, mint, chives, and basil. These herbs are limp in your hand and are easily bent without ripping apart.

Hard herbs have a tough stem and will likely snap when bent, such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, sage, and oregano.

How to Store Herbs in the Fridge

Parsley in refridgerator

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To store tender herbs in the fridge, fill a tall glass with cool water. Take your herbs and trim the stems before placing them, stem-first, into the water (like flowers). Change the water regularly (every few days).

To help the herbs retain moisture while in the refrigerator, cover them loosely with a reusable bag. If left uncovered, the herbs may lose too much oxygen and brown. Tender herbs can stay fresh from one to two weeks with this method.

A similar approach can be taken with hard herbs. Take a cloth, tea towel, or bamboo paper towel and get it damp. Wrap your sprigs of hard herbs with a wet towel and store the bundle in a reusable bag, container, or a closed fridge drawer. This will keep the herbs from losing oxygen in the same way that the bag over the tender herb works. Hard herbs, including rosemary, thyme, chives, sage, and oregano, can last two to three weeks this way.

How to Store Herbs Whole in the Freezer

Close-Up Of Herb Ice Cubes In Tray Against White Background

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Freezing works well for basil, chives, oregano, lemon balm, mint, and tarragon. They can still be used like normal fresh herbs in cooking, though they will be limp and wet within a few minutes out of the freezer. If they are stored in an airtight container, frozen herbs can last for up to a year.

Hard herbs like rosemary, dill, thyme, bay, or sage should be spread in a single layer while still on the stem on a flat surface and placed in the freezer. Once frozen, the herbs can be transferred into a reusable airtight container. They should not stick together since they were initially frozen separately.

The leaves of tender herbs like mint, parsley, and cilantro can be removed from their stems and frozen in ice. Use containers or ice cube trays and pack them in with chopped or whole leaf herbs. Cover them with water and freeze. If you use an ice cube tray, the cubes can be moved into an airtight container.

How to Store Herbs in the Freezer Using Oil

Parsley frozen in oil

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Place your chopped herbs in an ice cube tray and pour olive oil over them until fully covered and freeze them. When you are ready to cook with your herbs, the olive oil for your recipe will already be included in your cubes. Basil freezes well in olive oil; so do parsley, cilantro, and sage.

Once frozen, the cubes can be removed from the tray and transferred to an airtight container. Your herbs should last for six to nine months.

How to Store Herbs as a Puree

Basil herb puree

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An herb puree is a particularly good way of storing large harvests of one plant. Purees can also be customized with other flavors as a way to meal prep in advance. A pesto sauce is a good example of something that requires large amounts of one herb and that can be frozen for later use.

To make an herb puree, strip the herb leaves from the stems. You will need at least 2 cups worth of the herb. Put your leaves in a food processor or blender and douse with about a 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until you have a smooth consistency. Add more olive oil as needed.

You can store your puree in an airtight container or freeze it in an ice cube tray for individual serving sizes. The puree method works well with basil, parsley, oregano, and dill.

With just oil added, your herb puree can last for six to nine months. Forewarning: when you do cook with them, the herb puree cubes will be very concentrated so a little goes a long way.

How to Store Herbs at Room Temperature

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While refrigerating or freezing herbs usually guarantees a longer shelf life, you can also store your fresh herbs on your kitchen counter at room temperature by treating them like a vase of flowers.

Keep the leaves on the stems but trim the stems prior to putting them in water. An optional step would be to cover the herbs with a bag to maintain moisture.

Keep the herbs out of direct sunlight. Check them daily and remove any leaves that have yellowed or darkened. Also, change the water daily. Hard herbs like parsley, rosemary, and thyme can last seven to 10 days on the counter. Basil also works well with this method.

How to Store Herbs After Drying

Herb bundles drying.

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Drying herbs is a popular and time-honored way of preserving the flavors of fresh herbs. Hard herbs dry particularly well.

Various methods exist for drying fresh herbs including hanging them, using an oven, using a microwave, and drying with a food dehydrator.

Drying pairs well with herbs that have a strong flavor, like sage, thyme, oregano, and rosemary. Once dry, the herbs should be stored in tightly sealed, glass containers in a cool, dry place with no sunlight, such as a cellar. Dried herbs can last for up to a year.